The Fishermen of Ras Beirut: Reviving the fishing culture in Beirut and honoring its fishermen

Running till October 4, the exhibition aims at honoring the fishermen of Beirut and reviving this kind of culture in the city.
by Manal Makkieh and Sandra Abdelbaki

15 September 2019 | 14:00

Source: by Annahar

This file Photo shows pictures of fishermen in Beirut.

BEIRUT: For the past 50 years, the fishermen of Beirut have been striving to win the battle against the uncountable challenges hitting the sea of Lebanon. In this light and for the first time, Marwan Naamani, an avid photographer, hosts an exhibition titled: "The Fishermen of Ras Beirut", as part of the Beirut Image Festival this year.

Under the Patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers-his Excellency Saad Hariri, in collaboration with the Municipality of Beirut, and with the support of the AUB Neighborhood Initiative and the Image Festival Association, Jamal Itani, the Mayor of Beirut, launched the exhibition on September 7 along the Corniche of Ain el Mreisseh.

Running till October 4, the exhibition aims at honoring the fishermen of Beirut and reviving this kind of culture in the city. The exhibition entails pictures of fishermen from Ain el Mreisseh, Jall el Bahr, Manara and Dalieh. In these pictures, Naamani embraces the uniqueness of fishing in Lebanon practiced by Lebanese fishermen for 50 years and highlights the challenges they face.

“I like to take pictures of anything that is beautiful and that means to me,” Naamani told Annahar. “That’s why I take pictures of the fishermen in Beirut.”

Naamani believes that the culture of fishing in Beirut and in Lebanon is neglected by the government. “I believe that the fishermen don’t have their rights,” Naamani said. “Yet, this is not the only problem. Fishing is not practiced right in Lebanon. There are laws for fishing, but no one follows them, and the government couldn’t care less.”

Although the chaotic urban sprawl and real estate development have caused damage to the coast of Beirut, the Corniche remains one of the last breathing spaces in Beirut and many fishermen are still fighting to keep their trade alive.

“I started fishing since I was only nine years old,” Ali Al Bayati, a Lebanese fisherman at Ain el Mreisseh, told Annahar. “When I go fishing, I feel like I’m taking a break from life for a while.”

Today, however, several challenges discourage the Lebanese fishermen from practicing their hobby. Not only did these challenges lead to the decrease in the number of fishermen, but also to the gradual eradication of Beirut’s cultural heritage. These challenges are reported by many fishermen who have considered the shore as refuge for so long.

“Lebanese fishermen, for example, don’t receive professional training like in other countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and Cyprus,” Al Bayati said. “They should receive a certificate that allows them to fish safely on the shore. Otherwise, people might be injured by their fishing rods.”

In addition to the government’s carelessness, water pollution is one of the main causes that lead to the deterioration of fishing.

“Water pollution is one of the problems that constrain many types of migrant fish to stay out of the Lebanese sea zone,” Chami Al Masri, another fisherman who fishes in Beirut every summer, said.

The four ports of Beirut are the only destinations for the Lebanese fishermen to settle in and release their stress. The peaceful sea, the lights, the people, and the streets enrich the fishermen’s sense of patriotism and belonging to Lebanon.

“Our mission is to unite the fishermen,” Ramzi Haidar, a representative of the Union of Arab Photographers, said. “Let’s connect culturally with other countries in the MENA region and make our heritage alive again.”

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