Cultural Corridors of Peace
Preserving the living memory of the pastoral routes and heritage of the Bedouin in Lebanon
The Cultural Corridors of Peace is a programmatic initiative led by INHERIT in collaboration with Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management of the American University of Beirut (AUB) which is currently funded by the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund , in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The British Council’s £30m Cultural Protection Fund, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is set up to protect cultural heritage at risk due to conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.
The aim of the initiative is to work with the Bedouin of Bekaa in Lebanon for the safeguarding and promotion of their nomadic pastoralist routes and connections with the Levant and Mesopotamia as corridors of peace and economic prosperity. The project’s significance is amplified in the context of the current war in Syria and the border tensions with Lebanon, as well as Jordan and Iraq, where these cultural corridors serve as a mnemonic of the wider regional heritage.
The Bedouin culture is that of the nomadic pastoralist, who seasonally moves usually from uplands to lowlands with his extended family and flock of sheep and goats. This repeated migration process is an adaptive response to the variability of natural pastures and water scarcity across large areas between the desert and Mediterranean littorals. This particular long-standing practice precedes the post WWI national boundaries between Lebanon and Syria. For the Bedouins, transhumance and nomadic pastoralism has been a socio-economic activity of remarkable cultural value – an identity shared across the Arab world and a practice associated with beliefs, rituals and ancestry and celebrated in tales, songs and poems.
The heritage of the Bedouin of Bekaa is at risk from conflict and from distractive socio-political consequences, particularly across the Lebanese-Syrian border.
These nomadic groups have been moving across the border region since the 13th century. However, the French Mandate (1920-1943) marked the beginning of the end of their traditional lifestyle: national borders were erected, lands were enclosed, Bedouin were cut off from their brethren in Syria and their relationship with the land was severely transformed. Fertile grazing lands that were previously managed by the tribes passed to the state and private landowners. In modern Lebanon, there is no place for nomads. The government forcefully requires them to become sedentary but provides little or nothing in the way of services like education, healthcare and sanitation. Their villages are not recognised and often do not exist on official maps.
Conflict has made movement across the border difficult for several generations – civil unrest (1958), the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1989), Syria’s military presence in Lebanon (1976-2005), the phase of the so-called Pax Syriana licensed by the Taif Agreement (1989) and the current war in Syria. It is currently not possible for the Bedouin to reinstate their historical routes and reconnect with lands, villages and people on the other side. Bedouin communities have suffered as, without freedom of movement, they have been losing an integral part of their heritage and way of life.
The project will work with the local Bedouin, to enable them to enhance and safeguard their living memory of transhumance, use this heritage for sustainable development and promote it, and the associated transhumance routes, as future cross-border Cultural Corridors of Peace.
The project aims to:
safeguard the living memory of the Bedouin of Bekaa in Lebanon;
document historic cross-border nomadic pastoralist routes;
capture associated experiences, culture and knowledge;
transfer practical skills to the Bedouin for documenting, presenting and promoting their heritage;
raise awareness of the co-evolution of people and nature and of how people adapted to resource shortage;
promote the use of heritage for sustainable socio-economic benefit and post-war relationship-building.
The project will achieve this by meeting through a range of activities that include:
a) Digital documentation of the nomadic trails of the Bedouins of Bekaa across the border with Syria, based on participatory mapping exercises;
b) Documentation of Bedouin living memories, intangible heritage and traditional knowledge using ethnographic techniques;
c) Development of an online Open Access Archive of the Cultural Heritage of the Bedouins of Bekaa (see web- platform below);
d) Development of a virtual exhibition based on a narrative co-developed with Bedouin communities about their living heritage (see web-platform below);
e) Training and capacity building:
a. Recruitment and training of at least 30 people in cultural documentation (photography, video, audio and text);
b. Development and facilitation of practical skills workshops led by and with the Bedouin so that young generations can become familiar with their nomadic pastoral heritage.
f) Advocacy and education:
a. Development of the Cultural Corridors of Peace web platform, a user-friendly tool for public awareness, which will host the Open Access Archive and the virtual exhibition;
b. Development and promotion of a Mobile Application for connecting the Bedouin across the Arab world (focus on the Levant and Mesopotamia) and for crowdsourcing information that will be included in the Open Access Archive;
c. Initiation of the necessary procedures for inscription of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Bedouin of Bekaa on the UNESCO Lists and of selection of Best Safeguarding Practices;
d. Development of an Action Plan for the promotion and safeguarding of the Bedouin culture as a living heritage of peace.
For more details about the project outline please visit the British Council’s webpage.