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Dalieh

Beirut activists are fighting hard to preserve two of the city’s key heritage sites and you can support them by attending a series of events they have prepared this week. The events are actually FREE (another endangered thing in Beirut) so all you have to do is show up. Scroll down for full schedule. 

Following several years of pro bono organizing, lobbying, researching and fundraising, volunteer urban activists have managed to put two Beirut sites on the list of 50 endangered sites worldwide as listed by the World Monument Fund’s Heritage Watch Day. To bring public and media attention to these rare surviving spaces, they have put together an impressive schedule of art exhibitions, films, music, food, cultural, environmental and educational events around Watch Day.  Follow the Heritage Watch Day Facebook page for updates.

The two endangered sites are Dalieh of Raouche peninsula, the only remaining natural headland in Beirut with a 7,000 year history; and Heneine Palace, one of the largest and only remaining buildings from the 1800s left in the city today.  Both sites are threatened by private developers. Both sites are part of vanishing historic neighborhoods. Both sites tell a story-a million stories- about us, our ancestors, our city, our country, our humanity. Both sites need your support, your pictures, your social media posts, your feet on the ground, to demonstrate that these places are important, valued and popular enough that demolishing them will cause a public uproar. 

A mega seafront project was planned for Dalieh,  but activist multi-pronged legal, design and research efforts have helped slow that. Meanwhile Heneine Palace is located in the heart of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Zokak el Blatt, which is rapidly being erased by glass towers, gentrification and real estate barons. Neither site is safe however, and activists need all the volunteers, voices, shares and feet they can get.

It all starts with an opening this Thursday at 4PM at Antwork (located on Spears road across from Future TV just before BarBar on the left) where you can pick up fliers and more info. It is followed by an exhibition at the ministry of tourism hamra exhibition space (yes activists are taking over the ministry, peacefully this time).  Other events will be taking place in Mansion (take a right after Bar Bar spears and head up the street with old mansions falling apart– it’s the yellow old mansion still in one piece. )

Here’s the full schedule below the map. Tell your friends, your cousins. Bring your mother. Scroll down to the end of post for event posters and GIFs at the end. Share, share, share.

Thursday, May 18th

  • Official Watch Day Launch and press conference for Dalieh and Heneine
    4:00pm, Antwork
  • Dalieh Exhibition launch
    6:00 pm, Glass Hall, Ministry of Tourism. The exhibition will continue until the 27th of May
    The work of the winners of 2015’s Dalieh Ideas Competition “Revisiting Dalieh: Calling for Alternative Visions along Beirut’s Coast” will be displayed alongside the work of universities, students and artists engaged with the coast.

In Zokak el-Blat

  • Screening of Jocelyne Saab’s movie, “A Suspended Life”
    7:00pm, Orient Institut

Friday, May 19th 

In Dalieh

  • Revealing of site-specific art interventions in collaboration with Temporary Art Platform. On view until Sunday May 21st.
    All day, Dalieh
    Thin White Line (Ieva Saudargaitė Douaihi), Dalieh’s Infinity Pool (Raymond Gemayel), The Flag (Omar Fakhoury), 4’50 (Omar Fakhoury)  Partially Occupy Darkness (Ghassan Maasri), The Invisible Soundtrack (Nadim Mishlawi), On the Same Wavelength (Pascal Hachem and Rana Haddad), Washzone (Mustapha Jundi), Kunsthalle 3000 (Thomas Geiger). 

In Zokak el-Blat

  • Exhibition launch: Zokak el-Blat Experiments – Heneine Palace and Other Possibilities
    Mansion, 9:00am to 9:00pm daily, until the 21st of May – Launch at 7:00pm
    Includes a virtual tour of the Heneine Palace – Models produced by school students during heritage workshops – Architecture projects produced by university students from USEK – Screening of film “Mapping Place Narratives: Beyhum Street” – Heritage situation overview by Save Beirut Heritage

Saturday, May 20th

In Zokak el-Blat
Celebrating Heritage: Heneine Palace and Zokak el-Blat (12:00pm – 8:00pm)

