Darb el Karam (The Trail of Generosity) is a new food trail that promotes food and agricultural heritage in rural areas in the Higher Shouf and West Bekaa. The Food Heritage Foundation’s Zeinab Jeambey, involved at the core of the project, explains the concept and the purpose behind the rural tourism initiative
Darb el Karam is a network of nine villages in Higher Shouf and West Bekaa promoting food heritage and tourism where visitors can participate in agro-food activities and taste local culinary specialties. The touristic packages aim to highlight the seasonality and locality of foods and crops, the traditional processing methods and most importantly, the generosity of the hosts. By putting visitors in contact with farmers, shepherds, food producers; all preservers of rural food culture, Darb el Karam raises awareness among tourists about the origin of an ingredient or a traditional dish and its cultural and emotional ties to the destination, while diversifying the income of the hosts through tourism.
The project is currently in the soft launch phase with full launch due to take place in summer 2015. Take the trail any time of year and enjoy local dishes, harvest activities are seasonal; from spring till early winter.
What can you do on Darb el Karam?
The food trail sheds light on the food processing, agricultural, pastoral, and culinary activities of small farmers, shepherds, food producers, family restaurants and bed and breakfasts that
form part of the network.
-Walk with a shepherd
-Visit an olive press or bulger mill and learn the production process
-Collect wild edible plants with villagers and learn about their health properties
-Participate in honey collection with a beekeeper
-Participate in harvesting activities
-Taste local specialties at tables d’hôte along the trail
Who will you meet?
Darb el Karam brings visitors into the lands and homes of local farmers and food producers to experience their way of life and get an insight into their values and beliefs around food and agriculture. There are 23 hosts on the trail such as:
Boutros Bou Maroun – Shepherd, Saghbine
In his ‘70s, Boutros Bou Maroun is a descendent of an old family of shepherds and has herded local goats all his life. Like all experienced shepherds, he knows every nook and cranny between Kherbet Qanafar and Aitanit. A walk with Aammo Boutros is simply a delight: he has endless stories to share about his goats; their names, what they graze on and the best way to tend for them
Philippe Risha – Olive farmer, Aitanit
A young man from Aitanit, Phillippe Risha holds his olive orchards, inherited from his family, dear to his heart. In November and December, he welcomes visitors in his land to participate and learn about olive harvesting and accompanies them to visit the nearby olive mill in Aitanit and watch both old and new techniques of olive oil extraction.
Where can you eat?
On Darb el Karam, food producers host tables d’hôte and prepare local specialties using their own mouneh and harvests. there are six tables d’hôte and four B&Bs adhered to the trail which have developed seasonal menus highlighting typical dishes from their villages. A family restaurant and a traditional ice cream maker also form part of the trail
Lina Haddad’s table d’hôte – Kherbet Qanafar
Lina has been making mouneh and selling in neighboring villages for more than 10 years now. Her first mouneh product was mulberry syrup and she later became famous for her pumpkin jam, flavored with orange zest. Lina’s table d’hôte specializes in dishes from Kherbet Qanafar where pumpkin and keshek come back as star ingredients. In winter, make sure to ask for the Pumpkin kebbeh stuffed with labneh and kawarma and boiled in keshek and participate with her in making another of her specialties: holiday cookies baked on a wood fire.
Bassima Zeidan’s table d’hôte – Mresti
Distinguished by her passion for preserving traditional processing methods, Bassima Zeidan prepares all her mouneh products from her own harvest, and cooks them on the wood fire. In spring, she makes for a vibrant guide, knowledgeable in wild edible plant collection and in late summer, her orchards are open for tomato and apple harvest. Her table d’hôte serves up culinary specialties from Mresti. Her akkoub kebbeh, made of the famous wild edible plant, stuffed with potato and kawarma, is not to be missed.
May Kanaan’s table d’hôte – Mresti
Known for her saj making in Mresti and the surrounding area, May Kanaan is a passionate host on the trail, who renovated her house to receive visitors for breakfast and lunch, all year round. Knowledgeable in wild edible plant collection, her dishes are made with her own produce and freshly collected plants and her meals are accompanied by freshly baked saj bread.
Where can you sleep?
four B&Bs form part of darb el karam network, with owners that are dedicated to optimizing their visitors food experience. These are: Ein Zebde B&B, Aitanit B&B, Salim Al Ashkar’s guesthouse in Khraybet el Shouf and Chafiq and Samia Mershad’s guesthouse in Niha el Shouf.
Chafik and Samia Merchad’s Guesthouse and Table d’Hôte – Niha el Shouf
This well-established B&B has developed a seasonal menu showcasing local specialities with Darb el Karam, with a special highlight on sirdele labneh, made from goat milk fermented in earthenware jars. Nearby the B&B, visitors can see the sirdele processing unit and buy this traditional dairy product.
Where can you hike?
Darb el Karam villages in the Higher Shouf area are part of the hiking trails promoted by the Shouf Biosphere Reserve. In the West Bekaa local guides lead visitors along trails in the highlands and plains between the villages of Kherbet Qanafar and Aitanit.
For more details on the Darb el Karam go to
To visit contact:
Zeinab Jeambey – 03 804553,
Mabelle Chedid – 03 357495
or the Shouf Biosphere Reserve – 05 350150/250, shoufcedar.org
The project is funded by USAID in the framework of the Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development program and is being implemented by the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit at AUB and the Food Heritage Foundation in collaboration with the Shouf Cedar Biosphere Reserve.