UNESCO Social and Human Sciences
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UNESCO Network of Small historical coastal cities (MOST - IHP - CSI)

Contact information

3rd International Seminar
also available in French

"Urban Development:
Finding a Balance among Land, Sea and People"

at the
University Institute of Technology,
SAIDA, Lebanon
28 - 31 MAY 2001

Mediterranean cities and territories

Hariri Foundation

City of Saïda


 You may also download the Synthesis Report in the printer-friendly PDF version.

Working Groups:

1.‘Coastal, marine, and terrestrial environment: Development and safeguarding of natural and cultural resources’
Chairman: Prof. Roland Paskoff

2. ‘The Old City’s heritage and archaeology: Urban integration vis-à-vis the challenge of socio-cultural and touristic development’
Chairman: Dr. Azedine Beschaouch

3.‘ Mobilization of urban and architectural resources: A new master plan for urban development’
Chairman: Ms. Catherine Bersani



1. Introduction

  1. Saida/Sidon, an ancient metropolis
  2. Saida, a patrimonial conservatory
  3. The upheavals in the urban landscape

2. General framework of the recommendations:
«How can Saida develop in the medium and long term? »

  1. The challenges of the general approach to territorial planning for the agglomeration of Saida
  2. The relationship between the city and its history
  3. The relationship between the city and nature
  4. Participation and communication
  5. The habitat (to live, to reside, to work)
  6. Reflections on the future master plan for urban development for the great Saida

3. Conclusion

Annex 1 : Recommendations of workshop 1

‘Coastal, marine, and terrestrial environment: Development and safeguarding of natural and cultural resources’
Chairman : Prof. Roland Paskoff

  1. The littoral space
  2. Fishing
  3. Management of urban solid waste
  4. Water resources
  5. Territorial planning
  6. Collaboration and participation
  7. Information
  8. Education, training

Annex 2: Recommendations of workshop 2

‘The Old City’s heritage and archaeology: Urban integration vis-à-vis the challenge of socio-cultural and touristic development’ Chairman: Dr. Azedine Beschaouch

  1. Methodology of architectural intervention
  2. Propositions for intervention
  1. The coast line and the ancient relics of the port
  2. The city intra-muros
  3. The city beyond the old town
  4. The coastal boulevard
  5. Excavations at the port

Annex 3: Recommendations of workshop 3

‘Mobilization of urban and architectural resources: A new master plan for urban development’
Chairman: Ms. Catherine Bersani

  1. General framework : How can Saida develop in the more or less long term?
  2. The main themes retained from the seminar
  3. Priorities and threats
  1. Waste, pollution, cleaning up of the coast (beach and water)
  2. Road traffic
  3. The habitat
  1. Networking
  2. Time management
  3. The habitat
  4. Conclusion

 You may also download the Synthesis Report in the printer-friendly PDF version.


I. Saida / Sidon - an ancient metropolis

Saida, today Sidon, has established its place in history in the array of known and celebrated names. While remaining in constant contact with the great civilisations of the orient (Egypt, Assyria, Persia), and with the Greek cities, Sidon was nonetheless able to maintain its specificity, contribute to the Phoenician expansion to the east (that was continued by Cartage), and to express its creative powers in the domain of monumental architecture and arts. As a Phoenician metropolis between the end of bronze age and beginning of iron age (the Cananeans thus used to call themselves Sidonians) this prestigious city has left behind a rich and diverse patrimony.

Beyond the time of Phoenicians, Sidon was influenced by the Arabian urban and architectural patterns, and being strongly anchored to the sea since the Seventh century A.D., it remains a privileged witness of a medieval urban fabric that external powers, notably the Ottomans, did not overthrow.

II. Saida - a patrimonial conservatory

Regardless of recent imbalances in the environment and urban landscape, this Lebanese coastal city constitutes a true conservatory of civilisations of the Mediterranean. History, as well as memory, literary sources as well as epigraphs and archaeology, highlight the values connected with Sidon/Saida. A direct relation has been maintained on one hand between Sidon and its archaeological relics, and on the other hand between the traditional urban complex of Saida and its medina, oriented towards its maritime facade rich in monuments (the ancient port installations in and under the water around the Isle of Zirke), its habitat (the magnificent residencies at the central court) and its collective and convivial public open spaces.