  • Souk el-Tayeb in Zokak el-Blat
    12:00am to 7:00pm, Hussein Beyhum Street
  • Guided Tours of Zokak el-Blat
    First departure at 3:00pm, last departure at 6:00pm.
    A tour takes around 1:30
    Meeting points: Grand Sérail, Al-Hout Mosque, National Evangelical Church
    A fewer number of tours could be provided on Sunday 21st
  • Readings, organized by the International Writers’ House in Beirut
    6:30pm to 8:00pm, Mansion
    Readings by Fadi Tofeili and Mounzer Baalbaki, followed by a debate
  • Exhibition: Zokak el-Blat Experiments – Heneine Palace and Other Possibilities
    Mansion, 9:00am to 7:30pm, until the 21st of May

In Dalieh

  • Candle-lit night vigil from Ramlet El Baida to Dalieh
    Meeting point at 6:30pm in front of the ‘Eden Rock’ project in Ramlet Baida
  • Open Air Film Screening of “Children of Beirut” by Sarah Srage
    8:30pm, Dalieh

Sunday, May 21st 

In Dalieh
Dalieh Festival (11:00am – 8:00pm)

  • Site-specific Interventions / Music and dance performances / Food Market by Souk el-Tayeb
    All day
  • Boat Tours with Dalieh’s Fishermen
    Every hour and a half, First departure at 11:00am., last departure at 5:00pm., from Dalieh’s port. Reservations and name registration on the day at the Dalieh info booth
  • On site Tours by members of the Dalieh Campaign
    Every two hours, First tour at 11:00 am, last tour at 5:00pm
    Meeting point and registration on the day at the Dalieh info booth
  • Speakers Corner
    12:00 am / 2:00pm / 4:00pm
    In several locations on Dalieh
  • Music & Spoken Words
    6:00pm-8:00pm
    With Ziad Itani, Jebebara, Zeid Hamdan, Tarek Bashasha & Zakaria Al Omar, Saseen Kawzally, Michelle and Noel, and many others

In Zokak el-Blat

  • Literary tour, organized by the International Writers’ House in Beirut
    10:30am to 12:30pm, in Zokak el-Blat, meeting point at the Bachoura Cemetery
    A walk of the neighborhood during which Fadi Tofeili will comment, from passages of his books, the places that he mentions in his writings.
  • Guided Tours of Zokak el-Blat (To be confirmed)
    First departure at 3:00pm. A tour takes around 1h30
    To be confirmed – Number of tours to be determined according to attendance

Feel free to share. Hashtags are #WatchDalieh #WatchHeneine

Use of Dalieh is believed to date back to the copper age (5,000BCE) and the site is also reportedly mentioned in ancient Greek myths.

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Something fun today in a mad world! Check out this new video by The Wanton Bishops recalling vintage Beirut action flicks and it is shot in Dalieh, the last natural coast of Beirut endangered by a real estate project.

When you finish watching, check out The Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh الحملة الأهلية للحفاظ على دالية الروشة to see what is being done to #SaveDalieh and check our recent post: “Beirut’s stolen coast and the growing fight to get it back” for background on this topic.

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Activists take down a legally dubious fence restricting access to the sea at Dalieh El Raouche

As I have written previously, a new boldness appears to be gaining strength among Lebanese activists in the context of the garbage crisis and #youstink movement. In addition to facing off politicians in the typical form of large-scale protests and marches, we have also seen unprecedented acts of civil disobedience such as challenging  security barriers at the Prime Minister’s office and the holding of a sit-in at the environment ministry for nine hours, as thousands gathered outside in support. We have also seen the protests extending beyond garbage to other failed public services such as electricity and water shortages. Yesterday we saw that energy channeled into a new front: the unregulated privatization of the Lebanese coast.

