• Keywords: Lebanon, Cultural Landscape, Palm Island, Sanani, Ramkine, Loggerhead Turtle, Crussaders, ancient remains.

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

Palm Islands Cultural Landscape (named “Parc naturel de l’Ile des Palmiers”) was proposed in the Tentative List of UNESCO with date of submission: 01/07/1996, category: natural, and ref.: 407 Palm Islands have been designated as a Natural Reserve (Palm Islands Nature Reserve ) and a Marine Reserve on 9 March 1992, also a Mediterranean Specially Protected Area under the 1995 Barcelona Convention. The islands were also identified as a RAMSAR Wetland of Special International Importance in 1980 (site no.1079), and have been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International. They are recorded in the “Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East” (IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR, 1994) with the name “The Wetlands of Lower Mesopotamia”.

  • Tentative List of UNESCO
  • Protection Figures
  • IUCN
  • Others

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape
1

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

The Palm Islands Nature Reserve comprises three uninhabited Mediterranean islands and 500m of surrounding sea: Sanani, Ramkine and Palm Island, located approximately 5.5km northwest of Tripoli. This marine ecosystem is of global significance, because it is one of the few remaining breeding grounds for the endangered Loggerhead Turtle. The islands have also a great interest because of the ancient remains that are scattered around the terrritory, composing a associative cultural landscape that Med-O-Med, according to the UNESCO criteria (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008), has decided to include in this inventory: -Its Environmental Heritage Components: Palm Islands Nature Reserve Consist of three islands: Nakheel (Palm), or Araneb (Rabbits) is the largest island, it has an area of 20 hectares. The name ‘Araneb’ (rabbits) comes from the great numbers of rabbits that were grown on the island during the time of the French mandate early in the 20th century. It is now a national nature reserve for green turtles, rare birds and rabbits. This marine ecosystem is one of the few remaining breeding grounds for the endangered Loggerhead Turtle. The islands are also a resting place for 156 species of migratory birds. They are distinguished by being the only place in Lebanon that has nesting sea birds. They are rich in beach flora and medicinal plants, and their coastal waters have an abundance of fish, sea sponges and other sea life. -Its Cultural Heritage Components: The islands hosted an important settlement as attested by the presence of numerous ostraca dating to the late Roman and medieval periods as well as several rock-cut cisterns. On Palm Islands, fragments of pottery, fresh water well , old Salinas and Church ruins, probably returning to Crusaders period, are evidences of past periods of human occupation.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Sanani, Ramkine and Palm Island.
  • Current denomination Sanani, Ramkine and Palm Island.
  • Original denomination Sanani, Ramkine and Palm Island (Nakheel or Araneb -Rabbits-).
  • Popular denomination Sanani, Ramkine and Palm Island (Nakheel or Araneb -Rabbits-).
  • Address: Sanani, Ramkine and Palm Island, located approximately 5.5km northwest of Tripoli, Lebanon.
  • Geographical coordinates: 34°30’N 035°46’E
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: Palm Islands Nature Reserve Consist of three islands: Sanani, Ramkine and Palm Island, located approximately 5.5 km northwest of Tripoli. Nakheel (Palm), or Araneb (Rabbits) is the largest island, it has an area of 20 hectares. Palm Islands Nature Reserve: 500 ha. Palm Islands Nature Reserve Wetlands of International Importance: 415 ha. Barcelona Convention: 500 ha.
  • Access and transport facilities: By boat trip from the harbor of El Mina, Tripoli. Local fisherman operated ferries assure the transport of visitors from the Tripoli port to the Islands.
  • Visits / Schedules / Entrance fees / Groups / guided tours: The islands are only open to the public between July and September.
Get directionsExport as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen mode
PALM ISLANDS CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (LEBANON)

loading map - please wait...

PALM ISLANDS CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (LEBANON) 34.500000, 35.766667 PALM ISLANDS CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (LEBANON) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Lebanon's Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Lebanon's Government.
  • Legal protection: The islands are public property, they were declared protected area by law on March 9, 1992.
  • Public or private organizations working in the site: Recently, IUCN, in collaboration with the American University in Beirut and the Ministry for Environment of Lebanon, launched a study to assess the effects of the oil spill on the marine biodiversity of the Palm Islands Nature Reserve, and develop a monitoring programme of the different marine habitats and species along the coast of Lebanon. The project is financed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation. Also, the Ministry of Environment in cooperation with local municipalities and environmental NGOs are working in some researchs and projects. Palm island underwent rehabilitation works which included restoration of the well, its water is used to irrigate the island's 570 palm trees. The authorities also constructed a boat dock and walking trails and demarcated the island's areas of recreation and research.

