Profile of a Guesthouse Owner

Salim Al Ashkar, 43, was born and raised in Khreibeh in Chouf district of Mount Lebanon. He supervised architectural projects; building houses, paving roads. He never really thought about his own home and how it would change his life.

“When I was 10, I used to urge my dad to modernize our house,” he explains, “I wanted to get rid of the arches, the yellowed stone walls, every old display and the “diwan,” the traditional Arab living room. I never looked at our 250-year-old house as a cultural treasure.”

In 2005, his views about his home and his life took a dramatic turn when a tourism expert visited the Nature Cedars Reserve in Lebanon near Salim’s home and then stopped by to see Salim. He persuaded Salim that his home was well-designed for a guesthouse to host visitors to the nearby cedars.

“My parents, friends and neighbors all loved the idea and supported me from day one.” He smiles as he remembers the early days of getting the guesthouse ready, “My mother took over the cooking and I start renovating the house, adding beds and restoring the kitchen.” But Salim insists he took care to preserve every aspect of its traditional beauty.

Salim slowly developed his business and earned a good reputation in the field of hospitality. Visitors from across Lebanon started coming to stay and so did diplomats and staff from foreign embassies, international tourists, students and hikers. Al Ashkar guesthouse has become quite a popular destination for visitors to spend a night or two, enjoy the garden and a traditional meal cooked by his mother, who still runs the kitchen. He can accommodate as many as 20 guests at a time. Most like to stay in the guesthouse bedrooms, but Salim says some prefer to pitch a tent or a sleeping bag in the garden.

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