For the latest webinar from our Lebanon Growth Accelerator’s Speaker Series, we were joined by Sami Mitri & Stephanie Audi from Lebanon Mountain Trail to discuss how sports and nature affect the wellbeing of people and how LMT promotes this as it is offering an accessible activity that anyone can benefit from especially in such times.
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Sami Mitri is the co-owner and manager of a private school, College Melkart, a French accredited secular institution, and founded a youth outdoors club there, integrating the young Lebanese in their community, leaving positive ecological and civic footprints all over the country.
Sami is a member and an ex-board member of the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association. He is an outdoor enthusiast, a keen hiker who has traveled the trails of Everest, the Mont Blanc, the Kilimanjaro, the GR20 along with many others in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Lebanon.
Stephanie Audi is an Environmental and Eco-Tourism expert focusing mainly on the development of rural and mountainous areas in Lebanon. She is currently the Senior Operations Coordinator at the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association covering various responsibilities such as trail development and conservation programs, guesthouses networking, local guide training, environmental education programs in addition to the organization of the yearly Thru-Hike and Fall trek events on the Lebanon Mountain Trail. She is also project lead for a number of European-funded projects.
She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and her passion for Lebanon makes it practical to operate directly from the field anywhere she goes. In her spare time, you will find her hanging off a rope while rock climbing or getting on her surfboard on the Mediterranean coast.
Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Lebanon Mountain Trail showcases how Lebanese mountains are rich & provide opportunities for eco-tourism. What has been the impact of LMT?
Stephanie: LMT is the longest and highest trail in Lebanon, divided into 27 sections and 3 side trails from Akkar till Marjeyoun. It crosses into diversified areas on all levels: cultural, environmental, food heritage, agro-tourism, etc.
LMT has created an impact on local communities. Villages that were not very well known with very limited access to tourism are now blooming, using a holistic system that enables an environmental approach to promote eco-tourism.
Bloom is highly involved in wellbeing, as well as the care of body and mind. How do you think sports play that role? And what is the role of LMT?
Sami: Hiking reduces stress and increases wellbeing. It is not theoretical, it is an experience that we live. It has changed my life for 10 years: Hiking is for the body, mind, and soul.
When you live in nature, you start loving the experience and feeling immediate positive reactions. You don’t need accessories to feel happy. Through hiking, you feel love, passion and you are pushed to be yourself.
“It’s not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves. That’s what keeps us going when hiking.”
What are the collaborations that LMT is willing to create to achieve its objectives?
Stephanie: We are providing an outdoor and eco-tourism opportunity for people to explore. We are working on giving back the trail to their people. The trail is for everyone. We collaborate with municipalities and schools to motivate people to commit to the trail, and empower locals to look after it.
How to protect the trail from real estate development?
Stephanie: The trail is facing many challenges coming from environmental deviations, due to mountainous investments in lands. COVID-19 made people reconnect to their lands but many individuals are willing to reconnect by investing in real estate around the trails. We’re currently working on presenting a legal framework that preserves Public Lands Rights.
What does the trail teach you about yourself and the way villages are connected to each other?
Sami: I realized I haven’t known or discovered Lebanon. Through LMT, I discovered 5% of Lebanon and fell in love with its diversity. We always have judgments about regions and their populations in Lebanon, however, I’ve tasted food that I never have before and got to know people that I never met before.
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