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Panoramic Views > Mount Lebanon > Baabda > Baabda Forest

The Baabda Forest

Behold Baabda, a hill overlooking Beirut and its airport, crowned by this authentic old Serail that goes back to the nineteenth century! This was the administrative center for all Mount Lebanon during the time of the Mutassarifs (governors) until the First World War and the French Mandate. A once cultivated coastal plain stretches from the seashore up to the hilltop where the Serail palace stands like a citadel or some castle tower left from the middle ages.

But in fact this plain has now been transformed into a second Beirut, more extensive than the capital itself, almost a shantytown. The hills here are crowned not only by the Serail but also by monasteries, convents and churches with red-tiled roofs and belfries. Also there is a large green area belonging to the Anthonine Fathers still known as Baabda Forest under the shade of which is to be found a great variety of fauna and flora. One may still see there jackals, foxes, shrews, field mice, bats, lizards, chameleons and a little over 180 species of birds, that is to say one half of the different kinds living in Lebanon or passing over it.

In particular there are cuckoos, and these are birds which are very important for the destruction of the caterpillars which are the scourge of the pine trees in Lebanon. There are also harriers, hawks, swallows, nightingales, robins and even occasional eagles. As for flora, there are many kinds of trees, of both the coast and the mountains: pines, oaks, pistachios, olive trees, arbutus, azalea and plane, to mention only a few. There are many kinds of wild flower and also plants of medicinal value.

A park was rearranged starting in 1995, thanks to cooperation between the Beirut City Council, the Région Ile-de-France and particularly the Association Terre-Liban, which has been active for several years to preserve this Baabda Forest green area and to protect it from going up in smoke, as is so often the case, given the risk of fires affecting the region. The Association has launched an awareness campaign for the protection of this forest and has trained more than fifty people nearby to defend the forest against outbreaks of fire. Everybody should be ready protect this site, and the pilot product for forest neighborhoods should be copied all over the country.

The Association Terre-Liban has already acquired equipment in the form of tanks, hoses, transportation, tankers and extinguishers, so as to be able to act even before the arrival of the Civil Defense. The Swiss Development Agency, the World Environment Fund (G.E.F.) and the United Nations program P.N.U.D. have participated and supported the Association.

The Forest of Baabda is a veritable haven in the middle of the concrete wilderness, picturesque and welcoming, open to all nature-lovers, a place for dreaming, relaxation and walks “to get away from it all”. It was inaugurated in November 2006 by Jean-Paul Huchon, President of the Région Ile-de-France. The Lebanese are waking up to the need to preserve their natural resources.

Terre-Liban is urging the public and private sectors to adopt sustainable development in order to protect the environment. Active since 1994, this non-profit organization has made itself known in most of the schools and in various social circles. It is made up of volunteers and has the support of many experts specialized in environment, biology, and agriculture.

Baabda Forest is well worth a visit and deserves our attention for the preservation of green spaces in the interior of our cities. At Besançon in France, for example, over 70% of the town area has become a surrounding green space.

- The Baabda Forest: >> View Movie << (2009-07-01)


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