Lebanon’s History and Geography, Up Close And Personal!

Lebanon is located in the East of the Mediterranean. It is 212 km long and it is 85 km wide from East to West. It is one of the world’s smallest countries, with its area being just 10, 452 square kilometers. Nonetheless, what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in geographical diversity.

Lebanon’s enthralling history stretches back to thousands of years ago. It even dates back to the prehistoric man who lived in caves and traveled the river valleys searching for shelter and food. Throughout history, many foreign empires were captivated by Lebanon’s natural resources and strategic positioning which bridged the East and West. These empires were able to successfully conquer and colonize the land.
A Taste of Lebanon's History
5000 B.C. The Beginnings of Agriculture
1100 B.C. The Phoenicians Kings of Mediterranean Trade
64 B.C. The Roman Conquest
661 The Umayyads
750 A New Dynasty: The Abbassids
1096 The Seljuks and the First Crusade
1291 The Mamlukes Drive Out the crusaders
1516 The Ottoman Empire
1920 French Mendate
1943 Independance and National Pact
1975 Lebanese Civil War Begins
1992 Taef Pact – End of Civil War

Lebanon is overloaded with beautiful historical and geographical attractions to visit and see for yourself! Why not book a room at a hotel in the Cedars village, near the stunning Cedars reservation?
Another great site to see is the village of Laklouk where you can book your stay at the Shangri-La Hotel.

New Year’s Resolution: Ski Better!

ski_lessons_farayaOut with the old, in with the new. That’s the beauty of a new year, when we all have the chance to hit ‘reset’ and start fresh. It’s a good time to take a look at ourselves in the proverbial mirror and think about what we’d like to improve.

At Skileb.com, our New Year’s resolution is obvious — we want to perform even better out there on the slopes. There’s nothing like reaching a new goal or breaking a personal record. No matter what your level of skiing or riding may be, there’s always room for improvement. Now on Skileb.com, you can book your ski class, private ski lesson, or lessons for kids, all online while building your Lebanon ski trip.

Let’s Begin – Lessons for kids

Lebanon is an ideal destination for learning to ski, especially for kids. The two major resorts, Mzaar ski resort and the Cedars resort, both offer awesome classes to families with kids ages five and up. Well-qualified instructors are pros at the art of teaching through games and fun challenges. Kids will learn to get a feel for the snow, relax, and gain confidence quickly. Help your kids love and master the elegant lifelong sport of skiing from an early age. A pastime like this is one of the best gifts you can possibly share!

Ski school for groups

If you have a group of up to 8 learners, then Skileb.com can arrange a ski or snowboard class for your group. We can accommodate skill levels from beginner to advanced to professional. Great for extended families, school groups, and company events. There’s no better team-building exercise and good fun for your group than a day of learning on the slopes.

Private lessonsfaraya_skiing_2

Private lessons are a great idea for any level of skier or rider. Even advanced level pros can benefit from the insights and input of a specialist. Whether you’ve hit a dead end on the improvement curve or you just want some third-person advice on your strengths and weaknesses, a few hours of coaching from our well-qualified multi-lingual instructors could go a very long way.

Resolve to start your ski season on the right foot with a strategy for how to improve. What can you do right now, from that seat in front of a screen? Check out our special ‘snow tips and tricks’ page for some great advice articles.

Best ski lodge accommodation for families and access to lessons:
Aux Cimes Du Mzaar

Special Deals for Skileb.com Twitter Followers

It’s that time of year again, when powder-thirsty ski fans start looking forward to the upcoming season with real anticipation. Winter is coming, and Lebanon is gearing up for yet another session of outstanding skiing, snowboarding and general snow-based fun.

Now’s the perfect time to start planning your next ski break in Lebanon. For many, a skiing vacation in Lebanon is a no-brainer; hundreds of people will be making their way back to pristine slopes, such as those found at Mzaar and The Cedars, to re-experience the rush of carving lines on familiar territory.

