Al-Shouf Cedars, LEBANON
- Keywords: Lebanon, Cultural Landscape, Al-Shouf, Chouf, cedars, Barouk, Maaser el Shouf, Ain Zhalta, Deir el Qamar. Christian Maronites, Gilgamesh, Niha, El Moukhtara, El Nabi Ayoub, Qab Elias Castle.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
The Cultural Landscape of Al-Shouf Cedars, called “Ensemble du site naturel de la région du Chouf avec les monuments et les sites archéologiques qui s’y trouvent” iwas proposed in the Tentative List of UNESCO, with date of submission: 01/07/1996, criteria: (iv), category: cultural, and ref.: 406. Covering nearly 2% of Lebanese territory, “Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve” is the largest Nature Reserve in Lebanon. “Chouf Cedars” is a Protected Forest in Lebanon. Located on the important intercontinental migratory route for birds, the Reserve is considered as an IBA (Important Bird Area). Since 2005, Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve as well as Ammiq wetland are part of the Man and the Biosphere Reserves. “The Al-Shouf Biosphere Reserve”, covers about 5% of the country and extends along the ridge of Mount Lebanon’s western chain at an altitude of 1000 to 2000 meters, including 24 villages.
- Tentative List of UNESCO
- Biosphere Reserves
- Protection Figures
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape1
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
The cedars are, of course, unique in Lebanon because of their significance as a cultural feature rather than as a natural one. Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is a nature reserve in the Chouf District of Lebanon. It is located on the slopes of Barouk mountain and has an area of 550 km2 (210 sq mi), nearly 5.3% of the Lebanese territory. The reserve contains the Lebanon Cedar forests of Barouk, Maaser el Shouf and Ain Zhalta, and historical and religious sites are scattered along the territory. If the site is proposed as a Cultural site in the Tentative List of UNESCO, Med-O-Med has decided to give one more step considering the site as Cultural Landscape (associative and relict landscape), taking into account its natural and cultural heritage (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008), comparing the values of the site with the values of “Ouadi Qadisha (the Holy Valley) and the Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab), which is already considered as a Cultural Landscape by UNESCO: -Its Natural Heritage Components: The main value of the site is the presence of ancient cedars. This tree is considerd as a sacred tree in Lebanon, and is connected to religious and mythical meanings. In general terms, the importance of Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is particularly related to: the presence of 25% of the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon (the biggest forest of Cedars of Lebanon is found on the flanks of Jabal Barouk), 32 mammal species, is located on the important intercontinental migratory route for birds, the Reserve is considered as an IBA (Important Bird Area). From the summit of the rugged mountains, visitors will have a panoramic view of the countryside, eastward to the Beqa’a Valley, Ammiq wetland and Qaraoun Lake, and westward toward the Mediterranean. -Its Cultural Heritage Components: 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 probability visited Mount Lebanon. The site has also historical and religious significance. Despite the historical feuds between Christian Maronites and Druze, the Chouf district is one of the most religiously diverse regions in Lebanon. There are, in the discrict, some cities with cultural interest, as Chouf, Baakline, or Deir el Qamar. Historic Cultural Sites of the territory are Niha cave castle, El Moukhtara, the feretory El Nabi Ayoub, Qab Elias Castle, or Mazar El Sit Cha’wane, a famous figure in the Druze religion.
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Al-Shouf, Chouf (Shuf or Chuf, in Arabic جبل الشوف Jebel ash-Shouf).
- Current denomination Al-Shouf, Chouf (Shuf or Chuf, in Arabic جبل الشوف Jebel ash-Shouf).
- Original denomination Al-Shouf, Chouf (Shuf or Chuf, in Arabic جبل الشوف Jebel ash-Shouf).
- Popular denomination Al-Shouf, Chouf (Shuf or Chuf, in Arabic جبل الشوف Jebel ash-Shouf).
- Address: The largest of Lebanon nature reserves, Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south.
- Geographical coordinates: Chouf District: 33.695548°N 35.579202° E Al-Shouf Nature Reserve: 33°41′39.25″N 35°42′07.63″E
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: Chouf is a historic region of Lebanon, as well as an administrative district in the governorate (mohafazat) of Mount Lebanon. Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is a nature reserve in the Chouf District of Lebanon. It is located on the slopes of Barouk mountain and has an area of 550 km2 (210 sq mi), nearly 5.3% of the Lebanese territory. The reserve contains the Lebanon Cedar forests of Barouk, Maaser el Shouf and Ain Zhalta.
- Access and transport facilities: There is a highway and roads connecting the district with Beirut.
- Visits / Schedules / Entrance fees / Groups / guided tours: The reserve is open from April to November.
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Lebanon's Government.
- Body responsible for the maintenance: Lebanon's Government.
