BEIRUT: The Lebanon Mountain Trail has been the first long-distance hiking trail in the country since 2007. Stretching from Andqet Akkar in northern Lebanon to Marjeyoun in the south, LMT’s 470 km trail has served as a reminder of natural beauty and a strand of hope for both locals and tourists of Lebanon.
Gilbert Moukhayber, one of the pioneers in the tour operating field in Lebanon, describes the LMT as a message of peace that rebuilds what the civil war tore apart.
This year, The Lebanon Mountain Trail Association NGO launched an advocacy campaign for the preservation of the trail entitled “Hike it, Protect it” with the official support of President Michel Aoun.
According to LMTA’s Executive Director, Martine Btaich, LMTA has been working on encouraging and supporting sustainable rural tourism while preserving the heritage and causing an increase in economic opportunities for local communities.
“When a person preserves the trail, they automatically play a role in preserving the environment,” Dalal Harb, communications consultant of LMTA, told Annahar. “The presidential recognition gave our campaign credibility. After all, no party can interfere with an officially recognized trail,” she added.
LMTA organizes three major events every year: a 30-day long Spring hike “Thru-Walk,” a 15-day long Fall hike “Fall Trek,” and a fundraising event every October.
The completion of the trail takes thirty days with three to six hours of hiking every day. The trail is so entrancing that many of its hikers come back for an encore. “A Canadian locksmith has hiked the ‘Thru-walk’ trail with us seven times!” Harb said. “He has no emotional or cultural connection to Lebanon, but whenever we asked him the reason of his annual return, he said that the trail has ‘grabbed’ him, and there is no going back,” she added.
Sari Haddad, social media officer at LMTA, described the trail as “a story in itself.”
“The LMT hikers walk for hours experiencing the amazing and biodiverse Lebanese nature, then they reach the center of a rural village and experience the hospitality of its people,” he added.
LMT hikers spend their nights at traditional guesthouses and hotels, which embody Lebanese values, culture and cuisine to add to the overall authentic aesthetic of the LMT experience.
Both Harb and Haddad believe that the LMT is a fine form of experiential travel, through which the traveler actively engages with the history, people, culture, food, and environment of Lebanon.
“The LMT hiker spends weeks with a group of people who become family,” Haddad told Annahar. “When they reach the final village that marks the ending of the trail, locals welcome them with an authentic Lebanese celebration to congratulate them for crossing an entire country by foot.”
For some, the experience is spiritual, like Eugenie Sayegh, a Thru-Hiker who's committed to hiking the LMT as part of a healing journey, who believes that “the Lebanon Mountain Trail is a holy trail, and anyone who sets foot on it will feel its divinity.”
To find out more about the LMT, please click on: www.lebanontrail.org
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