The Dalieh of Raouche, Lebanon

Development frenzy in Beirut has led to illegal privatization and fencing-off of the seashore from the public. Today, development plans threaten Dalieh, a prominent landmark in Beirut and one of the last remaining public spaces along Beirut's shoreline

Amid massive neoliberal development in post-civil war Lebanon, most of Beirut’s shoreline has been privatized and fenced off by upscale resorts that are inaccessible to the majority of Beirut’s citizens. The Dalieh of Raouche remains one of the last stretches of the shoreline that is still open to working class Lebanese and non-Lebanese citizens alike. Postwar privatization, however, has reached the shores of Dalieh, and the site is threatened today by potential development plans.   The Dalieh of Raouche is known as such because it looks over natural arches, the Pigeon Rocks or the Raouche rocks, which have become symbols of the capital. For generations, Beirutis, poor Lebanese from all regions and sects, tourists, and migrant workers alike have enjoyed the seafront without having to pay for access. It has been the site of weekend picnics, afternoon swims, local diving competitions, and annual Kurdish Newruz festivities. Fishermen and their families residing there for decades kept the area alive with coffee shops, seafood restaurants, and boat rides to the nearby caves. Dalieh is not only significant socio-culturally, but represents a natural heritage as well, with its coastal cliffs, rocks islands, and natural pool enclaves providing natural habitats for native plants, insects, birds, and marine fauna, leading environmental scientists to identify it as an area worthy of protection in Lebanon.   The fears of real estate development on Dalieh materialized when the eviction of fishermen and demolition of their homes started in March 2014. In response to these evictions, a coalition of NGOs and independent activists working on local environmental and public space issues started to form on 13 March 2014 to resist the privatization of Dalieh. Meanwhile, in September 2014, activists discovered that renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas had been contracted to draw up plans for a resort to be built on most of the site, through leaked pictures of the designs. This confirmed that there are potential development plans for Dalieh, and the coalition announced its launch in November 2014, under the name Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche.  This Campaign is a coalition of environmental, cultural, and civil groups, including independent individuals, committed to preserving Beirut’s public spaces and its ecological and cultural diversity. The initial launch was done through social media through a petition entitled Lift Your Construction Site off Our Raouche (ارفعوا ورشتكن عن روشتنا) and throughout the year various direct actions and on-site demonstrations were organized. The campaign sent official letters to relevant ministries, organized rallies and activities on the site, such as music performances and children’s activities on Sundays, all the while also supporting the fishermen in their mobilizations.   Sadly, however, fighting the privatization of Dalieh becomes complicated when looking into ownership rights of the space. Although the area has been historically owned by various Beiruti families since the 1920s up until 1995, it was always used as an open access public space, to the extent that citizens had not even considered whether the space is privately or publically owned up until that date. This is particularly because building regulations had protected the seafront over the years, considering the seashore public property and forbidding any sort of real estate development on it.  However, research into legal aspects by experts in the field has uncovered dubious modifications and exemptions to laws that have allowed the gradual privatization of the seashore, both in Dalieh and Beirut in general, and made possible potential development plans that would otherwise be illegal. Such modifications to laws and theft of public property have also been possible because the primary shareholders of private companies that own the coastal properties are senior politicians who use their power in office to blur property records and pass exceptional decrees. In this particular case, the Dalieh of Raouche was privatized in 1995 by three private real estate companies owned by the same high profile politician, allegedly Hariri, who wants to build a tourist resort on the site.   Today, most of the fishermen have been evicted from Dalieh, and only one fisherman, Dany Moussa, has managed to stay on the site. The cafes and restaurants are still there, however, and the site is still accessible to the public for now. Moreover, a major victory for activists after a year of campaigning came when the Ministry of Environment announced in March 2015 that it drafted a decree to classify Dalieh as a national protected area. The decree is now pending approval from the Shura Council, the legislative court in Lebanon, after which it will be voted on by the Council of Ministers. However, the decree contains loopholes that will make it possible for real estate developers to build on the site, although it will create a significant obstacle. The fate of Dalieh remains unknown, and the area remains largely fenced off since 2014, serving as a reminder to the public that they are encroaching upon illegally privatized property.
Basic Data
NameThe Dalieh of Raouche, Lebanon
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Urban development conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific CommoditiesLand
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
The Dalieh of Raouche is divided into several plots, which were historically owned by various Beiruti families, such as the Chatila, Baydoun, Itani, Matar, and Mu’awwad families. Although these plots were privately owned, property records that date back to the 1940s indicate that the area was deemed “non aedificandi”, meaning not designated for construction, and Order 144 of 1925 categorizes the seashore as public property, defined as the furthest high-water point on the beach.
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Level of Investment (in USD)Unclear
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected PopulationUnclear
Start Date13/03/2014
Company Names or State EnterprisesAl-Bahr Real Estate
Sakhrat Al-Bahr Real Estate
Sakhret Al Yamama
Relevant government actorsThe Governor and Municipality of Beirut

