Bahai News - Haifa gets ready for Baha'i botanical wonder

Haifa gets ready for Baha'i botanical wonder

By David Rudge

(May 14) - More than half a million people a year are expected to visit the Baha'i terraced gardens on Mount Carmel in Haifa which are to be inaugurated next Tuesday, May 22, prior to being opened to the public on June 4.

Baha'i officials are already formulating a system of guided tours in conjunction with Haifa municipality and the Jewish-Arab Beit Hagefen Center to try and avoid a crush of visitors to the site which is being dubbed one of the great wonders of the modern world.

"We want to be able to accommodate all the visitors in such a way that their tour of the gardens and shrine will be a rich experience and to avoid frustration from overcrowding," said Douglas Samini Moore, director of the Baha'i world center's office of public information.

"Already we have some 300,000 visitors a year to the gardens and shrine which are open to the public and we expect this to reach well over 500,000 once all of the terraces are opened," said Moore.

"The message we are trying to get across to people is to be patient and perhaps not try to all come to visit in the first few days after the public opening, because the gardens are going to be here for a long, long time." Guides, who are currently undergoing training at Beit Hagefen, will be stationed at the entrances to the upper and lower terraces and each one will be responsible for a group of up to 50 people at one time.

In this way, Baha'i officials expect it will be possible to cater to around 2,000 visitors a day who will be given guided tours of all the gardens, or parts of them, with rest stops and explanations about what they see.

A reservations system is being set-up for people to book places on the guided tours in advance and will be handled initially by the Haifa Tourist Board. Telephone numbers will be published in newspaper advertisements at the end of the month.

As part of preparations for the official inauguration next Tuesday, Sderot Ben-Gurion between Rehov Hagefen and Rehov Allenby was closed from yesterday to enable the construction of a huge temporary amphitheater with seating for up to 4,000 people.

Diversion signs have been erected. Further information about traffic arrangements can be obtained from the municipality's 106 information center and from Egged 04-8549131 regarding alternative bus stops and routes.

The roads will remain closed until May 27 to allow time for the stands to be dismantled after the official opening ceremony which itself will be broadcast live to Baha'i followers throughout the world.

The $250 million terraced gardens and administrative buildings complex has taken 10 years to complete and has literally changed the north-facing slope of Mt. Carmel from the renovated German Colony in the downtown district to Rehov Yafeh Nof on the peak.

The gardens, rising up the mountain for a full kilometer, include 19 terraces with marble balustrades, sculptures, pools, fountains and water channels with re-cycling systems.

Money for the project was raised by donations from the nearly six million Baha'i followers throughout the world. The Haifa complex is the world administrative center of the faith.

The center sent flyers to every household in the city informing residents about the traffic changes and the reasons for the diversions and street closures.

"We thought it important to let the people know in advance what is happening so that we can approach the official opening of the gardens with a feeling of good will and understanding," Moore added.

©Copyright 2001, Jerusalem Post

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