Neoliberal Urbanism on Beirut's Beaches
Jutting out from Beirut's rocky coastline, the Dalieh peninsula is a rare open space in the Lebanese capital. At the weekend families, teenagers and tourists come to picnic, swim and take boat rides. Young couples come for privacy. But in March the fishermen who lived on the land were paid compensation and evicted. Fences have gone up around the site.
Many Lebanese have been surprised to discover the land was not public, but owned by three development companies. Locals expect it to become a resort; the five-star Mövenpick hotel looms next door. The Swiss hotel chain was the first to benefit from a decree in the final years of the 1975-1990 civil war that allowed owners to use this part of the coast for private profit.
Although the law is on the side of developers, Beirutis are fighting to keep one of the few patches of coast not occupied by an exclusive hotel or beach club, unaffordable to most. “This is a destination for people from all over Beirut,” says Abir Saksouk-Sasso, an architect who is leading the campaign against the site’s development.This follows the pattern of Beirut's development in the generation since the end of Lebanon's civil war, a pattern best seen in the development of the downtown by the Solidere consortium in which the government gave that private sector contractor eminent domain privileges. Locals were driven out to create a playground for the well-heeled funded by Lebanon's taxpayers and of great profit to the Hariri family and Saudi investors.