Alice, The Appian Way & the Road to Rural Revival

Yara Abboud
Oct 7, 2018 · 5 min read

Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate, Old baskets, pretty tote & palm bags local nature’s produce from farmer’s 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 of them were 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 group in reference to it. The purpose was to make people aware of Lebanon’s Via Appia, the Via Appia of the Middle East.

The VIa Appia of the Middle East
The VIa Appia of the Middle East
The VIa Appia of the Middle East

The Mission

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 to facilitate the marketing of local products bearing the Mediterranean quality label and the development of production.

The Offering

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 every Saturday from March till December on the UNESCO place in a small square in the vicinity of the Crusader castle in Byblos in front of the Wax Museam. It opens from 4 PM to 10 PM.

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 are required to pay $100; some even are not paying the total amount; VIA APPIA is accepting them as long as their products are natural, organic and authentic.

How Selection is Made

Selection is made based on quality of 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

Alice Eddé's Stand
Alice Eddé's Stand
Alice Eddé’s Stand: Besides our own organic fruit and vegetables, we sell the apples for a producer in Lehfed, the garlic from a producer in Eddé-Batroun, zaatar by The Good Thymes, and Mushrooms by the producer Gourmet Mushroom in Jbeil, strawberries by a lady in Ajaltoun, noted Alice Eddé’

How Alice & Via Appia Contribute to Revival of Old Rural Skills

Alice Eddé’ was always interested in reviving old rural skills and traditions. That’s why Via Appia 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 trees has become possible.

Back in 2017, Edde’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 600 women in the region. The project was a success, and enabled women to develop new skills and competencies for the job market.

Continual Struggles Via Appia Faces

Despite the achievements and personal effort Eddé and Sfeir put in, like any not-for- profit, 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 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 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.

Visit to Beautiful Houses in Byblos
Visit to Beautiful Houses in Byblos
Visit to Beautiful Houses in Byblos

They’ve also held other events in the past. Naming a few are the:

Sometimes they brought musicians to the Via Appia market to attract more people, but in the end it was Alice Edde who paid for them, and not the funds.

Futhermore, 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, feel free to like their Facebook Page, or share this post with your friends and family. Don’t forget to show up at the Saturday market between 4 and 7 PM.

Originally published at .

Yara Abboud

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Freelance Writer/ @yarawriting/ Email me: