Hidden gems

Six rivers to ex­plore

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

NAHR QADISHA

Dis­tricts: Bcharre and Zgharta Length: 35km The river runs the Qadisha Val­ley, stretch­ing along the foothills of Mount Mak­mel in the north­ern gov­er­norate. Lo­cated 80km north of Beirut, the river orig­i­nates from the Qadisha cave close to the Arz El Rab for­est in Bcharre and me­an­ders the deep­est gorges of Le­banon. It can be ac­cessed from Torza, Ser’el, Di­mane and Hawka. Tra­di­tional farm­ing is still prac­tised on the foothills of the val­ley, which is fa­mous for a num­ber of old monas­ter­ies. Hike in the val­ley with a lo­cal guide to ex­plore the Con­vent of the Vir­gin of Qan­noubine, the Chapel of St. Ma­rina, the Con­vent of Saint An­thony the Great and Mar Lichaa. Don’t miss out on see­ing the old­est print­ing press in the Mid­dle East at the Con­vent of St. An­thony the Great.

Grab a snack at the cafe­te­ria of the Qadisha con­vent or en­joy tra­di­tional Le­banese food at the nu­mer­ous restau­rants along the road in Hadtchit, Bcharre, Has­roun and Hadeth El Jebbeh. There are count­less pic­nic ar­eas lin­ing the river­banks in Qan­noubine and in the Qadisha Val­ley, ideal for a chilled out lunch or bar­be­cue.

NAHR EL JAOUZ

Dis­tricts: Ba­troun and Koura Length: 38km Start­ing in Tan­nourine, 1,000 me­ters above sea level, the Nahr El Jaouz runs through­out Koura and Ba­troun. It me­an­ders along ri­par­ian forests of Ori­en­tal plane trees and mixed forests of ker­mes oak, Ju­das tree, carob and broom. High­lights in the buf­fer zone of the river in­clude the Ci­tadel of El Mseilha and the Con­vent of the Vir­gin of Kaftoun. A num­ber of restau­rants, in­clud­ing Dar Sin­di­anet (76 313708/03 385713) and Restau­rant Nahr Jawz (03 876974), boast views of the gorge and river, with in­door and out­door seat­ing. Pic­nic spots can be found un­der the idyl­lic Ori­en­tal plane trees that bor­der the river. Dis­cover wheat mills and aban­doned old houses dat­ing back more than two cen­turies as you hike the trails along the river­bank at low alti­tude. In Bs­sa­tine El Essi, take some time to re­lax near the falls of Beit Che­lalla.

A va­ri­ety of restau­rants can be found in Bs­sa­tine El Essi, in­clud­ing Tawahine (03 602945), Chal­lal (03 494376/06 780508) and Chal­lal Nahr El Jaouz (02 289970). For some­thing more low-key, head to the Tan­nourine Pic­nic Park (03 242597) or

have a bite in Snack El Jisr (76 336383).

NAHR IBRAHIM District: By­b­los Length: 23km

The Ibrahim River, also known as the Ado­nis, stems from the Afqa Gorge. It starts its jour­ney 1,500 me­ters above sea level and 71km north of Beirut, where the ru­ins of Aphrodite’s tem­ple still stand. The wa­ter­falls tra­verse sheer gorges and foothills, cross­ing Qartaba, Yah­chouch and Jan­neh, end­ing up in es­tu­ar­ies in the town of Nahr Ibrahim on the coast. The pul­sat­ing echo of the rapid wa­ter through the nar­row val­ley is noth­ing short of hyp­notic.

Hik­ing a trail on the steep foothills af­fords stun­ning vis­tas of aban­doned ter­races and old houses. Be sure to grab a pic­nic bas­ket and make your­self com­fort­able at one of the scenic spots along the river­bank - La

Rivière (70 859474), Jalset El Nahr (70 865599), Isti­ra­het El Nahr (03 826847) or Mon­tazah El Wadi (03 194352). En­joy a dip in the oxbow lake in Jan­neh af­ter­wards. If you are seek­ing a more re­lax­ing jour­ney, take the car and eat at one of the tra­di­tional restau­rants in Bouar.

NAHR EL KALB District: Ke­ser­wan Length: 31km

Dog River, lo­cated 18km north of Beirut, boasts Egyp­tian hi­ero­glyphic ste­lae, NeoAssyr­ian and Neo-baby­lo­nian Cuneiforms (known as com­mem­o­ra­tive ste­lae of Nahr El Kalb) and Ro­man, Greek and Ara­bic in­scrip­tions, which are pre­served at the mouth of the river in Dbayeh. Dis­cover rem­nants of French and Aus­tralian con­quests along the river, while en­joy­ing the scent of aro­matic plants such as laven­der, oregano and sage.

Lo­cal high­lights in­clude the fa­mous Jeita Grotto, hous­ing the world’s largest sta­lac­tites, and the monastery of Mar Abda Mocham­mar (Saint Abda the Guardian), which dates back to 1716.

On the south fac­ing slopes, the Jeita Grotto

Restau­rant (09 220841) of­fers Le­banese cui­sine. In the south­ern buf­fer zone of the river in Zekrit, Nahr El Janna restau­rant (04 930200/70 480511) serves Le­banese dishes and seafood, and Aal Sen­nara of­fers ca­sual din­ing (04 930300).

EL AWALI District: Saida Length: 48km

A peren­nial river flow­ing in south Le­banon, the El Awali orig­i­nates in the Barouk Mountain at 1,492 me­ters above sea level. Ac­cess the river from the Saida en­trance to visit the Tem­ple of Esh­mun. Hikes and bike rides will in­tro­duce you to the tra­di­tional vil­lages of Bisri, Joune and Mazra’et El Dahr among oth­ers.

The area fea­tures re­mains of the Tem­ple of Marj Bisri, the church of Saint Moses El Habchi, re­mains of Saint Sophia’s Monastery and Deir Say­det El In­tikal (Monastery of Our Lady of As­sump­tion), built in 1733 on the farm­lands of Kashkaya. Do not miss the ru­ins of the cas­tle of Lady Hester Stan­hope (1773-1839) in Joune, Deir El Moukhalles (the Monastery of Saint Sav­ior) and Deir Say­det El Bechara (Con­vent of the Lady of An­nun­ci­a­tion).

Eat at the Restau­rant of Esh­mun Val­ley (07 990428) or at Isti­ra­hat El A’ilat (03 411262) in the Bisri Val­ley.

NAHR DAMOUR District: Shouf Length: 38km

Fed by melt­ing snow, which cov­ers the Barouk Mountain dur­ing the win­ter, the river flows west through Jisr Al Qadi val­ley, then into the Shouf Moun­tains’ creeks. The river was named ‘Damoros’ by the Canaan­ites af­ter the god of im­mor­tal­ity, and in ref­er­ence the beauty of the val­ley.

Hike from Dmit and visit pot­tery crafts­men in Jisr El Qadi vil­lage. En­joy the epic view of canyons and deep gorges and the col­or­ful pal­ette of Ju­das trees, storax and bay lau­rel.

For a unique week­end ex­pe­ri­ence, book a night at the Ecov­il­lage in Dmit Val­ley (03 211463/03 381733) or at the Shanti 2 Tree

House on the Damour River (airbnb.com).

Nahr Ibrahim

Nahr El Jaouz

Nahr El Kalb

Nahr Qadisha

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