Hima Ras el-Matn
Ras el-Metn is noted for its moderate weather, organic food market, geological sites, and remarkable places for viewing birds, butterflies and stars at night. Ecologically, the 20km Beirut River valley, passing by Ras el-Metn, is an important bottleneck for bird migration in Lebanon, where nearly 40 species of birds make the yearly migration between Africa and Europe. Limited conservation efforts have been undertaken across all of the IBAs of the Beirut River Valley up until now. SPNL and Ras el-Metn Municipality were eager to work on this highly important IBBAs and bottleneck to conserve its species and habitat that migratory soaring birds depend on. For these reasons this ecological jewel has been declared a Hima in September 2018.
The municipal council, led by Mr. Marwan Salha, was proactive in declaring part of the municipal land as Hima for sustainable use such as ecotourism, responsible grazing, and responsible hunting.
The Hima will be established in coordination between the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, Ras El Matn Youth Association, and Ras El Matn Association for Sustainable Development and Environment.
Ras el-Matn (Arabic: رأس المتن) is a Lebanese town in the Baabda District of Mount Lebanon Governorate stretching over 1300 hectares (13 km² – 5.018 mi²). The town has a population of nearly 10,000 inhabitants.
The name literally translates “top” (ras) of “the mountain” (el-matn). It describes the town’s location as being perched on top of the shoulder of Mount Lebanon. It is well known for the abundance of pine trees there.
The village is located on the western steep slopes of Mount Lebanon, in the upper Matn (al-Matn al-A’la) section at varying elevation between 800 to 1000 m above sea level. It’s known for its panoramic views and pine trees and its location giving a view to the western sections of el-Matn and the Mediterranean sea. From its heights one can look out across the valley to the towns of Dhour Chweir, Baabdat, Broumana and Beit Mery.
Commenting on the establishment of the Hima, Assad Serhal, SPNL Director-General said that “the municipal council of Ras El Matn Hima accord will help SPNL and its partners to increase the awareness of the importance of cultural heritage by promoting the value of Ras El Matn’s natural environment, safeguarding the authentically unique, traditional and irreplaceable character of the village, building rapport with the local community, creating job opportunities, enhancing and promoting local facilities, and training local guides to grasp the historical developments of their town”
Ras el-Matn is the birthplace of Lebanese writer Anis Freiha and the scholar ‘Ajaj Nuwayhid. The most notable building inside the town is the historical Serail of the Lam’iyin princess built in 1775. The huge building later served as a high school.
A natural water spring known as Nabaa Ein el Marj is located found in the lower part of the village. Remarkable for its arched façade built in 1472, the plaque recording its construction is still in place.
Much older, are the ancient tombs carved into the rocky cliffs and headlands of Ras el-Metn, while just below the village the refuge of a holy woman, Sitt Sarah can be found in a rock- scattered field. According to the legend, a rock miraculously opened into a cave to shelter Sitt Sarah as she fled from danger. Finally carved from living stone, the site is an ancient tomb chamber.
Many grottos are located in the steep pine-clad slopes above the town, giving visitors and hikers superb views westwards. Hikers should also ask about the Grotto of Hiskan, which is about a two hours walk from the village.
The town is a major source of pine nuts due to stone pine (Pinus pinea) woods covering the area. The umbrella pines that surround the village are a source of pine nuts, while olives, grapes, figs, apricots and other fruits are cultivated here as well.
In September 2004, the Director-General of UNESCO awarded the 2002-2003 UNESCO’s Cities for Peace Prize to 10 municipalities which became Laureate Cities, among which is Ras El Metn. The UNESCO’s Cities for Peace Prize recognizes municipalities that are strengthening social cohesion, improving living conditions in disadvantaged neighborhoods and developing genuine urban harmony and diversity.