Join us for the first Lebanese Heritage Program tour, June 25th through July 16th, 2012. This three-week program will immerse participants in an authentic Lebanese cultural experience through learning, volunteering, and touring the country. This unique eco-voluntour program for youth (18-30) will give participants an inside view of Lebanon’s social, historical, and environmental heritage. While the program will have a number of features especially designed for youth from Lebanese emigrant communities abroad, it is also open to youth living in Lebanon and youth without any Lebanese heritage. As participants, you will learn about Lebanese culture and history, gain a better understanding of the Lebanese migration experience, see many different areas of the country, and make your own contribution to Lebanese society. And you will go river rafting, moonlight hiking, wine tasting, and much much more!
Participants will stay in three different base camps for a week each, and have the chance to get to know the three major geographic and cultural components of Lebanon – the mountains with their traditional villages, the central valley that is the agricultural heartland of Lebanon, and the urban coastline. While at each base camp, they will do at least 15 hours of structured learning for a total of at least 45 hours of structured learning for the whole program. The term “structured learning” refers to planned learning experiences – presentations, workshops, and reflection sessions. Needless to say, learning will be taking place throughout the program and not just at these “structured” sessions. There will also be at least 15 hours of volunteering while at each base camp, for a total of at least 45 hours for the program. And from each base camp the group will go on tours of historical, cultural, and natural sites in that area.
For the first week (June 25th-July 2nd), participants will stay at the Youth Hostel EcoLodge of the Association for Forest Development and Conservation in Ramlieh in the Lebanese mountains where they will get to know each other and have their first Arabic language training. They will be given an introduction to Lebanese culture and society, and an overview of Lebanon’s migration history. They will also be given some tools to document their own family migration history. Tours of the area will include the city of Saida with its castle, soap factory, and market, the palace of Beiteddine, the Shouf Cedar Reserve, and a hike on the Lebanese Mountain Trail.
The second week (July 2nd-9th) the group will stay at the EcoVillage built and managed by Arc en Ciel in Taanayel in the Bekaa Valley. From there, we will take a trip to the ancient Roman city of Baalbek, visit the ruins of Anjar, a historical Arab city of the Umayyad period, enjoy wine tasting at two wineries in Zahle and Chtaura, and tour an important agricultural development. Language training will continue and participants will learn about the role of Lebanon in ancient, Byblical, and Islamic history to have a better appreciation of the historical context of the sites they will visit.
The third week (July 9th-16th), the group will stay in Beirut, within walking distance of the city center and the popular nightlife of Gemmaize. From Beirut the group will take two trips north. One trip will be to the “Cedars of the Lord” whose timber was exploited by Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Phoenicians, and Egyptians for construction and shipbuilding. We will also stop at the museum of the world renown author, artist, and philosopher Gibran Khalil Gibran. On the other trip to the north the group will have a swim in the Mediterranean, tour the ruins of Byblos, take the telefrique to Harissa, and go to the famous Jeita Grotto. In Beirut, they will take a walking tour and see the exhibits at the National Museum. At this last base camp, participants will learn about the historical importance of Beirut and the successive efforts to restore the city after the different natural disasters and human conflicts that have befallen the city.
While all possible effort will be made to maintain the program as presented here, some changes may be necessary due to weather or other unforeseeable circumstances. Whenever possible, any changes in the program will be made in a way that maintains or even improves the overall quality of the program.
The primary language of the program will be English, but we will try to have official tours in more than one language where possible (Baalbek, National Museum, etc).
Participants will be asked to stay with the group throughout the program and not go off on their own to see relatives or friends of their families. We plan to hold a brief program and reception at each base camp for which participants can invite a limited number of guests. And we hope that participants will arrange to stay at least a few days after the program to meet with relatives or visit the towns or villages of most significance to their families. For participants who need help with searching for their roots, we will be happy to provide some guidance and to try to connect them with volunteers who can help them further.