4. HISTORY

The presence of numerous potsherds dating to the late Roman and medieval periods as well as several rock-cut cisterns suggested the presence of an important settlement there. The first excavation of “Rabbits’ Island” was undertaken in October 1973 and revealed foundations of several buildings dating to the Crusades in which earlier architectural elements, such as column drums and fragments of capitals had been re-used.” Several medieval sources mention the offshore isles of Tripoli. The Arab geographer Idrisi who visited Tripoli during the twelfth century at the time the city was ruled by Raymond III of Toulouse writes: “Opposite the city of Tripoli are four islands in a row. The first of them, and nearest to the land, is the Narcissus Isle (an -Narjis) , it is very small and is unoccupied. Then comes the Isle of the Column (al-tantid), then Monk’s Isle (ArRdhib), and then the Isle of Ardhdkun (or Udhákun). The Crusaders built a church upon the largest island. It was there that the widow of Hugh I of Cyprus, Alix de Champagne, came in 1224 to marry Bohemund, son of the Prince of Antioch, and the royal wedding took place within the church. Years later the island became the scene of a bloody massacre. When the Mamluks entered Tripoli in 1289, the panic-stricken inhabitants fled to the port and crossed over to the island. Many took refuge in the church which we are told by Arab chroniclers was dedicated to Santomas (Saint Thomas). There they were put to death when the Mamluks caught up with them.’ The island then was abandoned for many years and the church with time and neglect fell into ruins.

  • Oldest initial date /building and inauguration date: The islands were first open to the public in 1999.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Archaeological
  • Geography: Coastal area
  • Site topography: Natural
  • Geological and Geographical characteristics: There are two theories regarding the geological origins of the islands bedrock, the rocky basement of the islands is mainly horizontally bedded marine limestone, it was interpreted as Miocene deposits. However since no tectonic features are visible in the limestone to distinguish it from the Miocene limestone of the Lebanese mainland, with the lack of fossil evidence, and with its regular sedimentation, this limestone could be interpreted to be more likely from the Plio-Quaternary age. Geomorphologically, marine and emerged aerial erosion give the limestone its typical karstic features. Open gutters can be seen, wide and open in the case of marine erosion, narrower in higher places due to aerial and marine erosion. All around the islands there are bare rocky exposures as a result of marine erosion in the form of dissolution and physical action of the waves. During the winter diaclases and pools within the dunes fill with fresh water which remains available even in the summer. The sandy shore and dunes of two of the islands are of a biological origin. It is mostly constituted by the skeletons of marine foraminifera, resulting in very light sand mixed with fragments of gastropod shells and parts of skeletons and spines of echinoderms. Sand dunes form the higher parts of Palm Island and are the location of evidence of human occupation. Orthent, is found on the rocky parts of the islands, this exceedingly shallow soil hosts ephemeral flora that grows during the wet seasons and when fresh water accumulate in the rocky crevasses. Soils with more horizon development are found in the western parts of Palm Island, it is mainly formed by aeolian and beach deposited calcareous sand.
There is a freshwater well on Palm Island.
Vegetation:

There is some very stunted maquis-type vegetation in clefts in the limestone but the islands are otherwise relatively bare, except in spring when carpeted in wildflowers. On Palm Island there are also some small ponds, boggy areas and stands of reed Phragmites. Several threatened species are found in the Palm Islands Nature Reserve and may be susceptible to the oil. The plant species Euphorbia pithyusa and Cressa cretica are nationally endangered.

