Week 5: Jlag (The Umayyad Route and a View on Sustainable Development)

Week 5: JLag


Brusfete du misique iconsels is full of things to do on the weekends.  This weekend was another music fest: Fête du Musique.  Friday night was a small gathering just ten minutes walking from my apartment.  I went with my roommate, and had a great time.  It was sadly pretty cold, so when the sun began to hide behind the taller buildings, and the shadows liberally stretched themselves across the cobblestone streets, I started to head home.  I ran into an English speaking German girl outside of a pub on my way, and I asked if she knew where the next venue was, and we ended up talking about politics and education around Europe compared to the United States.  She did not want another Bush in the White House.  I’ll leave it there.

Saturday night I went with my roommate to a friend’s house.  They invited me to break Ramadan with them.  They explained to me the significance of this month, how fasting during the daylight hours contributes to their sense of empathy and connections with the poor.  They are to feel what the less fortunate experience daily- fatigue and hunger. They are encouraged to give to charity, feed the hungry, and Ramadanbe in the moment, finding gratitude for their place in the world.  It was a lovely dinner, with many delicious dishes, and lasted for hours, until after 1AM.  (Of course, the sun goes down here so late that they must wait until around 10:30pm to eat!)  They are delightful, very open, kind, and welcoming, and I felt like I had made immediate friends.

flower market jetteSunday, I walked out of my door and across the street and was in a very large market.  It was amazing.   I loved Anderlecht market, which I wrote about before, but this one was a little more approachable, still had plenty of things, and was literally outside my apartment.  Clothing, electronics, food vendors, accessories, luggage, jewelry, meats, cheeses, olives, produce, and amazing lengths of flowers and plants.  I had a lot of fun exploring the market, and next Sunday will arrive earlier!DSC_0234

That night, I went with a different friend to a different venue of Fête du Musique.  The first band was a little too lulling for the large venue, but the second band was energetic and had the crowd dancing and clapping along.  I enjoyed my first (I pause-I am almost ashamed to say it) Belgian waffle.  It was delicious.  It’s probably a good thing I didn’t try them before, because, I would have been eating them this whole time…


The work part of my internship has definitely kept me busy.  I am here to research and learn about capacity building, understand the PM4SD material and develop case studies that support its use as a capacity building tool.  I am pleased to say that last week was successful in identifying 2 more than likely possibilities and I have begun to assemble the information and write the rough drafts for the two projects.  This is a great way for me to interact with some professionals in the field, and have a chance to ask them some questions, pertaining both to their application of the PM4SD material as well as the field itself.  I am interested to know how professionals feel about the direction of sustainability, and what some challenges and barriers are to it reaching its goals.  I get the feeling that Europe experiences a unique situation when it comes to getting funding from the Commission.  It’s also been implied that the management of projects is pretty poor, and many European Commission funded projects (in terms of sustainable tourism, anyway) seem to be stuck in a cycle of ‘apply for funds, get funds, use funds until they are gone, fail.’  Like most things, I am afraid, plans to action seems to be a difficult thing to realize, and there is no sustainability, both in terms of longevity and triple bottom line sustainability.  (I realize longevity can be considered a part of sustainability, but I differentiate the two here, because longevity is just  that- a very precise part of sustainability, and when there is trouble in achieving long term success with projects, something has most certainly gone wrong in the three areas that are required to achieve ‘sustainability’.)

Umayyad site in Anjar, a mid-country stop on the itinerary.
Umayyad site in Anjar, a mid-country stop on the itinerary.

I am working with an agency that is striving to create a tourism itinerary in Lebanon based on the shared history of numerous destinations.  The itinerary is founded on the Umayyad, a Muslim Dynasty that formed after the death of Muhammed.  There are a few cultural sites in Lebanon that the project is striving to highlight, in hopes of addressing the lopsided tourism season.  This unbalanced year of tourism influx creates hardship for the locals that are employed in the tourism industry.  A way to even out the tourism schedule was to create tourism revolving around something other than the “sun and sea” aspect that the Mediterranean is known for- in this case history and cultural heritage sites that are often overlooked.

The Heliopolis in Baalbek, another destination away from the coast on the itinerary.  These are estimated at 900 years old.  They are UNESCO Heritage sites.  Photos retrieved from the Umayyad Route website: http://umayyad.eu/
The Heliopolis in Baalbek, another destination away from the coast on the itinerary. These are estimated at 9000 years old. They are UNESCO Heritage sites. Photos retrieved from the Umayyad Route website: http://umayyad.eu/

The project faced some difficulties early on, such as defining the final product, nomenclature debates and sensitivity surrounding the Umayyad dynasty, as there was reluctance to create an itinerary based on the infamous dynasty in the region.  (It was responsible for the murder of one of their Saints.)  I am happy to say, it is evident that the use of some PM4SD tools were instrumental in overcoming these barriers, creating an action plan and moving the project over the motivational gorge that had previously stalled its progression.  I will be analyzing this further in my case study.

I believe PM4SD management techniques have the potential to transform projects, but in order for it to be a success, I think we need real backing for its implementation. I believe we need higher level buy-in, in order to change the way projects are managed, and patience and realism to do them properly.

I think that most of our colleagues can agree with me on this point.  Development can no longer be swift and careless.  Development must be carefully planned.  It must be considerate of external factors.  It must be aware of its consequences and benefits.  It must be analyzed with care.  It must be sustainable.  Development must be built on the knowledge of the past, with an eye to the future, and a 360 view of the present.

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