on the Authentic Shouf
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.