Byblos, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city in Lebanon has been named the Arab world’s best tourist city by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and it offers a host of lessons in greening too. Called Jbeil or Byblos, this World Heritage site 37km north of Beirut has evolved from a 6th century BC fishing village into a thriving tourist destination that looks nothing at all like its concrete brother, Beirut.
Mayor Ziad al-Hawwat has received great accolades for making Jbeil a pleasure for both local and foreigners to visit.
Whereas Beirut’s citizens are constantly fighting for every inch of green space as parking garages and shopping malls and other concrete monstrosities overwhelm the place, al-Hawwat has added an 18,000 square meter public park, planted trees and flowers, and even created a car-free zone from noon to midnight during the height of the tourist season.
This pedestrian zone gives safe access to the city’s numerous sites, including a Roman theater and an old sea fort, a Persian fort and a Crusader castle – all testaments to the city’s sinuous history.
And this completely shocked us: there are nine electric vehicles in the city that are used to shuttle tourists from parking garages to the old city, where they can stroll among the ancient marketplace.
Additional mass transit modeled after the French city of Carcassonne is also planned, according to deputy mayor Ayoub Barq, who told Al-Shorfa that the new system best matches the Lebanese city’s unique character.
Nor is the greening complete.
Jbeil’s municipality will spend a further $2 million to restore the facades of ancient buildings and renovate the marketplace in an effort to de-clutter the center and preserve it for posterity.
A citywide trash recycling program is also in the works.
“The award corresponds to the projects we are implementing and puts greater responsibilities on us,” Barq told the paper.
“It encourages us to work harder and [see to it that] civil society share in the responsibility so that Jbeil remains the center of attention of the Lebanese and tourists.”
This is refreshing talk in a country that, like Turkey, has pursued development at the cost of all else. Where money is more important that peace of mind, clean air, and navigable streets.
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Image of Byblos or Jbeil, Shutterstock