- Legal protection: The Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve was created under law no.532 on July 29,1996. The reserve is managed by the Al Shouf Cedar Reserve Committe in cooperation with the shouf cedar society and under the supervision of the ministry of environment. It is consider the largest nature reserve in Lebanon, is a mountain ecosystem at the southern part of the Mount Lebanon range, covering over 5 percent of the country's land area.
-Historic significance of the Cedars of Lebanon: The cedar forests of Lebanon enjoy the unique distinction as the oldest documented forests in history. The cedars were featured prominently in the earliest written records of the Sumerians dating from the third millennium BC. The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the cedar forests of Lebanon as being “one thousand leagues long and one thousand leagues wide”. However, it was the Phoenicians along the coast of present-day Lebanon and from such ancientcities as Byblos, Tyre and Sidon, 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 transported the cedar to Egypt, until Egypt conquered Lebanon and gained direct access to the forests, which were highly prized for building temples and boats. Later the Babylonians took a similar interest in the cedars and obtained them for use in building the fabled city of Babylon. People around the world are familiar with the cedars of Lebanon because of numerous references in the texts of the Old Testament. The Bible records in some detail how King Solomon, King of Israel, asked King Hiram of Tyre to cut and transport vast quantities of cedar wood for building his temple and 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. The expansion of the Roman Empire into Syria and Lebanon had a detrimental effect on the cedars until the Emperor Hadrian installed markers around the boundary of the remaining forests and declared them as Imperial Domain. Specimens of these markers have been preserved and held in museum collections. Centuries later, during the early years of the twentieth century, 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 modern day Lebanon, the legendary cedar is still revered and remains prominent in the minds of all Lebanese. The cedar is featured 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 an important part of the cultural heritage of the people of Lebanon. -Religion and history in the district: The Chouf is living proof of the harmony between Maronite Christians and Druze, although several violent clashes have occurred between the two groups in 1848, 1860 and most recently in 1983-1984, during the Lebanese Civil War (Mountain War, Arabic: Harb el-Jabal). This saw the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), a traditionally Druze orientated party, face the Lebanese Forces (LF), comprising Maronite Christians. Reconciliation between the Druze and Christian communities came to fruition on August 8, 2001, when the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir made a historic visit to the Chouf and met with Druze leader, Jumblatt. Despite a bloody history, the Chouf is one of the best-preserved Lebanese districts and its nature has been generally spared from the intense building frenzy that has spoiled neighbouring Metn and Kesrouan.
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Archaeological
- Geography: Valley
- Site topography: Natural
- Climate and environmental conditions: The annual rainfall average is 1,200 mm (47 in), and the mean annual temperature is 11.3 °C (52.3 °F). The mean daily maximum temperature is 23.4 °C (74.1 °F) in August whereas the mean minimum temperature in January is −0.6 °C (30.9 °F). The absolute temperature ranges from −10.8 °C (12.6 °F) in January to 32.3 °C (90.1 °F) in August. The mean relative humidity lies around 65% but the eastern slopes are slightly dryer. There are about 50 to 55 days of snow fall per year, depending on the information provided by the Ministry of Public Work and Transport.
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: The Barouk mountain (Al-Shouf Reserve) comprises rocks from the (Pliocene) which have undergone major tectonic movement that divided the mountains of Lebanon into two parallel parts, the eastern range is called the Anti-Lebanon, and the western range is called Mount Lebanon. The two mountain ranges are separated by the Beqaa Valley, which is composed of recent infill sediments. The main rocks are limestone. The whole of the Barouk Mountain is cavernous limestone, with many surface features such as dolines indicating the underlying cavernous forms of the mountain range. One particularly noteworthy cave, estimated to be 700 metres (2,300 ft) long, is located near Niha village. Villagers report an abundance of stalactites and stalagmites and that there is an underground body of water. The highest peak on the range at 1,980 metres (6,500 ft). The trend from north to south is for the eastern slopes to change from very steep to less steep and for the western slopes to become increasingly steep. The top of the Barouk range becomes increasingly narrow towards the south.