III. The upheavals in the urban landscape

Alongside the expansion outside the city, Saida suffered severely from the effects of the earthquake of 1956, and of the intensive bombarding during the Israeli invasion of 1982, both causing death and destruction, as well as from the consequences of the long period of occupation of the city and the region by the Israeli army.

Despite the remarkable efforts that enabled the city to re-emerge from these crises, we should bear in mind the heavy impact that these events and their consequences had both on the landscape of the city and on the memory of its habitants.


How could Saida develop in the medium and long term?

I. The challenge of the general approach to territorial planning for the agglomeration of Saida

Given the frantic consumption of available littoral space, it is important to identify and evaluate all on-going processes of urbanisation, and to define their viable limits in the framework of land planning methods in Saida. This general framework would reduce the irreversible consequences on the local ecology, morphology, landscape and culture.

A more active participation of academics in the territorial planning efforts is recommended, with the goal of guaranteeing the interdiciplinarity of the consequent approaches, and the simultaneous consideration of social, economic, urban, environmental and cultural factors.

In this context, it is also recommended that the participation process of all the factors involved be encouraged in order to make the project fully representative of the local community that shares the city.

II. The relation between the city and its history
(Reference: Annex II - recommendations of workshop 2)

After the discovery of the sarcophaguses of anthropoid, of great historical sarcophaguses, and of the well known temple of Eshmoun, it is now the excavations surrounding the medina at the level of the land castle that confirm the antiquity of the city of Sidon and the ceaselessly maintained relation between what the Phoenician scripts call Sidon of the sea and Sidon of the land.

This relation between the urban agglomeration and its maritime facade has been conserved throughout history from the middle ages to the modern times. In fact, it constitutes the profound identity of Sidon/Saida, and necessitates the elaboration of a program of investigation and of protection of the city’s littoral zone, as well as of the only ancient relics of the port that remain intact on the island and off its coast.

Finally, it is of considerable importance to perceive the city and its surroundings as a whole, and to maintain its image, its silhouette and its colour.

III. The relationship between the city and nature
(Reference: Annex 1 - recommendations of workshop 1)

The specificity of this relationship is mainly related to the littoral zone, where particular attention should be paid to the quality of urban and environmental functions: Creation of green spaces and of a non aedificandi zone of several dozens meters along the coastline are needed in the land occupation plans for the agglomeration in general from north to south. Furthermore, it is strongly recommended to avoid expanding the backfill at the expense of the sea.

In terms of urban projects on heavy infrastructures, impact studies should be carried out based on the dynamics and the ecology of the littoral, particularly concerning the coastal boulevard.

i. It should be confirmed that the coastal boulevard is not a transit route along the coast, but a low-speed light traffic lane and a recreational promenade street along the seashore.

ii. It is necessary to note that the construction of a fast highway in the east of Saida has already been foreseen in order to lighten the traffic load passing through the old and the new parts of the city.

iii. Consequently, it is imperative to proceed with the planning of pedestrian facilities and of green spaces to avoid the emergence of a dominating lane of heavy traffic that would definitely break the historical and natural liaison between the old city and its opening to the sea. On the coast, excursions for visitors to the isle of Zirke should be organised, guided by local divers responsible for protecting the underwater architectural relics, and for showing them to the visitors.

In view of the growing activities of fishing and tourism sectors, a strict and regular surveillance and amelioration of the water quality, as well as action against land-based sources of pollution are indispensable. Furthermore, the exploitation of fresh water resources and the possibilities of water recycling must be studied in the perspective of urban expansion and tourism.

Finally, time must be managed in the general legislative framework, and within national, regional and local norms ( for example the volume of the recently built domain).

IV. Participation and communication

The future of Saida and the amelioration of the well-being of its residents will depend considerably on the city’s capacity to guide its development in the direction of sustainability, which implies safeguarding, protecting, and valuing its terrestrial, marine and coastal environments in general, and its open residential spaces in particular. The implementation of a participation process in Saida, including all interested actors, is therefore strongly recommended. This process should contribute to sensitising the population for the notion of sustainability and facilitate the creation of wise practices in decision making.

This awareness building should be accompanied by support activities, and it should be explained that rehabilitation is neither a backward policy nor a statement against modernity, if completed by an appropriate re-utilisation of rehabilitated buildings.

The adoption of a rehabilitation policy for architectural and urban patrimony implies an active and complementary participation of public powers, of the civil society and of the private sector. In this perspective the social dimension of rehabilitation should never be disregarded. The medina, which constitutes one of the main virtues of the traditional Mediterranean city, by allowing the coexistence of diverse geographic and social layers, should be rediscovered.

