Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island!

cedarlogoOnce upon a time, I would scoff at those who suggested that Lebanon was becoming an appendage of the gaudy, godless Gulf. I’d roll my eyes as shrill Lebanese communists whined about Solidere, bitter Christians accused Hariri of confiscating Lebanon for the Sunnis, and hypocritical  socialites complained about Khaleeji tourists, while making money hand over fist, year after year.

Sure, I thought, Lebanon is getting a drastic face lift. Sure, our public debt is staggering, but this has a lot to do with corruption, reconstruction, and political instability. Yes, Beirut and its suburbs are becoming increasingly estranged from the rest of the country, with their opulent restaurants, mountain resorts, bars, beach clubs, and high-rises. But this, my friends, is the price of economic growth and prosperity, which in turn is the salve that will heal the wounds of war. You know…  a rising tide smushes all sand castles, or something like that.

Mostly however, I — like most Lebanese — detested comparisons between Beirut and Dubai. “You must be joking,” I’d spit, when well-meaning foreigners, eager to imply that they read the newspaper every now and then and could probably find Lebanon on a map, expressed their satisfaction that Beirut was rebuilding itself and may one day even look like Dubai.

“Dubai?!” I’d shriek. “That postmodern funhouse nightmare?!  That soulless tourist trap?! Beirut would never stoop so low!” Even as recently as a few days ago, I found myself grimacing while listening to Georges Corm complaining about the Dubai-ification of Lebanon, on a Sunday afternoon talk show.   “Come on, people,” I’d mentally chastise his listeners. “We may be flashy and superficial, but we’re not as bad as Dubai! Dubai spends tens of millions of dollars on fireworks displays! Dubai builds an indoor ski slope in the middle of the desert, just for kicks! Dubai builds the tallest skyscraper in the world even though there is no real reason to build multi-level structures when you are surrounded by miles of barren wasteland! Dubai built Palm Jebel Ali, the ridiculous housing development in the shape of a giant palm tree that can be seen from space.


Far from demonstrating such gauche sensibilities, we Lebanese have culture, history, and taste. We have cafes, newspapers, intellectuals, universities, people who speak Arabic, service taxis, Sayyed Hasan, Abou l-Abed, and Fairouz. How can we be Dubai? We’re Lebanon!”

That was then. This is now. We are Dubai, people. Take a look:


In case you can’t make sense of this picture, it’s an island in the shape of a huge cedar tree. Yes, that’s right, an island in the shape of a huge cedar tree. No, no… I said an island IN THE SHAPE OF A HUGE CEDAR TREE!!!!

If you find yourself checking a calendar to make sure that it’s not April Fools, please be assured: this is the real thing. Noor Holding, the developer, has announced that the $1 billion project has already been approved by the Lebanese President (Lahoud, not Sleiman, judging from the picture on their website), and will be completed by 2012.  It will feature all kinds of lovely amenities including a lagoon, fitness centers, shopping malls, a commercial district, and of course, plenty of room for luxury neighborhoods with views of the Mediterranean.

cedarisland2More pictures of this stunning feat of landscape engineering are available on the project website, whose design reminds me of a Cedar Wings magazine circa 1986.  As if to lend a sense of finality to the initiative, there’s even a fake webcam which is supposed to document the construction progress, which is slated to begin fairly soon off the coast of Damour, just south of Beirut International Airport.

Am I the last person to hear about this? Say it isn’t so!
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42 thoughts on “Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island! Stop Cedar Island!

  1. The main difference between us and Dubai is that they don’t have electricity cuts three times a day!

    Seriously though, imagine if just a fraction of this were spent on turning the corniche into a proper public boardwalk and sand beach. It would raise the city’s quality of living and create plenty of new jobs in the form of kiosks selling food, drink, beach towels, suntan lotion, etc.

    By the way, I really like George Corm.

