Ehden is an excellent choice for culture, nature and food enthusiasts. Here are ten ways to spend a weekend in this quaint picturesque town.
1. Enjoy nature
Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve located in North Lebanon, is a diverse and beautiful remnant of cedar forests, making the reserve a very important part of the country’s cultural and natural heritage. Located on the northwestern slopes of Mount Lebanon and surrounded by mist and relatively high precipitation, the reserve has a multitude of rare and endemic plants that flourish in it.
A mixed forest of juniper, fir and the country’s last protected community of wild apple trees, border patches of cedar. A number of water sources can be found in Horsh Ehden, the most important of which are Ain Al-Naasa, Nabaa Jouït and Ain Al-Baiada. During a peaceful hike through the forest, lucky visitors might spot an endangered Eastern Imperial Eagle or Bonelli’s Eagle, a gray wolf, or a wildcat. The reserve’s beautiful valleys and gorges, with their wild orchids, brightly colored salamanders, mushrooms, and other flora and fauna, are sure to soothe even the most anxious visitor.
The remote wilderness of parts of Horsh Ehden and of the adjacent mountain areas provides the ideal setting for walks and other outdoor activities.
2. Know its heroes
Yousef Bek Karam (May 5, 1823 – April 7, 1889), whose statue can be seen in front of the St. Georges church, and body is kept in a glass box inside the church, was a Lebanese leader who led the nationalist effort against the Ottoman Empire. He was an early advocate of forming a united world assembly that would protect the rights of small nations. He was also a champion of human rights, justice and freedom. He fought against tyranny, human rights abuses and social discrimination. Due to his high ethical standards, he refused to live the life of opulence and luxury.
Another local hero is Patriarch Estephan II Boutros El Douaihy. He was the Patriarch of the Maronite Church from 1670 to 1704 and is considered one of the major Lebanese historians of the 17th century. Douaihy strongly believed in the social importance of education and science. He pursued a successful policy of sending as many Maronites to Rome as possible, in orderfor them to return to their villages and raise the level of education. Douaihy established a college in Aleppo, which became the basis for the development of renewed monastic orders.
Gabriel Sionite was famous for his role in the publication of the 1645 Parisian polyglot of the Bible. Although Sionite came to Rome at the age of seven, he always considered Arabic as his mother tongue. In Rome, he learned Latin and Syriac. He studied theology, and went into the priesthood at age 45 in Paris.
3. Tour the churches
St. Sarkis Monastery overlooks Ehden, Kfarsghab, Bane and Hadath El Jebbeh. Given its exceptional location commanding the valley at 1500 meters altitude, the monastery is called the Watchful Eye of Qadisha. It is dedicated to Saints Sarkis and Bakhos (Saints Sergius and Bacchus). The monastery belongs to the Lebanese Antonin Maronite Order, a monastic order founded on August 15, 1700 by the Maronite Patriarch Gabriel Al Blouzani from Blaouza.
Among the many famous churches is Saint Mamas (Mar Mema), which is the oldest Maronite church in Lebanon, built in 749 A.D. on the remains of a pagan temple, while Sayidet Al Hosn, Church of Our Lady of the Fortress, was built over the remains of a Crusader castle, hence the amazing view that it commands. Saint Moura was built in 1339 and witnessed the founding of the Lebanese Maronite Monastic Order in 1695. The cathedral of St. Georges, with its seven altars, houses the mausoleum of Yousef Bek Karam, while his statue and that of Gabriel Sionite stand in the courtyard.
Read more about Ehden Churches here.
4. Get an eyeful
Catch the sunset at Saydet El Hosn, Church of Our Lady of the Fortress, from where you can see the entire north side of Lebanon, stretching from the Syrian coast to Chekka.
You can also take a walk on the pass for a breathtaking view of the valley.
5. Learn the history
The Monastery of St. Antonios Qozhaya is the birth place of the first printing press in the Middle East. Some historians believe it was built in 1584. Its first printed text is The Book of Psalms, which can actually be found at the library of the University of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik. It dates back to 1610. The Lebanese Maronite Order renovated the printing press at the start of the nineteenth century. Its activities were halted at the beginning of the 1860 war. It resumed printing in 1871, but stopped again at the beginning of World War II.
6. Take in the local culture
A trip to Ehden is not complete without a visit to Al Midan, a historic public square, surrounded by typical Lebanese architecture and filled with cafes, patisseries and restaurants. Al Midan is the place to be 24 hours a day. Take a stroll in the early morning and you can smell the Turkish coffee with cardamom. At noon have a leisurely lunch under the shade of the colored umbrellas. After a cup of tea, nibble on local sweets up at the pass. In the evening, the shisha smoke rises above the sound of merriment during dinner. Then, end the day with a sip of sahleb to warm you up.
7. Take a break
Al Midan square, located at the center of the town, hosts several restaurants and pubs around Ehden’s famous platanus trees. Al Kitleh square, a walk away from Al Midan square hosts Saint Georges’ Church where Youssef Bey Karam’s body is kept. Ehden Adventures (+961 3 491493) and Ehden Mountain Activities (+961 3 754928) are great for outdoor activities for adults, such as: hiking, paragliding, rappelling, caving, etc. Haze Sunset Bar (+961 6 560605) is open during the summer time and is the perfect place to watch breathtaking sunsets. Look for musical and cultural events, as well as surprise pool parties.
8. Try the food and the wine
Vegetarians beware! This is the place for kibbeh. Try all the different kinds, from kibbeh nayye (raw meat) to kibbeh krass, the specialty of the region, which is basically grilled meat, shaped into a ball. Whether for lunch or dinner, one of the many outdoor restaurants specializing in Lebanese cuisine in Mar Sarkis, or on the pass with amazing views of the Qadisha Valley, will definitely offer a treat. One of the better known restaurants, Al Fardous (+961 6 560605) has a great mountain view. However, there are many more traditional Lebanese restaurants to choose from. For something different try French cuisine at Pinch, with its marvelous views of apple and pear orchards.
The region’s only winery…
You can also take a tour of Les Caves d’Eden (+961 70 200059), a family-run boutique winery. Surrounded by flowing rivers, bountiful waterfalls and lush green areas, this beautiful winery — a little corner of paradise — is a perfect place for wine enthusiasts. This unique terroir lends its characteristics to the exceptional wines of Les Caves d’Eden, which is the only winery in the area. Guests can enjoy a tour and sample the wines with the winery’s founder and vitner, Fouad Barakat.
9. Join the festival
Summer in Lebanon is always fun-filled thanks to the number of local festivals in towns and villages throughout the country. With the Ehdeniyat International Festival, hundreds of people are expected to flock to Ehden to enjoy its lively atmosphere and talented performers. The festival is representative of both the traditional and modern cultures found in Ehden.
10. Stay the night
Accommodation in Ehden ranges from high-end hotels to quaint cabins. A charming local family runs the La Reserve wooden huts, on the edge of the Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve (+961 3751292). Beit el Ward (+961 6561016), a 19th century mansion, has been stunningly renovated into a boutique hotel on the town’s busy Al Midan square. Another guesthouse gem is Beit Mirna (+961 81 336116), which boasts beautiful rooms, an elegant lobby/lounge area and a pretty garden area where guests can relax. Other hotels include Ehden Country Club (+961 6560550), Abchi Hotel (+961 6561101), Belmont Hotel (+961 6560102), Ehden Hotel (+961 6560100), Centre Nabeh Jouit (+961 6561310) and La Mairie Hotel (+961 6 560108).
Article published on March 20, 2021
Article edited on June 28, 2021