4/20/09 - the cedars of lebanon

In today's excerpt - the disappearing cedars of Lebanon. Cedar of Lebanon was important to ancient Middle East civilizations. The trees were used by the ancient Phoenicians for building trade and military ships, as well as houses and temples. The Egyptians used its resin for mummification, and its sawdust was found in pharaoh's tombs. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh designates cedar groves of Lebanon as the dwelling of the gods. Jewish priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon Cedar in circumcision and treatment of leprosy. Isaiah used the Lebanon Cedar as a metaphor for the pride of the world. Kings far and near requested the wood for religious and civil buildings, the most famous of which are King Solomon's Temple, and David and Solomon's palaces:

"Once Lebanese cedars covered about 500,000 hectares of Lebanon, encompassing Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon range. It was in the great Cedars of Lebanon forest that the hero Gilgamesh battled the half-lion monster Humbaba.

"There are four species in the world, native to Cyprus, Morocco, Afghanistan and the Himalayas. The Lebanese variety's soft light wood was highly prized in the ancient world. The trees are mentioned in the Quran and the Bible. King Solomon felled forests to build his temple, and the Assyrians Babylonians and Romans further depleted the forests.

"The ambitions of the long-gone empires took their toll and modern life is compounding the problem of natural regeneration of the forests. ...

"The tree cedrus libani is an emblem of this fractured state. The fragrant evergreens, with their striking reddish colour, are also a rare symbol of national unity: rival Christian, Sunni and Shiite political factions may quarrel on the streets or in parliament but when they need a moment of patriotism, they recall the Lebanese cedar. Indeed, when citizens marched on the streets in March 2005 to demand the withdrawal of Syrian troops after nearly 30 years of occupation, it was called the Cedar Revolution. The mass protests were a success, and the 14,000 Syrian soldiers left. The tree is emblazoned on the flag, the passport and all manner of tourist tat, such as mouse pads, key chains and tea towels. ...

"But the Lebanese cedar is under threat. A combination of little snow, sawfly infestations and forest fires, all blamed on global warming have thrown the natural rhythm of Mediterranean winters off balance. ...

"There are only 2,000 hectares of the Lebanese cedar left in the country, concentrated in the Shouf and the Tannourine area in northern Lebanon. About 90 per cent is protected by law and cared for by the ministry of environment."


Hamida Ghafour


'Last Stand'


The National Abu Dhabi


April 4 2009


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