79 Km away from Beirut, Aitanit is a small village at the foot of mount Niha in West Bekaa, overlooking the Qaraoun Lake.
The name “Aitanit”, as believed by the villagers, derives from “Ain” which means water source in Arabic and “Tanit” a Berber goddess, goddess of maternity and fertility, who was worshiped in the Western Mediterranean and relates to the Phoenician goddess Ishtar. The village is renowned for its historical church of St Georges, where Patriarch Kyrilos Kyrilos was buried. The church which was recently renovated, safeguarding its ancient and beautiful arches, was listed on Lebanon’s religious tourism list. The agricultural lands of Aitanit exceed its residential area, and are mainly cultivated with apple and olive trees. Aitanit is famous for its olive mill that combines both traditional and new olive pressing techniques. The beautiful mountains of Aitanit host part of the trails of the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) and its bed and breakfast is an LMT listed guesthouse.
Saghbine town is located on the eastern slope of Western Lebanese Mountains, at the foot of Mount Niha, by the Litani River in the heart of West Bekaa.
It is sure that Saghbine is an ancient village that was, in bygone time, a central point of communication between the Chouf and the Bekaa. The mountain trails still link Saghbine with the villages of Mrosti, Jbaa, Baadaran, Aamatour and Bater. The Hanouti area (Hanoto in Syriac which means “stores”), on the eastern side Niha mountain, proves the convoys transit between the Shouf and the Bekaa through Saghbine. Old people confirm the presence of significant vestiges in the mountainous surroundings of the village and in its plain, such as Byzantine tombs and Roman vestiges.
Saghbine is limited by the village of Bab Mareh from the South and Ein Zebde from the North. Its agricultural lands expand to the other side of the Litani River to the villages of Qaraoun, Lala, Baaboul and Jeb Jannine.
Origin of the name
The origin of the name “Saghbine” is commonly related to the hardness and stubbornness of its men. However, Moufarrej, in the Lebanese Encyclopedia, states that origin of the name Saghbine is Aramaic and refers to the “rugged mountain trails”.
Agriculture and Environment
Saghbine is known for its orchards of apple, grape, fig and almonds as well as for its crop production such as wheat, pulses and onions. The village surrounding landscape consists of small forests of varieties of pine trees, cypress, cedar and oak hosting local birds like owls, partridges, Goldfinch, turtledove etc. and mammals like boars and wild rabbits coming from the Shouf Cedar Reserve, foxes and hyenas.
73 km from the capital, and on an altitude ranging from 700 to 1200 m above sea level, Saghbine is characterized by a mild weather and green landscapes. When staying at the village, don’t forget to visit its beautiful old and new churches and chapels.
Make sure you taste its various traditional recipes like zenkoul, potato and walnut kebbe, winter tabboule, fwerigh, its famous lemonade andits ice-cream made with milk goat!
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The origin of the name Qanafar is not clear. Some say it goes back to the time when the village was ruled and ruined under the reign of King Qanafar. An analysis of the name in light of ancient languages, explains that the word Qanafar is derived from the “kino far” or the house of fruits, “kino” meaning house and “far” meaning fruits.
Agriculture and Environment
The village’s landscape invites for hiking and camping. The centenary oak tree is a famous icon of Kherbet Qanafar.
Its diverse countryside is filled with vine yards, vegetable fields and fruit orchards, a true feast to the eyes. The village is mostly famous for its olives, apples, peaches, melons as well as for its tomatoes, beans, potatoes and onions.
Visiting Kherbet Qanafar
Visiting the food trail in Kherbet Qanafar, you will have an array of agriculture and gastronomic activities to involve in. From tomato picking to tomato paste making, you have the chance to interact with farmers to food producers who will tell you all what you need to know about the history of agriculture in the area and the traditional processing method of tomato concentrate in Bekaa.
The village is home to two tables d’hôte hosted by the food trail one specialized in milk cookies making and the other in mulberry products making as well as homemade local red wine and Arak. The village is also known for its winery – Chateau Qanafar – which lies on the top hill overlooking the landscape.
About 60 Km away from Beirut and 1050 meters above sea level, this village is characterized for its traditional Lebanese houses, its Saint Georges Church and some ancient ruins and monuments such as the olive oil presses, sarcophagi and the Joumblatt family Serail dating from the Ottoman period.
