Ah the post card image of Raouche. Now imagine it surrounded by a giant fenced off marina, full of concrete structures and gas guzzling yachts.

Well that very well may happen if people continue to ignore the major development now underway there, despite its very shaky legal status. Some activists showed up last week, but not nearly enough to make a statement loud enough to capture the attention of the public and the parliament.

After the rally, I decided to check the area out. I never knew there were so many natural pools:

And interesting rock formations:

Then there is a series of caves:

We took a boat ride to explore further:

In this cave, the fisherman said they have seen a family of seals, who apparently live in one of the deep passageways:

 I had heard about the seals a few weeks ago from an environmentalist. It reminded me of this guy who was spotted in Tyre last year:

We headed out of the cave:

And then through the natural tunnel in the main Raouche rocks:

Finally we entered into a third cave. Our guide said it stretches 100 meters deep:

We got back to the loading area, where the boats are hoisted up with makeshift cranes:

The cranes appear to be made out of old electricity poles:

Fastened together with some pretty ancient looking engines and metal work:

And operated with stacks of old oil drums:

These guys should win the DIY award of the year or be featured in a Discovery Channel show or something.

We wandered around and found other natural bays and inlets:

The guys in the photo explained how they have been coming here for years. “It’s the best place to swim in Beirut,” one said. “You can easily reach Dalieh from any part of the city, Ras Beirut or Dahieyh. Who can afford those beach resorts? You have to pay entrance fees, you can’t bring your own food, so you have to spend $50 to have a good time.”

And unlike the fancy resorts, the small coffee shops around this natural harbor were recently bulldozed for being “illegal”

It’s always interesting how the law is applied to the poor, while multi-million dollar resorts continue to operate across the coast nationwide with no permits.

The men explained that developers are trying to evict the fishermen who use another nearby harbor:

The work has already begun. Giant concrete blocks have been brought to the center of the Dalieh peninsula:

Providing an odd backdrop for the horse and camel rides:

It’s an eerie feeling to walk through them:

Some people are even using the barricades for shade to picnic:

After all that’s what Dalieh has always been. A place for families to spend time

Pitch a tent

Put some chicken on the barbecue:

Enjoy the views, take pictures:

Aromatic wild Zaatar grows here:

But now those views will be obstructed:

Not just for those on the coast, but also those on the corniche, which will be blocked with construction walls, as you can see by the poles going up on the left:

This means a huge chunk of the seafront will soon be blocked from public view, including those postcard Raouche Rocks:

And the entire Dalieh area–caves, pools and all–may be soon inaccessible to the public, if not concreted over.

There remains only one small entrance left to Dalieh, a hole in the fence:

Hundreds flow through this entrance on the weekends to get to the grounds below. But some say they have had to fight to keep it open:

One of the fishermen pointed to two holes in the sidewalk and said they were caused by gunshots. Some told me the police had tried to enforce the closure.

One said: “This door is our livelihood,” in reference to the fishing, boat tours and horse rides.

So what can you do to keep Daliah open and safe from bulldozers? The only way authorities will recognize this space and resistance to developers claims, is if people actually use it.

This weekend activists say they have arranged activities for all ages including kites, games, an outdoor market.

You can join them at 3PM on Sunday and spread the word by liking the Facebook event page as well as the group page Civil Campaign to Protect Dalieh

To read more about the controversial changes in property laws that have allowed this to happen, see this previous post for background and a video presentation delivered by researchers last week at AUB.

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