Like dysfunctional public services, the unlawful seizure of public seafront properties has gone on for decades with no accountability,  as politicians and their cronies create luxury marinas and resorts restricting access to well-heeled customers and leaving very few public swimming areas for the majority of people in the country who cannot afford entrance fees. (Over 1,000 illegal resorts occupy the coast)

Yesterday a protest was called to occupy one of these upscale marinas built on public property known as Zaitunay Bay. (The Bay is owned partially by a prominent former minister and the marina pays a pittance to the state- only $1.5 per square meter–despite collecting exorbitant berthing rates for the dozens of yachts parked there.)

Protestors began by defying the marina’s exclusionary restrictions on food, drink and music by having picnics and a dance party:

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After a couple of hours, the activists from #youstink and other groups decided to move the party to the famous Raouche Rocks area further along the seaside promenade (corniche) where another luxury project is being planned and the coast has been fenced off to the public. Here prominent investors tied to the former prime minister’s family have put up a razor wire fence in preparation for a major real estate development, seen by activists and lawyers has a clear violation of the law. (See my in-depth piece in the Guardian for more background on this story.)

For over a year, activists known as The Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh have been trying to stop the project and open the space to the public by lobbying politicians, organizing an international design competition for alternatives and even convincing the environment minister to issue a decree to protect the area. Ironically the environment minister himself–the same one being held responsible for the garbage crisis–had called the razor wire “hideous” in a Facebook post on his personal page. Police subsequently destroyed the homes of fishermen to make way for the private project, claiming the homes were built illegally. Yet many questioned why the fence and many unlawful luxury establishments blocking the coast were not included in the police “law enforcement” action.

Lawyers associated with the campaign have also argued that the fence contradicts constitutionally enshrined rights of access to the sea and endangers the public with its layers of prison-like barbed wires both above and below the esplanade, as pedestrians often recline or lean on the rails. Following intense lobbying from the Dalieh campaign, the minister had even issued letters to relevant authorities calling for the removal of the razor wires in August 2014. And yet despite all this, the 377 meter fence has been up for a year. Until yesterday.

Activists from the #youstink protests came equipped with pliers–young, old, male, female, middle class, poor–and literally began bringing it down with their hands:

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Here is a video I shot from the scene:

Finally the view of the sea was unobstructed again, revealing the famous pigeon rocks, on countless postcards of Lebanon, but increasingly hard to see for city residents due to rampant and illegal developments.

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Once the fence came down, there was a few minutes of celebration as protestors chanted about corruption, the daily theft by the ruling political class, the unelected parliament, the lack of employment and marginalization of the poor. Finally one says “Now that we have liberated the coast, let’s go enjoy it!”

 

I then filmed the crowd walking toward the sea as police man just stand by and watch. In fact a few dozen police, including a riot squad, were deployed at the scene. But they merely watched as citizens took down the fence.

Finally it was time to reap the benefits and enjoy the sea.

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Activists made their way down to rocky coast that had been used for hundreds if not thousands of years as a swimming hole by the city’s residents.

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Here is a video from the scene:

Before the fence had gone up, this spot known as Dalieh el Raouche had been used by generations of Beirut residents, known for its natural pools, coves, caves and grassy areas to picnic and enjoy time with the family.  It is feared that the private project, proposed to a celebrity architect, will end all this free access and limit the area to elite sunbathers who can afford entrance or membership fess.

When the protestors began to head home as the sun began to sink into the sea, they had stripped the 377 meter fence in its entirety:

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Left behind a sign, reclaiming the public access to the area, reading “This Sea is Ours”

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And allowing average citizens once again, the right to gaze out at the sea, one of the few rights that seem to be left in this country.

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Government officials like to complain that activists love making noise but never propose actual solutions. This is especially true in Lebanon where the mayor of Beirut has repeatedly mocked those that oppose the municipality projects as being long-haired rebel rousers (i.e. hippies) or simply “liars” bent on sabotaging his plans. The mayor–and other officials– also complain often in press conferences that activists are ‘not professional’ or have no degrees and thus have no idea what they are talking about.

The truth is many of the activists are professional architects, lawyers and urban planners who have proposed solid ideas and possible blueprints for the city, often relying on better research than the municipality itself, which is notorious for going ahead with plans without providing studies or allowing any meaningful community involvement.

