September 10, 2013


Shepherd and his troops in the mountains above Hamana & Falougha
While in France this summer, I ended up in a region with a lot of cows. And one of the main attractions there in August was the annual transhumance; the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between the summer and winter pastures. The local tourist agency made a big deal out of it, and hordes of people came to observe an event that was totally staged. A cattle truck stopped at the beginning of town, got the cows out, herded them through town and then back in the truck they went. I felt rather screwed.  The actual moving of the cattle doesn’t happen until much later, and it is done by truck these days.
They graze the herd on top of the plateau (up there)
I thought about this transhumance when I was hiking through the mountains above Hamana last week, in an area called Ain el Benbrissi. It is a dry, mountainous region, full of basins that fill with water from melting snow in March and April. Besides that, it contains a number of springs that flow all year long (The Sohat factory gets its water from there too)
 There are always goat herders up there in summer, as there is grass, it is quiet, and has enough water for the animals. I usually avoid the goats, because I have a dog with me, and although my dog is afraid of just about everything, including his shadow, the shepherds’ dogs aren’t afraid and my poor little mutt wouldn’t stand a chance.
We got mixed up with the goats
 As it happened, it was sunset, and the shepherds came down the mountains to the pens where they gather the goats at night (there are plenty of jackals in the mountains) while I was walking down the path. I tried to avoid them - I had just given my dog an anti-flea treatment that week -  but that didn’t work. The goats were really eager to get home, and so we sort of got mixed up.  
Plenty of water basins
But it was good, because we got to talk. They invited us for coffee and when we refused, we got invited for water, juice and dinner. They invited us to practically move in with them. Hospitality is a given.
And then from a little house nearby, some women with children came out and joined us. They did not look like nomads, but rather like regular town people. And it turned out they were. They don’t actually live there, but because it was the summer holiday, and the children do not have school, they move up in summertime with the husbands and stay in the summer pastures where the goats graze. It is nice and quiet, the kids have a ball out in the fields, and whenever they need certain things, they take the car down into the valley.
The moment the schools start again, they go down into the valley where they have houses, and eventually when it gets colder, snow will cover these mountains, and the men will bring the goats down to the coastal regions, where they will graze during the winter.
 And it is just like the transhumance; in the summer they walk the prairies of the mountains, in winter they go down to the coast. They transport their goats by trucks as well, as there is no longer a safe road to herd the goats all the way down; they have to cross too many ‘civilized’ areas, there’s too much traffic and cultivated fields, so they move them by trucks.
 In France they make a big deal out of it, and they get tourists to actually watch a staged event. Here it is an authentic occurrence, and nobody pays attention to it. We do not have any tourists at the moment, so that doesn’t help much, but the movement of the troops is something that could easily be made into something of an event.
No match for the dogs that guard the goats.
Sometimes we take the beautiful things for granted, and we always think that 'outside' it is better. But there are so many things this country has to offer, so many untapped resources, that it is a pity we’re stuck in the situation that we are stuck in.


Anonymous said...

Amen Sister

Anonymous said...

Amen Sister !!

Joseph said...

Welcome back, fantastic post.

My family has been doing this for generations between the Laqlouq (around 2,000 m) in summer and then Byblos in the winter.

Anonymous said...

looks like you won 20 dollars.