Latakia beaches no longer for poor people
Latakia – Linda Ali
The 46-year-old Hashem visited the beach in the coastal Latakia city only once this year. It was at the beginning of the summer.
The father of five took his family to the Teachers Syndicate beach; such a sea trip cost him about 165,000 Syrian pounds (about $11). This amount is more than the salary of a government employee, despite the recent increase in public sector salaries. ($1=13,750 SYP)
Hashem, who works as a public employee in the morning and a seller of a vegetable stall in the market in the evening, said that the fare for the table was 50,000 pounds, and the fare for the taxi that took them was 50,000 pounds back and forth. The rest was the price of sunflower and watermelon seeds, which are the cheapest types available in the Syrian market.
The popular beaches, or “poor people’s” beaches, as they are called in Latakia, have become difficult for the people of the governorate to access and visit this year due to the high costs of visiting them, even though their services are limited, unclean, and relatively unsafe, while groups of people go to the unequipped beaches since there are no entry fees.
The decline in purchasing power for all Syrians and the lack of adequate income have made swimming a great luxury for the majority, while local authorities have failed to provide decent popular beaches at reasonable prices to the public.
Meals not much costly
Hashem said that his wife prepared “Zaatr and Zeit” sandwiches (a Traditional Levantine meal which is a mixture of wild thyme, sesame, and sumac, usually eaten with olive oil) with two kilograms of cucumbers and a box of yerba mate that cost him 15,000 pounds. It was impossible for Hashem to be able to buy pies (Manakeesh) as they used to before, he told Enab Baladi.
The price of a piece of pie exceeds 3,000 pounds, and a person often needs more than three pieces, and these are large costs for the family.
Hashem added that the Teachers Syndicate beach lacks many services, and everything in it is dilapidated. The tables and chairs are very old, and the bathrooms are not clean at all, and visitors often avoid entering them except for extreme needs.
Last year, each person paid 5,000 pounds as an entrance fee to the Teachers Syndicate beach and then got a table and chairs without paying for them, but this year, the reality has changed, and reserving a table with four chairs on normal days now requires paying 35,000 pounds.
On holidays, the amount rises to 50,000 pounds, whether the visitors sit for an hour or the whole day, according to what Hashem said.
He continued that those who used to visit the popular beaches in Latakia continuously every year realize how the number of visitors has decreased very significantly. In the past, reserving a table with chairs on Thursdays and Fridays was impossible due to the great crowding, and the matter changed this year with the deterioration of the living situation.
Enab Baladi monitored the conditions of the popular beaches in Latakia, where one system prevails in terms of wages.
In the Karnak beach and the Teachers Syndicate beach in Latakia, and the al-Shaqifat beach in Jableh, table fees reach 35,000 pounds on normal days and rise to 50,000 pounds on holidays.
Karnak Beach, which is located in the (al-Shatea al-Azraq) Blue Beach district, is characterized by being the most well-served compared to other beaches, but services are paid, such as a jet ski, and the fare for a quarter-hour ride is approximately 100,000 pounds, while there is a sea trip via a small boat for a fee between 5,000 SYP and 7,000 SYP per person at the Teachers Syndicate beach.
On August 11, Faten, 27, was negotiating with one of the Karnak beach workers to give her and her four friends a table at a reduced price, as they had arrived at six in the evening and would only stay for three hours, so paying 50,000 pounds was considered a large sum.
The young woman got a table for herself and her friends for 30,000 pounds. They swam and sat for a while until their clothes dried, then left the place.
Faten told Enab Baladi, “We come here twice a month, and we share the cost among us. Each of us often pays between 20,000 SYP and 25,000 SYP, divided between the table and transportation fees. If one of us wants to eat, she brings her food with her or buys from the beach restaurant.
What bothers Faten most is that it is impossible to come to this beach once without witnessing an incident where a child is lost, and the majority are busy searching for him. This is due to the lack of any safety factors. She said that supervision on the beaches of “poor people” is completely absent, and “no one cares.”
Unsafe beaches for swimming
Behind the sports city on the beach roads in Latakia, there is a small beach called al-Khader beach due to the presence of a religious shrine in it.
The beach does not have any safe swimming elements, as there is no lifeguard, and it is not overcrowded, and only a group of people come to swim there or bring their chairs and tables to sit.
Bus drivers often come to this place with their families, as it is easy for them to bring tables and chairs, and the advantage of this place is that it is completely free, meaning there are no tables to reserve and no entrance fee.
In a similar situation, there is al-Sanoubar beach, halfway between Jableh and Latakia, which is famous for being an unsafe place for swimming, and many drowning incidents have previously occurred there.
According to the people of the area, there are many whirlpools on al-Sanoubar beach, and it is not desirable to swim there, and this may be the reason behind not investing in it, as in al-Shaqifat beach, which is close to it.
In the past, the areas of Ras al-Basit and Wadi Qandil were tourist destinations for people with limited income, as the beaches were wide and swimming there was free, but today, the problem lies in the transportation fare, as Enab Baladi’s correspondent observed during her meeting with the people of the region.
Reaching these beaches is relatively impossible due to the transportation crisis, and if someone wants to take a taxi, its cost reaches 150,000 pounds for the bus and more than 400,000 pounds for the taxi, residents told Enab Baladi.
If a family wanted to spend the weekend in Ras al-Basit, they would pay about 300,000 pounds in transportation fees only if they chose the bus and 800,000 pounds if they chose a taxi, and these amounts are considered very large for the majority of Syrians today.
Resorts are not for families
While the majority of the people of Latakia are unable to visit the sea and swim in it even though it is only a few meters away from them, the resorts are filled with vacationers on the weekends despite their significantly higher costs.
In the (al-Shatea al-Azraq) Blue Beach, Le Meridien, and Rotana Apamea resorts, the entrance fee ranges from 50,000 to 75,000 pounds, without any benefits except swimming and sitting on the beach.
Along the Syrian coast, there is no safe place for free swimming. Even the open beaches owned by the Ministry of Tourism in three locations, namely the al-Shaab and La Plage swimming pools, in addition to an open beach in Wadi Qandil, are not free, and the entrance fee to them is 3,000 pounds, and table reservations range from 5,000 to 10,000 pounds.
Although Wadi Qandil beach is the best, its distance from the city is about 30 kilometers, making it unattractive in light of the stifling transportation crisis and the high prices of private cars.
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