Qornet El Sawda, Lebanon’s Highest Peak, To Be Ruined & Turned Into A Resort

The Arab obsession with “highest” and “biggest” and “most expensive” continues with a real estate company deciding to turn Lebanon’s highest peak, Qornet el Sawda, in the Makmel Mountain up North, right next to our most celebrated Cedar Forest, into a touristic project they are (creatively) calling: Al-Kumma.

The project will be built on a 420,000 m2 plot, and will include a hotel, club house, wellness-center, and entertainment facilities, 650 chalets, 70 villas, and a ski trail. You know, because the surrounding area doesn’t have enough of those already.

The company behind the $500 million project is Realis Development, which is owned by a family that also has shares in a Abu Dhabi finance company. The project will be financed via banks and equity funds. It is not known which banks or equity funds will have part in this, or which politicians for that matter, yet.

The first phase of the project will begin in summer of 2017.

I’m all for development in the North, Lebanon’s poorest and most deprived area, but when it comes at the expense of one of our country’s most beautiful regions and one of its most ecologically vital areas, I think a line has to be drawn.

Not only does the area already have a world-class skiing area that is visited by thousands of visitors yearly, but it’s also a major water storage site for the country and North Lebanon with it receiving the highest amount of rainfall and snow in the entire Middle East.

Qornet el Sawda is also a few minutes away from the country’s oldest and most celebrated Cedar Forest, or what remains of it, in what is commonly called: the forest of Cedars of God. I guess the thousand years of deforestation from progressive cultures that have used the wood of those trees from that area for their various construction projects wasn’t enough.

Instead of restoring the area’s greenery and contributing to its reforestation efforts to further promote eco-tourism in this country, we are doing the exact opposite. How many trees and shrubs will be destroyed for this project? How many Cedar trees will be cut for it to take place and for the few politicians as well as businessmen behind it to make a few dollars? Is our outrage at the Cedar’s dignity only in Facebook posts and never aimed at the actual trees being uprooted from their natural habitat to let way for man to come in and ruin the mountain further?

For this project to go through without any more investigation is a disgrace. How many more of our regions are they supposed to ruin just because they have the wasta and money? Where is the Ministry of Environment from all of this? Probably busy defending the seagulls being shot near the airport?

How long will it be before one of the country’s most fascinating hiking trails turns into an “exclusive” region for those who can afford it? I’m still waiting to find the maximal point of capitalist greed.

One of the most beautiful characteristics of the North is how pristine its nature is, especially the Bcharre area which boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country (and the entire region, may I add). It breaks my heart to see it be ruined that way. What a shame.

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5 Major Projects To Take Place In Beirut: The City Losing Itself To Money

Between articles about how empty Downtown is and a reiteration of every form of the word “Phoenix” possible, there has been plenty that international publications have said about our capital. But there hasn’t been, in my opinion, as interesting an article as the one published in The Guardian today (link). In fact, it has taught me a few things about the city’s future that I felt should be shared.

Solidere’s view for Downtown Beirut is only halfway done. That empty but beautiful looking aggregation of charming but ultimately lifeless buildings is not where things end. Solidere’s view for how the center of Beirut should be is basically to get as many fancy worldwide architects as possible and have them build on one of the city’s plots.

As such, here are 5 projects that await the city in the future.

1 – Zaha Hadid’s Department Store in Beirut Souks

If you thought Zaha Hadid’s AUB building was bad, wait till you see this. Beirut Souks as they stand currently are not expensive nor are they enough for regular shoppers. So, naturally, they will expand in the future with the addition of a Zaha Hadid-designed department store that will also serve as a residential space in some of its floors. Why? Because money, I guess. The place will have be a 5-storey development of 26,370musable area (32,390m2 gross). And it looks ugly. For more information, check this.

2 – Norman Foster’s 3Beirut:

In the “Minet el Hosn” area, behind the Four Seasons hotel and facing Phoenicia, 3 towers are currently under construction, and nearing completion. The 3 towers are basically a staggered face that rises up to 120 meters. And here I thought urban planning in the city had a limit on how many “high-rises” you can have. They are considered “luxury apartments” and as such, add this to the list 99% of the Lebanese population can’t afford but will spend the rest of their days looking at. For more information, check this.

3 – Herzog & de Meuron’s “Beirut Terrace”:

Also in the “Minet el Hosn” area, facing Phoenicia, the “Beirut Terrace” project is currently under construction. An architect friend of mine once said he found the design to be impressive, so I would assume that this one of the better ones from an architectural point of view. In 2013, this project ranked 3rd among 36 projects worldwide in the MIPIM Awards. Of course, this apartments complex is also not within your budget, or almost anyone’s budget for that matter. The penthouse is $13 million. For more information, check this.

4 – Peter Marino’s  1338 Mina El Hosn:

Seeing as that same area isn’t saturated with wellness centers and shopping spaces already, here’s another one. The project includes retail, restaurants and cafés, high-end serviced apartments and a wellness center, the future Beirut Spa and Wellness Center. It will be a continuation of the Beirut Souks project and serve to connect the hotels area (Phoenicia, Four Seasons, Monroe) with the commercial district (Souks, Downtown). Located along Patriarch Howayek Street, it will cover an area of 17,173m2. For more information, check this.

5 – Renzo Piano’s “Pinwheel”:

Sama Beirut, which is nearing completion, won’t be the country’s tallest structure for long. “Pinwheel” is the name of the glass tower to be built at Wafiq Sinno avenue, near Biel, effectively blocking the view for most of the buildings behind it.  The towers will have a department store and ballroom in their lower levels, and a hotel with serviced apartments in the higher levels. For more information on the project, check this.

Bonus – Jean Nouvel’s “Landmark”:

We’ve all heard about this one when the plot on which it was built turned out to have Lebanon’s first Church. Naturally, everyone was outraged. Except this time, because it was a religious building, the outrage ended up putting the project on hold. As it looks now, this will be the project out of the 5 listed never to see the light of day. It was supposed to be a hotel, shopping center – because downtown doesn’t have enough of those – as well as a spa. For more information, click here.

They wonder why we feel disconnected with the city’s heart, and ultimately with the city itself. Beirut is not meant for us anymore. Even the less “fancy” development is not something most of us can afford. The Beirut that our parents told us stories about is nowhere to be found anymore, and if you thought the future would move retrogradely towards a city that’s more accessible to Lebanese, and less aimed at wealthy expats and Saudi sheikhs, you thought terribly wrong.