    Posted by sean | January 28, 2009, 6:13 am
  2. Oops, read three hours, not times, a day. I’m tired…

    Posted by sean | January 28, 2009, 6:14 am
  3. Sean, I hear you, but the problem with that argument is that the Corniche can really only be a cost center for Beirut, not a profit center. Selling beach towels and suntan lotion are not much compared to the revenue that a project like this will generate.

    Improving the Corniche would certain increase the city’s quality of life, but it won’t make anyone money (besides the peddlers, who would have to be policed to prevent them from harassing tourists like they do in Morocco, etc)

    No profit-minded development corporation is going to spend a cent on the Corniche. They will create their own Corniche in the middle of the Mediterranean and sell lots adjacent to it to the super-rich. That’s business.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 28, 2009, 6:25 am
  4. What’s wrong with the Corniche?

    Posted by mj | January 28, 2009, 7:10 am
  5. I mean other than the awfull towers popping up on the other side of the road?

    Posted by mj | January 28, 2009, 7:13 am
  6. I personally think that the recent renovation of the Corniche is pretty good. I like the new lamps and the railing.

    I think Sean was talking about the beach beyond the the Corniche itself.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 28, 2009, 7:19 am
  7. OK, the sea is dirty. But given the location -extreme east of a very filthy Mediterrean sea- I’m afraid that, even if the city didn’t dump its dirt on it, we’d still be receiving vast amounts of shredded plastic bags, soda containers and our share of dirty oils…

    Posted by mj | January 28, 2009, 7:20 am
  8. ‘I personally think that the recent renovation of the Corniche is pretty good. I like the new lamps and the railing’. I fully agree. So does everyone I’ve walked with along the beiruti ‘paseo’. For once, it’s sober, elegant, looks not so expensive but quit solid -which is just an aesthetic assumption…wonder if anything inexpensive can really make it to be realised -not just in Lebanon, but anywhere- nowadays. Anyway, aesthetics is a value in itself in such a public place! Ah, and it looks safe too! I remember the days when I first came to Lebanon with three tricycle riding and roller skating kids…I use to have nightmares seeing one of them flying over that ridiculously OPEN and LOW railing!

    Posted by mj | January 28, 2009, 7:36 am
  9. That’s the thing, the city does very little in the way of public spaces, hence our lack of parks. At the very least, the city could stipulate that the island makers donate money to improving the corniche and Ramlet al-Baida, but knowing Lebanon, it’s probably someone’s cousin or somebody’s getting a kickback, or something along those lines. The lamps are ok, but I’d like to see a proper beach there.

    And on that note, does anyone know what the Jardin du Président Rafic Hariri is going to be? I somehow doubt it will be a park at all, unless marina/hotel parks count.

    On second thought, I wouldn’t mind the tacky island if all of the horrible towers and ugly hotels were to be exiled to it. We could nickname it Elba.

    Posted by sean | January 28, 2009, 7:41 am

    Posted by offended | January 28, 2009, 9:49 am
  11. Great post! I fully agree, what a horrible waste of money. The great thing about Lebanon’s beauty is how natural it is, and not synthetic like Dubai.

    Money for a project like this should instead be used to build public parks in Lebanon’s main cities which will truly benefit the Lebanese people and not an extrodinarily rich (and tasteless) elite.

    Posted by La Zaytouni | January 28, 2009, 11:13 am
  12. Your picture is misleading: the island on the project website is just north of Tyre, not in Beirut. The water is way too deep around the Corniche for such a project.

    Having it in the Tyre area is a brilliant idea: it will get us closer to our newly discovered natural gas fields. It will be a self sustainable project.

    I always thought that Rooh ballet el baher was an insult. Some morons are actually thinking about it now. Fascinating.


    Posted by MsLevantine | January 28, 2009, 12:34 pm
  13. MsLevantine

    What newly discovered natural gas fields?

    Posted by Idit | January 28, 2009, 12:46 pm
  14. Ms. Levantine,

    The map I see on the website shows it as just south of Beirut, off of Damour as I said in the post. Where do you see it as just north of Tyre?

