By Salma Merhebi
Maldives, Turkey and Switzerland are on everyone’s bucket list because of their beautiful nature - however, did you ever think that a similar beauty hides in a tiny village in a small country named Lebanon?
Akkar Governorate of Lebanon covers an area of 788 km². It is characterised by the presence of a relatively large coastal plain, with high mountains to the east and has many important Roman and Arabic archaeological sites. Secret destinations and real treasures are hidden in every corner of this beautiful piece of heaven on earth but unfortunately they’re still under the radar. International and even local visitors have never dropped by Akkar and discovered the fascinating natural sites in this place!
Hence, a group of Akkarian young people created a youth movement named “اكتشف عكار
discover Akkar” in order to help others discover unknown destinations in Akkar, north Lebanon. Every Sunday, the three young founders organise different activities aimed at spreading environmental awareness, identifying and introducing everyone to the natural beauty of Akkar. The trips were promoted only through Facebook, and the cost was too small to cover only the transportation and the food during the day. At the beginning, people were not familiar with these eco-activities, and the limited number of participants made the organisers pay the expenses from their own pockets. Despite the lack of resources, funds and facilities, they believed in their idea. Making profits was not the main goal, the more valuable one was: Promoting eco-tourism in Akkar and making a great contribution to their local community by encouraging nature-oriented events.
The activities include long walks and hiking in destinations where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions, immersed with deep conversations and information about these magical sites to the participants.
The idea reached a large group of audience and was very successful. The group started to grow more and more and the participants in each event increased too. “Discover Akkar” became the popular name of an activity between friends in Lebanon: “Would like to go Discover Akkar this Sunday?”
The team reached a part of their plans and dreams and expanded their activities which now include cycling, climbing mountains, rafting, camping and campfire activities, caving, river crossing and even breaking fast in the nature during the holy month of Ramadan. Sometimes the number of participants in a single trip exceeds 100 activists from different Lebanese regions, who were surprised by the peaceful and beautiful view over the surrounding regions they knew nothing about before, and explored new local activities to have fun and appreciated the beauty of their country instead of travelling.
“We aim to have our own “Discover Akkar” location as a center for camping and a gathering or start point for our trips. We’re working on achieving this dream and we are certain that we will make it one day, because we’ve got the three pillars of success: motivation, passion and dedication. For anyone having the same or any different ambition, stand up for what you believe in, and keep your dreams alive, they will shine one day in the sky of success!” - said Abed, one of the three founders.
The enormous problem is that our youth is often absent; young people stare at their phones a major part of the day, locked in their cities. When these activities brought them out to the nature, they were given the opportunity to notice how the present management of our environment will affect them, so they can express their thoughts, opinions and get involved in the issues that will eventually impact them. Trying to get young people interested in the environment can be difficult as it involves changing perceptions and attitudes, something that requires a lot of time and effort. But “Discover Akkar” with the ambition of “Nature For All” succeed in helping to reverse this trend.
Experiences in nature make us happier and healthier. Our connections with nature also influence the way we behave.