A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘beirut

[URBAN NOTE] Five city links: Churchill, Calgary, New York City, Beirut, Jaywick Sands

  • Repair to the railroad that provided the only land connection of Churchill, Manitoba, to the rest of Canada has finally been repaired, and the first train in a year has come in. CBC reports.
  • Jason Markusoff at MacLean’s notes that city council in Calgary salvaged the city’s 2026 Olympics bid, for now.
  • CityLab notes an experiment with commercial rent control in New York City, in an effort to prevent the collapse of the small and independent retail sector.
  • As the trash disposal crisis in Beirut continues, CityLab notes that poor children in the Lebanese capital are trying to scavenge from the city’s waste.
  • The SCMP notes the unhappiness of the people of the English village of Jaywick Sands that an old image of their community was used in an American attack ad.

[URBAN NOTE] Six city notes: design, Grenfell, London, Chennai, Damascus, Istanbul, Izmir, Beirut

  • VICE describes the pressing need to design cities in ways such that city living is less stressful for inhabitants.
  • This heartbreaking GQ article describes the Grenfell Tower catastrophe through interviews with rescuers and the rescued alike. What a horrific tragedy.
  • Chennai, and wider Tamil Nadu, risks going through the experience of Detroit and its automotive industry migrates away. Bloomberg reports.
  • Open Democracy takes a look at how Russian soldiers in Damascus interact with the Syrian locals.
  • Inhabitants of Istanbul, it seems, are migrating to less expensive and more liberal Izmir down on the Aegean coast. Al-Monitor reports.
  • Parties featuring West African music are thriving in Beirut, brought back to Lebanon by Lebanese migrants. Al-Monitor reports.

[URBAN NOTE] “The scars of war on Lebanon’s Holiday Inn”

Al Jazeera’s India Stoughton notes provocative graffiti of an abandoned hotel in Beirut. I think it good provocative, myself, but others’ mileage may vary.

In the early hours of the morning, Lebanese artist Jad El Khoury, who goes by the name Potato Nose, entered the carcass of Beirut’s abandoned Holiday Inn through the military base that now occupies the ground floor.

He climbed the 26 flights of narrow service stairs, then descended down the side of the building on ropes. Over the course of the next two hours, he painted a series of cartoonish, blue-and-white creatures on the building’s facade, composing them around the bullet holes and craters caused decades ago by shelling.

When Beirut residents awoke to discover Khoury’s artwork last month, they responded passionately, with many expressing anger at his alteration of the landmark building.

“It was really surprising,” Khoury, 27, told Al Jazeera. “But I understand that many people will see it like I am doodling over history, which is not the case. I opened up a debate that was already there – should we fix all the scars of the war, or should we keep them?”

For 40 years, the skeletal remains of the Holiday Inn have towered over central Beirut, an ever-present reminder of Lebanon’s devastating 1975-1990 civil war. A symbol of cosmopolitan prewar Beirut, the derelict, shell-scarred building now stands incongruously beside the glitzy downtown.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 4, 2016 at 4:40 pm

[LINK] Is Beirut’s Reputation for LGBT Tolerance a Myth?

Is Beirut’s Reputation for LGBT Tolerance a Myth?Feargus O’Sullivan article at The Atlantic Cities suggests that tolerance of GLBT populations in Beirut is real, but that it’s important not to confuse toleration with acceptance.

Since the Civil War ended in 1990, Lebanon’s various governments have been keen to present a Western face. This yen has a long history in Lebanon, where much education beyond primary level takes places in French and English. It taps into a tendency among some Christian Lebanese to identify themselves not as Arabs but as descendants of the ancient Phoenicians, a self-identification only strengthened during interwar French rule. In more recent years, this Western orientation has exhibited itself through cautious social tolerance mixed with neo-liberal economic policies, a shift that can be seen clearly on the streets of Beirut.

Beirut’s high-end consumer culture and party scene have consequently boomed, attracting tourists from elsewhere in the Middle East who are keen to wear fewer clothes and drink alcohol more freely, as well as Europeans discovering cafes, bars and beach clubs that wouldn’t be out of place in Barcelona or Mykonos. This liberal attitude has had some interesting side effects – it has helped, for example, the spread of reality TV made in Beirut throughout the Arab world, as Big Brother-style shows that mix genders are easier to produce there without raising social hackles. Accompanying this post-war reboot have been many problems residents of Western cities will also recognize. Beirut’s city center has seen a contested land grab by government-linked companies, the displacement of poorer Beirutis from the area and an ongoing speculative building boom that has seen old structures bulldozed to make way for luxury high-rises.

This anything-goes approach has appealed to some Lebanese governments’ Western allies. It has also helped to promote Beirut’s hedonistic reputation within the Middle East (the city and its environs are also a regional center for the sex industry), a reputation that has proved lucrative. Coupled with brave campaigning activities from LGBT activists, it has given some currency to the idea that permitting activities traditionally considered unsalubrious can have its advantages as long as they remain reasonably covert (and, allegedly, as long as those involved pay off the right people).

Lebanon’s complex inter-community politics have also helped. With a population divided into many religious and ethnic groups, there is a long history of leaving people to police themselves providing they don’t step beyond the confines of their group. Managing the divisions within Lebanese society takes so much energy and focus that politicians are usually too busy to sweat the presence of a few low-key gay bars.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2013 at 3:39 am