Lebanon: Communities of Conservation

Located southeast of Beirut, the Shouf is home to Druze, Sunni Muslims, and Christians. The Lebanese House Establishment for the Environment brings Shouf residents together around environmental education and recycling. Sheikh Nizam Bou Khazm, a Druze Sheikh who founded the organization in 1999 says, “We can’t live without each other. The Christians in Shouf and the Druze are very similar—in our houses, how we live daily life.”

Nizar Hani, who manages reforestation at the nearby Shouf Biosphere reserve, describes nature as a common space. But with shared land comes shared the challenges. Urbanization threatens conservation efforts and people are rapidly selling their land for development. “To be able to protect this natural heritage, we need to keep the Mediterranean mosaic as it is, to not let construction destroy the forest and agriculture,” says Nizar.  

Outside the reserve, the Shrine of the Prophet Job overlooks the cedar trees. Though Druze sheikhs oversee the space, it is considered holy by other Muslim sects and Christians, and devotees believe that an arbutus tree behind the shrine cured Job of disease.

While visitors from Lebanon and around the world come to Shouf to walk in the shadows of its cedars, communities of conservation come together as residents seek to protect shared sacred spaces and ways of life.