The forum of NGOs of Saida, presented in the seminar, could function as a basis for this participatory approach, as well as for the creation of a coordination platform for all actors concerned in the themes at stake. In this regard, all efforts for follow-up and systematic evaluation, as well as continuations of certain scientific, socio-economic and cultural indicators are strongly recommended.

Following the successful experience of associations for safeguarding the medina (ASM) in Tunisia, the creation of a similar entity in Saida has been proposed (under a similar or adapted title). The mission of this entity would be the following:

  • To promote popular participation in the elaboration and implementation of actions relative to the old town centre (the medina), notably through neighbourhood associations;
  • To allow a direct collaboration between public services, the municipality and the private sector favouring safeguarding, rehabilitation and reviving of the medina;
  • To act through the delegation of public and municipal services in social, educational and cultural domains within the medina.

V. The habitat (to live, to reside, to work)

Within the general approach to housing problems in overpopulated zones, particularly in terms of the old town, it would be preferable that most of the population remain in their current housing, but that their living conditions be improved. For this purpose, precise projects for rehabilitation and measures for substitutive housing outside the area in rehabilitation should be undertaken urgently.

It appears urgent to create a concrete operational structure to serve as an instance of support for the implementation of habitation policies for all actors in the framework of rehabilitation of the old town’s habitat. This structure could provide resources for all residents and for the municipality in order to facilitate the reduction of the habitation density, and to facilitate the choice of the population to be de-located. It could also serve as a point of counselling and technical advice on how to render the residences of the old town and the endangered buildings in conformity with current norms concerning proper housing. By promoting communication between the inhabitants, this structure could appreciate the skills of the residents of the medina through creating employment and a tourism market in the framework of traditional and artisan rehabilitation. Finally, the structure could provide technical architectural advice, counselling on use and search for finance, support activities for professional qualification, and offer support for the creation of artisan enterprises. The drive for the structure should come notably from the associative council for safeguarding the old town following the model referred to in part 4, "participation and communication".

Should this proposition be adopted and the described structure established, it could function as a local agency of Agenda 21 for Saida.

VI. Reflections on the elaboration of the future master plan for Urban development for the grand Saida
(Reference: Annex III - Recommendations of workshop 3)

The reflection should be based on:

  1. The situation of the city based on its past and its geo-political context;
  2. Prospective relations between Saida and its residents;
  3. Installation of public and open spaces, elaboration of a landscape plan including collective urban equipment between old and new parts of the city;
  4. The metropolitan function of the city in the region and its place in the urban network of Lebanon; and in particular, its role as the head of the educational and sanitary networks of South-Lebanon;
  5. The management of traffic flow between the city and its surroundings and of the city’s internal traffic flows (domicile - work liaisons, merchandise delivery, etc.) as well as the definition of a parking space plan for vehicles and the creation of access routes for certain areas;
  6. An analysis of the land situation and of the opportunities for regrouping, such as the project implemented on the outskirts of the old town limiting urban dispersion and assuring the promotion of new habitation zones provided with the necessary services.

The management of the urban master plan should be led by an evaluating organ capable of proposing the necessary adaptations to the plan based on regular assessments of its application and results. This organ should be an expression of the political will of the whole society. The management of the master plan should be elaborated and carried out through the collaboration of the following three groups of actors:

  1. The political decision makers and elected officials
  2. Experts and professionals working in a multi-disciplinary and complementary manner
  3. The residents and users of the city.

In the framework of support from agencies of urbanism, a partnership for a specific assistance from the cities of the UNESCO network of small historical coastal cities could be proposed.



In this report the experts wish to lay particular emphasis on certain recommendations:

In particular, they underline the great importance of the role of the municipality of Saida and of the local administration as a whole. They have perceived its appreciable courage and determination, as well as the absolute necessity for its institutional fortification.

UNESCO suggests that this fortification be supported by three means:

1. A partnership between municipal communities initiated by UNESCO based on its network promoting the daily exchange of experiences and the enhancement of the qualifications of managers and officials.

2. In order to be deployed with maximum efficiency, the action of local authorities should be stimulated by the definition of national norms and by the support of interministerial committees in the domain of safeguarding and valorisation of historical cities, as well as in the domain of protection and development of the littoral. These committees would coordinate the actions of the interested ministries, notably the Ministère de l’equipement, ministries of interior, culture, and social and environmental affairs.

