The Cedrus libani forest community represents about
25% of the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon and
is thus significant at the national level. Al-Shouf
Cedar Nature Reserve represents around 550 km²
of Lebanese territory. It forms the southern limit
of Cedrus libani.
The reserve makes up 5 percent of the entire territory
of the country and 70 percent of Lebanon's green area,
making it the largest nature reserve in the Middle
East. The reserve, formed in 1994, is one of three
protected areas in Lebanon to benefit from the United
Nations' Protected Areas Project.
Oak, pine and juniper are some of the 16 types of
trees that also grow in the reserves. Squirrels, wild
boars, porcupines, wolves and gazelles can be found
in the reserve. The reserve is accessible from Barouk,
Maaser al-Chouf and Ain Zhalta. Al-Shouf Cedars Nature
Reserve is managed by the Al-Shouf Cedars Society,
which is a non-governmental organization that conceived
the idea of the reserve, created it, and currently
manages it in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment.
More than 25,000 people visit the reserve each year
between April and November. The number of visitors
expected by 2006 is 100,000 visitors. Visitors to
the forest cannot picnic inside the reserve. Local
communities adjacent to the reserve are encouraged
to participate in eco friendly additional-income ventures.
The Cedars of Lebanon have an almost magical place
in history, not just in the history of Lebanon, but
also of a number of neighboring countries and even
of conquering empires.
The cedar forests of Lebanon enjoy the unique distinction
as the oldest documented forests in history. The cedars
were important enough in the history of man to be
traceable to the very earliest written records, that
of the Sumerians in the third millennium BC. In the
ancient Sumerian story, The Epic of Gilgamesh, one
of the oldest pieces of literature in the world, the
Cedars feature prominently.
Gilgamesh has since been recognized as King Gilgamesh
of history and in all probability he visited Mount
It was the Phoenicians of such ancient cities as Byblos,
Tyre and Sidon on the coast of present-day-Lebanon
who became the principal dealers in the timber of
the cedar. Indeed, the cedars made a special contribution
to the development of the Phoenician civilization
by providing the timbers with which they developed
their famous sea-going merchant boats, thus becoming
one of the first, if not the first, major sea-going
trading nation in the world.
The Phoenicians traded cedar wood to Egypt, until
Egypt in turn conquered the land of the cedars and
gained direct access to the forests, which were highly
prized for the building of temples and boats. Later
the Babylonians took a similar interest in the cedars
and obtained them for use in building the fabled city
People around the world know of the cedars of Lebanon
because of the numerous references in the Hebrew texts
of the Old Testament. The Bible records in some detail
how King Solomon, King of Israel, requested King Hiram
of Tyre to supply cedar wood and to build a temple
and a palace in Jerusalem.
In the 6th century BC, Persian control of the Phoenician
ports provided the Persians with the means of assembling
a navy for use against their enemies the Greeks, who
were already embarrassing the Persians with their
mobility in the Mediterranean as they leased and copied
the Phoenician triremes.
The expansion of the Roman Empire into Syria and Lebanon
had its detrimental effect on the cedars until the
Emperor Hadrian installed the markers around the boundary
of the remaining forests and declared them Imperial
Domain. Specimens of these markers have been preserved
and stored in museum collections.
The Ottoman Turks deforested all of the cedar growing
areas within easy transport distance of their Hijaz
railway to provide fuel for their wood-burning engines.
Only the highest and most remote groves escaped damage.
In the modern-day Lebanon the legendary cedar is still
revered and remains prominent in the minds of all
Lebanese. The cedar features on the national flag,
the national airline, Government logos, the Lebanese
currency and innumerable commercial logos. It is the
feature of books, poetry, post cards, posters and
art. The Cedars of Lebanon are truly an important
part of the cultural heritage of the people of Lebanon.
Historic Cultural Sites:
The setting of the Shouf is a nexus of many cultures,
religions, and historical events, all of which have
left an imprint which makes the area's cultural heritage
as rich as its ecosystems. The following are some
The cave castle of Tyron Niha relates to one of the
closing episodes of Prince Fakhreddin II's epic history
and is the only remaining vestige of a once powerful
fortress which was successively used by the Arabs,
Crusaders, and a number of princes of Mount Lebanon.
-El Nabi Ayoub-
An oratory was built on the hill above the village
of Niha to honor Job's memory and hold his relics.
Ayoub is the Arabic name of the prophet Job.
-Qab Elias Castle-
This once-powerful Druze fortress served as a guardian
outpost controlling the road that linked Beirut to
Damascus, and a marching post for the Druze and Chehab
rulers of the South Bekaa or Wadi Taym.
-Mazar El Sit Cha'wane-
El Sit Cha'wane is a famous figure in the Druze religion.
Like Job in the Old Testament, she was held up as
a model of virtue and devotion. An oratory was erected
in her name.