#ThisIsLebanon: Showing The Beauty Of The Country We Come From & Trying To Keep It

 

Lebanon is a gorgeous country. It takes an effort – at least for me – to try and see that in absolute value sometimes, but I can’t deny that there are instances where I can’t but marvel at the beauty of the country we call home.

To drive this point home and to encourage us to keep this country as such, or even make it better, Rani Nasr and Samah el Kadi, two aspiring Lebanese filmmakers, decided to do what they love best and make weekly videos highlighting beautiful landscapes in the country.

They just released the first video in the series, filmed in the Chouf mountains:

The next videos are filmed in various other locations in the country such as Tannourine, Ehden, Chahtoul, The Cedars, etc. As mentioned previously, they will be released in a weekly manner on this Facebook page (link).

Making the videos, however, was not as easy as just holding a camera and roaming around a beautiful forest or mountain. Due to Lebanese people being as they are, Rani Nasr informed me that he had to personally pick up garbage from entire landscapes just to be able to show how beautiful the place was and take a decent shot of it.

Not only is the nature we have left endangered by rabid urbanization, but also by people who can’t appreciate how beautiful it is and think that throwing their garbage wherever they may be is the way to go. You see, we are not victims of living in garbage. It is our choice. We chose for years to be a populace that litters all around, damaging the environment, helpless animals and ultimately ourselves. We also chose not to go back to what we know, our politicians, instead of what we need, a new system, when Beirut was drowning in garbage. We also chose to turn a blind eye to where the garbage filling Beirut’s streets is now being thrown.

He also told me about hunters roaming those areas just to kill deer and wildcats, either for BBQ purposes or to collect trophies on their walls. I had no idea Lebanon’s forests actually had deer, but it seems they do.

The biggest threat to our nature is us. How about we change that? Two things you can do that would help immensely are the following:

  1. Don’t throw your garbage anywhere and everywhere,
  2. Don’t kill harmless animals just because you’re bored.

I asked Rani if they intend to turn the #ThisIsLebanon movement into a #LiveLoveBeirut or #LiveLoveLebanon-esque entity, and he said no: it was just them doing what they loved, movies, to show what they loved, Lebanon’s nature. As such, they will not be monetizing off of it.

What they hope to accomplish is for their films to inspire people to want to see more of their country, to want to preserve the beauty and take positive steps in that direction: visit Lebanon’s natural reserves and help to preserve the forests by supporting them, not litter everywhere you go, marvel in the beauty of the country you live in and share it with whoever wants to see.

To end this on a more positive note, I figured I’d share a few pictures of the beauty of this country, with or without the hashtag #ThisIsLebanon, to drive the point home. The instagram accounts of the corresponding pictures will be mentioned in their caption, as well as their respective location.

You can follow the accounts here:

There’s a lot of beauty in the country beyond the confines of everyone’s Beiruti comfort zones. Go explore, return with beautiful pictures and change yourself and the country one beautiful landscape at a time. #ThisIsLebanon, and it’s worth discovering.

 

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An Update on the Land Sold in Dlebta, Keserwan to the Saudi Prince

The view from the land sold

Following up with my post from Tuesday about the land in Dlebta that was sold to a Saudi prince, Pierre Daher, the person who had shared the original picture which went viral on Facebook, had the following to say in order correct the information I had shared in my post about the sale:

This picture is not representing the Dlebta valley Sold. This is the very nearby area of Harissa Valley! The red line represents the Harissa valley and has NOT been sold. Dlebta is just in the top right corner of the picture outside the red frame.

For reference, you can check out the post in question here and the picture here. In the meantime, these are the facts regarding the land sale, according to this article by Annahar and other sources:

