Ramlet El Bayda is Beirut’s last public beach. For a city its size, Beirut has a shocking lack of public space. While miles of Mediterranean coast are covered with luxury apartments, clubs, restaurants, hotels and resorts that charge hefty entrance fees. For the many Beirutis living on just a few hundred dollars a month, the price to bring a family into one of these clubs could amount to a major chunk of a month’s salary. If you’re poor, you don’t always have the right to enjoy the outdoors.
Such spaces as Ramlet El Bayda, meaning white sands in Arabic, are especially vital given the legacy of sectarian division left by the country’s 1975-90 civil war. But a lack of sufficient public regulation has allowed developers to chip away at such spaces over the years, leaving only a handful open to the public.
Ramlet El Bayda is therefore the only place poor and marginlised people in Beirut can actually enjoy for free. Palestinian, Syrian refugees, or migrant workers from Bangladesh to Ethiopia and Sierre Leone. All the haves-not gather on this beach, because no one else except them will. Why ?
The most obvious reason is pollution and the ever-increasing bacteria levels in the water as a result of the country’s inability to properly manage its waste. The alarmingly high concentrations of chemical and bacterial contamination make any Beiruti, left with another option, take his car to go retreat somewhere safer.
What's left on the "White Sand" beach despite the environmental disaster is life : life of the poor, the outsiders, the migrants - who, despite the lack of fresh air and clean water, embrace their day under the Levantine sun.