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The Dalieh of Raouche, Lebanon


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

Name of conflict:The Dalieh of Raouche, Lebanon
Location of conflict:Beirut
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 commodities:Land
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.

Based on cadastral surveys and land registries of the French mandate period, the Lebanese government developed a master plan for Beirut in 1951, which was actually adopted in 1964 with major changes, due to “vested interests in the real estate sector.” [1] Consequently, the coast was subjected to new zoning laws, and was divided into specific plots with individual owners, yet construction on the coast was still prohibited, with different degrees of prohibition depending on the zone. This Master Plan forbids construction in Zone 10 (decree 4810 of 1966), which is inclusive of Dalieh. However, since the 1960s,exceptional laws have been passed to allow building activity in Dalieh leading to the gradual privatization of the space.

For example, decree 169 of 1989 removed state protection from Zone 10, which allowed exploitation of maritime public domain by property owners who had land adjacent to the sea. This decree was passed during the civil war, and was not ratified by the municipality or the DGU, nor was it published publicly, thus preventing citizens from opposing it. In addition, two decrees were issued in 1966. Decree no. 14914 confines the use of plots in zone 10 to sports and leisure activities, and limits construction on this zone to one-floor and an exploitation factor of 10 percent for real estate companies. Meanwhile, decree no. 4810 allows for exploitation of public maritime domain provided that the government approves of the proposed project, and that the project contributes to tourism and the industrial sector. This latter decree also allows that construction of a marina three times the size of the resort plot.

Property registry records show that Dalieh of Raouche was “privatized” in 1995, by real estate companies owned by Hariri. In the same year, law 402 was issued, which enabled “landowners with a plot larger than 20,000 square meters to double their total exploitation factor and quadruple their surface exploitation if a hotel is to be built.” [2] In parallel, decree 7464 was issued again in 1995 allowing “exploitation of the maritime public domain in Zone 10.” [2]

Ironically, however, environment law no. 444 of 2002 declares free and open access to the seashore as a right of every Lebanese citizen.

The Dalieh campaign, through two of its member NGOs (NAHNOO and Greenline), filed a lawsuit against decree 169 of 1989 to the Shura Council, the legislative court in Lebanon.

A map of the Beirut Master Plan, with details about zoning laws along the coast, can be found in the booklet written by architect Abir Saksouk and published by the Dictaphone Group [1].

Level of Investment:Unclear
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Unclear
Start of the conflict:13/03/2014
Company names or state enterprises:Al-Bahr Real Estate
Sakhrat Al-Bahr Real Estate
Sakhret Al Yamama
Relevant government actors:The 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 organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The 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).

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
Local ejos
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic 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-economical 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
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Development of alternatives:The 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Booklet published by the Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche

Booklet published by Dictaphone group with details about the zoning laws of Beirut

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Ministry of Environment announces decree to protect the coast of Dalieh

Open Letter by the campaign to architect Rem Koolhaas

Dalieh and the ongoing struggle for public spaces

Collection of photos of Dalieh by Beirut Report

News piece about fisherman Ali Itani who got evicted from Dalieh

Timeline of fencing of Dalieh

Fishermen of Dalieh are threatened with eviction

Detailed news piece about Dalieh

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

The Civil Campaign to Protect the Dalieh of Raouche

Facebook page for Dalieh

Trailer of the performance "The Sea Is Mine" by the Dictaphone Group about the privatization of Dalieh

Footage from a protest to reclaim Dalieh after activists tear down the fence (credits: Habib Battah)

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)

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)

Nowruz celebrations at Dalieh (photo by Beirut Report)

Picture of Dalieh by Beirut Report

Activists Protest the Fencing of Dalieh


The Angry Dolosse Army, intervention by Christian Zahr for Dalieh of Raouche Campaign. Creator: Christian Zahr.

Meta information

Contributor:Catherine Moughalian, Asfari Institue, [email protected]
Last update08/11/2016



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)


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)


Nowruz celebrations at Dalieh (photo by Beirut Report)


Picture of Dalieh by Beirut Report


Activists Protest the Fencing of Dalieh




The Angry Dolosse Army, intervention by Christian Zahr for Dalieh of Raouche Campaign. Creator: Christian Zahr.