For those who are yet to experience a ski holiday in Lebanon, there are tonnes of reasons to try something a little different and opt for this unusual and yet rewarding destination. In addition to the quality of the pistes, snow, accommodation and company, the thrill of experiencing skiing is such a unique environment is something that you’ll remember for years to come. With the waters of the Mediterranean and its picturesque coastal villages mere kilometres away, taking a ski holiday in Lebanon is almost like taking two breaks for the price of one!

Follow skileb.com on Twitter

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of the Lebanese slopes or a newbie looking for something a little different, we have something very exciting to offer. In anticipation of the start of a new season, followers of our Twitter account – @skileb – are going to be the lucky recipients of a number of very special offers. All you have to do to get your hands on them is follow us!

In addition to delivering savings via tweets, we’re sticking with the avian theme by delivering a number of great ‘early bird’ offers on our homepage. Repeat visitors will know that Skileb.com consistently offers great prices on ski holidays in Lebanon, but eagle-eyed users will soon be able to pounce on all-new deals.

Keep visiting Skileb.com to keep on top of everything that’s happening and remember to follow us on Twitter. Only followers will be able to receive these great offers, so sign up now to make sure you’re on the list.

Don’t forget that you can also visit our Facebook page to keep up to speed and to ask us questions. We’re happy to help.

We at Skileb.com are hugely excited for the new season and we want you to be too! Start planning today!

The Wild West Comes to the Cedars

If there’s one thing a good skiier needs, it’s balance. And if there’s one thing that a cowboy on the back of a bucking bronco needs, it’s almost certainly the same thing.

It’s not very often that the passtimes are compared, but now with the arrival of first and – to date – only international rodeo competition to be held in Lebanon rolls into the Cedars later this month. The Cedar Stampede Rodeo And Wild West Festival 2011 will bring plenty of unusual forms of entertainment to an area of Lebanon that’s best know for, amongst other things, its ski resorts.

Ski Leb Wild West

The festival brings with it a wide range of exciting and different passtimes – and offers a great deal more than jsut the opportunity to brush up on your balancing skills. Stunt riders, performers and rodeo champions from around the world will be descending on the El Rancho resort to demonstrate their skills, and perhaps share some tips with those who come to try their hand.

Prices start from 30,000 LBP, but there are discounts available for kids under 10. Things kick off on August 26 and run until September 4.

Ghodras, the small village that will play host to the event, is ideally located close to a number of key cities and towns, making it easy to get to. Bcharre, the focal point for many of the Cedars hotels and ski resorts, is located a short drive to the North East.

Beirut, and its wealth of Beirut hotels, is located a 40 minute drive to the south. Tripoli is about the same distance away up the Mediterranean coast. The beautiful waterfront destination of Byblos is, however, the closest of all – mere minutes away from Ghodras.

Practicing staying upright on your board using a mechanical bull is certainly one option, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fix of adrenaline-pounding excitement during the summer months in Lebanon. Take a look at our summer activites page.

While summer entertainment is an interesting way to pass the time before the ski season begins, the mountains and hills of North Lebanon are known and loved by many for the fantastic skiing experiences that they offer.

It’s never too early to start planning your next on-piste adventure!

Secret Snow by Ed O’Loughlin

Snow Lebanon

Nov 2005The Sydney Morning Herald

The Middle East seems an unlikely place to go skiing, but Lebanon’s slopes are deep, fast and long. Ed O’Loughlin reports.

Ski Lebanon Mzaar

Winter brings rain to most of the eastern Mediterranean, but to the high peaks of the Mount Lebanon range it brings snow – lots of it. There is something uncanny about the notion of winter sports in the Middle East, even to people who live there, and this leads to some eccentric local customs. At Mzaar (ex Faraya-Mzaar), Lebanon’s leading ski resort, there are sometimes almost as many people riding down the ski lifts as riding up.

Those going the wrong way are mostly youngsters, students and schoolchildren from poorer backgrounds who come by the busload to stare at the snow.

For a small fee the daytrippers get a special two-way ticket for the ski lift, riding all the way to the top of 2300-metre Jabal Dib and down again, shivering in their street clothes.

