Oasis in the Bekaa - The Ponds of Oyoun Orghosh
To reach the mountain pass that connects North Lebanon and the Bekaa one gets to enjoy spectacular views of Al Arz (The Cedars) and the top of Quadisha (the Holy Valley). Accessible only between early summer and before the first snowfalls, the small road winds itself up to over 2000m, before zigzagging down. As you drive up, make sure to take the road to the left heading eastwards and closer to the ski lifts, when you reach a USAID sign board (about tree planting), instead of continuing southwards along the ridge. From afar, you can spot the church and then the string of ponds, lined by poplar trees. Once closer, you'll surely agree that Oyoun Orghosh is one of the best camping and summer lunch spots in the country.
Flanked by Mount Lebanon on the one side and rugged hills, covered with old juniper trees, Oyoun Orghosh is a veritable oasis, with running water and plenty of fresh water ponds around which visitors are pressed for choice in which restaurant to settle down.
Besides hearty local fare including fattoush, tabbouleh, hummous, and mtabbal, fish and meat eaters should definitively try local salmon or trout or grilled chicken or lamb kebabs – Lebanese style with a shisha on the side. Arak is served with fresh spring water! Those who favour tea will get to enjoy the taste of Syria-sweet black tea with fresh peppermint.
While relatively quiet during the week, this place does fill up on weekends during the warm months. Given the altitude, it is a good idea to bring a hat, scarf or light jumper, especially if you stay overnight – camping and chalet options available. Oyoun Orghosh is ideal for family outings – there are railings in some areas to make sure the little ones won’t escape to the ponds and playgrounds.
The ponds accumulate the water of the springs (oyoun) emerging from the foot of the steep mountain flanks, at 2000m altitude. The Orghosh springs are fed by snowmelt percolating from the huge karstic cuvettes of the hilly summit plateau that include the peaks of Jabal al Mekmel and Qornet al Sawda (Lebanon’s highest mountain), both above 3000m.