Fauna:

In the 1890s, the Palm Islands supported large breeding colonies of Common Tern Sterna hirundo and Little Tern S. albifrons, and smaller numbers of Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii (15 pairs), Yellow-legged Gull L. cachinnans and Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis (at least two pairs). However, by 1956, the terns and L. audouinii had disappeared, almost certainly because of the high levels of human disturbance and persecution by hunters and egg-collectors, and only 80-90 pairs of L. cachinnans were still breeding on the islands. By 1975, the population of L. cachinnans had declined to about 15 pairs, and in April 1993, no birds were present. The globally threatened L. audouinii was occasionally seen around the islands until at least the early 1970s (e.g. 18 adults present in April 1973), but there have been no records since then. Because of their location, the islands attract a wide variety of birds during the migration seasons, although mostly in small numbers, over 300 species of migrants had been recorded on the islands by 1974. The globally threatened Monk Seal Monachus monachus is known to have occurred in the area in the past, and perhaps as recently as the 1960s. There are old records of Green Turtles Chelonia mydas and Loggerheads Caretta caretta nesting on the sandy beaches. Benthos fauna includes two nationally threatened gastropod species: Vermetus triquetrus and Dendropoma petraeum. There are two globally endangered fish species, namely Epinephelus marginatus and Mycteroperca rubra. The Reserve Area Management Team confirmed that marine turtles (Chelonia mydas and Caretta caretta) have often been observed in the sea, and that loggerhead nesting has occurred.

Land uses and economical activities:
The islands are commonly visited by picnicers, tourists, hunters, school parties and fishermen.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

The largest of the three islands is Palm Island. It is characterized by its flat terrain and has no obvious reliefs, and covers an area of 180,796 square metres. The island’s highest point is at 6 metres (20 ft) above sea level. It’s rocky shoreline extends from the northwest to south while its sandy beaches lay at the northern and eastern faces. Sanani Island covers an area of 45,503 square metres south east of Palm Island. It is mainly rocky with a partially sandy shore. Ramkine Island is the smallest of the islands with an area of 34.903 square metres, it is located north west of Palm Island. Ramkine island is mostly rocky and rises to about 12 meters above sea level. The three islands have an ecological and aesthetical value. They are also interesting the ancient remains that have been found in Ramkine and Palm Island.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

The Islands are uninhabited.

Art pieces, artesany, furniture and other elements:

On Palm Islands, fragments of pottery have been found.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    The islands (Palm and Ramkine Islands) hosted an important settlement as attested by the presence of numerous ostraca dating to the late Roman and medieval periods as well as several rock-cut cisterns. -Palm Island: The middle of the island is earthen, it contains evidence of past periods of human occupation such as a fresh water well, an old Salt evaporation pond and the remains of a Crusader church. The first excavation of Palm Island was undertaken in October 1973 and revealed the foundations of several buildings dating to the Crusades in which earlier architectural elements, such as column drums and fragments of capitals had been re-used. -Ramkine Island: Ramkine island is mostly rocky and rises to about 12 meters above sea level. The island contains the remains of a lighthouse in addition to cannon emplacements and underground galleries that were built in the early 20th century. A solar powered navigation light has now been installed in the tower of the old lighthouse.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Some ancient remains.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: Nowadays the islands are uninhabited.

5.3. Quality

Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:
Although declared a Marine Reserve on 9 March 1992 (Law 121), the law is not enforced. The reserve was recently also designated as a Mediterranean Specially Protected Area. Critical problems presently are extreme disturbance of birds by all visitors, the large numbers of illegal hunters, deliberate persecution of birds, and over-collection of eggs and young of nesting seabirds in the past. Dynamite fishing has been frequent offshore in the last decade, and oil and garbage pollution from Tripoli are problems. Introduction of non-indigenous fauna/flora has occurred. Some half-built buildings occur on Palm Island. The 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah during which there was a large oil spill caused by the Israeli bombing of the Lebanese Jiyyeh power plant disturbed the fragile ecosystem of the reserve. Oil coated the islands shores killing microorganism and algae which are crucial food source for marine life and sea turtles. Oil also spread across the surface of the water, presenting a danger to both turtles and migrating birds. Large quantities of oil, sunk down to the sea bed endangering aquatic life. A clean-up and monitoring program undertaken by the World Conservation Union mission to Lebanon aimed to minimize the damage to the Palm islands. Uncontrolled outdoor recreation on and around the islands has seriously compromised the nature conservation values of the site. Any future developments would have to be undertaken with strict regard for the requirements of the native fauna and flora, especially the breeding seabirds, if the islands are to be restored to anything like their former state.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:
Silence, peacefulness and a sky free of light pollution give the possibility to observe the stars.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

The three islands and the ancient remains mentioned in this file.

