The Shouf moutnains is located about 40 kilometers east of Beirut. It is one of the best-preserved Lebanese districts and its nature has been generally spared from the intense building construction. Center of the first modern state of Lebanon, and house of the Fakhr el-Dine Maan II and Emir Bashir Shehab II, early rulers of Lebanon. Archaeological studies revealed that some of the Shouf districts were inhabited since the 4th century BC. Best place to reflect on how the forest cedars were covering Lebanon’s mountains. An amazing nature to be lost in and enjoy its beauty. Architectural lovers can admire some 19th Century castles, which have a unique mix between Arabic and Italian architecture.
Deir El-Qamar, is a charming little village which was once in the 15th century Lebanon center of power when Emir Fakhr el-Dine Maan II moved into it from Baaqline. This small village represents the religious diversity in Lebanon, as it hosted once a church, a synagogue, a khalwa, and a mosque. The main attractions in this village are the Mosque of Emir Fakhreddine Maan, built in 1493, and the cobbler’s souq housing touristic shops. Visitors adore the 17th and 18th century provincial architecture that is still maintained in many of the village houses.
Beiteddine most famous attractions is Emir Bashir Shehab II palace. This magnificent, early 19th-century palace complex was built in 1788, by best Italian and Syrian architects. It took 30 years to build it and the castle became the stronghold of Emir Bashir until 1840 when he was sentenced for exile in Turkey. Mir Amin palace was built by Mir Amin, the youngest son of Emir Bashir II Chehab, overlook the palatial complex of Beiteddine, was restored and converted into a deluxe hotel. The khan just above the square was built in the late 16th century and chiefly served as a souq for silk and jewel traders. French cultural center is set up there nowadays. Beiteddine is also famous for its cultural festival and international performances that begun in the 1980s as an affirmation of cultural values in wartime.
Baakline was the first capital of the Maan dynasty that settled in Mount Lebanon around 11th Century. Famous for its crochet work and carpet weaving. It is landscaped with old houses and ornamented with charming nature. Baakline river is the main attraction for local and tourists who want to enjoy a nature beautiful escape where the water is emerald color due to the reflection of the surrounding trees. Visitors to the river can enjoy a refreshing splash in the river and satisfy their hunger with gourmet Lebanese menu and delicacies.
Castle Moussa, reflects the story of a stubborn 14 years old poor school boy who was torn between the mock of his classmates and the love of his life. He decided to prove his will and started the journey started 60 years ago where Moussa started building his castle by his own hand, and rock by rock. The place was formally opened to visitors and tourists in 1967, yet the final section of the building was not finished until 2012. Moussa, created a true piece of art that is truly unique that hosts a waxworks museum, as well as the biggest collection of guns and weaponry you’ll ever see. Standing in front of such magnitude, and touring its various rooms and courtyards, reflects the famous proverb “When there is a will there is a way”.
Barouk is known for being the “land of good”, because of its fountain (Nabeh-el-Barouk). It is also means “the blessed” in Phoenician. Home of the famous Lebanese poet Rachid Nakhleh. The village is also famous for its apples and other fruits, and for its many forests such as pine trees, oak trees, and cedars trees. Barouk is crowned by its mountain “Jabal el Barouk” that stands 1943 m above sea level. Barouk Cedar forest is part of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve. Its many springs and open-air restaurants have attracted tourists from the entire world for centuries.
In Moukhtara, you will find the old palace of Ali Pasha Joumblat dated to 17th, and renovated in the 19th Century. The valley near Moukhtara contains many water mills dating to the 16th century and before- such as the Baddeh water mill. There is also an ancient archaeological site, excavated in 1963 where artifacts found earlier than the Pottery Neolithic of Byblos.
Shouf Biosphere Reserve
Famous for being the oldest cedar forest in history, and the largest of Lebanon’s three natural cedar reserves. These cedar forests are the one described in the “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, 3rd Centruy BC, as well as in the old Testaments during King Solomon when building the famous Temple of God in Jerusalem. Moreover, due to valuable cedars wood used for building boats and temples, Phoenician Lebanon was conquered by Babylonians, Egyptian, Greeks, Persians, Romans, and Ottomans. The remaining of this forest constitutes around 5% of Lebanon’s entire area. The reserve incorporates six cedar forests, where Barouk and Maaser El Shouf forests have the largest number of ancient trees – some are thought to date back 2000 years. More than 200 species of birds and 26 species of wild mammals either live in or pass through the area. Also, just outside the reserve’s boundaries are a number of historical sites. These include the remains of the rock-cut fortress of Qab Elias and Qala’at Niha, in addition to the Shrine of Sit Sha’wane – a female saint venerated by the Druze – which is a site of pilgrimage for local residents.
Maaser El Shouf, is located edge of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve at an altitude of 1940 m with a a panoramic view over the Bekaa, the Litani Dam and Lake Qaraoun. This is the site of one of Lebanon’s most beautiful cedar forests. It is also a choice spot for walking enthusiasts. Recent archaeological studies revealed that Maasser was inhabited since the 4th century BC. El Hos ruins and tombs cut in the rock goes back to Roman era. Visitors to the area can spot a famous 16th Century water mill. Also, it is famous for its abundant natural water resources.
Niha, home of prophet Job who lived there during the period of his healing miracle. Also it contains a domed shrine that is the burial site of the prophet Job. Moreover, Niha is famous for its cave fortress (Cave of Tyron).This cave was fortified by the Crusaders, the Arabs, and the Mameluke and used to control the vital road linking Saïda to the Beqaa Valley. The Fortress is located on a summit overlooking the village of Niha. Besides, the splendid landscape, the area is also abundant with natural old springs such as Aim El Qataa, and mysterious sarcophagus.