Some hire plastic toboggans and drag them doggedly up the lower slopes, oblivious to the snow melting through their shoes and jeans. Snowballs are experimented with. Muslim girls in hijabs take advantage of the saturnalia to awkwardly hold hands with their boyfriends.

The Arabic cries of “Yalla ya shebab!” and “Habibi!” have an unreal sound in this high, white world.

And when the snow clouds draw back, Beirut can be seen far below, basking in the spring sun beside the glittering sea.

Lebanon has six commercial ski resorts and a season that usually runs from December to March. The biggest resorts, Mzaar (also known as Mzaar-Kfardebian) above Beirut and the Cedars to the north, are attracting a growing number of foreign visitors, mainly from the region. Plans for a third big ski resort are well under way. In 2009 the country will host the Asian Winter Games.

Skiing is playing an increasingly important role in Lebanon’s effort to reassert its pre-civil-war status as the Arab world’s leading tourist draw. To create new business, Lebanese entrepreneurs are even building two artificial ski slopes in the United Arab Emirates.

“Most of our foreign customers are from the Gulf states, particularly Western expats from Britain, Australia and South Africa,” says Ronald Sayegh, founder of www.skileb.com, the country’s leading booking and marketing agency.

“The remainder are Arabs, mostly younger, who book on the internet. And lately we get some Europeans, too. If you’ve skied in the Alps, then this is something new.”

The skiing is good. The chairlifts and tows (18 of them, the longest stretching two kilometres) give access to smooth, treeless peaks and ridges where the snow lies deep for most of the season.

Divided into two domains, the resort claims 43 trails totalling 60 kilometres, many of them steep, fast and long. Runs are classified green, blue, red and black. While most are groomed each day and technically not difficult (wealthy young Lebanese like life to be fast and flashy, which might explain why the resort shaves off any moguls that form), sudden sharp drops and prolonged narrow passages can make some of the higher slopes daunting at first for the inexperienced.

Most of the red slopes owe their status to dramatic roller-coaster-style drops. The blacks – only two are shown on the trail map – deserve their reputation, plummeting vertiginously down the sides of high bowls of deep powder. With the snow base so deep, rocks and obstacles are mercifully scarce – the biggest risk is usually little more than a face full of wettish snow.

But the most remarkable thing about the slopes of Mzaar is how empty they usually are. Queues vanish once you get away from the base-station chairlifts. Even these only clog up at weekends. This is largely because many, if not most, of the fashionable young Lebanese who flock to Mzaar to be seen, not to ski.

On Fridays and Saturdays the bars of the five-star InterContinental Hotel and nightclub-restaurants such as the Igloo and L’interdit fill with young Gulf Arabs and well-heeled Lebanese with ostentation, if not fornication, firmly in mind.

By Monday morning all have vanished and the slopes are left to little parties of expatriates and Lebanese families who have rented chalets for the season. It’s like having your own private ski resort – too good to be true.

Well, yes. There are a couple of caveats about skiing in Mzaar. The lifts and ski patrol are operated not by enthusiastic youngsters but by middle-aged men with moustaches and black leather jackets, who look suspiciously like demobbed members of the Christian Phalange. Most approach their job of ensuring your safety with heavy Middle Eastern fatalism, seldom bothering to emerge from their boxes or stop the lifts even when someone falls in the loading areas.

Some of the trails are not very well marked, which can be a problem when the weather closes down into white-out conditions. The ski map issued to customers is dated 1999 and badly needs upgrading.

Accommodation can also be tricky. Rooms at the InterContinental Mazar cost a minimum of $220 a night, and with Gulf Arabs taking out whole blocks of rooms for their families and servants, the management feels little need to offer bargains.

Skileb.com says three-star hotels can be had from $65 a night, but rooms are always in short supply at weekends and you have to book early.

There are also a lot of attractive Swiss-style chalets scattered around the picturesque resort, but traditionally many of them are rented out to families for the season…

Our one-bedroom apartment had two bathrooms, a large living room and a rather badly equipped kitchenette. It was clean, pleasant and well heated, and at $US100 (about $130) a night it would have been reasonable value had there been more than two of us. With the folding beds and mattresses provided, it could easily have slept two or three more.