  • The decree to authorize the sale of the land to the Saudi Prince was passed in the Official Gazette on April 26th, 2012 – almost a month ago. The land that was sold is not as huge as originally thought. It consists of 4 properties, numbered 76 – 157 – 160 – 1152 in the Dlebta region, a town that hadn’t seen lots of real estate movements similarly to the surroundings towns. The sale was brokered by a Lebanese man who’s not from Dlebta.
  • The total area of the land which the Saudi prince purchased is 7700 squared meters. It is part of Tallet el Salib, which neighbors another hill called Tallet Mohammad. Talks are already underway to purchase a part of that hill as well.
  • The presidential decree that was signed and passed in the gazette allowed the Saudi Prince to purchase the 7700 sqm land even though the limit for non-Lebanese is 3000 sqm.
  • The authorization to approve the sale was signed by President Michel Sleiman, prime minister Najib Mikati and minister of Finance Mohammad al Safadi.
  • None of the Christian ministers in the ministry spoke against the sale despite their previous stances against such transactions in Christian areas.
  • The owners of the land are a rich Maronite family in the region who had previously sworn not to sell any land to anyone from outside the region. I guess the Saudi Prince is not “ghrib” anymore to the Keserwanis.
  • The municipality of Dlebta was not consulted in the matter of this transaction.

A few things, however, still need to be said:

  1. The fact that the land is not as huge as originally perceived doesn’t mean selling it should be permitted. I am firmly against selling Lebanese land to foreign nationals especially those coming from countries where the people of the aforementioned areas have very limited rights.
  2. The sale of this land, especially allowing it, sets a dangerous precedence for the entirety of the Harissa Valley, which is highlighted in red in this picture. If they allow this land to be sold, then what would stop the selling of bigger properties in the valley some other time?
  3. The fauna and flora argument is irrelevant to many Lebanese – but the area in question is one of the few areas in the region that has been kept relatively untouched. In fact, half of the area highlighted in red in the above picture has been made into a reserve by the Maronite Church to prohibit commercial activities in it.
  4. The Dlebta sale is not the first and won’t be the last. In fact, much worse sales have already taken place and received much less attention. Why so? It could be because they’re not situated in an area Lebanese Maronites consider sacred. For instance, 740 acres were purchased by Hezbollah from a Christian man in the Chouf for a total cost of $240 million – one of the richest land deals in Lebanese history.
  5. According to this report, here’s how the sales of land breaks down in select areas: the towns of Ajaltoun, Rayfoun, Mayrouba & Kfardebien in Keserwein have 80% of their lands sold to non-Lebanese, as well as 85% of the town of Alma in Zgharta. The story is similar in the Chouf, Baabda, Batroun and other regions as well. This is a reality, not paranoia.

Let me tell you the story of a very good friend of mine from a very small, almost irrelevant, village in the caza of Aley. There was once a man who needed money so he decided to sell the only land he owned and he knew it won’t go for much. Why so? Because the village barely had an access road to begin with and his land was nowhere near it. It was also almost unusable for agriculture. Why would anyone need a land like that?

And yet, an offer from a nearby village came in. It was much higher than what the seller had thought possible. But why would the buyer want to buy this land? Why would anyone buy this land? The town’s people rallied together and pitched in to keep the purchase from passing forward.

True, the example I gave is a matter between Lebanese but when foreigners start to desire and work on getting Lebanese land as well, then we must get very worried especially that many Lebanese can’t afford the prices of land in their current state but those foreigners can. If we keep letting foreigners, regardless of country of origin and supposed limits that they can obviously work around, buy land without any form of regulation, which is the current case, then we won’t have a country to return to.

The people of Dlebta are organizing an event to support their cause this Saturday. You can check it out on Facebook here.

Winter in Lebanon: Snowy Landscapes from the Recent Snowstorm

After posting a few pictures of a trip I took to the Cedars, I figured I’d help show another side of Lebanon that most people don’t get to see (especially tourists). And what better side to show than the one showcased by the recent snowstorm?

I did not take these pictures. I got them, after permission, from the Lebanon Weather Facebook page. I’ll try to go on a roadtrip around the Batroun area soon to take pictures. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, we present:

Zahle

Anjar

Assia, a village at 700 m of altitude in Batroun

The Chouf

The view from Hasroun, in the Bcharre Caza

Jezzine

Kawkaba, in South Lebanon

Knise Moutain in the Metn region

South Lebanon

Toula, in North Lebanon

West Bekaa

West Bekaa, again

And this is a picture my friend Firas took of the Cedar Mountains from his hometown in Koura:

The Cedar Mountains from afar

And people ask me why I’m “hating” on Zaitunay Bay when it’s getting all the attention and scenes like these are getting ignored. I guess that’s the way things are – you have money and power, you get noticed.