Rural food, crafts, and nature walks… This is how Syrians do their ecotourism

In the Dalia area in the countryside of the Syrian coastal city of Jableh, where nature is virgin, women from the capital, Damascus, gathered passionately to get their own bars of soap, made of laurel mixed with silk.

Some time before their arrival the women were anxious to ask for soap and to send the silk cocoons needed to make it, so that it would be ready when they arrived. The cocoons they got from another Syrian region, that is the Mama Monastery in Hama countryside. The women, who are a rural tourism team, were introduced to the museum and the silk industry on a previous tour.

Nadia Helmy thought of a developing rural ecotourism based on the idea of ​​supporting the people of rural areas.

Almost four years ago, retired architect Nadia Helmy founded the “Rural Tourism” team, as she loves nature and rural life and has lived in the city since she was born, and has always felt a desire to work with rural residents to live and live in their homes. nature, and eat their food away from the atmosphere Restaurants and hotels, so I thought of a rural eco-tourism development based on the idea of ​​supporting the inhabitants of rural areas by renting houses there, and buying food produced by the women from those areas, as well as rural products they make such as laurel soap, dairy products, in addition to delicious jams.

Nadia told Raseef22 that her first activity was in the mornings of three women, including a German woman who lives in Damascus and loves the Syrian countryside. The small team went to the countryside of Bahloulia in the coastal province of Lattakia, and the plan was to learn how to make pomegranate molasses, and to participate in this experiment. “I did not know how this molasses was made, but during our journey I became acquainted with all the stages of this industry, and we participated with our hands in the age of the garnet, and we used no machine, om finally acquires a magical taste that we have not tasted before, and since that time I have not been able to buy any rural product except from its main source, and every time we choose a particular type, we travel around its to follow implementation and then obtain it.”

After several years of touring, the team, which has increased in number, has acquaintances in most of the Syrian regions, with whom they have ties similar to one family. Nadia Bhanin remembers her first visit to the Dalyah area, where their hostesses welcome them gave them a warm welcome as if they had known them for a long time, and offered them a comfortable stay in one of the The houses of the neighborhood, and they enjoyed the delicious food and that is why they visited many times.

Some of the activities of the “Rural Tourism” team

Ecological and rural routes

Serendipity and love for the environment and the countryside brought together Nadia Helmy and Sahar Hamisheh, who is the president of the National Association for the Development of Tourism in Syria. rented out to tourists.

Founded by Sahar in Lattakia in 2012, the association has many environmental and social concerns, and also thinks about integrating tourism with the local environment and helping small business owners. She told Raseef22: “When I decided to establish the association, and the war was in its infancy in Syria, no one was convinced of the matter, and whoever participated with me did so out of friendship , and the first initiative we implemented was revival of heritage and heritage industries, so we entered the world of looms and silk, and established the first heritage loom workshop to produce. We also encouraged the breeding of silkworms that silk produces, and organized art exhibitions, environmental clean-up campaigns and afforestation campaigns. “

Network is established with the people to receive the tourist groups in their homes as guests to experience the atmosphere of the countryside, as well as to shop for rural products, and this in turn helps the people to improve their situation and develop themselves and opening up new horizons for them and creating a social atmosphere that brings people closer together

The people are networked to receive the tourist groups in their homes as guests to experience the atmosphere of the countryside, and in return the cost is cheaper for the participants than staying in hotels, in addition to the absence of hotels in some areas . new horizons for them and creates a social atmosphere that brings people closer together

The association is particularly interested in environmental and rural roads, and Sahar talks passionately about a route in the Tartous countryside, from Amrit to learn about its antiquities, then Drakeish and Fort Suleiman, and from there to the Prophet Matta Forest and place the horse, and then down to the Beit al-Wadi cave. She added: “In each track we exploit a specific event. In the Dalieh region we invested in the laurel oil season, and the team lived in the atmosphere of mining oil and making soap and shopping from it. We activity had an impact on the increase in sales and the increase in the interest of the official authorities in the region of Lattakia, and in the apricot season, we went to Rablah on the Syrian-Lebanese border, and in the orange season we a trip to making orange jam in the Bahloulia area.”

