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The Cedars of God, Lebanon’s Majestic Link to Empires and Gods

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » The Cedars of God, Lebanon’s Majestic Link to Empires and Gods

Situated in the high reaches of the Kadisha Valley of Bsharre, Lebanon, stand the ancient and majestic Cedars of God.

These trees are not just remnants of a once-lush forest that blanketed Mount Lebanon; they are the survivors of history, myth, and relentless human exploitation.

The Cedars of God have been immortalized in the annals of religions and empires—from the Phoenicians to the Ottomans—and have seen the rise and fall of civilizations that once coveted their wood for ships, temples, and railways.

Imagine a time when these mighty cedars shaded the entire region. Their story begins in the misty past, chronicled as early as the Epic of Gilgamesh, where they were revered as a divine forest, guarded by demigods under the watchful eyes of the Sumerian god Enlil.

The forest’s fate was sealed in a legendary battle, with humans emerging victorious and the land cleared of its sacred guardians and trees.

As centuries rolled on, the reputation of these trees as a source of invaluable timber grew. Phoenicians crafted their famed merchant fleets from the resilient cedar wood, becoming the first great sea-trading nation.

Cedars of God, Kadisha Valley of Bsharre, Lebanon

Egyptians sought the wood and resin for mummification and to create rolls of papyrus. Solomon’s Temple, a marvel of the ancient world, was built from these very timbers.

Despite their divine associations and regal use, the cedars faced threats from all corners. Hadrian, the Roman emperor, once declared the forests as imperial domain, pausing their demise momentarily.

Yet, it was not to last.

Over time, the once expansive forests dwindled to a mere shadow of their former glory.

Travelers through the ages have documented their encounters with the Cedars of God.

Sunlight Through the Cedars of God

In the 16th century, Pierre Belon recorded only 28 trees, and over time, subsequent explorers found even fewer, reflecting their ongoing exploitation and the severe impact of the elements.

By the early 20th century, these storied trees had become sparse, with their legacy at risk due to both human activity and natural decay.

Yet, in the face of such adversity, the Cedars of God have endured.

In 1876, an attempt to preserve what remained came in the form of a stone wall funded by Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein.

This sanctuary was designed to shield the young saplings from goats and other threats, a medieval measure for a medieval survivor.

Cedars of God in Kadisha Valley

The story of the Cedars of God is a powerful narrative of resilience. It’s a tale of beauty and exploitation, of nature’s grandeur and humanity’s greed.

Today, the forest stands as a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, still majestic, though much reduced in number.

Efforts to reforest and preserve this ancient grove continue, with the hope that future generations may witness the grandeur of Lebanon’s cedars, not just in story, but in a lush and thriving landscape.

As you reflect on the Cedars of God, think of them not just as trees, but as monuments to history, bearing witness to our world’s magnificent, turbulent past and standing as sentinels for what we hope will be a greener, more thoughtful future.

Digging Deeper

Location

Perched in the breathtaking Kadisha Valley in Bsharre, North Governorate of Lebanon, the Cedars of God stand majestically above 2,000 meters on the slopes of Mount Makmel.

Type of Tree

The forest proudly features the Lebanon cedar, scientifically known as Cedrus libani, renowned for its towering presence and historically valued wood, which has graced everything from ancient temples to the hulls of Phoenician ships.

Cedars of God (Cedrus libani)

Are the Cedars of God Still Alive?

Alive and standing tall, the Cedars of God exemplify nature’s resilience, with both ancient giants and vigorous young saplings breathing life into the storied landscape.

Descendants

The legacy of these ancient trees is carried forward by over 180,000 newly planted cedars, which are meticulously nurtured to restore the once vast cedar forests of Lebanon.

Can You Visit It?

While the forest is rigorously protected, enthusiasts can still visit these historic cedars, guided by authorized personnel to ensure a respectful and enlightening experience amidst these ancient boughs.

Conservation

The Cedars of God are enveloped by a high stone wall built in 1876 and sustained through a comprehensive conservation effort that began in 1985, aimed at preserving and expanding this natural treasure.

Legacy

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cedars of God forest is a living monument to Lebanon’s rich ecological and cultural heritage, continuing to inspire and awe visitors with its enduring beauty and historical depth.

Want More?

Are you fascinated by the history of the Cedars of God?

Set off on a tour of some of the most spectacular trees around the globe.

Revel in the presence of Sierra Leone’s Cotton Tree, a symbol of enduring strength and a witness to centuries of history.

Be mesmerized by Jomon Sugi on Yakushima, a cedar whose age-old secrets are etched into its ancient bark.

Stand beneath the Emancipation Oak, vibrant with the echoes of freedom proclaimed long ago, and marvel at El Árbol del Tule in Mexico, whose vast girth makes it one of the most striking wonders of the natural world.

Each of these trees crafts its own unique narrative, enriching our bond with the enduring natural wonders of the earth.

Sources – Wikipedia

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!