Owner of event management company Ciel et Vent and a passionate kite flyer, Sami Sayegh is committed to keeping the ancient tradition alive and flying
There’s certainly something liberating about the pastime of kite flying – as flashes of color dive back and forth high above the dust of the city. It’s not a surprise then that kite flying peaked in popularity in the seventies in Lebanon. During the darker days of the civil war when people were stranded in their villages, kite making was a welcome distraction while people were house bound, avoiding relentless fighting. It was a simple way to pass the hours. On calmer days people ventured out of their homes to fly their kites, almost the perfect expression of a craving for freedom.
After the gunfire ceased the tradition continued, as kite flyers flocked to Beirut’s sandy stretch of beach, Ramlet el Baida, and forgot their political differences, even if momentarily. Every September, kite enthusiasts still gather together on the same day to fly kites. “The day [has] developed into a kite festival,” says Sami Sayegh.
Where most countries organize large annual international kite festivals, in Lebanon it’s more a case of just showing up and flying your kite, says Sayegh. But what makes kite-flying appeal to so many? “It’s the feeling of the wind, the nature,” Sayegh says, as his face lights up. Sayegh owned his first kite at eight years old. “I built it with my uncle while we were on holiday in Turkey, he was a kite freak. It was a hexagon-shaped paper kite,” says Sayegh. “The kite was made out of paper and it got ruined when it fell in the sea, so I just made another using nylon instead of paper.”
” It’s the feeling of the wind, the nature “
In the past, kites were traditionally homemade in what was a laborious process, but now factories in China churn out tens of thousands of spools of machine-made nylon which swamped the market. “Depending on where you live in the world, each country has their own specific tradition,” says Sayegh. Within the Mediterranean region it’s the hexagonal kite, which is most popular. Sayegh has participated in international kite flying events since the early ‘90s when he lived in France. He travels abroad five to six times a year to represent Lebanon in kiting events. His most recent one was the Satun International Kite festival in Southern Thailand. One kite flyer that Sayegh really admires is New Zealand’s Peter Lynn, a leader in the international kiting industry since 1971. Lynn developed the first commercial kite buggy in the late 1980s and also founded his own kite factory.
“Unfortunately, kite flying is loosing foot all over the world, and becoming a lost tradition. There is less space for people to fly, plus kids are more into technology rather than outdoor activities,” says Sayegh.
“The places to fly a kite in Beirut are dwindling as public spaces [have been] reduced,” says Tarek Khoury, another kite enthusiast who still flies his kite from time to time. He used to go to a stretch near Pigeon Rock, named Dalieh. Once the perfect spot for kite flying, it’s since become a construction site. “Any flat space is good actually. [You] just need to look for spaces that have no obstructions such as electric poles. That’s why beaches are perfect,” says Sayegh. He recommends Ramlet el Baida, along with the beaches of Tyre and Tripoli.
Kite flying depends on a combination of factors: the flexibility and balance of the kite, the quality of the string, the evenness of the spool and, of course, the skill of the fliers and their ability to adjust to the wind. “People often tell me they tried to fly a kite and it didn’t work. Usually it’s the fault of the spot and the conditions,” Sayegh says.
Head to the beach on a breezy day and you’ll be sure to come across other kite enthusiasts who will happily pass on a few tips. As the saying goes, may there be wind on your back, a smile on your face and a kite in the sky.
WHO TO FLY WITH
Sami Sayegh (03 702422) has been kite-flying for years and makes the perfect guide for first timers.
On windy days the skies of Batroun are swarming with the kites of surfers, a sign of the rise in popularity of kite flying in Lebanon recently. Tobia Kmeid, founder of Lebanon by Kite (lebanon-by-kite.com, 03 253624), has been kite surfing since 2001, founding his club in 2012. According to Kmeid, the sport is continuing to grow in Lebanon. He recommends “8 to 10 hours of instruction and then a lot of safe practice.” The best spots to practice are Colonel (Batroun), Canaria Beach (Tripoli), Palm Island, (off Tripoli) and Tyre public beach.
WHERE TO FLY
Ramlet el Baida
Talet el Khayat
Dalieh, near Pigeon Rock
Best f lying conditions
Large open spaces
You need enough room to lay out your kite and flying line as well as space to fly, while not crowding other people or kite flyers.
Steady smooth winds
Beaches have the best winds. Around 8-40km/h – when the leaves of trees begin to move, is ideal for most kites.
The further you are from buildings and trees, the better, to help smooth out the winds and reduce turbulence. Avoid flying near power lines and trees.
GO WITH A GUIDE
WHAT YOU NEED
Types of kites:
• One liner
• Two liner
• Four liner stunt kites for more control
WHERE TO BUY
f: DecathalonLebanon. Dbayeh