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Panoramic Views > North > El Minieh Dennieh > Qornet El Sawda

Qornet el Sawda (Saouda), The Black Peak

Qornet es-Sawda, the loftiest summit in Lebanon, ten thousand feet, rising higher than the cedars! It is called es-Sawda, the Black, because when it rises above the clouds and the snows it appears strangely dark.

Eighty-eight miles from Beirut, it is part of a mountain chain that starts from the Taurus range in South Turkey, follows the Syrian coast line and then rises into a line of heights crowned with eternal snows, reaching Jebel es-Sheikh, Mount Hermon, before sloping down to the Negev Desert in Southern Palestine. Its name derives from the way it emerges above the snow which clothes it in a white mantle. It belongs to a range of hills and summits that follow a north-south direction and on an average reach up to nine thousand feet.

One has to start out on foot from the Cedars, which stand already at six thousand feet, and walk for six hours to reach the top, from where on a clear day one may see the tips of the Trodos Mountains (over six thousand feet) in Cyprus, lying on an axis from east to west from the Turkish Taurus. One has to go over ten miles along the central ridge nine thousand feet high before reaching the Black Peak across hills, hollows, swallow-holes and patches of packed and frozen snow that exist all the year round. A veritable water reservoir, the mountain nourishes rivers to the east such as the Orontes and to the west such as Qadisha. The actual summit is a very high plateau swept by a strong wind in summer as in winter. The scene recalls the first morning of creation, with banks of snow and wild open spaces with only scrub vegetation, small shrubs and tufts of a kind of juniper.

At this height the cedar does not grow, but three thousand feet below at an altitude of six thousand feet one sees the thousand-year old historic forest of the Cedars in an immense arena. To the east, the high plateau dominates the plain of the Beqaa valley and on the other side one looks down on magnificent ski runs. The sun is scorching in summer but the winds are icy in winter. Here we are on the highest summit in the Middle East, surrounded by an extraordinary spectacle; we are taken by the beauty of the work of the Creator, its wealth and its harmony.

Many sightseers come to visit this place. The bus transport available to them can take them up to eight thousand feet and for the remaining two thousand it is a matter of foot-slogging.

When you look down on Qadisha, the Cedars and Bsharri, they seem ever so tiny. The snow remains the year round. Flocks of sheep and goats browse over the scant vegetation. Everything is of a nature to impress profoundly.

Silence reigns supreme and is something to be savored. For this kind of tourism one needs to be of a certain intellectual level, something of a mystic perhaps. Here one makes a religious pilgrimage in the paradise of monks, hermits and anchorites. Here one does not come for mere amusement, but rather to commune with nature and to pray.

Joseph Matar

- Qornet el Sawda: >> View Movie << (2011-08-01)


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