3. The task of these committees would be firstly to elaborate on one hand the legal framework for coastal territorial planning and for the protection of urban patrimony in technical, economic and social terms. Secondly, they could define the modalities for further decentralisation of state services within the region of Saida and promote the decentralisation of competencies at the local level. They could for example define a system of financial aid that would allow for the experimentation of innovative actions in the field, as well as research for constructive relations with international donors for a policy of urban renewal for the development and planning of different sectors of the city of Saida: habitat, deplacements, socio-economic activities, public equipment, socio-cultural life, environment and the city’s relation to its catchment area.

In the framework of UNESCO’s intersectoral approach to urban questions, specifically within the intersectoral project of small historical coastal cities and in the pilot case of Saida, the sectors involved could reinforce the general technical assistance foreseen for the city of Saida, in collaboration with UNESCO Beirut office, for the next biennium 2002 - 2003. This technical assistance should meet the demands to be officially sent by the authorities of Saida to UNESCO in the framework of the above mentioned orientations.

The Saida seminar enabled the experts to work directly with all the city actors; the municipality, the Hariri Foundation, the forum of NGOs, the Direction Générale des Antiquités, and also with all the academics who kindly contributed to the seminar. This participatory and interdisciplinary approach will serve as an example for the future meetings of the UNESCO network.


Recommendations of workshop 1:

‘Coastal, marine, and terrestrial environment: Development and safeguarding of natural and cultural resources’

I. The littoral area

Great attention should be paid to the environmental management of Saida’s littoral zone in general. In particular, the land occupation plans for Saida should provide for green zones and a non aedificandi zone of several dozens of meters along the coastline.

It is strongly recommended not to extend building at the expense of the sea, for the following main reasons:

  • Artificial landfills denaturalise and vulgarise the littoral, and therefore lead to the loss of its landscape identity, a fact that will affect the social life of the whole city.
  • By causing silting of the coastal water bottom, they lead to the loss of biocenoses and thus contribute to the diminishing of the biomass and of the biodiversity.
  • They cover archaeological relics.

As to the planning of the new commercial port in the South part of Saida, It is recommended to conduct a study on its possible ecological impacts on the littoral dynamic and sedimentology, as well as on the biocenoses. The economic compatibility of the new commercial port should also be evaluated not only locally but also in the larger (regional) context, taking into consideration all other activities associated with the port (industries that are served by the port, terrestrial transportation, complementary services…).

The littoral should be managed through modalities of the “bay contract”. It is also necessary to create a Lebanese agency for the protection of the littoral and update the laws concerning the maritime public domain.

With a view to the future development of fishing and tourist industries, a strict and regular surveillance of the coastal water quality is imperative, and the improvement of the water quality is absolutely essential. In this context, the beach between the cité sportive and the old town centre deserves to be protected, being the only existing beach of the city to serve the development of beach tourism.

II. Fishing

Considering the current state of resources, the fishing activities can be developed in the future on the condition that:

  • A better compatibility be guaranteed between the fishing activities and other economic activities, in particular the port activities;
  • The fishermen be urged to take responsibility in the management of fisheries, through awareness building, vocational training, and experimentation of innovative methods of management.

In the short term, alternative sea related activities should be created in order to guarantee the families of fishermen a minimum revenue. Also procedures for accessing aid from international sources, such as the COPEMED, should be established.

III. Management of urban solid waste

Having noted the existing projects on this domain, the participants realise what efforts the municipality has made to manage the urban solid waste and recommend that the projects be submitted for an environmental impact study.

IV. Water resources

The district of Saida is one of the few areas that do not suffer from a chronic scarcity of fresh water, a situation that should be maintained in the years to come. In view of Saida’s urban development, but also that of tourism and/or economic activities associated with the development of the port, it is essential to:

  • Protect the freshwater resources against all forms of organic pollution and against seawater intrusion;
  • Control their exploitation (with the exclusion of individual fountains)
  • Rationalise their use, notably in agriculture (which also implies a more rational urbanisation of the territory);
  • Begin the recycling of used water (ferti-irrigation, irrigation of green zones, etc.).

