Bsharre, Lebanon

Bsharreh, 1400 meters high, commands a prime position at the head of the Qadisha valley just below the famous Cedars of Lebanon. In Crusader times it was known as one of the fiefs of the country of Tripoli. Bsharreh can be reached from Tripoli or through Ehden or through the Koura district starting at Chekka on the coast. This is the hometown of Gibran Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) the Lebanese poet and painter. A museum near his place of burial in the rock-cut monastery of Mar Sarkis should not be missed. Open daily in winter from 9 am to 5 pm except Mondays, and every day during the summer.

The journey to Bsharre and the Cedars passes through some of Lebanon's most spectacular scenery. The mountain road winds through the countryside where red-tile roofed houses cling precariously to the cliffs, and a patchwork of vineyards and olive groves stretch out into the lush valleys.

The mountain town of Bsharre (pictured) is the birth and resting place of Lebanon's famous artist/author Gibran Khalil Gibran. From Bsharre the road climbs some 400 meters until it reaches the last remaining forest of cedars in Lebanon. The grove of 400 trees, some of which are more than 1,500 years old, are on the slopes of Mt. Makmal.

The Cedars is a prime ski resort for both downhill and cross country skiing. There are ski hire shops and accommodation in the village below the forest. One of the country's most unforgettable vistas is of the Qadisha valley which plunges down toward the coast from the Cedars. From the Cedars it is a 4-hour hike to Lebanon's highest peak, Qornet Es Sauda.

Bsharre (also Bsharre, Bsharri, or Bsharreh), near the resort, is famous in it own right as the birth place of the popular Lebanese poet, artist, philosopher and mystic Gibran Khalil Gibran. There is also a chapel in the forest itself; the Maronite structure dates to 1843.


History and mythology are something not easy to parse. The story of the Cedars of Lebanon – the oldest know piece of literature in the world - is a good example.

There was a king about 4500 years ago in the ancient Sumerian city of Uruk - in what is now Iraq, about 140 miles from Baghdad. The king longed to be great, to be famous. And so he undertook a task that he felt would define greatness for others: he entered into the vast forest that once carpeted Western Asia and began to cut down its huge cedar trees. He did this even though he knew that Humbaba, the guardian spirit of the forest, would come and fight with him. The king struggled with that demon and killed it.

Today you can still visit what is left of the cedar forest that made Lebanon the envy of kings around the world. The Cedars Resort near Bcharre, Lebanon, is perhaps the best place to see the huge and majestic Cedars of Lebanon. The stand of cedars there is the most famous of Lebanon’s cedars; it is known as Arz el Rab – the Cedars of the Lord. It may very well mark the spot where this king (and he really was a king) began cutting down the cedar forest.

Arz el Rab is the oldest stand of cedars (Cedrus libani) in Lebanon. Some 375 old cedar trees inhabit a glacial hollow in the mountains there. Four of the trees reach to a height of 115 feet and measure 45 feet in diameter at the base; these living trees are thought to be at least several hundred (and maybe almost 2000) years old. There are another 1000 or so cedars of lesser age. The grove has been surrounded by a stone wall since 1876.

The Cedars Resort sits in Lebanon's highest mountain range, on Mount Makmel, and is among the most spellbindingly beautiful spots in West Asia. From the summit of the mountain you have a panoramic view of the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon, and on a clear day you can see the island of Cyprus.

While Arz el Rab on the resort property gives the place a sense history, the main attraction of the resort is its long ski runs and lengthy ski season. Parts of the property reach to almost ten thousand feet in elevation. The ski season starts in December and runs into April at The Cedars. In colonial times the French used the site as a military ski school.