And the public is beginning to react. Big crowds came out this weekend for the exhibit of alternative proposals for the coastal area known as Dalieh, which is threatened by real estate development. Activists interested in preserving this rare natural coastal site launched an international design competition to reimagine it for public instead of private use and the entries are now on display all week at Altcity in Hamra. You can view the exhibit until this Friday June 12, every day from 9AM-11PM. AltCity is located at the beginning of Hamra street in the Montreal building at the Mezzanine level. See Facebook event for details.

I will leave you with some pictures of the opening night where architects got to explain their ideas to the public and get feedback from the audience.

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You can read more about the Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh and the ongoing struggle to keep the site free to the public by visiting their website, which lists some of the campaigns actions, legal background and how you can get involved. You can also follow their Facebook page for upcoming events.

 

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Left to right: Mona Hallak, Youssef Doughan and Jad Tabet.

The results of the Dalieh Ideas competition, which seeks to protect Beirut’s natural coast from private development, were announced today at the Environment Ministry conference room before an audience of government officials, journalists, design students and urban professionals.

Three winning projects were read by architect Jad Tabet, a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, who headed the competition jury, composed of prominent Lebanese and international architects.

The winning projects were:

-“The Last Resort” by Amer Nabil Mohtar, Hayat Gebara, Sandy El Sabsaby

-“Dalieh” by Fadi Mansour, Candice Naim, Lea Helou, Ali As’ad, Roula Khoury, Scapeworks

-“Not Just About Dalieh” by Adib Dada, Raya Tueny, Reine Chehayeb, Yasmina Choueiri, May Khalifeh

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Winners discussed their projects after the announcements.

The projects were awarded based on competition criteria that the site remain free and open to the public including: “sensitivity to urban context; reaffirming historical identity of Dalieh as a space for the public; functionality, flexibility and economic feasibility; ecological and environmental sustainability; institutional framework addressing property and managerial/administrative concerns; innovation and creativity…”

In a sign of growing state interest in preserving Dalieh, officials representing the ministers of environment and culture were on hand for the reading of the results in the competition, which was launched from the environment ministry in March.

“This is your ministry and the ministry of all Lebanese,” said Youssef Doughan, advisor to the minister of environment.

“This is the face of Beirut, it our country and our capital,” he added. “And hopefully the municipality and the directorate of urbanism will use the resulting ideas to get to a solution that benifits everyone and preserves the environment of our city.”

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Doughan touted the work of the Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh in meetings it held at the ministry to help protect the Dalieh peninsula and its limestone cliffs, which were recently purchased by private developers who commissioned celebrity architect Rem Koolhaas to design a large private-use structure on an over 100,000 square meter plot across one of the last patches of undeveloped rocky shoreline in the city. However after intense lobbying efforts by the civil campaign, the minister has submitted a draft decree to declare the site a natural protected area with strict building codes, environmental protections and the power to stop a project on the site.

“We don’t want to deny people’s rights but we don’t want to trample the rights of the people,” Doughan said.

Speaking on behalf of the civil campaign, preservation architect Mona el Hallak said well-connected investors were reportedly lobbying for legal exception to vastly increase the land to construction ratio in Dalieh up to 100 percent use, which far exceeds previous Beirut master plan regulations that only allowed for up to 20 percent of land use for developments in the coastal area.

(Read more about how Beirut’s coast has been steadily privatized by powerful political dynasties and real estate developers and the battle to stop them.)

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El Hallak urged supporters to demand government bodies consider alternative visions put forward by the competition and not allow for such exceptional legislation that caters to private interests. Those government bodies who have a say in such exceptions–and thus may be vulnerable to investor lobbying– include the Higher Council for Urban Planning, Beirut Municipality, the Beirut Governor’s office, and the Council of Ministers–which is due for a vote on the draft protection decree– el Hallak explained.

“Stand with us and express our belonging to the common spaces of the city and claim our rights to protect and save our environment and the natural heritage of our city.”

