Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate,
old baskets, pretty tote bags
local nature’s produce
from farmers’ lands
Old revived skills of yesteryears,
due to an Alice from Eddé Sands
Starting from Byblos
& snaking through mountains accross the Bekaa
lies the roman road, the Via Appia of the Middle East
Smell the aromas,
& taste the jams
Discover your roots & reconnect to your past
let your sense of discovery take you home
& learn the story of Alice & the land.
VIA APPIA BYBLOS- When It Began & the Story Behind It
The story began in 2008 when Alice Eddé and Lawyer Raphael Sfeir established the Local action group Via Appia Byblos, a nonprofit organization, aimed at supporting rural development in Byblos. Being both children of historical events, the group’s name was inspired by the Via Appia of Rome, the first and most famous of the ancient Roman roads.
Since Eddé and Sfeir knew quite well that Lebanon had a Via Appia of its own: The Via Appia of the Middle East, a roman road starting from Byblos snaking through the mountains, crossing the Bekaa and leading to Damascus, they decided to name their association after it. The purpose was to make people aware of Lebanon’s Via Appia, the Via Appia of the Middle East.
The mission was to contribute to integrated rural development in Byblos by identifying small enterprises historical sites, traditional crafts, and the geographical origin of local products on the Byblos- Héliopolis roman road. It involved improving and controlling the quality of production in line with international standards.
The Via Appia Byblos association offers local farmers and artisans a platform in the weekly market, a permanent exhibition to sell their products: fruits, vegetables, or arts and crafts. The weekly market is held from 4 PM till 10 PM, every Saturday from March till December, in the UNESCO square, opposite the Wax Museam.
It focuses mostly on local natural organic products: organic apples, aromatic herbs, spices, and essential oils, bread, galettes and pastry, wine, arak, fruit and vegetable-derived products, pickles, jams, honey, molasses, and dairy products, as well as hand-made crafts like baskets, and pottery.
The Via Appia Byblos association provides participants with all that is required for exhibiting. This includes tents, exhibition stands, and tables. To have an exhibit there, the farmers or artisans are required to pay $100. Some are not even paying the total amount. Via Appia Byblos is accepting them as long as their products are natural, organic and authentic.
How Selection is Made
Selection is made based on the quality of the produce. For that, Alice Eddé and her assistant Rola Abou Jaoude have visited a lot of young farmers’ lands to see how the produce is developed and to test whether it’s organic or not.
“You’ll be surprised that our farmers are young; we have Anthony who plants garlic; he’s a young engineer who lives here and helps his old father; his father knows the old way of how to breed garlic. We have Youssef Fahd, and Charbel Fakhr. We’re also friends with L’uniVert de Lea, a small company specialized in growing new products mainly asparagus, & raspberry, including natural agricultural products. Some of our organic apples come from Lehfed since we’ve visited farmers there. We’ve also had local produce from Akkar, and other regions. As for the handmade crafts, we have cotton bags from Coreen, as well as palm made baskets, handbags, and hats from Rabab Sleiman,” stated Alice Eddé
How Alice & Via Appia Contribute to the Revival of Old Rural Skills
Alice Eddé was always interested in reviving old rural skills and traditions. That’s why Via Appia Byblos not only concerns itself with offering a market place for farmers and local artisans, but also concerns itself with reviving long old forgotten skills.
Through Eddé ’s efforts, reviving an old tradition of weaving baskets out of palm leaves has become possible.
Back in 2017, Eddé ‘s efforts, along with the efforts of Najwa Bassil, and Mona Yazbeck helped revive this old skill. The three partnered with Safadi foundation, UN Women, and the Japanese embassy to revive this long lost skill. The funds from Safadi foundation greatly helped this project work.
Due to these funds, Rabab Sleiman, the veteran and expert in palm weaving was able to conduct workshops for 60 women in the region. The project was a success, and enabled women to develop new skills and competencies for the job market.
The Continual Struggles Via Appia Byblos Faces
Despite the achievements and personal effort Eddé and Sfeir put in, like any nonprofit, the Via Appia association still struggles with securing funds.
“Back in 2008 and 2009, we received funds from Euromed, and the Italians. With these funds we created the office and the initial road. Via Appia Byblos also has a display room, and a sales girl, but since we have no funds, we are relying on our own fundraising efforts.” Alice Edde
For instance, On October 3, 2018, Via Appia Byblos organized an outing for 30 people to visit the houses in the area. The visit ended with a lunch on the market place. The cost of this trip was $120 per person.
Via Appia Byblos has also held other events in the past. Naming a few are the:
- Honey Bee Day
- Christmas Market Launch
- Bookyard at Via Appia Byblos
- Discovery trip of the Roman Road
- Soap making workshops
Sometimes they brought in musicians to the market, to attract more people; however, it was Alice Eddé who paid for them, and not the funds.
Furthermore, despite having revived the palm basket weaving tradition, the women who attended the course are not as motivated to work.
Hence there is a need for more funds, more awareness and more support.
Care to support Via Appia Byblos, feel free to like their Facebook Page, or share this post with your friends and family. Last but not least, don’t forget to attend the Saturday market between 4 PM and 10 PM.
Also published on Medium.