This last point, in particular, involves the completion of a waste water collecting plan for Saida. The highest possible level of treatment of these waters should be guaranteed in order to minimise the impact of urbanisation on the sea and on the diverse sea-related activities, such as tourism and fishing. Conducting an ecological impact study has also been recommended concerning the infrastructures foreseen for the water management in general. This study should be included in the environmental management perspective.

V. Territorial planning

Given the frantic consumption of the littoral space, it appears important to have the ability to register and to evaluate the on-going urbanisation process in order to define the reasonable limits to be imposed on territorial planning procedures and use of land in Saida, and this in order to limit the irreversible consequences on ecology, morphology, landscape and the local culture. In particular, the uncontrolled urbanisation of the littoral space should be reduced and the conservation of open spaces should be guaranteed, again in compliance with a system of environmental management.

In this regard, it is recommended that all actors involved have a possibility of participating more actively in the land planning efforts, in order to guarantee the interdiciplinarity of the resulting approaches by taking into account social, economic, urban, environmental and cultural factors. In this context, the process of concertation and participation of all actors involvedshould be encouraged so that beyond the specific projects of each sector, a true city project widely approved by the local community, can emerge.

VI. Collaboration and participation

The future of the city and the well-being of its residents will depend to a great extent on the city’s capacity to guide its development in the direction of sustainability, which implies in particular protecting its terrestrial, coastal and marine environments, as well as safeguarding its open and residential areas. The inclusion of all the actors in the planning processes in Saida is therefore strongly recommended. This should not only contribute to the awareness building on sustainability, but also facilitate the participation process.

The actions recommended by workshop 1 can only reach their maximum efficiency within the framework of a comprehensive collaboration among all actors concerned with the themes in question.

VII. Information

Several participants insisted on the availability of detailed statistical information on the state of the environment and its evolution. For this purpose all efforts for systematic and continuous surveillance and follow-up of certain indicators (water quality, bio-diversity, sociology, coastal dynamics, etc.) is strongly recommended.

VIII. Education, training

The above mentioned points can only develop on the condition that the awareness of the society of Saida about sustainable development is be increased. In this perspective, we recommend the encouragement of all initiatives in the education and information domains. Such initiatives should primarily concern children and youngsters in their living environment as well as in their schools. Such efforts should reach all levels of the society: students, economic actors, managers and decision makers. Multidiciplinary education and training of the authorities in the matter of integrated and sustainable management of the littoral space appears indispensable with a view to a better balance between socio-economic development and protection of the environment.

Initiatives for field activities (rubbish collection on the beach, maintenance of green spaces, participation in debates, competitions, etc.) should be encouraged as priority action in this domain. Collaboration and participation initiatives in the decision making processes should also contribute to the education and information efforts.


Recommendations of Workshop 2:

‘The Old City’s heritage and archaeology: Urban integration vis-à-vis the challenge of socio-cultural and touristic development’

I. Methodology of architectural intervention

Safeguarding, rehabilitation and valorisation of architectural patrimony in Mediterranean historical milieus will conform with the general principles announced in the “international charter for safeguarding historical cities”, adopted in 1987 by the International Council of Monuments and Sites.

Furthermore, the specific conditions that characterise the geo-cultural nature allow us to define general recommendations concerning the following two aspects:

  1. the meaning that must be given to the notion of rehabilitation;
  2. the spirit and the methodology that must be applied in the elaboration of rehabilitation projects.

These precisions are based on a fundamental observation. The traditional fabric of Mediterranean cities responds to a great extent with exactitude to the multiplicity and complexity of local bio-climatic and socio-cultural constraints, while respecting the rules of adequacy of means, and taking into account the long term perspective. The coherence and the specificity of urban landscape, the conviviality of public spaces, the diversity and charm of pathways, the excellent adaptation of built domain to living conditions… These are all well known qualities that constitute the content of general urban rehabilitation policy in Mediterranean historic centres.

This is why, in the Mediterranean context, the following recommendations must be included in the international charter.

1. Rehabilitation consists of giving all urban and architectural patrimony its full capacity to assume a useful role in the society.

The socio-economic, cultural and semantic potential of Mediterranean architectural patrimony must be valued as a whole. The different traces witnessing its history must be respected. Theoretically therefore rehabilitation applies to all urban spaces and all degraded or unused buildings. Therefore no selection is involved, either in terms of the type of the building, or in terms of the date of its construction.