Today, the village is known among hikers and nature lovers because it is home to a beautiful guesthouse, owned and run by the Al Achkar family, a mother and her son.
Agriculture and Environment
Six water sources surround the village and contribute to its lush green atmosphere. These are Ain el Chatawiyeh, Ain el Jadida, Ain el Qadima, Ain el Mechqer, Ain Aadas, and Ain Amer. An old oak tree characterizes its main square which is the connecting point to surrounding villages such as Maasser el Shouf and Mrosti. The village is mainly known for its olive orchards and its olive oil production.
Visiting Khraybet el Shouf
When visiting the village and sleeping over at its heavenly nested old guesthouse, ask the hosts to prepare you some the traditional dishes best known in the higher Shouf region, namely Omayshe – a warm paste made of kishk, fine bulgur and extra virgin olive oil – and accompanied by grilled onions, a full fledged villager’s meal!
This village is situated on the edge of the Al Shouf Cedar Reserve and is about 7 km from one of the oldest groves of cedar trees in Lebanon. Maasser is a rural traditional village with a town square, an old mill, an old oak and pine forest and two natural water sources. Recent archaeological studies revealed that Maasser has been inhabited since the 4th century BC, at the Hellenistic , Roman and Byzantin eras. The El Hosn ruins dates back to the Roman era as evidenced by tombs cut in the rock.
On the trail going from Maasser to Moukhtara, there is an ancient and deserted water mill dating from the late 19th century and an Ottoman bridge that links the two sides of the valley between Maasser and Botmeh. The Saint Michael church and convent are the two major religious monuments in Maasser. The convent has been renovated and converted into a bed & breakfast accommodation. Beside, the village includes a traditional guest house, many wood cabins available for accommodation and the The Maasser Park House, headquarter of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve.
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Niha was inhabited since the Roman times, the Crusaders, the Mamlouks’ and the Ottomans’. The most famous monument in Niha is the cave fortress (Cave of Tyron). This cave was fortified by the Crusaders, the Arabs, and the Mameluk and used to control the vital road linking Saïda to the Beqaa Valley.
The shrine of Nabi Ayoub, or Job, is the second most famous monument in Niha.The shrine is built on a summit overlooking the village of Niha, where the prophet Job is believed to be buried. Pilgrims frequently visit this site searching for its benediction. Niha is rich in old springs such as Ain el Qataa, Nabeh Niha and the very old Ain el Halqoum.
However one should not forget other very old or recent attractions that forged the celebrity of the village: its old traditional houses, its two ancient churches in Niha (Saint Joseph and Saint Georges) as well as two old bridges (El Jisr el Tahtani and Jisr Tariq el Nahr) and an old water mill. Niha now has a well run private guesthouse, and an information center run by the Shouf Biosphere Reserve.
Altitude between 1050 and 1850 meters
Distance from Beirut 65 km
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Mrosti village is situated in higher Shouf, it is renowned for its millennium oak woods, the Ottoman bridge in addition to the Roman and Byzantine ruins. There is also an old grape press and three natural springs: Ain el Ghabeh; Ain el Tahta, and Jeita Spring. The Jeita Spring is considered blessed and holy. The Khalwat al-Sheikh al-Sadeq (Druze’s holy place) dates back to the 16th Century and is the main religious attraction of the village.
The square of the village is mostly (particularly) famous for the statue of Kamal Bek Joumblatt.
Altitude between 1250 and 1750 meters
Distance from Beirut 67 km
So many natural elements, places and monuments make the reputation of Jebaa: its oak and pine forests known by the inhabitants as the Roman Woodland, an old grape press cut into the rock, the natural caves, the water sources of Ain Chaachouh and Ain el Dayaa, and its Roman temple and tombs in Maabour el Wadi (the passage of the Valley).
Other ruins located in an area known as the Khirbeh are difficult to date. Moreover, a well equipped picnic area was created near Ain Chaachouh on the Lebanese Mountain Trail (the longest trail in Lebanon “440 km”).
Altitude between 1200 and 1800 meters Distance from Beirut 70 km
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