24 September 2013
With a few blows from a pick, water gushed up from the Lebanese mountain. The first people to taste it thought that it was delicious and thoroughly enjoyed it. This happened in the early part of the last century, in 1910, when Habib Zoghzoghy was exploring the steep slopes of Mount Kneisseh in search of water for his land. When he realised the quality of this water, he forgot all about irrigating his land and decided to build a future for the spring, known from then on as Sohat, which means ‘health’ in Arabic.
This spring, from which water rises naturally, is perched1,710 metresabove sea level on the slopes of Mount Lebanon. Through three fractures in the rock flows a delicate, balanced water with a low mineral content and very fine texture; it has retained its youthful vigour after seeping through scree and sinkholes and crossing limestone and marly layers. The flow peaks during the thaw or rainy season as the quantity of water increases the pressure on natural groundwater. In September and October, after the summer months, the source dwindles, but never dries up.
Its purity and low mineral content make it incredibly light and what the expert tasters call its distinctive taste of fresh plants and citrus have won over hearts and palates. Sohat was the first bottled mineral water to take pride of place on tables and its name has become a byword for bottled mineral water and quality throughout the Middle-East.
Sohat rises approximately 30km from the capital, Beirut, near the village of Falougha, in a beautiful landscape of wild grasses and cedar forests. In the summer, a few hikers climb to the summits of Mount Kneisseh to breath in the pure air and soak up the views. In winter, the region is often inaccessible, blanketed in snow. The springs are protected from all intrusion at the centre of a fifty hectare, guarded estate.Photography by Sandrine Alouf