“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 that’s half the size of Wales, Lebanon is tremendously diverse. The country’s population is split roughly evenly between Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims and Christians, and the state officially recognises 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 hiker with Liban Trek, recalled that as a girl, she was confined to her own neighbourhood in East Beirut.
“There was the war – we couldn’t even pass to West Beirut,” she said. Now, on her weekly outings with Moufarege, she finds herself sitting on hillsides in areas that once would have been off-limits, chatting with shepherds about the weather and the local landscape. The experience has inspired in her a new love of her country, Rizk said.
“I was always sad that I was born Lebanese, you know, we had the war and hardship,” she said. “And every time I travelled, I was so sad when I came back to Lebanon. Now, I’m so happy that I’m Lebanese. This is all because of the hiking.”