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On the Lebanese flag and in its bumpy history, the cedar stands eternally tall. One of the most defining features of Lebanon’s culture is its Cedar-tree-filled expanses. The tree is definitely a staple of the population’s identity and seeps through into its national anthem and art.
It is not only today that cedars take on a big role in putting Lebanon on the global map. The trees are first mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh; The Cedars of God are mentioned as a divine, shady forest fought over by the demi-gods and the humans. It is said that the expanse was once protected by Mesopotamian Gods and that Gilgamesh himself used cedar wood to build his great city.
Over the years, many peoples have made use of cedar wood provided by the forest. The Phoenicians used it to build their ships, Egyptians to make paper, and other civilizations like the Romans and Turks exploited the natural treasure for trade. The trees also hold significant religious importance, as they are mentioned in the Bible on several occasions: Solomon used their wood to build Jerusalem and Emperor Hadrian ruled them as royal domains which stopped their destruction.
In modern history, the cedar trees continued to get exploited despite Queen Victoria’s attempt to protect them. During World War One, British soldiers significantly cut down the tree population by exploiting it for railroads. Today, the Bulk of the Cedar trees are located on the Arz Mountains in Lebanon. The site is well protected and cherished as UNESCO named the forest one of the World Heritage sites.
Cedars are definitely another source of pride for the Lebanese, as the forests remind the people of the great heritage they hail from. It is difficult to imagine, with all the exploitation, that the Lebanese rural landscape was once a giant mythical, biblical, and now historical forest. One can definitely see the Gods in the Cedar tree’s eternal lifespan.