The cost of the skiing compares well with Europe. Skis, poles and boots, though generally not the newest, can be had for $13 a day. At the weekend, a resort ski pass costs $38 a day, and less during the week.

But Lebanon’s almost European prices, combined with the cost of getting there and the relatively limited variety of runs and apres-ski entertainment, means it cannot yet really compete with the likes of France, Italy and Switzerland.

Nevertheless, the secret is getting out. Ronald Sayegh says his internet bookings are increasing each season. To expand the business, his company now sets up short, all-in packages for travellers passing through Lebanon on other business. Conversely, more dedicated skiers are also offered side trips to vibrant Beirut or to ancient attractions such as the Phoenician port of Byblos or the Greco-Roman ruins of Baalbek.

“We aren’t just selling skiing, we are selling Lebanon, too,” he says. “It’s something more exotic.”

GETTING THERE FROM AUSTRALIA

Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas and Gulf Air all fly to Beirut.
Australian passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival to Lebanon.

For more information see www.skileb.com

Powder Snow on the Mediterranean – Bathing and Boarding

Powder Snow German Team Feb 2003German team from PowderGuide.com

The glaring sun is reflected in the sea. At our feet: Beirut, the Lebanese capital. Behind us lies “Bekaa Valley” and in the North the Syrian Desert is stretched out. Our day started in a street café in Beirut. Over Arabian coffee and croissants we enjoyed the approaching spring’s first rays of sun.

In the meantime we are in the snow, on the “Dome du Mzaar” summit (2465m), the highest point in the winter sports resort of Mzaar (ex Faraya-Mzaar). It is the height of winter here; there are over three metres of snow. We can hardly wait, to leave our tracks in the glistening powder snow. Already we have our boards strapped to our feet- everyone has picked their line for descent. The view is unsurpassable. On our descent enormous fountains of powder snow are shooting over our heads. We are plunging into the slopes and into pleasure – there is no stopping us. This is what snowboarding should always be like. After our first deep snow descent in the Middle East we can hardly believe it. We are a ‘mere’ four hours flight away from Germany, in a country that almost everybody knows. Hardly, however, for its perfect winter sports conditions, alas…. This morning we realised quickly that winter sports aren’t exactly the most widespread national sports.

On the way to the skiing resort we have to pass a Lebanese army check-point. We are permitted to pass. The cars parked on the parking space pompously flaunt the wealth of the ‘winter sports enthusiasts’. Even the fixation techniques, with which the – mostly state of the art – skis are transported on the car are extravagant to say the least: to our surprise they are fixed, by the aid of magnetic attachments, directly onto the bonnet. When we first saw this ski presentation we burst out laughing. We received friendly but irritated looks for this, and found out later that this appeared to be the common way to carry your sports equipment here. Yet sports do not play the major role here. What counts is to see and be seen. Nearly everybody is bustling around the main lift, close to the parking spaces and many are just using the lift to reach the sun terrace of the nearby restaurant. The other chair lifts are hardly in use; here, on the other hand, we find perfect freeriding conditions: untraced slopes of powder snow.

[nggallery id=13]

On the previous evening we were in Beirut and had arranged to meet Judi, a snowboarder on the Lebanese snowboard team, for dinner. When he picks us up from the hotel in Beirut he proudly presents his new car which he had just gotten for his 18th birthday: Mercedes S- Class, black with lots of leather. Later on George, a friend of Judi’s, arrives on the scene. His car is substantially smaller – he drives a Porsche.

After dinner we plunged into Beirut’s nightlife. Lebanon is a cultural mix of Islam and Christianity. But this, we had not expected: Clubs that are elaborately styled by designers and party addicts that dance light-heartedly until the early morning. And the people of Beirut have a lot to catch up on; girls in mini-skirts dancing on aquaria in which piranhas are swimming. The whole front of the bar is made of glass, which is nothing out of the usual, really. However between the panes of glass a multitude of exotic fish is swimming. This is roughly how I visualise a pet shop for the super-rich. Unluckily the prices for drinks easily reach the level of Munich. But we don’t want to miss the experience – we have to pay the penalty the next morning.