The flora of the Al-Shouf Cedar area is partly covered by Mouterde’s 1966, 1970 and 1983 flora of Lebanon. The most recent and extensive botanical researches on the official site were conducted, on behalf of the Ministry of Environment (Protected Areas Project), by (Georges Tohmé) the National Council for Scientific Research (NCSR) in 1999. Since then extremely few flora reports on the official site were published or known. Tohmé continued his field botanical studies at Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve during the last three years in order to obtain confirmation on the status of certain species. His recent new findings are published in Tohmé, G. & Tohmé, H. (2002). Few of them are incorporated here and the others will be added to the final report of the present study-project. The list of Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve species includes 500 identified species distributed over 61 families. Also the reserve is habitat to 25 internationally and nationally threatened species, 48 endemic to Lebanon or Lebanon and Syria or Lebanon and Turkey, and 14 rare species, whilst 214 species are restricted to the Eastern Mediterranean or Middle The reserve is also home to 24 tree species, of which some are found in Europe and the Mediterranean area as well as in Lebanon. The reserve is known for its official’s efforts to save the cedar of Lebanon through continues management of the forests and planting new trees in previously logged and deforestated areas. The reserve form the last natural limits to the spread of Cedrus libani on the planet. The reserve is also known for the ability of the forests to regenerate by their own without any human interference. Other tree species in the reserve include : Cyprus oak (Quercus infectoria ), Brant’s oak (Quercus brantii), Kermes oak (Quercus calliprinos), Calabrian pine (Pinus brutia), Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), Stone pine (Pinus pinea), Greek juniper (Juniperus excelca), Syrian juniper (Arceuthos drupacea).
The reserve hosts 32 species of wild mammals of which 9 are considered to be rare at the international level (wolves, hyenas, etc.). 270 species of birds, 19 are considered rare at the national level, 27 species of reptiles and Amphibians. -Mammals: Mammal explorations in Lebanon were limited until around the middle of the twentieth century. They are fragmentary and provided little information on the mammals inhabiting the country. Many species and sub-species were not yet recorded for Lebanon till the 1970s. Between 1980 and 1985, Tohmé, G. and Tohmé, H. alone produced 33% of the known published papers on the Lebanese mammals. The only documented data of the mammals of Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve apparently appeared in the report of Tohmé, H. that was prepared, on behalf of the Protected Areas Project at the Ministry of Environment, in 1999 by the NCSR. This report, which was based on inventory and surveys as well as brochures and other documents developed by the managing team of the reserve, produced a list of 32 mammals which include: Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Gray wolf (Canis lupus ), Beech marten (Martes foina), Mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella), Golden jackal (Canis aureus), Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), European badger (Meles meles), Cape hare (Lepus capensis), Caucasian Squirrel (Sciurus anomalus), Palestine Mole Rat (Nannospalax ehrenbergi) Indian porcupine (Hystrix indica), Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), Wild cat (Felis silvestris), Cape hyrax (Procavia capensis). The reserve launched a project to reintroduce the Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana) to the area from Jordan, after it was extinct in the mid-twentieth century. The reserve was most probably home to the Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), Persian fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica), Anatolian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana), Wild goat (Capra aegagrus), and Syrian Brown Bear (Ursus arctos syriacus), which are extinct now in Lebanon. The Aurochs (Bos primigenius) may have existed in the area in the middle ages as well. -Birds: The reserve is home to 200 species of birds, of which 19 are considered rare at the national level. More than 22 species have been confirmed to be resident, the rest are migratory or rare visitors, and at least two or three species have been introduced. The reserve holds a combination of birds found in Europe, Africa, and Asia which include: Chukar (Alectoris chukar), Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius), Blackbird (Turdus merula), Common raven (Corvus corax), Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Shore lark (Eremophila alpestris), Common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), Common Chaffinch, (Fringilla coelebs), Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), Rock sparrow (Petronia petronia), European goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis). Two species at least have been introduced to the shouf area for hunting and expanded their range in to the reserve, the two species are: Rock partridge (Alectoris graeca), and Common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). The reserve is also home to many species of birds of prey such as: Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), and the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). -Reptiles and Amphibians: Al-shouf cedar reserve is home to a rich variety of reptiles, 26 species were documented with two species endemic to Lebanon and the chouf area in particular. The reserve is also home to four species of amphibians, almost the same number of species found in the whole of Lebanon. The species include: Palestinian viper (Vipera palaestinae), Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca), Mediterranean chameleon (Chamaeleon chamaeleon), European copper skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii), Common Toad (Bufo bufo), European green toad (Bufo viridis), Arouss Al Ayn (Salamandra infraimmaculata), Middle East Tree Frog (Hyla savignyi).