    I wish I had thought of roo7 ballet el ba7r before I chose my title. Brilliant.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 28, 2009, 12:52 pm
  15. I am giving up Syriacomment.com and moving over to Lebanoncomment.com

    Who said there are no more cedar trees in Lebanon?

    Posted by Joshua Landis | January 28, 2009, 1:05 pm
  16. Hi QN,

    I went back to the project site and when you go to location you have a Cedar in Damour. Yesterday it was north of Tyre.

    In fact when you zoom out of the map, there are 3 proposed locations: Tyre, north of Beirut and Jbeil.

    The project is obviously an elaborate hoax, and a funny one. Must be some architects with time to waste. Good one.

    As for Landis joining Lebanoncomment.com:

    Well I read prof Landis write about us
    Well, I heard ole Josh put us down
    Well, I hope Josh Landis will remember
    A Lebanese don’t need him around anyhow


    Posted by MsLevantine | January 28, 2009, 1:44 pm
  17. Joshua

    Don’t worry; Syria Comment remains where it’s at!

    (This goal of this real estate development is actually to build out into the sea and reach Cyprus, at which point we will appropriate it and recreate Greater Syria.)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 28, 2009, 1:46 pm
  18. Ms. Levantine,

    I had not zoomed out; thanks for the info. Maybe they are planning three floating cedars.

    I would absolutely LOVE it if this was a hoax. It would be the biggest joke on Dubai ever played, and the joking architects would join my pantheon of great Lebanese.

    But I fear that it’s not.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 28, 2009, 1:49 pm
  19. roo7 ballet el ba7r : )

    A hoax probably.

    But I enjoyed reading how angry (yeah sure) you get when people tell you that Beirut is a Dubai wannabe.

    But your idea of extending it to Cyprus is making perfect sense to me.

    Posted by Alex | January 28, 2009, 3:54 pm
  20. Ya QN,

    Don’t worry. If this isn’t a hoax, with the credit crunch the company is probably out of business already.

    Posted by Idaf | January 28, 2009, 4:43 pm
  21. QN,

    It seems the concept isn’t new, here’s what a friend told me about it: “Three years ago, I had a meeting with BONYAN and the CEO showed me photos of him with President Emile Lahoud showing him sketches of a cedar shaped island project in Lebanon.

    You should see the way the president’s face lit up when looking at the drawings.”

    So 3 years ago that would be before the assassination of Al Hariri. After the incident the project was probably put on hold, now it’s up again. If it’s not a hoax, then this is a good sign of stability in Lebanon?

    Posted by offended | January 28, 2009, 5:12 pm
  22. ‘expected’ Completion date is 2012, 3 years? impossible. You’re talking about 5-7 years. And it hasn’t started yet, since the ‘construction progress’ photo gallery doesn’t show any progress.

    Posted by offended | January 28, 2009, 5:29 pm
  23. I am giving up Syriacomment.com and moving over to Lebanoncomment.com

    Don’t give up Professor Josh, just try to do more to promote peace. Remember, you’re the Co-Director, Center of Peace Studies!

    Posted by Akbar Palace | January 28, 2009, 11:43 pm
  24. (This goal of this real estate development is actually to build out into the sea and reach Cyprus, at which point we will appropriate it and recreate Greater Syria.)

    Hahahahah, this made me choke on my orange juice!

