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Ramlet el-Bayda, The White Sands

There are some mistakes that cannot be easily corrected, and others not corrected at all.

When Lebanon first became independent, several decrees were published concerning the disposal of plots of land, particularly in the urban areas. Here is a fine example: you have a “Building” area where one is allowed to build and where the price of a square meter reaches up to six or eight thousand US dollars. Alongside this, one finds a “Non-building” area where land has no value at all. Is this the result of ignorance, of scheming, or of corruption? One can only wonder.

Some of the most beautiful fertile land, ideal for agriculture, has been transformed into concrete slabs.

There should have been a decree protecting good farmland, where all building would have been illegal and strictly forbidden. In this way people, like their forebears, could have continued to live in grottoes, in the valleys, and on the rocky terrain. Once upon a time Lebanon produced cereal crops amply sufficient to feed its own population, which is no longer the case.

The consequences of those misguided decrees have been catastrophic. There are no more beaches open to the general public, no green spaces around the towns. Measures should have been taken to safeguard the coastline, the public beaches, and the environment.

Just south of Beirut there stretches one of the most beautiful beaches imaginable, sandy and a pleasure to walk and to lie on. But all the beaches have been invaded by bathing lidos and by buildings. Non-governmental organizations such as the Greens and public-spirited volunteers are coming out in demonstrations to defend the above-mentioned public beach a mile long, stretching as far as Ouzai.

This beach has seen events of historic importance. On April 10th, 1973, an Israeli commando came to assassinate Palestinian leaders and left by passing through Ramlet el-Baydat. On June 16th, 1976, the United States Ambassador Meloy was found lying dead on this beach. In 1983 a terrorist group bombarded the French barracks not far away.

Ramlet el-Bayda is an iconic picture of Beirut, recalling the beaches of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, having in its background, parallel to the sea, the town with its residential villas and blocks of luxury apartments.

There was a time when Beirut families would spend the summer at Ramlet el-Bayda. Each family would put up a tent of canvas or straw. People enjoyed themselves during the two or three months of summer. Up to the present the sea front has remained public land thanks to a municipal decree of 1983. However, now building estate companies are trying to lay their hands on this area and to transform it for their own use.
To bathe at Ramlet el-Bayda with its pure water, its mild breezes and its warm sand is a pleasure given by the Creator. A wonderful beach like no other! If it goes, where will the people of Beirut be able to go in order to bathe in the sea? From Dbayyeh to Ouzai their coast has been taken away from them. During this third millennium marine sports and pleasures will be reserved for the super-rich if we do not rise up to save Ramlet el-Bayda and all the other beaches of Lebanon in a wave of national patriotic duty.

Joseph Matar
Translation from the French: Kenneth Mortimer

- Ramlet el Bayda - Beirut beach: >> View Movie << (2015-06-15)



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