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.

Huge Land Sold In Sabbah, Jezzine to a Khaliji Princess

The saga of selling land to foreigners in Lebanon keeps escalating. After a 7000 sqm land was sold to a Saudi Prince near the Harissa Valley in Keserwan, and another land in Lassa, Jbeil was taken out of Maronite Church property to be given to the nearby Shia mosque, it’s the turn of a town in Jezzine called Sabbah to have one of its hills sold to a Khaliji woman.

The hill’s area is 40,000 sqm. It’s owned by the heirs of Habib Bassil, who owned hundreds of thousands of squared meters of land in Sabbah. His estate is run by Mona Bassil, a lawyer and one of the current members in Sabbah’s municipality. People are worried some sort of deal will also be struck regarding the remainder of his properties, which would have catastrophic consequences on their hometown.

The land itself was shown to the princess’s manager by a very renowned Maronite broker who took him on a trip around Jezzine in order to sell him some land. Of all the places that she showed him, the manager liked the hill in question because of its strategic location: it spreads from the St. Elias church near Sabbah’s center, to the edges of the Our Lady of Machmouche convent which is a very important religious place for the Maronites of the region, to the resting place of “Nabiyye Mikha” in the Northern parts of Sabbah.

The municipality is even accused of selling other properties to different people without double checking their identity, which the mayor didn’t deny although he downplayed the severity of it.

This is not the only land currently being offered in the area. Another land in a nearby town (Bteddine el Laqsh), of an area totaling 10,000 sqm, is being sold to Salafists from Saida, even though a Christian buyer is interested and has made an offer.
In another Jezzine town called Zaarour, a huge land owned by the El Helou family is in negotiations to be sold to Shia contractors who will turn the pine forest into a buildings compound. (source)

None of Jezzine’s MPs decided to intervene. Church facilities also didn’t care enough to help stop these transactions.
I guess all the people in power who are worried about Christian influence waning in Lebanon only know to preach but when it comes down to actually doing something, they are as useless as the brokers making sure the land is going to non-Lebanese or Lebanese who will change the identity of the land forever.

I reiterate – I do not raise this issue out of a sectarian agenda, but when I can’t own land in the khalij, why should they be allowed to own land in my country? And when there’s even a tendency among your fellow Lebanese to own as much land as possible for their own hidden agendas, being vigilant is of utmost importance.

It is here that I invite you to re-read (or read if you haven’t done so already) the points I raised when it came to the sale of the land in Dlebta, Keserwan.