Friday, August 18, 2006

Rimal Zahabieh (Golden Sands)

Not one of the most successful, but the most successful recreational project in Syria is al-Rimal al-Zahabieh (Golden Sands) of Tartous. This beachfront property has a shoreline of 2400 m and 1190 individual privately owned chalets. Opened in the early 1980’s as a tourist residential cooperative project, it has far exceeded the expectations of its founding fathers, the Syrian government and the thousands of visitors who enjoy its sands, sun and sea every year.

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It all started when a group of Homsis (from Homs, Syria) started this ambitious and pioneering project on a stretch of beautiful beach 15 km north of Tartous. It’s worthwhile mentioning that several other projects were started and completed at the same time, all located in the Tartous area. What makes the Tartous coastline unique, from Banias 30 km north to al-Arida (border with Lebanon) 30 km south is the fact that it’s almost entirely a sandy stretch. The other projects still have their fans, but objectively speaking they are nowhere, not even close to what the Rimal is. If we consider the market value of property (price/sq.m.) then the disparity is very much evident. Today, we are talking of some chalets having a real market value of over US$1million. Prices range from US$50,000 for small apartments in high rise buildings on the fringe of the compound to, as mentioned above, +1 mil for the nice unattached single story units in front of the large green lawn with an unobstructed view of the sea.

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Rimal is a self-sufficient, entirely independent little town. The summer population could well reach 20,000+ inhabitants. During the off season, it’s almost completely deserted except for the employees and caretakers. I am lucky to supervise the remodeling of chalets during the winter months there. That gives me the opportunity to enjoy a few moments of solitude by the sea almost everyday. Rimal is a closed city, meaning that you have to pass through a single main gate to get in. Although I am not one who favors elitist policy, I have to admit that this procedure has enhanced the compound’s all around comfort and value. Rimal has received several awards from different international tourist organizations for the quality of service and the recreational value it offers. There are a few restaurants and cafes inside, several shops, a medical facility and a bakery all very clean and well taken care of. A bid for a large hotel has been awarded this year and the construction at the south end should start soon.

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From a social and demographic point of view, the residents of Rimal are almost exclusively upper middle class or rich. The majority comes from Homs and there are a good number of Damascene, Aleppians and Tartoussis. In recent years, the trend is of younger and middle aged Tartoussis buying and the previous generation of “interiorSyrians selling. Still, the atmosphere is a wonderful mixture of young and old during the day, and mainly young boys and girls filling all the sidewalks, the roads and the chairs in the local cafes at night.

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Rimal Zahabieh is a must visit when you have a chance to be in Tartous during the summer. When you get in for the first time you are sure to be surprised very nicely indeed. It is also a clear indication of what private citizens could achieve without the intervention, interference or the “help” of the government in Syria and everywhere else.

8 comments:

Ascribo said...

You make it look really Nice, even better than it is!

I'm sure it is a nice place, but I don't like sandy beaches so much. And most importantly, that kind of "teenagers" you can find there

I would say when you want to go to a nice "beach" place, you won't find better than Rimal, but for swimming, you should try somewhere else...

abufares said...

If u noticed ascribo, i stated that i like rimal in the winter when i can enjoy my solitude. i, too, prefer empty deserted beaches. for most people, however, going to the beach means swimming with hundreds of others, seeing and being seen. with that in mind, there is no better place in syria than rimal.

Ascribo said...

So we both agree that Solitary beaches are lovely!

Seeing and being seen! Exactly! That's what most people (esp. youth) do at beach! That's the word I was lookig for

I love Munich said...

The way you describe that place, it makes to me the distinct impression of "little paradise"!
Though I am not at all a "seeing and been seen"-type of person but do prefere "a little" more privacy, I can well imagine I would love the place - but NOT the prices!! You're certainly lucky being in charge of the remodeling of chalets - that does give you some lovely moments alone there!
I anyway envy you like hell for having the sea right outside your door!!!
GREAT POST Abufares - and BEAUTIFUL pictures!!

abufares said...

Karin

My love for the "sea" in the real meaning of the word is a driving force in my personality.
Rimal, and other similar places all around the world are merely doors to glimpse the magnificent "blue" that is the main reality. If we can, amid the busy tempo of our lives, wet our feet by passing through such doors, especially when they are neat and clean, then we are very lucky indeed.

I love Munich said...

The love for the "sea" I most certainly share - not the luck though to have it in front of my door! SCUBA-diving is one expression of admiration for the "blue" - together with all it's secrets and beauties! It is - besides of flying - the most beautiful and fascinating "sport" I can possibly imagine ...

Anonymous said...

Nice description, more or less accurate, but then again this might be the way you perceive it.

Just several notes, comming from someone who has lived in Rimal every summer, and my grandfather is one of its "founders".

"Rimal has received several awards from different international tourist organizations for the quality of service and the recreational value it offers. There are a few restaurants and cafes inside, several shops, a medical facility and a bakery all very clean and well taken care of"

Rimal has absolutely no services. The cafes (three of them) on the beach are disgustingly dirty, over priced for the quality of their service, and below mediocre. The cafe that opened(la plage) that was slightly decent was closed because of the corruption of those in charge. THere should be a variety of cafes that serves the tastes of the various segments of the RImal population, be them well off or not, and for those who care to pay for a chez longue and a pina colada, and those who are more comfortable with a cooler and a couple of beers.

2- THe "souk" is miserable. The adminstration is obviously letting it run down as it is hoping that somone of the new investors would place a bid on it. Have you seen it recently? its disgsuting, and shameful.

3- It is not entirely closed. In summer, many people pass through the gates and sometimes are uncomortable and obstruct the social aura historically affilliated with rimal (open minded) I am definately not elitst as well (as the syrian elite could still be very conservative) but provided there are beach alternatives unlike lebanon that are not private, the owners of rimal are entitled to the familiar family like feeling one has there, it gives security.

4- THe basketball court, and other sport facilities. How long as it been run down for? I cant even count. There came days when we would complain as the sprinklers kept flooding it, yet no one cares.

5- THe inflated price of Rimal Challets is ridiculous, and due not only to its "marvels" but also to money laundring. Just a side note.

PLease note that Rimal has shaped my entire childhood, and i cherish it beyond words. My grandfather's challet is a well of memories that i am always nostalgic for, to the extent that we purchased recently another chalt for our own, so my parents would see their grandchildren enjoy what we did. So , no offense to rimal, its just nice to be realistic.

Sara A

abufares said...

@Sara A

Thank you for reading this old post of mine and for taking the trouble and commenting.
I happen to agree with every word you said. Not only that but my father was also one of the founders of Rimal. We did have our own chalet which we sold some years ago without much regret.
I tried to be as objective as possible when I described Rimal. I know it means a lot to a lot of people. Frankly, to me... It doesn't mean a thing anymore. It's the antithesis of the lifestyle I want to live. That doesn't stop my children though from saying that I'm not fair to Rimal and to them and that it's their absolute favorite beach in Syria. The way I see it... we don't have a beach in Syria anymore... it's all but gone.
I don't like what Rimal has become. I don't like half of the people (if not more) who inhabit the place now either. If I had the money to buy a chalet there today, I would rather deposit it in a bank and spend it on summer vacations for the rest of my life on some real beaches as far away as possible from here.
Thank you so much Sara for dropping by and for letting me vent out what's on my mind :-)