A tree grows in Lebanon

Flying in the face of the global economic downturn is developer Noor International Holding , which is planning the construction of a huge artificial island shaped like a cedar tree off the coast of Lebanon, which is already being likened to projects in Dubai…

Lebanon, a tiny country more known for war than tourism, looks set to follow in the footsteps of Arab boomtown Dubai with the planned ‘Cedar Island' mega project.

The cedar-tree shaped offshore development will be the biggest Lebanon has ever seen – spanning more than 7.5 square kilometres and boasting luxury villas, apartments, boutique shops, restaurants, schools, hospitals, parks and beaches.

Despite Mr Saleh, Chairman of Noor International Holding, arguing that the project will ‘nurture national pride,' many industry experts see Cedar Island as an ill-thought out error of judgment totally at odds with the current economic climate.

To back up their point, they are comparing Cedar Island to similar mega developments in Dubai – the glitzy emirate which was once the poster child of property booms and is now suffering in the downturn.

Aside from the criticism surrounding the sheer scale and cost of the project; its planned location – in the coastal Damour area of Lebanon – has also met with fierce opposition. Environmentalists have highlighted the negative impact dredging will have on marine life in the project's construction site.

Cedar Island is slated to take four years to construct and will house over 40,000 residents. Construction will cost a whopping £5.4 billion, but the Beirut-based Noor International Holding is certain that the project will attract funding in spite of the global downturn.

"I am not worried about the global crisis, because my main target is Lebanese expatriates who have nostalgia for their country and would like to invest in it," said Mohammad Saleh, Chairman of the board of directors at Noor International Holding.

"Unlike foreign investors, these people are used to Lebanon's system and its ups and downs.

"It is the kind of self-financed gamble that the nation needs to lure back wealthy Lebanese who moved abroad as they grew weary of the ongoing conflict of recent years," added Mr Saleh.

The developer also said that its coastal location and proximity to Hariri International Airport will also play a vital role in attracting tourists looking for an exotic lifestyle.