Summer in Lebanon: A Trip Through the Lebanese Mountains

After much talk, a few friends and I decided to go on a North Lebanon road trip yesterday that took us through Batroun to Tannourine from which we crossed over to Becharre, descended to the Bekaa and then returned to Ehden.

Massive amounts of driving aside, I took a few pictures that I figured I’d share with you. All of these pictures were taken with a Nikon D5100 and weren’t modified in any way. I’m also not a professional photographer so these aren’t supposed to be perfect – they’re there to show the beauty of the Northern Lebanese mountains.

Some of the cedars at Tannourine

The cedars of Becharre

Residual snow

Lebanon’s highest peak – Kornet el Sawda

The Bekaa valley

Saydet el Hosn – Ehden

And the following picture I took with my iPhone and modified using Camera+:

This is what you see when you’re literally above cloud nine

 

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The Batroun – Tannourine Highway

Back in 2000, I used to go on trips to Tannourine with a friend and complain about the constant works taking place on the roads leading there.

“It’s for a good thing,” the man always told me. I never knew what he meant until very recently. I only realized the importance of the full scope of the project at hand yesterday when it took me ten minutes to get from my hometown to Tannourine, using the newly opened section of the Batroun-Tannourine Highway, the part extending from the town of Bejdarfel to Assia.

Easier commute, easier ambulance trips, easier impromptu road trips…. You name it.

We, as Lebanese, always nag about the dismal state of our infrastructure. So it’s nice to highlight something good for a change. And this is definitely on the advanced side. Instead of working on already existing roads, they’ve created new ones in valleys and mountains to cut distances short. And the effort put in the highway shows.

There’s still a little more work that needs to be done on some of the newly finished sections: put up lanes and fix some asphalt-related issues, but overall, it is a great drive. At some points, with the towering mountains around you all full of snow, you feel like you’ve been taken out of the stereotype image you have of Lebanon and to some section of the Italian alps. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Batroun’s MPs have been working hard to get the highway plans underway and hopefully their enthusiasm and the highway will be properly maintained. The final stretch of the project extending from my hometown, Ebrine, to Batroun will start soon.

The newly finished part, just outside the town of Bejdarfel

Just outside my best friend's hometown: Boxmaya. Apparently you can go to Al Koura from here as well. I had no idea.

The older part of the highway

I bet Fairuz would be happy that her trip from Hamlaya to Tannourine is rendered much shorter now.

Batroun’s Bal3a Dam: The Iranian Interference

This is Bal3a

Bal3a is a region in the mountainous village of Tannourine, in the east of the Batroun caza, North Lebanon’s first district. Home for its famous sinkhole, Bal3a is also the source for the “Joz” river, Batroun’s main water source.

A very ambitious project has been in the works for Bal’a for a few years now. The plans for a dam, to be built on the Joz River, have been in motion. This dam would increase the water resources for the whole Batroun caza by drastic amounts.

To build this dam, bids were submitted to the government back in June. Moawwad and Eddeh Contracting Company won the contract to build the dam, with a total amount of $32 million. For reference, this is the same company that built the Shabrouh Dam in Keserwein. However, this company was surprised a few weeks ago with a decree issued by the government, via the ministry of energy, to accept an Iranian donation of $40 million with one stipulation: an Iranian company was to build the dam, a project that would take four years.

The Lebanese company has filed an official complaint with the ministry of energy, managed by nonother than son-in-law prodigy Gebran Bassil. As if the electricity crisis was not enough for Bassil. The company still hasn’t gotten a reply as to what exactly happened.

But let’s contemplate this. The project will take four years. If everything goes as “planned” for Bassil & co, the Iranians will be roaming the Batroun mountains freely, under the umbrella of a security network, which will be provided by Iran’s allies in Lebanon: Hezbollah. Who knows what they’ll do other than build the dam.

If this Iranian company ends up beginning the constructions, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would have gained a stronghold in one of North Lebanon’s main mountains. And with Tannourine’s geographical contact with the Beqaa, a known Hezbollah stronghold, along with its proximity to other Mount Lebanon mountains where Hezbollah has already set foot, the possibilities become endless.

Let alone the fact that the Lebanese government has apparently preferred to hire an Iranian company over a Lebanese one, I have no idea how Gebran Bassil can let his own region be defiled in such a way and consider it simple “contracting” with the government. How can Gebran Bassil think he has a viable chance at getting elected in 2013 when he’s letting the people who killed Tannourine’s own Samer Hanna into his home?

And just a final question so I don’t let this drag on. Why, as a Batrouni, do I have to bear with someone I did not choose to represent me?