The Anti-Lebanon Mountains (also known as the “East Mountains of Lebanon”) are a mountain range that stretches on the border between Lebanon and Syria in southwest Asia. They run parallel to the mountains of the Lebanese range and extend for about 150 km from the northwest to the southeast.
The highest point of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains is Mount Hermon (2,814 m), which is located on the border between Israel, Lebanon and Syria. The mountains are also famous tourist attractions such as Baalbek, one of the most majestic and important Roman complexes in Libya. Moreover, the Anti-Lebanon Mountains are rich in flora and fauna, and are an important source of water for livelihoods in the region.
The mountain range between Lebanon and Syria
It so happens that Anti-Lebanon has divided not only countries but also religions. In Christian literature and on maps, the name of Anti-Lebanon, or “opposite Lebanon” (from the Greek “anti” – against) has long been fixed. The Arabic name of the massif, Jebel al-Sharqi, or “eastern mountain” (from Arabic “jebel” – mountain and “sharqi” – eastern), also indicates the position of the ridge relative to Lebanon.
The Anti-Lebanon Mountains belong to the extended folded mountain structures. They were uplifted by the latest tectonic movements and formed a vast plateau, breaking off to the west, toward the Beqaa Valley, and descending gently, in steps, to the east. The composition of the rocks of which Anti-Lebanon is composed is rather monotonous: mainly limestones and sandstones.
These hills, covered with snow for most of the year, have been known to people since biblical times and are even mentioned in the most important books of the Christians. The Bible (non-canonical Book of Judith, 1:7) tells of those who live “in Cilicia and Damascus, Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. At the present time there are very few left who live there. The reasons for this include the dry climate, the lack of water and the chain of military conflicts, the causes of which should be sought in the events of two thousand years ago, when these places were actively settled by the ancient Romans. Traces of their activities have survived to this day. The ruins of Roman capital buildings in Baalbek are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the foothills, the vegetation is predominantly semi-desert, while the western slopes and valleys are covered in subtropical forests and shrubs. There are many oak groves, pine and cypress groves, and junipers, irrigated by rains coming from the Mediterranean Sea.
Anti-Lebanon is represented by high peaks in the north, gradually declining to the south and only in one place interrupted by Mount Hermon (2,814m), located southwest of Damascus. To be more accurate, Hermon, or Yermon (Hebrew), or Jebel al-Sheikh (Arabic), is a separate mountain range of Anti-Lebanon. It is on the border of Syria and Lebanon, but under Syrian control.
The southern slopes of Mount Hermon, descending in places to the Golan Heights. The southern Syrian foothills of Mount Hermon, together with the Golan Heights, were occupied by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967 and were declared sovereign Israeli territory in 1981. The summit of Mount Hermon was occupied by Israel during the 1973 war, but its northern slopes were returned to Syria in 1974 under a power-sharing agreement. The southern slopes of Mount Hermon are considered by Israel to be the Golan Heights.
Hermon is the only place in Israel where you can play winter sports. Much of the Israeli territory of Hermon is a nature reserve. To defend Hermon and the four localities of Naveh Ativ, Nimrod, Majdal Shams, and Ein Kinia, Israel’s only mountain rangers unit was created. In 1974 it was this unit that recaptured the Syrian summit of Mount Hermon from the Syrian commandos who occupied it.
During the wars, Anti-Lebanon has always been at the center of hostilities, which is not surprising given its strategic importance: the Damascus-Beirut highway and railroad pass through it. There are practically no other transportation routes as the population here is very small, unlike the Beqaa Valley east of Anti-Lebanon one of the most important agricultural areas of Lebanon with the only large town Zahla, center of the Lebanese province, also called the Bekaa.
- Language: Arabic.
- Religions: Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Maronite Catholic Church, Druzism.
- Currency: Lebanese pound, Syrian pound.
- River: Jordan.
- Lake: Qaraoun.
- Major airports: Damascus (Damascus, Syria), Rafik Hariri (Beirut, Lebanon).
- Length: 150 km.
- Width: 30 km.
- Its major peaks include Mount Hermon (Jabal al-Sheikh, 2,814 m, Syria) and Ta’a Moussa (2,669 m, Lebanon).
- Exploitation of forest areas.
- Agriculture: cattle breeding (small cattle).
- Services: tourism.
Climate and weather
- Average temperature of January: -1°C.
- Average temperature of July: +26°C.
- Average annual precipitation: 1300 mm.
- Relative humidity: 70%.
- The Beqaa Valley (Lebanon).
- The Pyramid of Hermel, II century BC (Hermel, Lebanon).
- Mount Hermon (Syria, Israel).
- Cult constructions: temple complex (3rd century AD, Baalbek, Lebanon), St. Thecla Monastery (4th century AD, Maalula, Syria), Deir Mar Mar Maroun Monastery (5th century AD, Hermel), Mar Sarkis Monastery (1670, Maalula, Syria), Saidanay Monastery (6th century, Syria)
- The palace of caliph Walid I (8th century, Anjar, Lebanon).
- Kamid el-Loz hill (Lebanon).
- Artificial lake of Qaraoun (Lebanon).
- The name of the Syrian town of Maaloula is Aramaic for “high place. The spoken language of most inhabitants of Maalula is a unique, uncommon Western New Aramaic dialect.
- The foundation of the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek (I century AD, Lebanon) consists of stone blocks weighing from 300 to 800 tons. The latter are only three and are called the Trilithon, or “Miracle of the Three Stones”. The largest block is called the South Stone, weighing 1000 tons: it was left lying in a quarry near the city.
- Zahla (Lebanon) is the only predominantly Catholic city in the Middle East, famous for its unique cuisine and the Wadi el-Areyish Ice Factory. For a short time in the 19th century, Zahla became the first independent city-state in the region: it had its own flag and anthem.