Ministry of Environment

Ministry of Public Works and Transport

Directorate General of Urban Planning (DGU)

Council of Development and Reconstruction (CDR)

The Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA) which falls under the Ministry of Culture
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersThe Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche. The coalition includes NAHNOO, Greenline, Cedars for Care, Public Works, and independent experts. The campaign also has independent supporters such as We Want Accountability (بدنا نحاسب).
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFishermen
Informal workers
Local ejos
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnknown
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesThe Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche launched a competition on March 24, 2015, entitled “Revisiting Dalieh,” calling on citizens to submit their alternative visions of Dalieh to protect it as a natural site used openly by the public instead of becoming a private resort. The competition was open to architects, landscape architects, urbanists, planners, and other related environmental design disciplines. The aim of the competition was to provide alternatives to the current trend of privatization along the entire coast of Lebanon, in terms of coming up with environmentally sustainable design alternatives as well as opening up the debate about open-access shared spaces in the face of the market-driven urban geography of Lebanon. The winning projects included in their designs wildlife conservation systems, ecological workshops, a fishing port, market, and eatery, a landscape promenade, diving area, fishermen’s exhibition spaces, urban agriculture spaces, training areas, etc… More details about the three winning projects can be found on the campaign’s website.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.A coalition was formed to defend public spaces with both experts and citizens in it, including those living nearby, which hopes to stay intact and work on other public space issues next. Due to this campaign, Dalieh received a lot of publicity and most people in Beirut have now heard about the issue, and a culture of public space has been developing in Beirut. In addition, the coalition managed to create a dialogue with the authorities, including the relevant ministries and the Governor of Beirut, something that is new in Lebanon. Members also consider it a huge success that the Minister of Environment eventually supported the campaign. And throughout it all, the coalition managed to remain transparent and reveal corruption without even using the names of specific politicians, and so they couldn't be accused of publicly shaming them. Of course, the ultimate victory would be in Dalieh is preserved as a public space, and there is still a lot of work to be done.
Sources and Materials

Booklet published by the Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche
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Booklet published by Dictaphone group with details about the zoning laws of Beirut
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Ministry of Environment announces decree to protect the coast of Dalieh
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Open Letter by the campaign to architect Rem Koolhaas
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Dalieh and the ongoing struggle for public spaces
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Collection of photos of Dalieh by Beirut Report
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News piece about fisherman Ali Itani who got evicted from Dalieh
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Fishermen of Dalieh are threatened with eviction
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Detailed news piece about Dalieh
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Timeline of fencing of Dalieh
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Media Links

The Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche
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Facebook page for Dalieh
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Trailer of the performance "The Sea Is Mine" by the Dictaphone Group about the privatization of Dalieh
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Footage from a protest to reclaim Dalieh after activists tear down the fence (credits: Habib Battah)
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Other Documents

Map of Zone 10 highlighting exploitation of maritime public property on the Beirut shoreline (taken from the booklet published by The Civil Campaign to Protect the Coast of Raouche)
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Map of Dalieh from the French Mandate showing that dallied was declared as 'non- aedificandi' (no construction-zone) (provided by activist and architect Abir Saksouk)
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Nowruz celebrations at Dalieh (photo by Beirut Report)
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Picture of Dalieh by Beirut Report
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Activists Protest the Fencing of Dalieh
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The Angry Dolosse Army, intervention by Christian Zahr for Dalieh of Raouche Campaign. Creator: Christian Zahr.
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Meta Information
ContributorCatherine Moughalian, Asfari Institue, [email protected]
Last update08/11/2016