KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Doubling back on the main highway, we returned to the tiny village of Deir Al-Qamar. We could barely see the road ahead of us, the mist was so heavy. I remember thinking that I was happy we had seen the views across the valley while we were visiting the Qadisha Valley, because on this day, everything was obscured.
Deir Al-Qamar is reputed to be the prettiest village in all of Lebanon. From what we have seen, I would have to agree. It’s certainly not the best time of year to come; there were few leaves on the trees and the flowers were just beginning to emerge from their dormant period. However, the entire village is made of local stone, and there are quaint little corners to poke your nose into, undisturbed by other visitors.
We stopped for lunch at a small café in the heart of the village square and warmed ourselves by a wood fire while we ate a delicious meal of tabouleh salad and lasagna. It seems a strange mix of foods, but then this village is testament to the tolerant religious roots of many of Lebanese. At one time there was an active church, synagogue, mosque, and Druze meeting hall located on the village square. The village was founded in the Middle Ages when the governor of Lebanon moved to this location because of the numerous fresh water springs.
After lunch, we wandered through the almost deserted village square, admiring the stone buildings and the unusual octagonal minaret beside the mosque. I was glad that I had read about the springs, because I noticed people drive up to small fountains and filling large water bottles. In a country where tap water is not usually safe to drink, and most people buy bottled water, it must seem like the richest of resources to be able to fill five-gallon bottles at a natural spring for free.
The clouds began to lift as we returned to our car and began our drive back to Beirut. It had been a wonderful day despite the low clouds and the rain. I began to look at the Lonely Planet again and suddenly realized that we were very close to another of the cedar forest reserves. I had been disappointed to miss seeing the giant cedars in the north, but here was another chance. I was surprised that Anil didn’t give me any grief about turning around and heading back through Deir Al-Qamar and another ten kilometers up the highway.
The signs to the Cedar Reserve were a little confusing to follow, as we passed through little hamlets and climbed higher and higher into the Chouf Mountains. We lost some valuable time finding the entrance and were so disappointed when we found that the gate was locked and the guard post was deserted. I’m not really sure if the park closed before we reached it, or whether it wasn’t even open that day. It’s certainly not the tourist season, and it wasn’t the nicest of days, but it was only just after 4:00pm when we arrived and once again we were thwarted in our attempt to see the ancient trees.
I took some photos of the trees near the entrance to the park but I don’t think they were even cedars, they certainly weren’t huge. Anil got out of the car and watered the trees alongside the road, before climbing back in and pointing the car in the direction of ‘home’.