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30 May 2015 11:00
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Summer is here at The Garden show & Spring festival!

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Summer is here, and with the longer, warmer days comes the desire to spend time outside, out of the city, surrounded by green. Looking to inspire in that direction is the 12th edition of The Garden Show and Spring Festival, launched Tuesday at the Beirut Hippodrome. Nestled under the shade of rare Beiruti trees, just a short walk through bright copper mud is a little oasis of calm in the city, where this year’s 220 exhibitors have set up shop. From landscapers who have created sample gardens, to a Tripoli basket weaver, this year’s show is full of local handicrafts, designers and more.

The theme this year – happy summer days at the mountain house – has inspired exhibitors to display everything you could possible need to transform your outdoor space into a summer getaway; from the landscaped gardens with experts on hand to advise, to garden furniture, terrace designs, slightly odd vegetable sculptures, gnomes, BBQs and, of course, plants of all shapes and sizes.

“There is an expression in Lebanon, this Arabic expression [that summer is here again]. ... We have been running The Garden Show for 12 years now and every time we ask, ‘what is The Garden Show for you?’ [People say] it is about planning their summers,” co-organizer of the event Joumana Dammous Salame says.

Organizers are expecting around 25,000 visitors over the course of the five-day event. Tuesday’s launch, which saw guests such as Beirut governor Ziad Chebib and Miss Lebanon in attendance, gathered an initial crowd of close to 4,000.

“[The exhibitors are] gathered under one roof with one objective, which is to help us plan our summer ... to celebrate this Lebanese way of living outside on our balconies. We open our houses, our summer houses, we travel all around ... when we say summer is back in Lebanon this is what we mean.”

The show is also hosting 60 exhibitors under the banner “Travel Lebanon,” geared at offering visitors a chance to discover those parts of Lebanon, awash with culture and heritage, but off the well-beaten track.

“This is the second year we are doing Travel Lebanon, with the aim of gathering all stakeholders from all rural areas, helping them promote their destinations, and guiding the Lebanese who like to discover their country to plan their summer, their weekends and even their daily excursions all over Lebanon,” Dammous Salame says.

One of the exhibitors in “Travel Lebanon,” Daniela Doumet of the Association for the Protection of Jabal Moussa, begins her explanation of the group with an unusual pitch. “Have you heard of the myth of Astarte?” she asks.

The story goes that there was a king who committed incest with his daughter and the daughter became with child. “The gods became very angry with the daughter and she was turned into a tree, so basically Adonis was born from a tree, the Myrrh tree. [Astarte then] fell in love with Adonis, but he died in the river (Nahr Ibrahim) because he was killed by a boar, and every year the river turns red.”

This is not, she assures, because of the blood of Adonis flowing through it – though the myth did make the valley famous – but rather because of minerals in the water and the red anemones found on the river.

Doumet weaves her tale of the myths that connect Jabal Moussa – which is located 50 km outside of Beirut and bordered on one side by Nahr Ibrahim – back to the Phoenician times, as a way to attract visitors to the heritage and culture of the site.

The Jabal Moussa stand, as well containing information leaflets and our mythic storyteller, is also selling some of the food and crafts made by the women of the valley, including its famous honey.

“We absolutely love [The Garden Show],” Doumet says, explaining this is the third year the association has taken part.

“I think it’s growing more and more ... not a lot of people have [heard of] different places in Lebanon – even the Lebanese don’t know that much about Lebanon – so it’s a great way to get the word out, to have people come and see what they are missing, see what is beautiful about Lebanon.”

As well exploring the opportunities to travel around Lebanon, and to taste local foods, visitors to The Garden Show can also participate in garden and cooking workshops throughout the course of the five days.

The Garden Show will be running through May 30, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Beirut Hippodrome. 
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