Murad, first elected mayor in 1998, ran uncontested in the municipal elections in May. He explained that everything the municipality had worked on during his tenure aimed to improve the lives of its residents, but conceded that these initiatives could take time to bear fruit.
“The municipal work is continuous. If I was the mayor for the first six years, and another person became mayor for the next six years, there would be a connection between these periods. Municipal work is a continuation of what was before,” he said in an interview with The Daily Star at his office.
“We have been working on projects that are almost ready [now] and some that are still being prepared, but many big projects are ready and we will see [them] in Aley. … But these have taken eight years of work to make it here.”
One of the vital projects still in the works is the “circular road of Aley” which will allow cars and trucks to bypass the city center, part of an attempt to alleviate traffic congestion. Work kicked off around six months ago and is expected to take around two and half years.
“This circular road is one of the important projects for Aley in 50-60 years,” Murad said.
Another project underway aims to address the chaos in Aley’s souk. The municipality is working to make the main street in the souk a one-way road for cars, opening another road parallel to it for traffic heading in the opposite direction.
With these plans, the municipality’s focus seems to be on projects that would improve the daily lives of Aley’s residents and citizens. This is further reflected in a plan to construct three major parking lots that would cover the main souk and will be free for the public.
The first will be located near the main entrance of Aley.
The municipality has already begun work on the lot, which will eventually allow employees and visitors to park their cars there, easing traffic at the city’s entrance.
“We also bought a second parking lot near the Piscine Aley stairs,” Murad said, adding that until it is ready, the first parking lot will be used. The third will be at the end of Aley’s souk.
The parking lots will help facilitate Murad’s vision for the city.
The mayor hopes that within two years, the souk’s exterior will be refurbished and the area will be designated car-free during specific times, giving restaurant owners a chance to move their tables out into the street.
“To do this idea, you need to provide a place for cars to park. In the past, we couldn’t do that,” he said.
Parking meters will be installed in the souk within a few weeks, although Murad recognized that this may be contentious at first.
“People like to be as close as possible to the place they are heading to, but we have to get used to another way. We have to get used to [the idea] that shop owners should park in the parking lot and walk to their shops,” he said.
“Each one of them wants to park near their shops, and then they say that customers aren’t being able to reach [the shops].”
Another reason the municipality was prompted to install parking meters is that citizens from outside Aley park their cars in the city and head to Beirut on the bus, leaving them there all day.
“Parking meters are very important and necessary,” Murad said, adding that the city would also encourage people to carpool when they want to go to the souk. He said the project has taken many factors into consideration.
Residents and citizens of Aley will also have new opportunities to enjoy the city’s fresh mountain air, as the municipality has been working on several public gardens.
Murad explained that none of these projects were easy to conduct, and each required the good governance and administration of the municipal council.
Aley is rich in history, and combines the development of a city and the picturesque authenticity of a mountain town.
In the early 2000s, Aley witnessed a major development push amid an economic boost, turning it into a major tourist destination. The city attracted many tourists from Gulf countries, and they were an important asset to its economy.
But this year, visitors from the Gulf may be discouraged from coming to Aley due to diplomatic row between Lebanon and some Gulf states.
“Always in Lebanon, the absence of Gulf tourists means that more than half of the summer season is absent, because the presence of Gulf tourists completes Lebanon’s summer,” Murad explained.
He said that Aley’s winter season has been good, and the summer season is usually good because Lebanese expats come to visit their parents.
“It’s not going to be a summer like the old days, but it’s going to be good, the security here is good.”
The mayor of the Mount Le banon city of Aley, Wa jdi Mu rad, vowed to com plete
more de vel op ment projects dur ing his fourth term, as he ex pressed his re lief that sum mer had fi nally arrived
in one of Le banon’s most im por tant tourist hubs.