2. Rehabilitation must be considered a priority in relation to construction of a new site and to radical renovation.

The policy of “table rase” must be followedby the will for a more intelligent re-utilisation of architectural patrimony , seeking to safeguard its affective qualities and to minimise complementary investments. This conception of rehabilitation reflects the will to promote the principle of “reversibility” of interventions on architectural patrimony. This kind of rehabilitation as well as elementary maintenance must become a habit that is naturally included in the general process of urban management. Moreover, both in the domain of restructuration of the quarters and of operations on individual buildings, any other option should only be accepted proved advantageous based on general comparative research. While admitting that everything cannot be conserved, rehabilitation - even insufficiently justified - is preferable to unconsidered destruction. It is better to consolidate than to repair, repair than to restore, restore than to reconstruct.

3. The adoption of a general rehabilitation policy on Mediterranean architectural heritage implies changing many habitual practices. The public authorities should therefore be particularly attentive.

Creating new administrative rules and modes of subsidies to encourage rehabilitation operations, professional reorientation, adaptation of the size and structure of enterprises, etc. There are a great variety of changes that are apt to generate obstacles to the rehabilitation of Mediterranean historic centres.

4. The social dimension of rehabilitation should never be forgotten

One of the main virtues of the traditional Mediterranean city is its ability to allow the geographic coexistence of diverse social layers. The conservation and reconstruction of this social fabric must continue to be one of the main objectives of rehabilitation.

5. The rehabilitation of different quarters necessitates the implementation of a specific urban methodology including a typological analysis of built patrimony and recognition of its potential for reuse.

Uncontrolled re-utilisation of certain buildings conduce to the loss of their identity, while other buildings are deteriorating because no adequate reuse has been found. The local authorities should favour as much as possible the re-utilisation of buildings respecting their inherent character.

6. The extreme diversity of socio-economic conditions characteristic of Mediterranean milieus necessitates diverse rehabilitation strategies the most adaptable to local conditions

In certain regions the real problem is the depopulation of the town centre. It is the inhabitants themselves that contest the speculative projects destructive to the urban fabric, and pressure the public authorities to protect the architectural patrimony more efficiently. In other regions, historic quarters suffer from severe overpopulation, which renders the living conditions precarious. Moreover, the population in this case tends to be less attached to its architectural patrimony due to the understandable aspiration to better living conditions. Even if the objective of better safeguarding the urban and architectural patrimony remains unchanged, the strategy to be adopted must conform to local situations to the greatest possible extent.

7. The first methodological criteria for rehabilitation are to maintain the authentic message of history.

The Charter of Venice, adopted in 1965, remains the corner stone of contemporary rehabilitation. Its main idea can be resumed in the slogan “stop the falsification”. Conserve all that it is possible to safeguard in its material integrity, respect the successive historic values as much as possible, resort, if necessary to an architectural composition that “wears the marks of our times”…. These are principles that build a bridge between the respect for historic substance and the research for a harmonious insertion of modernity.

Such orientation requires the adaptation of a more rigorous methodology. This means proceeding to a more profound investigation of documents prior to any intervention, to more exact statistics, and to critical and tedious analysis of the different parts of the edifice. The more precious the patrimonial site concerned by the intervention, the more imperatively these recommendations should be respected.

8. Rehabilitation is not a backward procedure. On the contrary it should permanently contribute to urban and architectural enrichment.

Rehabilitation should concentrate on what already exists existing, respecting the whole complexity of the patrimony in order to orient the specificity of the architectural response. The spirit of good rehabilitation is not to highlight spectacular confrontation of old and new, but to exalt the architectural heritage by a high degree of quality. In terms of respect for the authenticity of different parts of the edifice, the primary objective of the intervention should be to attain the best possible aesthetic quality for the newly constituted ensemble.

Widening of the notion of architectural patrimony to include relatively banal constructions, notably industrial complexes, introduces a great diversity in the constraints that have been imposed on contemporary intervention.

Experience has shown how much architectural research, stimulated by this type of problems, contributes to spectacular successes in the domain.

Safeguarding the urban patrimony of Mediterranean cities necessitates all new constructions implanted on the ancient fabric being perfectly integrated in the existing context. This integration cannot be conceived without precise observation of the characteristics and details of the built environment. The architect must, according to his professional ethic, serve the “Genius Loci”.



i. The coastline and the ancient relics of the port

The relics of Sidon’s ancient port are important links with the identity of the Sidonian civilisation. They merit not only more profound historical and archaeological research, but also to be guaranteed safeguarding and perpetuity. What is to be preserved at any cost are notably the remaining rocky zones showing traces of ancient port structures, particularly the areas referred to in the study published in 1951, located on the western and north-western sides of the current port.

