“When you live with [different kinds of people], you have your own experience, you don’t need to listen [to] what people tell you about them, ”Saliba said.
For a country half the size of Wales, Lebanon is extremely diverse. The country’s population is roughly evenly split between Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Christians, and the state officially recognizes 18 different sects. Sectarian divisions played a role in the country’s bloody civil war, and more than 30 years after the war ended, many of these divisions remain.
Joelle Rizk, a regular Lebanon Trek hiker, recalled that as a girl, she was confined to her own neighborhood east of Beirut.
“There was war – we couldn’t even go to West Beirut,” she said. Today, on her weekly outings with Moufarege, she finds herself sitting on the hillside in once off-limits areas, chatting with the shepherds about the weather and the local landscape. The experience inspired him with a new love for his country, said Rizk.
“I was always sad to be born Lebanese, you know, we had the war and the hardships,” she said. “And every time I traveled I was so sad when I came back to Lebanon. Now I’m so happy to be Lebanese. All because of the trek.”