The Lebanon Mountain Trail is the first long distance hiking trail in Lebanon; a 470km path from north to south showing the diverse landscapes, food, and culture of Lebanon. Martine Btaich, vice-president of the LMT Association, shares its history, conservation and its 2016 food heritage focus
I read somewhere that “the simple act of walking touches a chord deep within us… it challenges us and brings us solace and perspective.” I can’t but agree when walking the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT). Yet, this is not all it offers. Walking the LMT is an opportunity to connect with nature and appreciate the variety of landscapes, the hidden natural beauty and biodiversity in our miniscule country. It is a chance to discover the archaeological and historical remains of the different civilizations that crossed Lebanon, that we, Lebanese, wouldn’t have imagined existed. It is a way to experience the agriculture and healthy rural food specialties, and to meet hospitable people, from different communities accommodating travelers and introducing them to Lebanese culture. Today, these village communities are struggling to sustain their livelihoods, and to maintain their landscapes, endangered more than ever by the current exploitation of the mountains.
WHAT IS THE LMT?
The LMT is the first long distance hiking trail in Lebanon. It stretches from the village of Andqet in northern Akkar to the southern town of Jdeidet Marjaayoun. Over 470km in distance, the trail connects communities together and crosses 75 towns and villages, resting at 670-2,011m above sea level. The LMT cuts across one heritage site, three nature reserves, one biosphere reserve and several protected and Important Bird Areas.
HOW DID IT START?
Inspired by his childhood walks in Baskinta, and the 3,500km Appalachian Trail that he discovered after moving to the US, Joseph Karam imagined the LMT in 2002, trusting that the Lebanese mountains, with their cultural and natural heritage, are a great potential for the development of a long distance trail. The project became a reality in 2005 when ECODIT, Karam’s company working on environmentally and socially responsible development programs, received funds from USAID to implement the project. Thanks to the efforts of partner organizations and individuals, the LMT is today a rural tourism destination attracting thousands of people each year.
In 2007, the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA) was founded to develop and safeguard the LMT. The association promotes sustainable rural tourism that protects natural, cultural and historical heritage along the trail and brings economic benefits to local communities. Coordinating closely with partner organizations, municipalities, ministries, NGOs, tour operators, accommodation, local guides and schools, the LMTA is endeavoring to bring mountain conservation to the attention of local communities and decision makers, with the hope that one day the entire trail is preserved and the LMT becomes a world class sustainable destination.
WALKING AND RECREATION ON THE LMT
Travelers can walk the LMT throughout the year and each season has its charm. The trail is divided into 27 sections – and until 2015, two side trails in Ehmej and Baskinta – each of different difficulty level. Each section offers accommodation, attractions and seasonal food specialties. Visitors can go on a short day-long hike, for a few days, or hike the entire trail for one month. In addition to hiking, different sections offer the possibility of recreational activities such as snowshoeing, mountain biking, running, camping, agro-tourism, discovering rural food specialties as well as literary and cultural trails, such as the Baskinta Literary Trail.
APRIL 2016 THRU-WALK: WALKING FOR FOOD HERITAGE ON THE LMT
In April, for the 8th consecutive year, the LMTA is organizing its annual Thru-Walk. A core team of long-distance hikers will walk the entire trail over a period of 30 days starting 1 April. The LMTA is not a tour operator but the Association organizes this yearly event (and the Fall Trek in October) to promote the LMT as a sustainable travel destination and to consolidate the trail’s long-term conservation. Since it started the annual Thru-Walk has been attracting hundreds of nature, culture and mountain lovers. In 2015, it attracted more than 170 hikers from 12 different nationalities. Interested hikers can join the Thru-Walkers for sectional hikes and/or weekend hikes.
FOOD HERITAGE ON THE LMT
Between 2012 and 2015, the LMTA has been highlighting themes of importance on the LMT, such as water conservation, birds, trails, and cultural and archaeological heritage. In 2016, hikers will be celebrating food heritage on the LMT. The theme is a toast to the wonderful and hospitable people, owners of guesthouses and small eateries, cooks, female cooperatives and farmers that still take pride in preserving their farms, foods, processes, recipes and cooking methods characteristic to their villages. Many outings revolving around food on the LMT will be organized in collaboration with eco-tour operators.
Lebanon Mountain Trail Association
Some of the food discoveries on the LMT
A typical vegetarian dish from Aqoura made with pumpkin, bulgur, stir-fried onions with sour grape juice served at Germanos Guesthouse (09 439520, 03 643429) in Majdel Aqoura.
Beetroot with tahini
A salad available at Al Atayeb Coop (09 300108, 03 845257.) Also served at Auberge Beity (03 214871) in Kfardebiane.
Shmamit bi Laban
This boiled yogurt stew with poached eggs, is on offer at Hobeika Guesthouse (03 451113) in Baskinta.
Moghrabiyeh flavored with lavendar
A grain that looks like an oversized couscous, moghrabiyeh is served with chicken and shallot onions flavored with lavender at Shmeiss Guesthouse (03 515829) in Hasbaya, followed by Kaak with lavender for dessert.