No part of the island of Zirke must be submitted to transformations and land planning that threaten the integrity of the existing ancient installations, whether terrestrial or sub marine. This implies that the island and its surroundings, defined by sub marine archaeology, should be protected by legislative measures, if such is not already the case.

It is recommended that scientific statistics on all conserved sub marine relics of the ancient port and of the island of Zirke be established.

Silting of the existing port:

The risks of the silting of the port have constantly threatened its functioning. The appearance of a silt bank under the southern arches of the sea castle and on its south-east borders has been detected.

It would be advisable to accompany the land planning of the coast line - both at and on the west side of the cité sportif, as well as in the immediate surroundings of the current port - with a hydro-geological study in order to prove the absence of possible effects that would in the short or the long term alter the form of the port water area.

ii. The city intra-muros

Proposition n°1

The quality of the urban fabric of the intra-muros zone deserves a restoration and re-utilisation plan, which, according to our observations, has not yet been established. Therefore the adopting of a methodology similar to that experimented in certain Mediterranean countries seems desirable.

Saida’s old town centre must have a system of limitations and regulations concerning its development and safeguarding. Appropriate form, volume, colour and location of new constructions should be defined in order to ensure the protection of the old town’s identity and its historic surroundings , in compliance with the charter of safeguarding historic centres signed in Washington in 1987.

The master plan for the old town must be directed by one for the greater Saida, guaranteeing the protection of green spaces that have compensated for the loss of the city’s surrounding character that the historians have always referred to.

Inhabitants of all social levels must collaborate by participating in assemblies, instead of relying on the educated population to define the needs of the present inhabitants. Cooperation between artisans could be effective for providing advice on how to engage and proceed with the operations. In this regard, it would be ideal if a pluridiciplinary team composed of Lebanese instances could familiarise themselves with these operational interdiciplinary methodologies.

Considering the innovative character of this intervention, we believe it should be granted an exemplary and educational character for future Lebanese artisans specialising in the urban development of ancient quarters. We also believe that the creation of one or several exemplary pilot constructions for the training of Lebanese architects, entrepreneurs, construction personnel recruiters, would be eminently desirable.

Proposition n°2

The layers of Sidon’s history have such importance that any intervention on the constructed domain intra-muros necessitates all possible measures being taken regarding investigation and documentation. Consequently, this implies the establishment of an archaeological authority whose task would be the surveillance of the restoration works, as well as the valorisation of the constructed domain and the carrying out, if necessary, of specific excavations and investigations in accordance with all the competent administrative authorities.

Proposition n° 3

The perception of the old town as a whole with its surroundings plays a considerable role in the composition of the image of the city of Sidon. This problem concerns mainly the city’s silhouette and colour. The drawings and reports by XIX century travellers are eloquent in this regard.

We find inappropriate the systematic and constant use of plastering and lime-wash on the interior and exterior facades that are not generally destined to be visible in the intra muros area.

iii. The city beyond the old town

Considering the coherence of the volume of constructed spaces in the old town, it seems absolutely necessary to limit the height of buildings already constructed or to be constructed in the proximity of the old town to five floors above ground level.

Moreover, the high building in the west on the level of the land castle should either be destroyed or its height should be lowered by six floors. This notion implies the modification of the urban plan, provided that such a plan exists and is judicially opposable by third parties.

iv. The coastal boulevard

a) It should be confirmed that the coastal boulevard is not a transit route along the coast, but a low-speed light traffic lane and a recreational promenade street along the seashore.

b) Consequently, it is imperative to proceed with the planning of pedestrian facilities and of green spaces to avoid the emergence of a dominating lane of heavy traffic that would definitely break the historical and natural liaison between the old city and its opening to the sea.

v. Excavations at the port

In the case of the adoption of any new urban plan, the area between the old town and the piers of the northern port should be excavated. The scientific benefit of such investigations is exceptional and their consequences on the image of the city are very positive, as proved by the examples of Alexandria and Marseille.

A regional centre for training on traditional construction techniques should be established, with the goal of augmenting such skills in the surrounding Arab region associated with the ICCROM. This proposition derives from the fact that in the course of the works we have observed a lack of experienced persons working in accordance with international recommendations, and possessing the necessary experience and technical skills for protection and conservation.


