NORA JOUMBLATT

on the Au­then­tic Shouf

Lebanon Traveler - - FRONT PAGE - Authen­tic­shouf, authen­tic­shouf.com

Nora Joumblatt, pres­i­dent of t he Beited­dine Fes­ti­val, is one of t he Shouf ’s big­gest ad­vo­cates. LT spoke to her to find out about “Au­then­tic Shouf,” a new cam­paign to boost tour ism and pro­mote t he tra­di­tions, lo­cal spe­cial­ties and nat­u­ral beauty of t he re­gion

WHAT DO YOU CON­SIDER TO BE THE AU­THEN­TIC FACE OF THE SHOUF?

The Shouf is one of the best-preser ved re­gions, or distr icts, in Le­banon. The scener y is breath­tak­ing – pic­turesque vil­lages dot the moun­tain­side and his­tor ical mon­u­ments are found at ever y turn of the road. Rich in his­tor y, hav­ing been the site of the Emi­rate of Mount Le­banon, there are a wide choice of her itage sites, from his­tor ical palaces to re­li­gious sites. The Shouf is also home to the largest na­ture reser ve with three ma­jor Cedar tree forests, which en­joy the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the old­est doc­u­mented forests in his­tor y. The Shouf re­gion is a bas­tion of na­ture and cul­ture, unr ivaled on a na­tional level.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN AIMS OF THE AU­THEN­TIC SHOUF CAM­PAIGN?

Our pri­mary aim is to pro­mote the whole re­gion as a des­ti­na­tion, en­cour­ag­ing tourism, as well as eco-tourism re­lated in­dus­tries, sup­port­ing ini­tia­tives that di­rectly ben­e­fit the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion while con­form­ing to the dis­tinc­tive­ness of the his­tor­i­cal and nat­u­ral her­itage. There was a need to set it up, so as to high­light the tremen­dous as­sets of the Shouf, help­ing lo­cal pro­duc­ers and smaller busi­nesses to per­fect their prod­ucts and ser­vices [and] mak­ing them more sus­tain­able.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE MAIN COL­LAB­O­RA­TORS YOU’RE WORK­ING WITH?

This ini­tia­tive is a joint ef fort be­tween the Le­banese Fran­chise As­so­ci­a­tion, the Shouf Traders As­so­ci­a­tion, the com­mit­tee of the Al Shouf Na­ture Re­serve and that of the Beited­dine Fes­ti­val. We have the sup­port of the Min­istries of Tourism, En­vi­ron­ment, Econ­omy and Agri­cul­ture; the Shouf MPS and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have also en­dorsed the pro­ject.

HOW WILL THE CAM­PAIGN HELP PRO­MOTE LO­CAL PRO­DUC­ERS AND FARM­ERS?

The Shouf pro­duces a wide var iety of lo­cal prod­ucts; for ex­am­ple, the Al Shouf Cedar Reser ve has de­vel­oped a ru­ral pro­gram, which sup­por ts lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and pro­vides train­ing and mar­ket­ing out­lets for their pro­duce. Cur­rently there are over 82 prod­ucts that carr y the Shouf Bio­sphere Reser ve la­bel.

IS THERE A FO­CUS ON RU­RAL AND ECOFRIENDLY TOURISM IN THE PRO­JECT?

A net­work of ru­ral and eco-fr iendly tour ism is al­ready in place and thr iv­ing thanks to the ini­tia­tive of the Reser ve and the Min­istr y of Tour ism.

WHAT IS THE MAIN FO­CUS OF THE TOURISM PACK­AGES?

All our tour ism pack­ages are de­signed to in­tro­duce the visi­tor to a more au­then­tic ex­per ience and a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the nat­u­ral and cul­tural her itage, as well as of fer ing a large choice of des­ti­na­tions.

WHICH TREA­SURES OF THE SHOUF WILL THE PRO­JECT HIGH­LIGHT?

The Shouf Bio­sphere Reser ve is def­i­nitely at the top of the list; it is re­mark­ably r ich in bio­di­ver­sity and cul­tural her itage plus it has a large ex­panse of wet­lands. The reser ve en­joys 1532 acres of cedar for­est con­sti­tut­ing 30 per­cent of the re­main­ing cedar forests in the countr y. With seven guest­houses in 22 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and 250km of hik­ing trails, the reser ve is al­ready a ma­jor eco-tour ism des­ti­na­tion with over 70,000 visi­tors a year.

WHY ARE PROJECTS SUCH AS THE BEITED­DINE ART FES­TI­VAL IM­POR­TANT?

The Fes­ti­val [has] proven to be an in­valu­able plat­form for pro­mot­ing

The Shouf is one of the best­p­re­served re­gions... It is a bas­tion of na­ture and cul­ture

ar tis­tic ex­cel­lence, cul­tural di­ver­sity and in­ter­cul­tural di­a­logue. It has also contr ibuted to the eco­nomic growth of the re­gion, cre­at­ing jobs, es­tab­lish­ing mu­sic and dance in­sti­tu­tions, and, of course, pro­mot­ing cul­tural tour ism on na­tional and in­ter­na­tional lev­els.

ARE THERE ANY NEW PROJECTS THAT ARE BOOST­ING TOURISM IN THE AREA?

Projects con­tinue to ma­ture in the Shouf, such as Bk­erzay craf ts and pot­ter y, the Assaf Broth­ers work­shop, Fadi Mo­gab­gab Ar t Con­tem­po­rain, Souk au Shouf star ting soon, bou­tique ho­tels and guest­houses such as Bouy­outi and Deir Al Ou­mara.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FA­VORITE LESSER­KNOWN DES­TI­NA­TIONS?

The Niha Fortress is a his­tor­i­cal visit with in­cred­i­ble vis­tas, and won­der­ful trails have opened up such as the Mristi Ro­man Oak trail, the Moukhtara Val­ley Trail, as well as the new Barouk Pa­tri­otic Trail.

Photo: Shouf Bio­sphere Reser ve

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