MEET Network Organizes Ecotourism in Lebanon

Trekking in Lebanon
Trekking in the Lebanon Mountains, Lebanon. Elias Ziade photo.

An Eco-Friendly Trip to Lebanon Through MEET Network

By Aysia Reed

The Mediterranean Experience of Ecotourism Project, otherwise known as the MEET network, is a conservation project that is designed for travelers who want a journey in nature, while simultaneously volunteering to restore our Earth.

The network is actively revamping ecotourism in Mediterranean parks and has been designed to specifically fit the needs of the region’s assets.

The MEET organization focuses on its four models: Conservation, Compassion, Connection, and Community. With this model, volunteers will embark on a journey to the Mediterranean to focus on the advancement, management, and betterment of ecotourism.

The Mediterranean is one of the world’s most favorable tourist destinations, and the popularity has caused an astronomical impact; the MEET network has made it their duty to benefit the conservation of the territory.

The ecotourism aspect of MEET offers a safer and more ecologically friendly way to travel to the Mediterranean. It is a low-impact substitute for a typical tourism trip.

So, how do you get started? 

Protected area managers have put together different packages for ecotourists to choose from in order to immerse in the culture and benefit the conservation of the specific area. MEET offers an itinerary of 3-7 nights, packed with trips to parks around the Mediterranean.

Lebanese airport
Lebanese airport

The MEET website even has an ecotourism footprint calculator, so ecotourists can easily plan out their trip, and what the best environmentally friendly options will be.

Questions range from asking the user where they will be staying to asking if the facility they are staying at has any sustainability certifications or not.

MEET is all about experiential travel; not adventure travel. Being in protected conservations, learning about the current and past culture, trying new foods, and being in nature is what the network is all about when it comes to the travel part of the trip.

Yet, these trips would not be possible without the travelers that join MEET’s network. The communities that come together make the conservation of the region possible.

Exploration

Mount Lebanon is one of the packages ready to book for up to 6 days. On the excursion, travelers will be absorbed in the traditions of the villages, and have the opportunity to spend time with the locals who have first-hand knowledge of the region’s 4,000-year-old history.

Beiteddine Palace
Courtyard at the Beiteddine Palace in Lebanon. Peripatus photo.

Other travel contingencies include a visit to the 19th century Beiteddine Palace. The ruler of the Mount Lebanon Emirate built the palace in the late 1700s but it was later damaged in the Lebanese Civil War.

Captivating architecture, antique furniture, and a courtyard make for a delightful yet historic scene of Lebanon’s past.

MEET encourages ecotourists to truly deluge themselves in Lebanon’s culture, and loom weaving is one of the best ways to do this.

Loom Weaver
1900’s loom weaver in Lebanon.

Being one of the oldest professions in history, loom weaving is native to Lebanon and reflects on traditions in the country. Looms were used by everyone, not just the wealthy. Most crafts in Lebanon were exclusive to just the upper class but weaving was a part of every social class.

The art of looming played a vital role in Lebanon’s economy. Modern-day Lebanon does not use as many looms, but it is important for travelers to be aware of the magnitude that looms had on the country.

Lunch is prepared by the native Beqaa women in the eco-friendly Tawlet Ammiq restaurant.

The restaurant is a part of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve development project in the area. The food is buffet style and there are choices of meats, cheese, and farm-fresh vegetables to choose from.

The restaurant also offers sweeping views of the Beqaa valley—the home to Lebanon’s most famous wineries. The Kassatly Chtaura winery is one of the dozens in the area and thrives off of authentic family traditions. Travelers can get a chance to unwind here and enjoy the rolling landscapes while drinking wine or eating the food from the Beqaa women.

Cedar in Lebanon
Cedar of Lebanon at Hidcote. Jonathan Billinger photo.

Lebanon’s Famous Cedars

The calming nature of Lebanon can be observed at the Biblical Cedar Trees forest in the Barouk range. The trees hold biblical significance to Lebanon and have historic importance.

The timber from the forest had been used by the Egyptians for building ships and was used in the Ottoman Empire for railways.

Today, the forest no longer has its once thick cedar trees due to deforestation. This is where the MEET travelers come into full swing by joining the reserve to create solutions that will prevent further damage to the biosphere.

Shouf Biosphere Reserve in Lebanon

The Shouf Biosphere Reserve conserves the villages in Lebanon, and this is where the “eco” in ecotourism can come into play.

Due to the Mediterranean’s geographical location, they are at a disadvantage. Ecological setbacks include droughts, large forest fires, heavy rain, and strong wind. The consequences of these disasters are astronomical, and leave forest areas destroyed.

Shouf Biosphere Reserve 3 jpg
Shouf Biosphere Reserve. Shoufcedar photo.

Another hindrance Lebanon experiences is the unsustainable usage of resources.

Many people in the area use implausible methods to get groundwater, and illegally cut down trees for heat. These actions are a direct result of Lebanon’s economic crisis.

To combat this, MEET journeyers are able to collaborate with the Shouf Biosphere Reserve organization if they choose to while they are visiting the Lebanon villages.

The reserve is working with the natives to safely restore their cultural practices and create improved methods for using local materials.

Some of the new approaches have included creating stonewall terraces to combat fires, production of fire briquettes, charcoal production, safe sources for farm fertilizer, and grazing methods.

These approaches are known as the building blocks of the project, and together they work towards the advancement of Lebanon’s biosphere.

So far, the Forest Landscape Restoration in the Shouf has contributed to the reduction of CO2 emissions. Fossil energy consumption was reduced significantly and forest ecosystems were increased to allow the trees to be able to store higher amounts of carbon.

Simultaneously, this helped the locals with energy cost reduction and an opportunity for more jobs. The Tawlet Ammiq eco-friendly restaurant is an example of this, and MEET travelers are helping out by dining at this foodery.

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