Sidon: Telling a story of resilience
Once upon a night, the sounds of bombs and bullets erupted in the city to suddenly echo in all its surroundings Friday, April 7, due to an armed conflict in the Palestinian camp Ain al-Hilweh. Excessive conflicts escalated and bullets were reaching various areas in the entire city. The impact of such hostilities on the entire city is destructive as the camp is integrated socially and geographically in the city. What is so essential and usually neglected in the city is the impact of such conflicts on children and youth who have been sleeping for several nights to the sounds of bullets and bombs, and their normal lives have been disrupted after schools closed, leaving pupils staying at home for several days.On the same night, a few kilometers away, the old city of Sidon was shining and celebrating its valuable historical assets on the occasion of “La Nuit des Musees” that was organized by the Culture Ministry at the national level. The prominent historical sites, from the Audi museum, the Debbaneh castle, Khan Sassi, Khan al-Franj, the Outreach and Leadership Academy (Aisha Heritage School), and “Tawlet Saida.” Thousands of people have been wandering in the historical streets of the old city and participating in the cultural events organized in each place. By the end of the night, hundreds of white lanterns were flying from the plaza of Khan al-Franj by youth to light the sky with young people’s wishes. Lanterns of hope were flying to the sounds of musical performances all over the place and simultaneously with sounds of bombs and explosions. People thought that what was happening in the Palestinian camp was not enough of a reason to make them abandon normal life. The vibrancy of that night was a case study to be documented on how people reacted and the night continued with music and the passion of life despite the surrounding violence. Sidon has another time proven itself as a resilient city that has all the potential to confront any challenge with determination, armed with its heritage, social fabric and the energy of its youth.
Today, the old city is also receiving guests from all over Lebanon at the opening of “Tawlet Saida” on its seafront, established by the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development and Souk el Tayeb. Such an innovative project is in line with Souk el Tayeb’s motto, “Make food not war,” and the Hariri Foundation’s mission to achieve sustainable human development by supporting civil society, building human capacities and improving civil involvement throughout the social change process. This project aims to contribute to improving the socio-economic conditions for the vulnerable community in the old city of Sidon, mainly through empowering and creating opportunities for women. “Tawlet Saida” also enhances Sidon’s competitiveness in the tourism sector through reviving the cultural heritage of the city and promoting all its historical assets. Saturday, Souk el Tayeb and the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development will be celebrating the food and traditions that unite communities and unleash the potential of the old city of Sidon that is a living urban heritage site embodying the city’s collective memory and history.
Around 15,000 participants are expected to visit Sidon Sunday and join the “Saida International Marathon,” this historic event will put Sidon on the international map for promoting national and international sports activities. People will be running for peace and development in Sidon – that is, saying another time we are resilient to any obstacles and will be all in the streets sending messages of hope and enthusiasm.
A few weeks ago, the media was covering the armed conflicts in Ain al-Hilweh live day and night; and tomorrow the media will be covering live for six hours such a grand event with floods of youths running and cherishing resilience and celebrating the capacity of the city to overcome difficulties and challenges under all circumstances.
This is Sidon, which has decided with every conflict or problem to narrate a tale of resilience to be stamped in our minds, forming another chapter in the city’s history. You just stand astonished watching this city bandaging its wounds with stubbornness and commitment to rise from mourning to celebration and conflicts to festivals. It is what we call a laboratory of resilience that is worth studying for its innovation, rationale and elements.
Hiba Huneini is acting manager of the Youth and Civic Engagement Program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.