Wilderness feels like home – Vol. 1
Prancing on rolling hills in northern Lebanon in Akkar El Atika
Akkar District – Lebanon | July 13, 2016
We might always wonder about the secret of places that inspire us and put their spells over us to return again and again. Are those feelings related to an expansion of the self and a joy filling in the heart or is it the history instilled within the land? Being overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, we may feel like Alice in Wonderland and prance on the rolling hills whatever our age! Akkar El Atika is the place to be.
Akkar El Atika (Old Akkar) is located in the north of Lebanon in the region of Akkar, at 150 kilometers from Beirut and 20 kilometers from Tripoli. Aley and populated places show a mix of the relics of the Mamlouk period with the more modern, free style of buildings. The village rises from 400 to 1650 meters altitude. The village features a Crusader fortress, a vital landmark built at the end of the 10th century by Muhriza ibn Akkara. High on a hill between the two gorges of Akkar River, the castle was used to provide protection for traders travelling from Tripoli to Homs during the 12th century. Carved frieze of lions dating back to the reign of Baybars figures on the main southern tower. Sultan Baybars (Abu El Futuh) the fourth Sultan of Egypt who marked the beginning of Mamluk dominance in Eastern Mediterranean, laid siege of the castle after winning the Castle El Hosn (Krak des Chevaliers) from the Crusaders in 1271. The fortress ownership moved to Banu Sayf feudal family during the Ottoman period, and then around 1620 was partially destroyed by the Emir Fakhr El Din II.
In Akkar El Atika, the intensity of the light reflected by forests, the mix of culture and history and the authenticity felt when walking the village, hook visitors. The village is an outlet for the snow melts when the first spring sunrays cuddle the mountain peaks and warm up the seasonal wetlands in the plain of Qammoua. Wherever we stop while hiking, walking the streets and roads, riding a bike or driving a car, the panoramic view is vast enough to be able to spot Tartous in the horizon in the north and Tripoli in the south. The village summits link the dots of a 15-kilometer trail starting in Qobayet, that passes by Nabeh el Shouh and ends in Donnieh. Both short and long hikes traverse the highlands where amazing sceneries of the countryside and plain of Akkar can be seen, and dawn can bring cooling breezes. Calabrian pine, oak and fir forests growing on hills intensify and blush out the landscape characters, to be charming enough to inspire long hours of meditation, reflection and inspiration.
When wilderness feels like home, the soul of the green-scape may trigger the sleeping artistic soul of visitors. Our hearts hold admiration for the diversity of trees, plants, birds, animals, sceneries, traditional knowledge and local stories. At every step, they try in vain to rob the identity of the place and aspire its beauty; transforming us to an insatiable traveler. Enjoying a long lasting well-being from mountain activities – hiking, biking, camping, stargazing or strolling paths, roads and places –is another feeling to take home when closing a journey in Akkar El Atika.
Note to travellers
If you visit for a long weekend, bring your bike and take the road to Qobayet do not miss the Old oak trees in the sanctuaries, the field and valleys with desert and green hillsides.Restaurants in the village offer traditional meals.