Monday, July 21, 2008

Downtown Beirut

Once through security, beautiful new buildings simulate old ones. Shiny objects adorn store windows. The fewer the items inside, the more expensive they are priced. A Rolex clock towers over the Place de l'Etoile. It is pretty quiet whenever I have been here. But then again, I seem to come when the hot sun is the strongest and not in the evening or night.

This is the first time that I have ever been able to walk around this area so freely. When I was a child, this whole area had been a bullet ridden ghost town. And in 2006/2007, Place Des Martyrs was filled with tents.

It is empty now with only a few signs of the current political situation, one of which is the Haagen Dazs Doha Agreement cone.

Calm, peaceful, and perfect for the new Lebanese lifestyle. At least that is what Solidere would like us to believe. GENTRIFICATION Lebanese style. Planned Communities. Why the hell didn’t I ask about the vacancy rate? My smart cookie suitemate, asked who the investors were. Private investors that remained unnamed.

Another classmate asked why the Normandy area wasn’t going to be turned into a beach. My heart churned. The Normandy area. Did Solidere give it this name? This is where the mountains of garbage rose above the sea. It pulled at my memories and my emotions.

No. No beach, please.

It took me a while to work through my feelings. It was the first day of my period and that was contributing to my zigzagged emotions. There was no memory of all of those that died. No reminder of what this area looked like during the war. Erased. That does not seem healthy. There are reminders of the Roman Baths, why not the civil war? And what was it like before the war? Were the souks more inclusive of all classes? While there is an attempt to include and acknowledge religions, class seems yet again to be swept aside.

After wandering around Solidere's website, I did discover that they are planning a Garden of Forgiveness. It could be just me, but it seems very sterile. I hope to write more about this, but this trip has gotten me wondering if I am the only one who is holding on. The Lebanese have moved on, but I haven't. I am stuck in memory quicksand.

The last time I was in Beirut I took a walk to Martyrs’ Square.
Martyrs’ Square has been renamed Democracy Square.
Forgive me if I can’t join in with the buoyancy.
But I feel unrepresented.
A red and white Virgin Megastore in the background blends in with a sea of red and white flags in the foreground.
It provides a seamless visual continuum I’m afraid of.
They’re waiting for world peace to break out in Lebanon.
I reckon it’s too late for that.

Zeina B. Ghandour

Memory quicksand or not, I take solace in the fact that Zeina Ghandour also has mixed feelings. I took some photos of the Virgin Megastore for her. The crane is also fitting. No series of Beirut photos is complete without at least one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pics! Thanks :)

See you soon!