Monday, 3 May 2010


Cries of a nostalgic Beiruti :: "Achrafiyieh needs your help"

  • Monday, 3 May 2010
  • Fouad GM
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  • This is a message from a colleague in the struggle to preserve Beirut's heritage. In his message, he outlines his desperation, depression and loss of hope in the preservation of Achrafiyieh's old buildings, memories and belle epoque / fin de siècle heritage. He does however, at the end of his message, express anger at the fierce capitalist invasion of his quartier and city and calls for a battle asking "when will [it] star?" and "who will support [him]?".

    My comrade, to whim I shall refer as N (capital and in bold), also featured in a Web-TV interview with which is accessible on this YouTube link.

    Before I leave you with N's here are some of my comments on his message:
    - N, and other active members on the Facebook group, Against demolition of old buildings in Ashrafieh, seem to express a lot of knowledge of and anger towards the threats posed unto Achrafiyieh and its heritage. But little attention has been displayed by group members and admins to the equally pressing threat on other neighbourhoods in Beirut where heritage and history are under threat from the encroaching capitalist expansion of Solidere and other investors.

    - This emphasis on Achraifiyieh would have been perfectly fine had it not been complimented with a certain rhetoric which is perhaps most visible in N's message. In his message, N expresses hardcore anger against "the Arabs" whose money is the cause of Beirut's misery. He even makes a very strong, perhaps very Orientalist, statement claiming that the demolition of Beirut's memories and the rising concrete is transforming Beirut from "the Paris of the Middle East" to the "Dubai of the Mediterranean."

    - The Orientalist view of Beirut as a civilised, Lebanese version of Paris in an otherwise-not-so-beautiful Middle East being turned into a nouveaux-riche concrete city resembling Dubai on the Mediterranean - the heart of antiquity and the birthplace of the Phoneticians. These Orientalist views lead N to point a finger towards Solidere as the Lebanese side of the coin - the other being "the Arabs" and their money.

    As much as I sympathise with N's cause and advocate the preservation of Beirut's heritage, especially in the neighbourhoods in the immediate vicinity of DownTown Beirut (such as Achrafiyieh, Zarif, Zokak El-Blat, Bachoura and Msaytbeh), I mush express my disappointment with this isolationist (dare I say, right-wing Phalangist) view of Lebanon, its heritage and the war to preserve what's left of this city's history and memories.

    N, my friend and comrade, I'm speechless too... I'm speechless because I see passionate pioneers who are very critical of their political elite, the feudal lords who deal with Lebanon as a group of private fiefdoms, but who are unable to view this as a nation-wide battle across all confessions and across all regions. A battle where there is no "evil" enemy. Achrafiyieh, Zokak El-Blat, Hamra, El-Mina, Abi Samra, Jdaydet Marjeoyoun, Hasbaya El-Serail, Zahlé, Aley, Beit Meri, El-Matn, El-Bachoura, and a whole other list: they're calling for a responsible class of passionate and open-minded Lebanese people.

    People who have money want to invest, people who don't have money want to live, and it's a select few: the so-called "middle class" who are neither rich enough to build Sama Beirut, nor poor enough to not care about their palace for the daily bread of their kids. It is people like us who have the luxury of observing, loving and connecting to Beirut's heritage, and not want to see it gone. We should deal with this responsibility very fairly, and not throw blame on "the Arabs." Beirut needs to become Beirut again, not Paris, not Dubai and not even Mumbai.

    We need to suggest and come up with viable alternatives to prevent the owners, residents and squatters of Beirut's numerous old quartiers and houses from evacuating them, selling them and allowing such projects. We need to pressure the government, not only to ban the demolition of these houses (which it doesn't do because it's a corrupt regime which is willing to reclassify a class-A building classy-C overnight to allow El-Murr, or Solidere or Carlos Selim to build towers dotting this sad city), but also to provide the owners with a viable solution! After all, we need to ask ourselves: if you were one of a 20 or 30 Brazilians or Columbians of Lebanese ancestry and an inheritor of a 1/20 of a palace in God knows where, can I blame you for selling it to Solidere? Should the state ban you from doing it? Or should the state provide you with a viable alternative?

    I look forward to seeing you soon comrade N, and look forward to discussing this more with you. Keep up the passion. My criticism is obviously an epistemological matter, but I think we'll always agree on the tactics and strategies of this battle, so - thank you for instigating it!

    I hope you excuse my criticism, for it is borne out of a desire to correct paths and out of a passion similar to yours.

    Qasr Aker, Zokak El-Blat, is to be demolished in the very near future


    From N
    Achrafiyieh, Beirut on May 2, 2010.

    So Speechless
    I'm finding it hard to go for a walk in Ashrafyeh specially the old area where u can find some peace and maybe look at some beautiful places hidden (not any more).

    I love this place, but sadly i cant take a walk any more, memories are demolished, concrete is rising in the most inappropriate ways, Paris of the middle east or Dubai of the Mediterranean.

    Arabs are not just putting their investments and money in our memories, but also they're destroying our beloved place.

    I cant do nothing but to stop taking long walks in the small streets of Ashrafyeh. Where [is] the municipality, where [is] the foundations of society who should stand to this chaos. Where are the minds of our people?

    Guess u all know where are they, discussing shitty politics, and running for ideologies. While easily they can start by looking at whats happening all across the city from Tabaris to around Sassine.

    Is this a plan by SOLIDERE to demolish everything other than their own properties ,so they can only sell for Wealthy shallow Arabs and only to the elite Lebanese.

    Qasr Bechara El-Khouri, Zokak El-Blat

    So speechless ,,,,,,
    When my battle will start?
    Who will help me?
    Where are my memories going ........
    So sad ,cause no one is looking, but me.
    They're looking at their pockets instead.
    Money cannot buy memories and feelings
    Ashrafyeh needs your help.
    Shame on those who are selling their old buildings .for some money .and some pride
    And a message to Convivium Residences, instead of building new old looking buildings and stealing money from the buyers, renovate and innovate new solutions for the old buildings, who are the soul of this city.

    PS: When i go up at 3akkawi Street in the middle a new buildings is rising called "le vieux quartier." Where do they see old in it? I don't know. Don't go far, also the two dick towers next to Sofil where, I remember, before the parking there was a amazing palace.

    Poor me, I'm so complicated .............

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