    Posted by sean | January 29, 2009, 4:41 am
  25. okay i would just like to say somthing

    for all those worrying about how soo much money is going to waste when the country is already in debt and has a million other economical problems. right, it all start from prjects like here, such a prject produces so much revenue for the country its not even a joke, already they are saying that if the situation stays calm as it is now in 2012 the debt wil be covered. imagine with such a prject, all other problems can be solved including the corniche i see you complaining about. so i say be supportive of such a prject, lebanon needs it badly the people need it, this will open 50000 job capacities. the other dya i saw somone strongly against this prject because they were worried abot the seaguls. this is all ridiculous excuses. i think i made my point enuf

    Posted by mark khawaja | January 31, 2009, 8:35 pm
  26. i totally agree with u mark! and guys u talk as if the money will be paid by the government! NO. it’s investors from lebanon and other countries investing in it. You can’t say oh no with this money we can fix the corniche or other places. fixing the corniche is the government’s duty and is done by the government’s money, while huge projects like these are private projects, and the money comes from investors. Be positive for god’s sake, Lebanon will still be the same, our culture, our natural beauty and everything, go check in south america, they have natural beauty, culture, and all of that but they still have huge private projects on the beach and this is where alot of tourists go!

    Posted by Ghadi | February 3, 2009, 11:56 am
  27. Huge projects like these will be talked about in the whole world, and people will come to see it, and when they come they’ll also see that lebanon has many MANY other beautiful things…. projects like these are touristic keys….

    Posted by Ghadi | February 3, 2009, 11:58 am
  28. Mark & Ghadi

    Your basic point is well taken: Lebanon can use all the investment it can get. Job creation and tourist attractions are good, etc.

    But there is a limit to how far we should go to create jobs and attract tourists. Just because a private project can bring in money and tourists doesn’t mean that it is necessarily good for the country in the long term, on an environmental or cultural level.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | February 3, 2009, 12:15 pm
  29. A bad case of Dubai envy!

    Not to be cynical or anything, but where are they going to get the landfill to reclaim land for this Disneyesk monstrosity? There are no deserts for an endless supply of sand. Carve a mountain?

    The whole thing stinks as you know for certain that many a palm has been greased to get this project approved.

    And no trickle down does not work.

    One can only hope that Idaf is right and that the company is out of floos by now.

    Posted by Abu Kareem | February 3, 2009, 11:59 pm
  30. this is a great project which will put our country on the map!I dont understand how there could be negative comments about something that is going to revamp the tourism industry and the economy! You prople should really thin about this issue before bashing it!

    Posted by khaild | February 9, 2009, 4:11 am
  31. Dear everyone,

    I just adore this project – when I saw the cedar tree architecture – I said, that’s it, as soon as I’m returning to leb after graduating (hopefully), Ill be able to buy an appartment or something there.
    It’s astonishing that at last LEBANON will become an extended country… people, try n think of it positively, yes as others said, tourism will increase which will eventually back up Lebanon and its economic crisis, the landscape would become vast enough, w mensir men2oul OK lebnen mbayyan 3al 5arita w ma ba2ato small anymore… ye3ni who wouldn’t see themselves in that island??
    Hopefully by the time I graduate I’ll be there 😉 2012 …!!
    w ba3den don’t anyone dare and say lebanon is copying Dubaii!
    Despite the common architect that’s been recently happening, LEBANON WILL STAY LEBANON no matter what, because of its lovely hospitality, aristocracy, social life, culture and tradition … no matter what, lebanon will never change nor will be replaced by anything.

    w ba3den what ever we say, the lebanese government won’t listen to us, la2an 5alas, they already thought about it, and drew this project…
    I’m looking forward to seeing that happen.. I’m proud of my lebanon being successful..

    Posted by Rima | May 2, 2009, 10:45 am
  32. This is a horrible idea.

    I’ve been reading about this on other websites and I attempted to understand the AUB lecture against this proposal (although my understanding was very limited). It seems to me that yes, although this proposal has had it’s positives in Dubai, one must keep in mind that what works in Dubai does not necessarily work in Lebanon. To compare Lebanon to Dubai is an offensive mistake.

    Certainly this proposal has logical claims as to why it must not exist. Yes, it will impact the environment, yes, it gives Israel another target (undoubtedly, Israel enjoys aiming at the prizes of the Lebanese, we don’t need to serve them this potential-massacre on a silver platter – imagine this proposal war torn with artificial pieces clogging our sea).