The three winning submissions as well as four finalists and all the other submissions will be on display at AltCity in Hamra during Beirut Design Week on Thursday June 4th starting at 7PM until Friday June 12.  The campaign will also be holding an exhibition at Mansion Zokak el Blat on June 5th as well as a guided walk across the Dalieh natural site on Sunday, June 7th. See the Facebook events page for more details.

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UPDATE:

Here is LBC’s piece on today’s event:

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www.dalieh.org

Readers of this blog will be quite familiar with the campaign to save Beirut’s last undeveloped natural rocky shore from real estate development. The site, known as Dalieh of Raouche, offers a wealth of natural pools, caves, marine and plant life as well as archeological and Ras Beirut heritage, with local families frequenting its grassy hills and limestone coves for generations.

Now you can help preserve this place by contributing to a crowdfunding campaign, but there are only 4 days left to do so.

The Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh of Raouche has mounted an extensive effort to keep the shores free and open, including an international design competition to envision public use of the space that is being sponsored by the Ministry of Environment.  The campaign has succeeded at lobbying the minister to issue a draft decree to help protect the site, despite the fact that the land has been bought by very powerful investors within his own political coalition. (The decree will soon be up for a cabinet vote so the competition may be an important lobbying tool.)

All this has been made possible by tireless volunteer efforts and out-of-pocket expense by a small group of activists and urban professionals. Now they need your help to make the competition a success, supporting the participation of a prestigious international jury of architects and the display of the winning projects at the upcoming Beirut Design week.  You can contribute to the crowd-fudnding campaign here. You can also read in detail about the budget and needs. The deadline to fund is just 4 days 3 days 1 day from now.

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www.dalieh.org

Through the help of volunteer lawyers, the campaign is also suing the state based on the manipulation of property laws by politicians that have allowed private interests to acquire the city’s last shore. You can read more about this and the campaign’s many other efforts in a recent in-depth piece in The Guardian.

Do contribute a little money if you believe in preserving a slice of Beirut’s natural waterfront for the next generation and share the crowdfunding page with your friends and colleagues.

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This kind of destruction is usually caused by a war or natural disaster. But this was Beirut this morning: no air strikes, no foreign army invasion, no earthquake. These homes were destroyed by the Lebanese government, the Lebanese police and billionaire families they work for.

The homes and small cafes that were leveled belong to some of the city’s poorest residents who have lived off the land for generations, fishing from the last natural shore in Beirut. But the Lebanese government, which is run by millionaires and billionaires has decided this land should be used for a luxury private development. Celebrity architect Rem Koolhaas has been asked to come up with a design.

“They didn’t give us any warning,” says boat-maker Bassam Chehab (above).

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Chehab has been making boats since 1979 and claims to have built most of the fisherman’s boats along the coast of Beirut — “From Ain El Mrasye to Ouzai”. Now many of those are buried under the rubble:

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Chehab says he spent several years as a prisoner of the regime in Syria–in a notorious jail in the  Tadmur desert– but never expected to be treated this way by his own government.

He says he is not a squatter but a law-abiding citizen who obtained permits for his shack from successive governments. Chehab is eager to show off a government installed electricity meter and pole as evidence.

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“The worst thing I ever did was get a parking ticket and I paid for it,” he says. Lebanese politicians could hardly claim as much. They have manipulated laws to allow for major construction in once protected seafront areas such as Dalieh, creating legislation that decreases public access to the shore and increases the value of properties they already own. Lebanese politicians have even built massive illegal private resorts up and down the coast, as an Al Jazeera documentary recently revealed. Yet the bulldozers never come for their properties.

“They are worse than the Israelis” exclaimed fisherman Mohammed Itani, (below) as he dug through the rubble for personal belongings.

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“At least the Israelis give you warning before they destroy your house.”

Born and raised on the Dalieh coast, Itani said he lost thousands of dollars in fishing and scuba equipment–a massive blow for a community that barely even has plumbing.

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Itani says the police came in the darkness with no warning, just before dawn–they forced the men to kneel “like the Israelis do to Palestinians”.  Others said they were beaten, some put in a police van, while the destruction went on.

This afternoon, some tried to salvage a few items.