Recommendations of Workshop 3:

‘Mobilization of urban and architectural resources: A new master plan for urban development’

I. GENERAL FRAMEWORK : How can Saida develop in the more or less long term?

This question was dealt with throughout the different presentations with a focus on

  • The relationship between Saida and its inhabitants
  • The regional function of Saida
  • Saida’s exceptional historic and geographic position

The question was also evaluated in relation to the UNESCO network of small historical coastal cities, and with a reflection as to how the network could contribute to the development of Saida.

The recommendations given by Workshop 3 aim to respond to these great and important challenges.


With a view to the eventual renovation of Saida’s master plan for urban development, it is necessary to define the primary objectives and projects in relation to the following main themes:

  1. The habitat (to live, to reside, to work)
  2. Respect for the natural environment in the built-up areas
  3. The methods of association and participation of the various actors in the defined objectives, projects and their implementation
  4. The place of vehicles in the urban context vis-à-vis the patrimony: traffic areas and the choice of traffic infrastructures.

These major themes are present in various projects, which will all be subject to the following four parameters:

  1. Major priorities and threats
  2. Networking
  3. Time management
  4. The habitat


This concerns the procedures against potential risks and the necessary decisions to be taken for:

  1. Waste, pollution, cleaning up of the coast (beach and water)
    The support of the experts and of UNESCO could help with the choices of preventive measures through technical missions.
  2. Road traffic
    The creation of a heavy traffic channel in the proximity of a historical site may have serious consequences, and a large scale project modifying the form of the coast line may have a heavy impact on the functioning of beaches and natural water currents. It is therefore necessary to assist support organisms in correcting the choices on this matter and reorienting the technical projects towards greater respect for precious historical sites.
  3. The habitat
    Saida’s old town centre should preserve its ability to contain its current habitations to the greatest possible extent, through improvement of living conditions of the present inhabitants. Measures for rehabilitation should be taken rapidly, and decent temporary housing should be provided in connection with precise projects.

  1. networking of public and open spaces
  2. networking of collective equipment between the old and the new parts of the city, managing the two-fold dimension of the city, in other words its internal and regional dimensions.

Agencies of urbanism in Europe and North Africa could help in the networking of public furniture and in the management of the two-fold dimension of the city. The UNESCO network of small historical coastal cities could offer a framework of partnerships between cities and accompany Saida in the implementation of urban structures.


The on-going projects should be subject to time management in order to be located in the long-term perspective, and to facilitate identifying the right solutions to carry out the task.

This necessitates an authority of evaluation that will research the prospective consequences of each project in order to correct the negative impacts and to find alternative solutions, as well as facilitate the choices of decision makers, while providing for a debate between all actors involved. Monitoring (follow-up and evaluation) will allow for more profound communication. Time must be managed in a general framework of legislative reference, with national, regional and local norms.


It seems urgent to install a concrete operational structure to support the implementation of a habitation policy for all actors concerned with the rehabilitation of the old town centre’s habitat. This structure should also function as a resource outlet for all inhabitants and the municipality in their efforts to reduce density of the old town and facilitate the choice of the inhabitants facing de-location.

This technical aid structure, which could also serve as a local agency of Agenda 21, could give technical advice as to how to render the habitat of the old town to meet the current norms of decent habitat, and how to manage the buildings in danger. It could also facilitate communication among the inhabitants, and use the skills of the old town inhabitants by creating employment and tourist attraction in the form of traditional and artisan rehabilitation. In addition to providing technical architectural counselling, the structure could also be a focal point in the search for financing for the rehabilitation projects.

An identification study in collaboration with certain UNESCO experts and network cities in which a similar structure already exists, could be proposed to the city of Saida.


The introduction of the seminar underlined the theme chosen by UNESCO for Habitat II; "Humanising the City". The city is also a place where conflicts should be resolved and managed in a civilised manner. The municipalities should therefore be supported in every respect, and granted the necessary judicial and legislative means beyond drafts and urban master plans.


Contact :

Mrs Brigitte Colin
Division of Social Sciences, Research and Policy

1, rue Miollis
75732 PARIS Cedex 15, France
Tel: +

Fax : +
E-mail: b.colin@unesco.org

ou :

M. Joseph Kreidi
Bureau de l'UNESCO
Cité sportive
Fax : +961.1.824.854
E-mail: j.kreidi@unesco.org

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