Lebanon – Day 4: Cedars of God

Before you read this post, please know that climate change is killing the Cedars of Lebanon.   There is a very good possibility that these once timeless behemoths will meet their end all due to us.

Today we used a guide I found on Reddit.   His name was Kamal Abi Karam and he is an adventure guide who works in Oman.  He is Lebanese and spends the summer months in Lebanon.   I’ve visited the Kadisha valley before.  It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This valley is a place where Christian (specifically Maronite) monks hid from foes in the past.  Every time some US politician (cough … republicans) talks about Christians under attack in America, they should hear the stories of these people. Hell, in 517 these monks contacted Pope Hormisdas saying “hey, these other Christians are trying to kill us. Help.” Tales as old as time.

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Photo Credit: Josh Ferris

We stopped the van for some photos and took a small hike to the monastery of Deir Mar Elisha.  There is an icon of St. Elisha from the 8th century in it.  Most of the monasteries in the valley are only accessible by hiking, but this one has a small road and parking lot.

The Cedars of God are in Bsharri and they are one of the last forests of the ancient Lebanese cedars.  In the forest, there are trees that are more than 2500 years old.  You can walk amongst the trees for a small donation.   It’s a really wonderful and tranquil place. You are quite literally walking in a village of endangered species.  One should feel honored to be with those trees and I savored every moment.  There is a very real possibility that this forest may not be here in the near future. If you go, please stay on the path.  This forest is extremely fragile and the work to care for it is boundless.

After the forest, we headed for lunch. Cedar Heaven in Bcharre is where I finally ate the famous kibbeh zgharta. First, the restaurant.   Cedar Heaven is the beautiful outdoor restaurant near a cliffside overlooking the valley.    It’s shaded, cool, and there is a small breeze.   It is a spectacular view.

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Ok, now let me explain kibbeh zgharta.  A shell is made by mixing meat and bulgur and then that shell is stuffed with fat and a little meat.   This entire concoction is then grilled and or baked.    You are served one (big) kibbeh, and when you cut into it the hot fat flows onto the plate.   It is delicious and incredibly unhealthy.  This type of kibbeh is only made in this town, and it is quite rare, even in Lebanon.

IMG_4962When we returned, a few of us went to Maria and Edward’s house to: see the kids, enjoy the sunset, and of course, eat.  They are great hosts.  I worked hard to buy the affection of the kids with the remaining gifts from the United States. The painting set probably caused a lot of agita.  It was a fun night of hanging out with loved ones and enjoying their hospitality.

Next – Lebanon – Day 5: Tyre and Sidon

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