Located on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, Lebanon is surrounded by Syria to the north and the east and Israel to the south. The country, one of the smallest in the world, extends over 180 km from north to south and 50 km from east to west. Despite its modest size, it has a number of extremely different geographic zones. The narrow, divided coastal region is home to the largest cities. In the interior, the Mount Lebanon range includes a series of high plateaux and peaks – culminating in the 3,000+ m tall Qurnat al-Sawda. Further east, the range drops straight down to the Beqaa Valley which runs along 150 km of coastline at an altitude of 1,000 m. The Beqaa is a major wine-making region and, up until very recently, was also known for its cultivation of cannabis. The very arid Anti-Lebanon Mountains rise up to the east of the Beqaa Valley, forming a natural border with Syria.
Plantlife and wildlife
The most famous tree in Lebanon and the symbol of the country – the cedar – can now only be found in a handful of mountain regions, namely in Bsharri and near Barouk in the Chouf Mountains. These are specimens are all that remain of the great Lebanon cedar forests that, back in the Biblical era, covered the majority of the country. That being said, Lebanon is still the country with the most dense forests in the Middle East: many varieties of pines grow on the mountainside, and most of the coastal strip is home to fruit tree plantations.
In the mountainous regions of Lebanon nest birds of prey, while in the nature reserve close to Ehden, golden and imperial eagles, buzzards, red kites, Bonelli’s eagles, Marmora’s warblers and scops owls can be observed. You can see resident and migratory sea birds at the Palm Islands Nature Preserve off the coast of Tripoli. Mediterranean green turtles and monk seals live in the waters surrounding the preserve. And when it comes to mammals, you’d be hard pressed to find any more amusing than the surprising hedgehog.
Lebanon’s ecology suffered seriously under the civil war and the development of industrialization. During the war, various pollutants and waste were discharged into the rivers and the sea, and illegal constructions popped up all over. The lack of government supervision established conditions conducive to the illegal feeling of trees in many mountain regions. A number of heritage preservation organizations are now attempting to remediate this damage and protect the natural environment through legislative bills and the creation of nature reserves.