During the atrocious civil war, Lebanon rose to a sad prominence; Beirut, above all, where fierce riots took place. Before then Beirut was known as the ‘Paris of the east’: splendour and glamour in Arabia. Within a short period Lebanon became synonymous for desperate civil war, and we too primarily associated fanatic Hisbollah fighters, road blocks and completely bombed out houses with the small country.

When we heard about the Lebanese ski team of the Olympic Games in the seventies we had become curious. Somewhere these athletes must have practised back then, and these mountains must still be there today. Here, snowboarding and bathing on the same day is supposed to be possible. Curious, we set out. ‘We’ meaning, the former world-cup pro rider Burgel Heckmaier, the freeriders Lars and Sven Gitterman, photographer Thorsten Indra and myself. After having arrived in Beirut, we still have some time: we dive into the cultural life of the pulsating capital. Beirut is once more beginning to bloom. You can feel and see the outset everywhere. When we first ramble through the city the influences of the different cultures become apparent and we are greeted with effusive cordiality:”Where are you from? “, we are often asked. The reactions to our answers are exceedingly friendly: “Oh Germany, welcome to Lebanon, have a nice journey! “. At first I was rather surprised at the friendliness and was even a little diffident after some previous (zum besseren verständnis der vorzeitigkeit) negative experiences in Arabian countries. Later on I feel ashamed of my initial mistrust. Nobody wants to sell us anything or con us. The people here are simply unbelievably friendly and obliging!

On the way to the beach we discover the district of ‘Centre-Ville’. It was almost completely destroyed in the civil war and used to be the cultural centre of Beirut. The mixture of Arabian and Italian Baroque architecture was rebuilt lovingly over a long period of reconstruction. The first street cafés and shops are already bringing new life into the city centre and the horrors of the war are hard to imagine. In the cafés you can deem yourself to be right in Paris and especially at the sight of the attractive Lebanese ladies. If you go another two streets further, however, to the ‘Place of Martyrs’ the traces of the house-to-house fighting are still to be recognised – and suddenly the thought of war doesn’t seem so far any longer.

Our driver picks us up at the hotel and first of all we get stuck in the traffic chaos of Beirut. Innumerable Mercedes-Benz cars – from 1950ies models to the newest s-class. I have never seen so many cars by the brand with the star. Seen them so concentrated. ‘Made in Germany’ seems highly in demand here. From the ‘Avenue de Paris’ we see the snow covered mountains that loom beyond the city for the first time. It is only the end of February but the temperatures are t-shirt adaptable. We can hardly imagine to go snowboarding the next day.

From Beirut we travel through hilly landscapes. The snow covered mountains are glistening in the sun. Slowly they are growing. Too slowly for our liking, we can hardly wait to arrive there. Eventually (geändert da sonst das konzept der vorfreude weg ist) we reach Mzaar (ex Faraya-Mzaar), the biggest ski resort in Lebanon. There is snow here, luscious three metres of it! The enormous walls of snow along the roads are keeping us from seeing too much, we are driving through an ‘open air tunnel’. Although we are so far south, astonishingly there is more snow than in the Alps. The resort of Mzaar is relatively modern: 16 lifts, of the newer design and plenty of room for descent. From the highest peak of the region (2500m) we set out on our first off-piste descents. The Mediterranean powder snow is so unbelievable to ride that we proceed right down to the road. There however we have to realise that we are now situated four metres above the road. It is only with great difficulty that we reach the street below. We make it in the end and immediately make for the lifts again. It is one of the best days of this winter, and this although each one of us spends about 100 days on the snowboard each winter. We have arranged to have dinner with Sara, Judi and George from the Lebanese snowboard team. Antoine, their coach comes especially from Beirut to meet us. He and his brother Habib import snowboards to Lebanon, organise snowboard races and attend to the young snowboard talents. The two don’t look like they have money troubles.

