10 Questions for the Lebanon
Water Festival
August 19, 2013

Yasmina Hatem

Water sports on the Lebanese shores.
NOW: What is the Lebanon Water Festival?

Annette Khoury: Our mission is to position Lebanon as a water sports destination internationally all while supporting and nurturing Lebanese Sport Federations and providing them with a platform that will grow support, awareness, and participation. At the core of the Lebanon Water Festival (LWF) is an environmental issue and the will to raise awareness about the need to de-pollute the Lebanese shore – from north to south – and to provide a communication platform for NGO's. The LWF is an exceptional opportunity for Lebanon to portray the richness of our country, our coastal line and people, and to bring unity among our own regions. The LWF is an annual event that will spread from north to south, glorifying the treasures of each region.

NOW: Who is behind it?

Khoury: My father (Simon Khoury) and I, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Sport. Simon was the World Water Ski Champion under the Lebanese flag, and he is registered in the Hall of Fame for his work for youth and sport in water skiing. He has also worked all his life to nurture all water sports and bring it closer to youth. As for me: I was General Manager of Eurosport and worked with federations and Olympic committees. I created the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), a worldwide event, and I also worked with the European Union and the United Nations to develop programs that provides access to underprivileged children to Olympic summer sports.

NOW: Why/How did this idea come up?

Khoury: A will to bring back water sport activities for Lebanese people and to develop sport tourism in Lebanon. But also, a will to give back to Lebanon what both Simon and I have acquired in terms of experience over the years.

NOW: What was the feedback like last year after the festival?

Khoury: High enthusiasm by everyone! The audience asked for an encore in Tyre last year after the water ski show. And whenever we would go down there, people would stop us in the street to thank us. Also, on our Facebook page, we keep receiving requests about where to do such or such a sport, or where one can learn how to swim, etc... It feels as if we are responding to a need that people had which was not being expressed. There is an eager and positive feedback from all because the events are bringing back enthusiasm among the youth to turn back to water sports. Another great consequence is that the water ski shows of last year gave the momentum to Tarek & Nino Fenianos to open a ski school, and a group of young skiers have been identified and will start practicing on Monday the 19th for water ski show pyramids and ballets. This team of Lebanese water ski show athletes will participate in shows this year in Tyre and Dbayeh.

NOW: What activities will be featured?

Khoury: Underwater photography diving on Phoenician ruins in Tyre, surfing in Jiyeh, stand-up paddle in Jiyeh, water ski shows in Tyre and Dbayeh (including a night show), sailing in the Automobile and Touring Club of Lebanon (ATCL) in Kaslik, kite boarding in Batroun, apnea-free immersion diving in Anfeh… Also, since August, clinics and lessons for water skiing, surfing, stand up paddle, and kite boarding are also available.

NOW: Who can participate?

Khoury: Pretty much everybody! For diving (underwater or apnea-free immersion), anyone with a license. For surfing, stand-up paddle, and kite-boarding, anyone who has passed the beginners class (and lessons are taking place as we speak!).

NOW: Can anyone come and watch? How does it work?

Khoury: All events are open to the public for viewing, free of charge, and all sites have been posted with maps on our websitewww.lebanonwaterfestival.com.

NOW: Is it a competition? Are there judges? Will anyone win anything?

Khoury: All events, apart from the water ski shows, are competitions with judges and prizes identified for various categories.

NOW: Does it ever get discouraging?

Khoury: Discouraging, no I really can't say that, because the response from the people is so positive. And either way, we are also here to put smiles on people's faces, so the last thing we want to do is overwhelm them with the situation. Of course, we have to remain flexible and some things change and are difficult to commit to... but that is the name of the game here in everything we do. Maybe some of the foreign participants will pull out at the last minute, and they keep asking questions about the situation in Lebanon, and some may decide not to come, and that is understandable. But the success is in doing it with our Lebanese talents. Also, municipalities have been incredibly receptive and very supportive, even bringing their own valuable input about their individual regions and people! Flexibility and creativity is the essence of our strength in this country: We adapt to new situations. The human element is a richness we find in no other place in the world, and having worked with many many different cultures, I cannot talk about "discouraging factors," but rather very encouraging factors!

So I must really admit that if anything, it is a great pleasure discovering and working with Lebanese people from all over, who in their own right have so much to bring to the party. We have been travelling north to south, meeting great individuals every day in each region and they have become friends!

NOW: What's the dream for Lebanon's waters?

Khoury: The dream for LWF is already unraveling! Gradually, this event is growing into the hands of people who have either participated or organized with us last year, and as they learn and grow with the event, they are making this event their own... Other dreams include having international tourism return to Lebanon, filling our beaches with their families to experience our culture and our nature, so that the understanding of water protection becomes part of all Lebanese mindsets and laws are implemented to protect our waterfront.

It all starts with the individual!

*The Lebanon Water Festival schedule for September is displayed below.





Surfing on the Lebanese shores (Image courtesy of the Lebanon Water Festival).
Simon was the World Water Ski Champion under the Lebanese flag, and he is registered in the Hall of Fame for his work for youth and sport in water skiing.
  • Mary2013

    I agree with Hanibaal-Atheos, the purpose seems cool, but only for elites, while the work class and the poors just watch and dream!!!

    August 24, 2013

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Why is Lebanon one of the few countries in the world where the ocean front is owned by private resorts that disfigure the seacoast, exclude the working class and the poor, and make a mockery of the fact that our beaches are public property. Shows like the one Ms. Khoury is promoting are never accessible to ordinary people and are the exclusive purview of superficial and corrupt elites who create an image of Lebanon without any substance to it. I dream of the day when I can drive with my family to anywhere along the coast, park my car, and just walk down to a clean beach unhindred by gates, guards, fees, garbage, concrete and the mercantile consumerism of today. This is how it is in civilized countries around the world. Not in Lebanon, and maybe never.

    August 20, 2013

  • One Islam

    what happend to sport fishing?!!

    August 19, 2013