UNESCO-Italian work on Lebanon’s Qadisha Valley now complete
Sydney - Middle East Times Int’l: UNESCO and Italy have announced the completion of their project to rehabilitate and valorise the Qadisha Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.
The UNESCO project was supported by Italy with €500,000 in funding from the Italian Agency for Development Co-operation (AICS).
The Italian funds were required to complete the rehabilitation of historic, and degraded, trails in the villages of Hadchit, Hasroun and Mazraat Ennahar.
UNESCO has also rehabilitated the monasteries of Mar Assia and Deir El-Salib and restored their mural paintings, as well as the churches of Mar Behnam, Mar Mtanios and Mar Shmuni.
Training of members of the local communities on preventive measures to avoid and to combat forest fires in Qadisha Valley, with the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation took place as well as the training of local youth guides specialized in the site, with the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association.
"It is a meaningful achievement that we are celebrating. I want to thank all the stakeholders which have made this possible, said the ambassador of Italy to Lebanon, Nicoletta Bombardiere.
“That is the completion of a project financed by the Italian cooperation Agency executed by Unesco, in co-ordination with the Ministry of Culture, and the cooperation of the Maronite Patriarcate and the Municipality Unions. The project entailed the recovery of several hiking trails in the valley, while at the same time restoring heritage monuments and archaeological and religious sites and disseminating know-how related to restoration techniques to local Lebanese experts.”
“The timing of our project could not be more auspicious, as we celebrate this year 25 years since the Qadisha Valley was enlisted as the fifth UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lebanon, said Costanza Farina, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut. “I am confident that our intervention will lead to further involvement and commitment of youth and the local communities in the preservation of the Valley, which holds an outstanding universal value, and it will hopefully support new job opportunities for them. The strategic partnership with Italy reconfirmed also in this project is also testament to the critical importance of investing on cultural heritage as a shared value and as a source of inspiration for the future.”
The rehabilitated monasteries of the valley were officially recognized and included in the national map of religious tourism of the Ministry of Tourism, during a ceremony held in the Mar Romanos Parish Hall in the town of Hadchit, under the patronage of the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi and in his presence. The Minister of Culture Mohammad Mourtada, the Minister of Tourism Walid Nassar, the Ambassador of Italy to Lebanon Nicoletta Bombardiere, the Director of AICS Beirut Alessandra Piermattei, the Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut Costanza Farina and the UNESCO team, together with religious and local authorities attended the event. A UNESCO documentary directed by Bahij Hojeij, titled “Qadisha, On the paths of history”, detailed the importance of the site and how the project added to its value and valorised it.
Speaking at the ceremony, Patriarch Rahi thanked UNESCO and Italy for their commitment to preserve and valorise the Qadisha Valley. “I thank Italy, AICS and UNESCO for their funding and work. This project speaks to our root, to culture, to beauty, and will open doors for tourism and economic prosperity. We, as Lebanese, are rooted in this land and will continue to remain attached to it”, he said.