After the meal its party time. We are still knackered from the long night, in Beirut, when we had a few drinks to the coming days. The exuberant mood of our Lebanese friends is highly infectious – and there was a bad weather forecast for the next day anyway: we could sleep late.

Burgl cracked the joke of the evening when she asked Sven and Antoine whether all Muslims were Christians. First she caught some irritated looks for her religious knowledge, then everyone broke out laughing and we all had a giggle for the next couple of hours on account of this slogan. Whacked and tired we leave for the hotel late at night. Burgl, our party-girl and religion-expert wants to keep partying and remains at the club. It is still snowing and we are glad to get to bed.

We are standing on the summit with our Lebanese friends. It has snowed heavily during the night, over 30 cm. Instead of the predicted bad weather, our short sleep was disturbed by our early-bird Lars’ triple roar: “Suuun! Poooowder! Get uuup!”. Our ears are still booming from the disco-night. Yet, Lars is right. Within record time we are set to go. Luckily the packing is an automatic procedure – every motion practised a thousand times.

The dignified Lebanese winter athletes don’t seem to care too much about powder snow. They prefer to use the ski-runs: how lucky for us. Again our Lebanese friends are shocked when we tell them that, on no account will we use the runs, even though they are, as our Lebanese argue, so magnificently prepared. Having been freeriders and powder snow enthusiasts for so many years, we simply can’t miss our chance in these dream conditions, much as we’d like to. We fell for the Lebanese powder, the view of the sea and of Beirut regularly taking our breath away: we never want to leave… unhurriedly we are drawing our tracks in the powder slopes. We find numerous snow cornices going down along the gullies. We each get our own gully and we can let off steam to our heart’s content.

We are on our way to Cedars the second largest winter sports resort in Lebanon. A stop at the 7000 year old seaport of Byblos is an absolute must. We have a meal in a traditional Lebanese restaurant. In the restaurants there are up to 40 different hors d’oevres which are consumed with flat bread. Olive oil pickles, sesame pastes, grilled vegetables, different sorts of salad etc. This is so opulent that no one is hungry anymore when the main course is served.

We continue towards ‘Cedars’. The mountain pass weaves through innumerable mountain villages up the valley. In the full moon we reach the high valley of Cedars. The village lies at an altitude of 1950 metres and is surrounded by snowy peaks of around 3000 metres, brightly illuminated by the moon. ‘Cedars’, was mainly famous for its cedar woods. Sadly, the woods were almost completely cleared and the valuable wood was exported. What remained is a small forest which is now protected by nature conservation. New cedars are planted again. The trees can reach an age of up to 1500 years, but only grow very slowly. It will take a very long time until there are prospering woods once more.

The resort of ‘Cedars’ is not as big and modern as that of ‘Mzaar’. There are but a few, rather ancient lifts, although the highest one reaches up to 2800 m above sea level. “Why are the other lifts not in use?” I ask the owner of the lifts. He looks at me uncomprehendingly, points to the plane practise lift and tells me how wonderfully the slope is prepared. At my repeated question concerning the closed lifts he explains that the only lift that goes up the mountain is an army lift and is therefore reserved to the soldiers who are practising to ski there. This is getting a bit much, we think: we are supposed to snowboard on plane terrain just because the Lebanese mountain infantry is practising to ski? “There is, however, always a possibility”, he says, grinning broadly, and writes us a letter of reference. At least this is how we understand the scrap of paper written in Arabian. The lift manager hardly speaks any English.