    Lebanon does not need “artificial” means to attract tourism. Lebanon in and of itself is sufficient. I’m pleased to say that Lebanese attractions stand as unique natural marvels – Jeita Grotto, the Cedar Reserves, the breath-taking Mountains, the welcoming Mediterranean coast – to name a few.

    To introduce this proposal is intrinsically insulting. Beirut is coined as the “Paris of the Middle East” and many Arab nations have envied it for its’ perseverance, resistance, flourishing commerce, intellectual prosperity, and most importantly, its ability to rebuild itself, time after time, war after war, from the foundation, to the top while always maintaining its world-renowned status. Beirut is a city of history, culture, and unprofound beauty. Dubai may have its “artificial” beauty, but this relatively recent city certainly lacks culture and history. For Beirut to get its inspiration from Dubai is ridiculous.

    People don’t travel to Lebanon hoping to see Dubai, they go to Lebanon to see Lebanon. There’s no need to bring Dubai in the greater scheme of life.

    Posted by JM | October 20, 2009, 7:30 pm
  33. Lool thts sooo nice and waaay better than dubai’s hhahahah 😛
    lebanon all the way even if we do copy tthem it will be bettter then theirs!!
    i cant wait till its done !!!!!

    Posted by SoSo | January 20, 2010, 11:34 pm
  34. jeloussy in naturaal hommiees 😛
    we all kno u hate tht its going to be better than ur ugly palm treeeeee
    hahahhahaha LONG LIVE LEBANON
    stop hating loseer !! 😛
    i loveee the cedaaaaaaaar treeeeeeeee ! 😛

    Posted by DuBia'S JeLoUs! | January 20, 2010, 11:41 pm
  35. How can any Lebanese support a project like this! I know some of you have pointed out how it would be an ecological disaster, but this point is still being looked over! It would disrupt currents and kill wildlife.

    And to those who are for the project: QUIT THINKING ABOUT MONEY. It wouldn’t even be that good for the country. Look at Dubai now. Virtually zero sales on any of their new and fake beachfront property. Give me a break, Lebanon has a soul.

    We better not stoop this low! I would be embarrassed to call myself Lebanese.

    Posted by Nasser | January 21, 2010, 3:27 pm
  36. Not to mention all the sand would surely come from Mount Lebanon. It would be an ecological disaster for not just the sea.

    Posted by Nasser | January 21, 2010, 3:28 pm
  37. for god’s sake people are you idiots that project won’t make beirut another dubai not even another kuwait.Lebanon ain’t even an arabic country.We are totally different from the whole gulf.We are phoenecians damn.And we will get just a litle bit more prosperous and wont see ouzai,sabra…any longer that would be great,won’t it? IF we will start looking like another country we will look like italy,monaco or france with prosperous economics,high level of life and developed tourism and of course GREAT HISTORY AND CULTURE

    Posted by munzir | May 28, 2010, 3:53 pm
  38. the island will look beatiful and lebanon an be represented in dubai which will cause more tourism natural gas is bad wind,solar etc is better

    Posted by elias | November 20, 2010, 3:15 pm
  39. I totally oppose you. I want my country Lebanon to be a famous and an important country. I want to have the cedar island to be built. Why? Because the more famous stuff to my country, the more important my country will be. I want Lebanon to be famous

    Posted by John Mohannad Kandarien | April 22, 2012, 2:43 pm
  40. The website for the project seems to be up for sale now.

    I think this is all a big scam.

    Where’s the presale? No giant real estate development project gets under way without presale of the units otherwise there wont be any financing.

    Also, how do they plan to complete the project in 2012 when they’re just getting started (supposedly)? none of this makes any sense.

    Posted by Nael Hajjar | August 20, 2012, 1:59 pm


  1. Pingback: a treehouse in the sea « A Diamond’s Eye View of the World - January 28, 2009

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Lebanon: Cedar Island - A Controversial Construction - February 5, 2009

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