And about how to choose the roads, she explains that it is carried out by individual or group exploration tours, so that they decide the itinerary, and it usually includes more than one station or a tourist or cultural scene such as castles and river valleys, and networks is done with the people to receive tourist groups in their homes as guests to experience the atmosphere of the countryside, and in return the cost is cheaper for the participants than staying in hotels, in addition to the absence of hotels in some areas , as well as shopping for rural products This type of tourism is the implementation of a summer club for children in the countryside, in which they focus on the concept of ecotourism.

The speaker concludes by recalling a road that she described as one of the most beautiful things that the association has implemented because it is full of excitement and beauty, which is the road of Sheikh Issa and the Citadel of Salah al-Din, such as included it. a river course that includes incredible rock formations and ancient mills, and it is partly necessary to walk inside the water, and the conclusion is a visit to Salah al-Din Castle, I rated its difficulty nine out of ten, it requires high physical ability, but it’s fun, according to his description.

The spread of environmental awareness

In Tartous, a group of volunteers is active in creating tourism and environmental activities. They founded the Sindyan Association in 2020, after years of work and activities in the field of agriculture and the environment. It is considered bad, and it cannot be said that it exists in Syria, and it is an individual experience that does not meet its full conditions, and the matter has increased with the weakening of the economic situation and the inability of people to secure their daily needs until they think of traveling.

As for how to choose the places for the events they practice, Suhad explains, that the matter is related to the type of activity. In forest planting campaigns, for example, they focus on one site, in which they carry out several campaigns, such as e.g. the Drakeish apple plot, and it is in agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture so that it is included in the afforestation plan, and it will soon be Sort and it has all the basic services, so that the team does not carry heavy financial burdens.

Of the activities of the “Sindian” Association

About the march’s activity, Suhad says: “We choose the area of ​​interest, such as being a wooded area distinguished by certain plant species or rich in biological heritage, antiquities or fountains, and sometimes in one place we define several paths for its implementation, and the path may change according to the season and weather, as the association sometimes prepares overnight”, and some of the most prominent areas chosen by the association are the reserves within Tartous, and the forests.

The association has goals such as the spread of environmental awareness and healthy environmental concepts, to contribute to the fight against pollution, the preservation of biodiversity and wildlife, and the protection of rare and endangered species. It also aims to contribute to the protection of natural resources, the increase and beautification of green spaces, and other activities, including seminars, hygiene campaigns, afforestation campaigns and nature walks. They decided to plant the Tartous garden with local plants. plans to increase interest in the Syrian environmental species in light of the violations that are taking place, especially the fires that are destroying large areas of forest wealth.

The association has objectives such as the spread of environmental awareness and healthy environmental concepts, to contribute to the fight against pollution, the preservation of biodiversity and wildlife, and the protection of rare and endangered species. It also aims to contribute to the protection of natural resources, the expansion and beautification of green spaces.

Dr. Ali Jawhara (31 years old), an agricultural engineer, is a regular participant in “Sindian” activities, and his interest in this type of environmental activities increased more after the forests in Syria were exposed to fires. “If everyone planted a tree, it would make a difference, but unfortunately this culture doesn’t exist,” he tells Raseef22, adding that nature is the only way for him to escape from life’s stress and get positive energy.

green tourism

Sahar Hamisheh concludes her speech by saying: “The concept of ecotourism is very broad and precise, and unfortunately we are not close to its standards in Syria, as I have not yet heard of a Syrian facility that implements the principle of green tourism does not accept.” are still only theories and individual actions today, or dispersed teams rely on walking activities in particular.

Green tourism, according to the World Tourism Organization, is all tourism activities related to the environment and its sustainability in their social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts. in the protection of the environment.”

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