Time to invest in North Lebanon’s forgotten gem: Syr el Donnieh
“Our region is safe. It is such a wonderful place to visit and discover” shouts a man from Syr El Donnieh at the entrance of Qasr El Ahlam (Dreams Castle) in Syr, Donnieh.
He, along many other members of Syr municipality wanted to express their anger from being stereotyped as extremists and from living in a so-called alienated region.
“We want the media to be interested in Syr and to show the world this forgotten gem” said Mohammad Saadiyeh, Head of Donnieh Union of municipalities during a media visit to Syr, while enumerating different sites of the area, and their historical backgrounds.
Number of journalists and local actors visited Syr el Donnieh on April 7th, 2017, touring some of its natural sites and attended the official launch of the Syr tourism committee and its touristic plan for the area, funded by UKAID.
This committee was established with the support of UNDP as a result of the Mechanisms for Social Stability. The village conflict analysis identified several issues and challenges threatening stability in the region. Two of the crucial problems underlined were unemployment and negative perception of the village as a result of security incidents in the last decade. The committee, which includes representatives of the local authority and local actors, decided to work on a touristic plan which focuses on the natural and archeological beauty of Syr and its cultural diversity, with the aim of stimulating the local economy and changing the perception about the region.
Another spot added to the visit’s itinerary was Zahlan Grotto where the calcite formations are breathtaking and the suspended bridge across the valley offers wonderful sceneries. Visitors were also enchanted by the retro-looking hotel Al Jazzar built in 1934.
This feeling of being forgotten, have forced locals and committee members to find creative ways of attracting visitors to the region. With the help of UNDP, the tourism plan is hoped to offer a vision for a more sustainable form of tourism development while raising more awareness on nature, culture and local traditions.
Gilbert Moukheiber, the touristic consultant who supported the committee prepare the plan, thinks that the area deserves to be listed as one of the country's tourism attractions. “It just needs the right infrastructure for tourism”, he added.
If people are after a getaway with amazing natural beauty, Syr El Donnieh is a place worth rediscovering.