With a smile immediately spreading across her face at the mention of Akkar’s nature, Zeina Elias rushes from her seat to proudly show us a picture of her guiding a group of visitors, local and international, starting from the Nabi Khaled area, where the tallest Fir trees stand, towards Ourouba – the peak of Akkar’s highest mountains.
Inspired by the natural richness around her, Zeina transformed her passion for nature into additional income after she trained, along with 13 others, to become a mountain guide. Today, Zeina organizes mountain climbing trips where she shares the information she’s gained about the diversity of trees, soil, and rocks with those who accompany her through the journey of Akkar’s heritage.
To improve livelihood opportunities, job creation, and to enhance the local identity of the region, the United Nations Development Programme in Lebanon promoted a project to support ecotourism and a sustainable economy in Akkar through the Council of Environment in Qobayat with the support of Norway.
The project included training on firefighting, as well as filmmaking workshops where 13 young men and women were introduced to the foundations of cinematography and produced 9 short documentaries depicting the culture of the region. These were then displayed at the Reef Summer Festival and reinforced what people know about Akkar and the burden of its remote geographical location, conveying stories of its children and charming nature, and the reality of its people.
“Now, we surely won’t stop walking,” Zeina insists, looking towards the path and the new friendships she will forge with hikers from across the world.