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But others wondered what they would do next. Ali Itani and his family (below) claim to have lived off this land for over a century, fishing in its natural lagoons and farming on its grassy hills. Where will they go next and how will they earn a living?
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You can see more pictures of the devastation here, including how the government bulldozed pieces of their homes straight into the sea:

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Clarification: I interviewed at least five other fishermen and all confirmed that there was no warning for this demolition. They did however say that police had warned them a few days ago about one small shack built near the sea–which some say had been there for decades. But this doesn’t explain why the police would bulldoze all the other homes and cafes. Activists are trying to get in touch with Beirut governor to find out exactly what orders were issued. I will update this post if I get any details from them or the police on whether any warnings were issued. Feel free to comment if you have any additional information. 

For more on the campaign to save this place from private development, you can follow the efforts and read the legal background at The Civil Campaign to Save Dalieh –also follow their Facebook page for updates.

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This week, Beirut residents celebrated Job’s Wednesday (Orba’at Ayoub) at Ramlet El Baida, a tradition that stretches back generations. Legend has it that Job, a biblical prophet also revered in Islam, was directed to swim in the Ramlet El Baida waters to help heal his illnesses.

For decades, Beirut families have gathered on the last Wednesday of April for a picnic in his honor.  “There were thousands of people, all of Beirut came out,” Samir, a 70-something local resident told me, reflecting wistfully on the 1950s. “Everyone used to walk all the way from their houses to the sea. My father used to take me.”

For the occasion, women often prepare a special sweet dish called “mfatka:”

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The tradition was kept alive this year with dancers, fireworks and a souk.

But the crowd that came out was much smaller than the hordes of people that thronged the coast in 1950s, before the unregulated real estate boom that has literally walled in the shore and erased much of Beirut’s extended sand coast and dunes:
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There are also fears that Ramlet el Baida, the only remaining free beach in the capital, may fall victim to well-connected investors and privatization. Until the late 1980s, this coast was protected from construction by Lebanese law, but land-owning politicians have recently changed those laws, paving the way for large developments that will benefit them and their associates.

At the far south end of the Ramle beach is a multi-million dollar development known as Eden Rock. And on the northern side, the natural shore of Dalieh has also been claimed by a political dynasty who have commissioned a Rem Koolhaas design. Will Ramlet el Baida face a similar fate?

The Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh is making its voice heard and working to ensure the continuity of public coastal access and activities. They placed a banner at the event.

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We inherited Dalieh from our parents and grandparents and we will pass it on to our children and grandchildren.

Many from the crowd enjoyed it so much they took selfies:

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The activists also tried to reach Beirut Mayor Bilal Hamad, who was busy taking selfies himself:

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But as exited after the brief visit, he never stopped once to look up at the banner:

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Hamad has repeatedly claimed the beach will be saved from development, but he has yet to translate those promises into action and has refrained from calling for the protection of Dalieh, which is owned by a political dynasty he is very close to.

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And more singing and dancing:

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At the end, Dalieh organizer architect Abir Saksouk-Sasso was welcomed on stage and gave a brief speech about the campaign.

Beirut seafront traditions, and the working class that participates in them, have been hit hard by the zeal for luxury development, which is literally pushing people out of the city.

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But it’s nice to know that many still believe in holding on.

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If you haven’t seen it, watch this old Egyptian movie clip about the future of Dalieh. Activists have made some creative modifications to draw attention to the campaign to save this last bit of rocky Beirut coastline.

The #SaveDalieh campaign has organized an ideas competition to rethink the space for public use but hurry up as there is only about 5 days left to register until May 5th. (Submissions are due by May 26.)

The competition is open to both students and professionals of all disciplines. Participants are given access to maps and data looking at the site’s geographical, historic, ecological, archeological and environmental significance. Check the interactive new website at Dalieh.org to access this information, learn more about what is being done and register.

Here’s the poster:

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Thanks to the tireless lobbying efforts of the activists, the competition is being sponsored by the Ministry of Environment, which has just announced a draft decree to declare Dalieh a protected natural site.

