Ayoun el Samak – A Disappointment

Ayoun el samak

Ayoun el Samak (عيون السمك) has been on our road trip schedule for more than a year now, but we always found ourselves postponing our trip mainly due to security concerns. Last weekend however, we decided to finally go check Ayoun el Samak, the northern area infamous for its gorgeous lake and vibrant green nature. But we were struck by the status of the area and its surroundings and utterly disappointed by the lack of cleanliness of the lake.

Getting There

A ton of research was required in order to pinpoint the location of the lake on our map. Although we had succeeded in identifying its exact location, reaching the lake was no easy feat, as we found ourselves lost a couple of times before finally arriving to our destination. Long story short, in order to reach the lake, you need to drive the north highway until Tripoli, then continue driving north on the Minyeh-Donnieh highway up until you reach the Donnieh exit on your right. Once you’re in Donnieh, you should inquire with the locals on how to reach Ayoun el Samak. The Pin we dropped on the map embedded below, shows the exact location of the lake. A trip from Beirut requires around 2h15m.

Our Journey

Ayoun el Samak is a gorgeous lake you rarely see anything like in Lebanon. Unfortunately, Ayoun el Samak is a lake that is being slowly damaged, polluted and spoiled by people. The lake viewed from afar is a nature masterpiece. But as you near closer to it, its beauty gradually fades out and gets obscured by layers of human waste. The closer you are to the restaurants spread on the lakeside, the clearer the reason behind the pollution will be to you.

We drove around the lake looking for the best spots to snap some pictures and exploring the surroundings since we’ve been told there are beautiful waterfalls to check out in the area. We managed to get a few nice photos and then decided to leave.

Our whole stay in Ayoun el Samak lasted less than an hour as we felt too uncomfortable to spend more time there. Our discomfort was due to the fact that:

  • A guy on a motorcycle (with no license plates of course) driving past our car threw a cigarette bud inside the car.
  • Another guy going inside a restaurant had not one but two handguns on his waist, because you know, you can never be too cautious.
  • A third guy made me drive my car more than 50m in reverse, because he refused to let me exit a narrow road I was at the end of.

After visiting Ayoun el Samak, we finally understood why many people know this area only through heavily filtered Instagram pictures. Even if you are told everything is safe, you cannot feel safe. Most people won’t be friendly or welcoming and this fact actually baffles me.

A noteworthy observation we made is that every single kid we saw playing in the streets, was holding a toy gun in his hand. Literally, every single one. I seriously hope this is not a reflection of the environment they live in!

Our Recommendations

It’s the first time I find myself recommending this but I honestly feel that I should. Don’t visit Ayoun el Samak. In my opinion, the discomfort and insecurity you will sense overshadow the joy of the trip and the view of the lake, which is slowly becoming a pond of human waste.

However, in case you decide to visit Ayoun el Samak, it is preferable that you have an SUV since some roads are not properly paved and some others are not paved at all (note that the area surrounding the lake has very narrow roads). Also, you better wear sneakers.

Not so Happy roadtripping!

  • kamil

    It will become worse in few years, it’s located in Denniyeh don’t expect it to be preserved.