Tyre: Taming the Wave of Bombings
By: Amal Khalil
Published Saturday, June 16, 2012
The huge turnout at the opening of the summer season on Tyre’s popular beaches was a big blow to those behind the series of bombs that targeted establishments that sell alcohol.
Lebanon’s security forces have yet to make an arrest in connection with a series of bombings that targeted three restaurants and a liquor store in Tyre.
It has been eight months since the first twin bombings hit the Elissa Queen restaurant and the Katoura liquor store. These were followed by similar attacks on the Tyros and the Nocean restaurants.
The coastal city of Tyre has quickly forgotten the pain of these blows. The debris caused by the explosives was swept away — the windows, tables, and bottles returned to their respective rightful places, and the doors opened to customers.
Restaurant owner Ibrahim Mughnieh had closed down his establishment in Beirut’s city center after tourism declined due to security and political troubles sweeping the capital. Then last November, shortly after he invested in Tyre and opened a new restaurant on the ground floor of the Elissa Queen Hotel, it was targeted with an explosive device.
The bombing and loss failed to convince Mughnieh to shut down his new restaurant, which was a favorite hang-out for the UNIFIL troops and foreigners living in the city and its suburbs.
Despite the massive financial, material, and moral losses caused by the bombing eight months ago, Mughnieh discovered that he does not have a file in the records of the Higher Relief Commission, the government agency that deals with compensation.
Soon after his restaurant was bombed, the commission dispatched experts to inspect and record the damage — like it did with all the other bombed facilities — but Mughnieh never saw the money.
According to one investor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, lack of compensation is not a sufficient reason to shut down a business of this kind “because you cannot lose in Tyre.”
The investor was referring to “high demand for entertainment and nightlife in this city, while security and political deterioration prevails in other areas."
Defying the explosions and their repercussions seems to be Tyre’s slogan these days. Its residents rolled up their sleeves and began promoting the summer season, “which will not be affected by explosions that are not part of the fabric of the city,” according to deputy mayor Salah Sabrawi.
Just before the official opening of Tyre’s popular beach, a rumor spread that the municipality “decided to ban alcohol in the beach tents.”
The rumor started after several restaurants unilaterally decided to stop serving alcohol, apparently submitting to the intimidation and trying to avoid becoming the next bomb target.
"The municipality never decided to do that," Sabrawi told Al-Akhbar. "In fact, it totally ruled out the idea altogether, based on the principle of respecting public freedoms and the diversity of cultures, religions, and citizenships of those residing in the city."
Civil society groups and political parties recently took part in a campaign "rejecting the distortion of Tyre's diversity and tourism."
Activists from the Lebanese Democratic Youth Federation gathered in front of the Nocean restaurant — the last restaurant targeted by an explosion — under the slogan of "safeguarding public freedoms."
Societies and clubs also boosted their efforts to clean up the beaches. Phoenicia Sports Club organized a marathon under the theme "Living Together, Running Together," which attracted a mix of runners, including locals, foreign residents of the city, and UNIFIL soldiers.
Weekend beach traffic is a strong indicator of the extent to which the city has been able to overcome the setbacks inflicted by the bombing.
About 2,600 vehicles entered the parking lot of the southern beach last Saturday, followed by 1,200 on Sunday.
In addition to security, the southern shore has other special advantages that don't exist in other Lebanese areas.
On the Tyre Beach Nature Reserve, Lebanon's largest sand beach, the Environment Ministry has granted licences for 49 food and beverage kiosks — which include a vast space for the public — to operate.
Most of the visitors to the beach are not Tyre residents. They tend to come from Sidon, Beirut, and the mountains.
Among them are many foreigners, who find it an enjoyable and convenient place to relax and enjoy alcoholic drinks under the Mediterranean sun.
But the massive appeal of Tyre’s beaches does not seem to apply to the city’s other summer events. For example, for the second year running the annual Tyre International Festival will not be held in the Roman amphitheater.
The festival this summer was cut down to a single concert, according to a contractor speaking on condition of anonymity.
"The main reason is that the holy month of Ramadan falls in the middle of the season in July and August," he says. "Also, some people were affected by the explosions targeting the restaurants serving alcohol and providing entertainment."
Meanwhile, some towns and villages along the coast south of Tyre are competing with it to attract tourists.
Al-Qolailah cleaned up its beach and opened several restaurants and coffee shops, providing a calm atmosphere between the scenic orchards and the calm waters.
The same goes for its neighbor, Al-Mansouri, which also launched beach-front tourism projects.
Naqoura, meanwhile, has failed to open parts of its beaches to the public because they are privately owned.
But that has not stopped its residents and neighboring villagers from converging on its beach without permission, reliving the glory that Naqoura once enjoyed — even under Israeli occupation.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.