You can also support the SaveDalieh campaign on Indiegogo where they are raising funds to support the competition and keep this rocky coast free and accessible to the public.

For more background on how politicians and real estate companies have manipulated laws to seize the last undeveloped shores of Beirut and the many things activists are doing about it, see my recent in-depth piece in The Guardian “A city without a shore: Reem Koolhaas, Dalieh and the paving of Beirut’s coast

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From right: Activist Amira El Halabi, Ministry official Lara Samaha and architect Abir Saksouk-Sasso

The ministry of environment has drafted a decree to name the rocky coast of Dalieh as a national protected area, a ministry official said today.

The move may create a significant obstacle for real estate developers who plan build a major private project on the Dalieh of Raouche coast, which is one of Beirut’s last remaining public shores.

“We have drafted a decree classifying the site as a natural site under the protection of the Ministry of Environment,” said Lara Samaha, the head of the department of ecosystems at the ministry.

The announcement came as a bit of a surprise during a press conference that was intended to announce a design competition for public use of the hilly area, marked by limestone cliffs and natural lagoons.

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The move is seen as a victory for activists who have been campaigning for over  a year to keep Dalieh a public shore,  free and open for swimming and picnics as it has been for generations.

“We are giving importance to the site–otherwise we would not have held it (the contest) on our premises and under the auspices of the ministry of environment,” said Samaha.

She added that the site was of high ecological and scenic value and access to it should be “a right for all Lebanese citizens.”

Samaha was joined on stage by activists from the Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh, Amira El Halabi and Abir Saksouk-Sasso, who lauded the work of many volunteer professionals and activists who have tirelessly lobbied the ministry and other government bodies.

The audience erupted in cheers and clapping when Samaha made the announcement, which was covered by local television channel LBC and a number of other news reporters.

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Saksouk-Sasso said the Civil Campaign would soon be launching the website at www.dalieh.org to begin receiving submissions for the contest to design Dalieh as a public space, which will be open to both professionals and students. She said the site is expected to be online by the end of the day.

The website will contain maps and guidelines to be used by contestants as well as names the members of the jury, including prominent local and international architects and design professionals.

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Poster for the Dalieh design competition

“We are not only trying to resist the private project, we are also trying to provide alternatives to see what people can come up with to make this a public space for the city,” Saksouk-Sasso said.

The ministry’s draft law will now be submitted to the legislative court known as the Shura Council for approval and then be sent to the council of ministers for a vote. Samaha said she thought it had a good chance of passing.

(For background on the controversial plan to develop Dalieh into a private project, see my in-depth piece last week in The Guardian.)

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UPDATE: I was finally able to upload a video of Samaha talking about the draft law. (Lebanon’s internet is super slow)

She was hopeful the bill would pass:

UPDATE 2: Samaha has asked the video be removed because she was not authorized to do a video interview. Instead I will publish the transcript of what was said:

“The ministry of environment has prepared a draft a decree classifying the site as a natural site under the protection of the ministry of environment and we have sent it to concerned authorities to get approval and after to be sent to the council of ministers.”

“It means no industry is allowed on the site–classified establishments as industries, whether small or big, on the site– any establishment that will be constructed on the site needs to get the approval of the ministry of environment and needs to undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA) sent to the ministry of environment for review and to get its approval or not on any establishments there, whether resort, building.

So a resort can still be built there?

“But under an EIA study and maybe the EIA study will be rejected anyway by the minister. So under very specific conditions and after getting the approval of the ministry on this matter.”

Who needs to approve it next?

“Now we have sent it to the Shura council and after we get their approval, they will send us back the file and we will send it to the council of ministers.”

How significant is today’s event for the campaign to protect the site?

“We are giving importance to that otherwise we wouldn’t make it in our premises and under the auspices of the minster of environment.”

Are you hopeful it will pass?

“The decree, yes, it should, hopefully, hopefully. ”

 

Correction: In a previous version of this post, the term “draft law” was used. It should be clarified that the term is “draft decree” which is still legally binding if passed.  The difference in Lebanon is that decrees are issued by ministries and voted on by cabinet while laws are voted on by Parliament.