There are two soldiers sitting in the lift hut, scrutinising us grimly. They read the note and, after a short discussion, they give us a day ticket. We queue up at the lift. To say that we stood out, with our colourful snowboard gear, would be understated. The soldiers, in their uniforms resemble a motley crew of mercenaries. The ride up with the lift is a very special experience. The lift is at least 50 years old and doesn’t seem to have ever been maintained. Half way up there appears to be the regular place of disembarkation. But I don’t want to get off before the steep part! This however is just what the wildly gesturing ‘disembarkation-soldiers’ are signalling me to do. I decline just as vehemently and point further up. They jump aside at the last moment and clear the way, shaking their heads. Arriving at the top I find out why: the ramp at the end of the disembarkation platform is missing! I jump off the lift and come to a halt just before the abyss. Luckily part of the catwalk is still there on the one side. From here I can warn the others of the danger of crashing; by means of shouting. From the highest point of the resort it is not far to the ‘Quorned as Sawda’. With 3087 metres it is the highest peak in Lebanon. With snow shoes we climb towards the peak. The way turns out quite strenuous and long. It takes us over three hours to reach the summit.

The ascent was worthwhile. We enjoy the marvellous view of Lebanon. From the Mediterranean the green hills rise and become alpine in the high valley of Cedars. In between the canyon of Kadisha Valley is bedded. Below us lies ‘Cedars’ with its last cedar trees. Towards the east we overlook the barren ‘Bekaa Valley’. It is the biggest viticultural region of Lebanon. The wine is especially fine, the Romans already started to grow wine there 2000 years ago. The snow cover extends down to 1200 metres – it only comes to an end where it reaches the first olive groves. In the distance we can make out ‘Baalbek’. Here there is one of the biggest and best preserved roman temples. ‘Baalbek’ was the most important Roman base in the Middle East.

The view reaches to the ‘Anti-Lebanon Mountains’, lying opposite, a little lower but also snow covered. To the north we see the Syrian Desert. Unbelievable! From the deeply snowed up summits we perceive all imaginable climatic zones from the desert to the sea. Time is pressing. We reach a ridge dropping towards the east and are looking for a suitable descent that will lead us back to ‘Cedars’. At the end of the ridge a gully drops down over 1100 metres of altitude: steep and interspersed with rocks. From the sea clouds have gathered. The atmosphere in the evening sun is becoming mystical: the valley is glowing under the low sun; the clouds reach up to just below ‘Cedars’. Everyone picks their line. After a breathtaking descent we reach the village tired and content. Our landlord welcomes us with hot tea, the traditional Lebanese water-pipe and local culinary delights.

[nggallery id=14]

On the way back to Beirut we pass the famous Kadisha Valley. At our feet the Mediterranean is glinting invitingly in the sun. A little later we reach the nearby beach of ‘Tam Tam’.

Now we want to find out: boarding and bathing on the same day?

So, here we are; just back from snowboarding at a level of 3000 metres with descents of over 1000 metres of altitude. From ‘powder-high’ to ‘paddling-fun’.

Now we want to dive into the still quite wintry waters. We just have to get in there now. After having shown off in front of our friends: “We’re going to Lebanon, bathing and boarding, in February”. We make Lars go first, he had always had the biggest mouth of all. With a running start and a loud “yeaaaah” he jumps into the water and dives into the first wave. As there are no visible signs of ‘frostbite’ on his face we dare to go in too. And with a temperature of 19° C the water is really quite tolerable, even pleasant, warmer than a mountain lake in summer, after all!

Before the civil war broke out it was considered chic to combine winter sports with a seaside holiday in Lebanon. 30 years later we can state that this combination is unique.

Back in Beirut we meet up once more with our friends from the Lebanese snowboard team. Within a short time we had become friends in spite of all differences. Together we go to one of the most fashionable clubs in Beirut. The ‘BO-18’ is the club of the party-crazy youth. The name ‘BO-18’ was taken over from a bomber-plane that dropped bombs regularly on the Lebanese capital during the war. The roof can be lifted automatically, which it is at night. Under the starry sky there is partying and dancing until early in the morning. The Lebanese have their own ways of coping with events of the past – and partying wildly certainly is one of them.

Although the wounds of the long civil war are just starting to heal, we are leaving Lebanon with a feeling of hope. In spite of all the horrors of war, the Lebanese seem to have managed to leave the shadows of the past behind them. On the road to a peaceful future the Lebanese could become an example for the crisis and conflict stricken Middle Eastern region.