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Arabic: 'arza
Hebrew: erez

Cedar tree in the fog. Lebanon.
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Cedar forest. Lebanon.
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Cedar trunks. Lebanon.
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Common name for a number of trees, mostly coniferous evergreens, of the genus Cedrus, the Pinaceae family. There are 4 species belonging to the cedars, of which 3 are native to the Mediterranean region.
To the Middle Eastern and North African region belongs the Atlas cedar, the Cyprus cedar and the Lebanese cedar. The distinctions between them are hard to define, usually there are small variations in the colour and length of the leaves. Some scholars have come to consider them as geographical variants of one original specie, the Lebanese cedar said to be the original.
The cedar thrives in mountainous regions, usually at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,200 metres. The trees may live as long as 1,500 years, which is claimed to be the age of some of the remaining Lebanese cedars (shown on these pictures).
The trees may grow to a maximum height of 40 to 60 metres. They have a characteristic form with long, spreading, flat branches, narrower the further to the top. The wood is light and soft, it is scented and often red or red-tinged in colour. In many cases it is resistant to decay and may work as a an insect-repellent.
The wood can be distilled to produce an aromatic oil. Cedar oil was central in one type of mummification in Ancient Egypt, where it was used to liquify internal organs.
In modern times, the cedars have been heavily exploited making the once dominating tree almost extinct in countries like Lebanon and Morocco. In recent decades, Turkish authorities have begun an extensive reforestation program.
Cedars are famous for having been used in the construction of King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem.

By Tore Kjeilen