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Archaeological
  • Ecological
The main tangible values of The Palm Islands Cultural Landscape are: -Aesthetic: These islands have a great aesthetic value: the sand dunes, the blue colour of the sea, etc., compose a singular landscape unique in the world. -Archaeological: The islands hosted an important settlement as attested by the presence of numerous ostraca dating to the late Roman and medieval periods as well as several rock-cut cisterns. -Ecological/Botanical/Zoological: This marine ecosystem is of global significance, because it is one of the few remaining breeding grounds for the endangered Loggerhead Turtle. The Islands are a resting place for 156 species of migratory bird. The Islands are rich in beach flora and medicinal plants and their costal waters have an abundance of fish, sea sponges and other sea life.There are a lot of endangered species in the islands. Several threatened species are found in the Palm Islands Nature Reserve and may be susceptible to the oil. The critically endangered seal Monachus monachus are still present in the site. The plant species Euphorbia pithyusa and Cressa cretica are nationally endangered. The ancient remains found in the area show a way of living of people from other periods of the history.
Universality:
Med-O-Med describes the Universality of The Palm Islands Cultural Landscape taking into account the reasons for inclusion that have been already reported in the "Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East" (IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR, 1994): 1a, formerly 2a, 2b and possibly 3c. It is one of the few groups of small offshore islands near the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, formerly important for breeding seabirds, notably Larus audouinii and Sterna bengalensis. These islands play a vital role in the maintenance of biodiversity in the Middle East, because they are the home of endangered species of turtles, birds, mammals and fishes. It is also a special site because of the archaeological remains found there.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
The archaeological remains found in the area are related to the Islamic culture.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

*** “The Palm Islands Cultural Landscape ” is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Lebanon which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/407/ http://www.iucn.org/about/union/secretariat/offices/iucnmed/iucn_med_programme/marine_programme/marine_protected_areas/site_based_work/lebanon___palm_island/ http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/t407.html http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sitefactsheet.php?id=8211 http://www.birdlife.org on 16/05/2013 http://tripoli-city.org/palm.html http://www.tripoli-lebanon.com/island.html http://www.lebanonclean.org/directory-of-environmental-groups.html http://www.moe.gov.lb http://93.185.92.38/MOEAPP/ProtectedAreas/palmislands.htm http://www.wildlebanon.org/en/pages/sit/palmislands.html http://www.lebanonatlas.com/PalmIslands.htm http://www.parks.it/world/LB/Eindex.html -Baccar, H. (1977). A Survey of Existing and Potential Marine Parks and Reserves in the Mediterranean Region. Unpublished report prepared for the Expert Consultation on Mediterranean Marine Parks and Wetlands, Tunis, January 1977. UNEP. -BirdLife International. (2013). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Palm Islands Nature Reserve. -Carp, E. (1980). A Directory of Western Palearctic Wetlands. UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya and IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. 506 pp. -Evans, M.I. (ed.). (1994). Important Bird Areas in the Middle East. BirdLife Conservation Series No.2. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K. 410 pp. -Haber, R., Semaan-Haber, M. & Reckitt, R. (undated). Palm Islands Park. Committee for Environmental Protection, Tripoli, Lebanon. -IKAMA. (2010). Palm islands. Ikamalebanon. -IUCN (1992). Protected Areas of the World: A review of national systems. Volume 2: Palaearctic. Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland & Cambridge, U.K. -Kumerloeve, H. (1962). Notes on the Birds of the Lebanese -RAMSAR. (2013). The List of Wetlands of International Importance. -Scott, D. A. (1994). Directory of Wetlands in the Middle East. ISBN: 2831702704. IUCN, WWF, IWRB, BirdLife International and RAMSAR. -Tohme, G. et al. (2004-08). Biodiversity assessment and monitoring in protected areas / Lebanon / Leb/95/G31: Palms islands nature reserve. Beirut: Lebanese Ministry of the Environment.

Practical Information:
Ministry of Environment, Republic of Lebanon Lazarieh Center, 7th & 8th Floor, Block A-4 New, A4-Old, and A5 P.O.Box: 11/2727, Beirut-Lebanon Tel: +961 1 976555 http://www.moe.gov.lb Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation. Corniche du Fleuve, 1st floor. Beirut, Lebanon Tel: +961 1 569101 http://www.edl.gov.lb Nature Reserve Office Tel/Fax: 961 6 615938 P.O.Box: 341 Tripoli - Mina r-jaradi@cyberia.net.lb

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.