Domaine de Chouchene: The River Guesthouse of the Bekaa.

It’s the “Chouchene” flower (Arabic word for “Iris”) that this beautiful guesthouse is called after.  Visiting Domaine de Chouchene, you will feel in your own private little forest where your walks will be greeted by flowers and trees carrying their name and refreshed by a river flowing under your feet.

This piece of heaven is all yours, for one night, for one weekend.

A little bit of history

Newly opened, the domain has been the private residence of the Touma family for many years in Qab Elias before its doors were open to the public in 2017 (luckily for us!). Turning the residence into a guesthouse and sharing its beauty with others was Dr. Fadlo Touma’s way to revive and preserve his heritage.

From the carefully treasured trees and greenery to the hundred-year old houses adorning the domain, passion for preserving what life gives us is the main essence of Domaine de Chouchene.

How to best enjoy your guesthouse experience? Follow my steps.

Have your glorious breakfast by the river.

The domain is all yours and the staff can set your breakfast table anywhere you want, but when was the last time you had it on a bridge over a river?

(P.S. The manoushehs are a killer!)
What I’m talking about…

Take it all in.

You’ve been dreaming about that morning walk in nature with the sound of birds chirping? It’s right outside your room and it’s the perfect way to discover the domain’s whereabouts (don’t miss an inch!).

Morning walk

Explore Qab Elias.

The “trails of Chouchene” facilitated by the guesthouse allow visitors to discover the village of Qab Elias while learning about its most important landmarks.  Two trails are available, “Tarik Fakhreddine” and “Tarik el Kroum”. Whether you choose the first or the second, make sure not to miss the “Plaza of the Cross” – for a panoramic view over Qab Elias, the “Plaza of Fakkhreddine”, the ruins of an ancient fort dating back more than 500 years and claimed to have been the fort of Fakhreddine’s army, as well as the Haidara Ruins, believed to date back to the Roman era. According to local legend, there was once a mirror on the face of the structure that used to reflect sunlight to the village in relation to sun-worshiping Roman practices. This is why the ruins are also called “Temple of the Sun” (معبد الشمش).

View of Qab Elias from the Cross
Fakhreddine Ruins
Haidara Ruins

Be adventurous.

Given the central location of the guesthouse in the Bekaa, it’s a great starting point for venturing in the area and discovering more of it. What I personally did:

Enjoy a romantic dinner in the Italian restaurant Vechio in Zahle (highly recommended). The food was great and I loved the Lebanese traditional architecture and the cozy mood! In summer, it’s also nice to visit the Berdawni where many restaurants and coffee shops can be enjoyed by the river, day and night.

Take a walk around Zahle. Walking in the streets of Zahle reveals beauty that one cannot see while driving. Let your feet guide you around this gorgeous village to discover iconic hotels and traditional houses.

Roadtrip to the village of Deir el Ahmar and Yammouneh. It was a 1.5 hour drive but totally worth it! The road might not be perfect all the way to get there but hey, where’s your sense of adventure?

Yammouneh was definitely the highlight of my trip, both the lake and the reserve. Yammouneh falls between two mountains, which makes it in other words a valley and explains why it is more preserved than other villages. The lake is said to be the only natural lake in Lebanon (called the Sacred lake), fed by Ain Arbaeen – the spring of the Forty Martyrs. Its fresh water creates an ideal ecosystem for animals and plants, and is considered to be the only habitat for the golden fish (also known as the endemic species Phoxinellus Libani), thought to be extinct in Lebanon. The area is also home to some Roman ruins and makes a perfect hiking destination for outdoor lovers.

Yammouneh lake
Yammouneh Reserve

More landmarks to discover in the Bekaa:

Baalbeck: The ruins of Baalbeck are Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure and a UNESCO world site heritage that no person should miss.

Anjar: The ruins of Anjar are also a UNESCO world site heritage and a testimony of the Umayyad civilization, revealing a long period of early occupation by the Greeks and Romans.

Ammiq reserve: The largest remaining wetland in Lebanon and a beautiful reserve pleasant to walk and explore.

Qaroun lake: A huge artificial lake located in the southern region of the Beqaa Valley created by the erection of the Litani River Dam in 1959. Enjoy its views by taking a walk or a boat ride around it, or from one of the restaurants located on its western side.

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Bekaa, Valley of the Wines.

If you happen to be a wine lover, well, you are where you should be. Besides the fact that you can enjoy the wines offered in the cafe of Domaine de Chouchene, you have the chance to visit many of the region’s renowned wineries and enjoy a free tour and wine tasting, as well as lunch in some of them.

Did you know that the Bekaa is home to 22 wineries? Here’s a cute little map prepared by Cantina Sociale that will make a useful guide:

The five operational rooms accessible for guests today at Domaine de Chouchene are where the Touma family lived. However, the two century-old surrounding traditional houses that used to belong to the Mayor of the village were bought by the Domaine and are being renovated to be able to host more visitors. The guesthouse will have 12 rooms in total, including two beautiful venues ready to host your events and weddings.

For your reservations, you can contact Domaine de Chouchene on:

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