Land uses and economical activities:Traditional land uses in the area primarily concerned wood harvesting and sheep and goat herding which resulted in a severe degradation of the landscape. The cedar forest remnants are confined to the steeper and less accessible and high altitude areas, where trees tend to be wider spaced and less attractive for timber harvesting. Many of the oak forests have been subject to regular harvesting for firewood and charcoal production. In the 1960’s, extensive reforestation activities were undertaken on some of the upper western slopes, mainly relying on Cedars seedlings planted on artificial terraces. The genetic origins of those plantings have been questioned and are subject to ongoing research.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:Agricultural terraces.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
The largest of Lebanon’s nature reserves, Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Mount Niha in the south. Blanketed with oak forests on its northeastern slopes and juniper and oak forests on its southeastern slopes the reserve’s most famous attractions are its three magnificent cedar forests of Maasser El Shouf, Barouk and Ain Zhalta – Bmohary . These Cedar forests account for a quarter of the remaining cedar forest in Lebanon, and some tress are estimated to be 2,500 years old. The size of the reserve makes it a good location for the conservation of medium size mammals such as the wolf and the Lebanese jungle cat, as well as various species of plants. There are also historical/cultural sites with interest, as castles or monasteries.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
Architectonical elements /Sculptures:
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 major landmarks: -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 al-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. A feretory was erected in her name. -Deir el Qamar is an historic village with a lot of palaces and great houses (Historic Monuments and Sites of Lebanon) as Beit ed-Dine (the Emir Bechir Palace) -El Moukhtara is a palace of XVII century which has been rebuilt on XIX.
In the case of gardens: original and current style:It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
-Qalaat Niha: The cave castle of Tyron Niha relates to one of the closing episodes of Prince Fakhreddin II’s epic history and are the only remaining vestiges of a once powerful fortress which was successively used by the Arabs, Crusaders, and a number of princes of Mount Lebanon. -El Nabi Ayoub: A feretory 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.
- Traces in the environment of human activity: Ancient remains.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Population, ethnic groups: Despite the historical feuds between Christian Maronites and Druze, the Chouf district is one of the most religiously diverse regions in Lebanon. The Druze, Maronite Catholics and Sunni Muslims are the largest religious groups. Moreover, there is a substantial Greek Catholic population, as well as a smaller Shi'a Muslim population. The current population is mostly Druze and Sunni, but the original population was predominantly Christian, with a large minority of Druze and a smaller Sunni minority. Most of the Christians moved to Beirut, and some have immigrated to outside Lebanon.
- Languages and dialects: Arabic
- Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: The Emirs of Lebanon used to have their residence in Chouf, most notably Bachir Chehab II, who built the magnificent palace of Beiteddine during the first half of the 19th century.
Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:In the 1960’s, extensive reforestation activities were undertaken on some of the upper western slopes, mainly relying on Cedars seedlings planted on artificial terraces. The genetic origins of those plantings have been questioned and are subject to ongoing research. Capitalizing on Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve as a protected area, requires a major effort in rehabilitation in order to preserve existing rare and threatened species and eventually reintroducing locally extinct species.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:The site is a perfect place to keep atach with yourself, to breath in silence and to observe the stars.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:
-Al Shouf Nature Reserve: the Lebanon Cedar forests of Barouk, Maaser el Shouf and Ain Zhalta. -Beqa’a Valley, Ammiq wetland and Qaraoun Lake. -All the monuments and ancient remains mentioned in this file. -The villages of Chouf, Baakline, or Deir el Qamar.
Authenticity:The cedars of the site are unique because of their significance as a cultural feature rather than as a natural one. The Forest of Cedars of Al-Shouf has maintained its authenticity as related to the survival of its trees.
Universality:I. The importance of Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is particularly related to the presence of: - 25% of the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon. - 500 types of plants. - 24 kinds of trees. - 32 mammal species. - 50 bird species. - 27 reptiles species. II. Its strategic Location: - It is located on the important intercontinental migratory route for birds, the Reserve is considered as an IBA (Important Bird Area). - It Includes some ancient ruins such as the spectacular spectacular Fort of Niha/ Shqiff Tyron, and monuments of great architectonical value as castles or monasteries. III. The religious and mythical significance of the cedars.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:The site has historical and religious significance. Despite the historical feuds between Christian Maronites and Druze, the Chouf district is one of the most religiously diverse regions in Lebanon.
Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):
*** “The Cultural Landscape of Al-Shouf Cedars” is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Lebanon which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/406/ http://www.ecoecovillage.com/ http://www.shoufcedar.org/ ww.unesco.org/mab http://www.wildlebanon.org/en/pages/sit/shouf.html http://126.96.36.199/MOEAPP/ProtectedAreas/al-shouf.htm http://www.moe.gov.lb/Sectors/Biodiversity-Forests/Sub-Sector/Sub-Sector/Protected-Areas-in-Lebanon/%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B7%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AD%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D9%84%D8%A8%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%86.aspx?lang=en-us http://www.moe.gov.lb/Sectors/Biodiversity-Forests/Sub-Sector/Sub-Sector/Protected-Areas-in-Lebanon.aspx?lang=en-us http://www.parks.it/world/LB/Eindex.html -Georges, T. (1999). Protected Areas Project. Ministry of Environment. National Council for Scientific Research (NCSR), Lebanon. -UNESCO. MAB-SECRETARIAT. (2010). Biosphere Reserves.World Network. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy.
Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.