Half an hour’s drive from the Roman ruins in Baalbek, at the end of a winding road that leads across the mountains in the Western Bekaa, lies Yammouneh. The small village is like many others in the Lebanese countryside: there’s a dekkaneh selling cigarettes, ice cream and bread, there’s a guy serving coffee and tea in small plastic cups. The cement houses are low, with small gardens outside. But the village is different from many others: here, most people live off of growing cannabis and selling hashish.
Tucked in between two mountain ranges, in the western part of Bekaa, lies Yammouneh.
The village is surrounded by cannabis fields: here, most inhabitants make a living from producing hashish. The fields are taken care of by Syrian workers, who live on the outskirts of the village.
A worker from northern Syria, supervising his co-workers in the field.
Yammouneh is small, with few activities for the kids. The village school closed a few years ago. This football court was set up in the early nineties, as part of a project to make Bekaa free from drugs. Initially, the endeavor succeeded, but as international funds failed to materialize, farmers returned to growing cannabis. Today, Lebanon is among the world’s top five hashish producers.
Nooh, a guy in his early twenties, was brought up in Yammouneh. “The court was donated by the Americans – they first built a basketball court, but no one in the village plays basket. So we turned into a football court instead.”
Some families own large fields; other grow in their backyards and gardens. Many of Lebanon’s hashish growers are small farmers who make only enough to get by.
“People grow hashish – what else can they do? It’s as if Yammouneh was not on the map. We have no other alternative,” says Nooh.
After the cannabis leaves have dried, the process of making the world-famous Lebanese hashish starts.
The machines processing the hashish are old and well-used. As they grind the dry mass, the village lightning flicks along with the loud and pounding noise.
The best hashish powder is selected to be processed and pressed into thick chunks.
Lebanon exports most of the hashish abroad. Usually, the route goes through Syria; this year, as the country is experiencing wide-spread violence and fighting, the Lebanese hashish exporters are facing problems as they must find alternative routes.