Day 2: Aitanit to Rashaya, Trekking the Lebanon Mountain Trail

On the second day of our four-day trek along the final stretch of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT), we walked from the village of Aitanit at the western edge of Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley to Rashaya to the East. The journey took about 7 hours during which we crossed 17 km (11 miles). The most impressive feature of this particular stretch was the feeling of being dwarfed by Jabal el Sheikh (Mount Hermon), the highest peak in the Anti-Lebanon mountain chain. This mystical mountain, which sits at the corner of Lebanon, Syria, and Israeli occupied Palestinian land, has been considered sacred by various cultures and religions since antiquity. According to local belief, the mountain is the site of the transfiguration of Christ. It is also said that the mountain was the first to emerge after the Noah’s biblical flood. We began by descending to the valley floor where the contrast between the snow-covered mountain and the greenery below was overwhelming. We then crossed over the Litani Dam [Read more...]

Day 1: Jezzine to Aitanit, Trekking the Lebanon Mountain Trail

For the past few years, we have been meaning to hike the southern portion of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) in spring, but life always got in the way. Finally, this year, for Norbert’s 65th birthday, we decided to put life on pause and make this a priority. The four-day trek, amounting to approximately 77 km (48 miles) starts in Jezzine in the Chouf Mountains and ends in the southern town of Marjayoun. The trip was led by one of Lebanon’s finest guides, Jorge Abi Saad of Libantrek. After the taxi dropped us off in Jezzine, we started the steep climb up the Chouf mountains to 1900 meters (6235 ft). As we made our way up to the top, we walked through fields of grass and wild flowers along a gurgling stream, and crossed pine groves until we reached a rocky landscape which stood in stark contrast with the greenery below. Somewhere along the way, a handsome and well-mannered white Labrador joined us on our journey. The dog had a collar but no identification. We were delighted with [Read more...]

El Gouna: Style, Beauty and a State of Mind

In its budding years el Gouna was a low-key resort town, flanked by the Red Sea’s azure waters and its jagged mountains, that trailed behind glitzier destinations in Egypt such as Sharm el Sheikh, favored by foreign tourists, and the country’s northern coast mostly frequented by locals. Yet, in its three decades of existence el Gouna has steadily climbed up the ranks earning an unrivaled reputation as a classy international resort as well as a home to thousands of residents who have relocated here seeking an alternative lifestyle. Despite its fast-paced growth and increasing popularity, el Gouna still maintains its raw beauty accentuated by the powerful winds that blow here the greater part of the year. From a tight-knit seaside community, 20 km (12.5 miles) north of the port city of Hurghada, with a handful of hotels, one marina, and a spatter of residential compounds, el Gouna has grown to a sizeable town with a distinct identity shaped by the vision of its founder Egyptian [Read more...]