March 07, 2016

South Side of the Beqaa

Fruit trees against the Lebanon mountains
Not sure what fruit they are. Almonds maybe? There were dark pink trees, light pink, white and lilac, and they all bear different fruits.
I was in the southern part of the Beqaa Valley this weekend. I don’t go there nearly as often as I should, which is a pity, because the place has the highest ‘real-feel’ caliber of all of Lebanon. Somehow, that part of the country feels like it is an actual country, unlike the chaotic rest. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is almost not Lebanon. Maybe it is the straight roads lined with poplars, or the flat country side with green grass, or the many tractors on the road, or the feeling that people here actually work for a living.
I don’t know.
I find it a comfortable place.
Plowed fields and dirt roads. Anti Lebanon mountains in the distance. Syria is beyond those.
Green grass, and Jebel el Sheikh (Mount Hermon), still covered with snow

Actually, people really do work for a living over there, unlike Beirut, where half the population seems to be sitting on plastic garden chairs on side walks lurking on argilehs, or so it appears.
The Beqaa is an agricultural zone; 42 percent of the cultivated land can be found there. The place was bustling with activity this weekend. The fruit trees are in full bloom, snowball trees were blossoming all over the place; a sure sign spring has begun. Everyone was plowing the fields, or hauling equipment from one field to another, or pruning trees. They have grass so green, that it looks almost fake.
Green(er) Grass; could be Holland, if it weren't for the mountains in the distance
People actually work ;)

Lebanon’s major wineries all have their vineyards there (Kefraya, Musar, St. Thomas). I read that the wineries are currently ‘outpacing’ all other agricultural activities. Fertile land, favorable climatic conditions, cheap labor and the know-how, make it perfect for viniculture.
‘The Bekaa valley encompasses 50% of Lebanese wineries which produce 7.700.000 bottles (75cl) per year equivalent to 74% of the global Lebanese production of 10.500.000 bottles per year’ (source).
More of Mount Hermon, It seems that on the Israeli side they have a ski resort.
Lebanon produces over 10 million bottles of wine a year! Yet we do not drink it all. Only 50% is drunk locally (I am an avid supporter if the local wine industry), the rest goes abroad.
But I did not go for the wine. I had to be at the only large lake we have in Lebanon, Lake Qaroun. It’s not really a lake, but rather a man-made reservoir that’s been around since 1959. A 2-kilometer long dam was built to catch water from the Litani River. It is  used for hydropower (190 megawatts), domestic water supply, and for the irrigation of 27,500 hectares of farmland.(Source)  

The overflow tower, which makes sure the lake does not overflow in case of a very wet season.
Lake Qaraoun

It’s a big lake, it must be more than 25 kilometers if you want to walk around it, and it surprises me that this place is not more popular. I came on a Sunday, and the place is pretty much deserted. There are a few fishermen, a few families for a picnic, and that’s it. It is an absolute perfect place to sail, plenty of wind, not too wavy and big enough to check out all the corners. But no sailboats to be seen. A lake like that reminds me of the lake of Annecy, where beautiful villas are lined all along its shore. There are a few villages, and maybe a house or two close to the shoreline, but the place is otherwise pretty much underdeveloped.
Looking down south, the lake is at the end
The actual dam, some 2 kilometers long. Can you image we were the ONLY ones walking here?

Underdeveloped is an understatement. This lake should have a board walk all around, a biking path and a lane for runners. It should have a park, and a designated picnic area with tables and benches, with coin operated BBQ, and garbage cans all around so people have a place to throw away the remains of a picnic. They should have a pier for paddle boats, and a small area where children can learn how to sail (no power boats), and a large public beach with a huge diving board for kids to jump from. The place could be a major touristic place for plenty of people. Instead it is empty and – maybe because of that – pretty pristine.  Maybe everyone is too busy working there, so no  time to enjoy the lake.
Olive groves in between little stone walls.

I could just picture my retirement home on the shores of that lake. I have retirement homes planned in the mountains, near the ski slopes, on the sea side and down south in between the banana plantation. Oh, and also one somewhere on the Walnut river up north. I’ll be a busy granny.
Anyway, just sharing with you the beauty of the south side of the Beqaa Valley.


Anonymous said...


Fadi said...

Wow beautiful text and pictures, got me all excited about planning a road-trip there soon and cycling around it!

Elie Touma said...

Again we are presented with a great view of our Lebanon making us see its beauty that we sometimes forget amidst the frantic and troublesome city life.
Thanks for a refreshing and well done article.
Keep it up Sietske.!!!

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stunning.. thanks for making me feel a part of your journey.