This is a cool piece by Dima Karam (The Guardian) on the Grand Aley Hotel that was built in 1926 by three brothers from a Beiruti trading family.
The British Army set up their command center in WWII and then the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) general who led the offensive against Syria and Lebanon used the hotel as his HQ. Following WWII, the hotel “became renowned for its evening entertainment – gambling, concerts and dancing” before it got occupied by mercenaries during the Lebanese Civil War.
The owners were unable to re-open the hotel after the war and the central bank ended up seizing the hotel and putting it up for auction back in 2008. Unfortunately, there are still no potential buyers willing to restore this hotel’s glory.
It’s quite shameful that such a beautiful hotel is abandoned and for sale.
The Tripoli railway station is located in el-Mina area and is the second oldest train station in Lebanon after Riyak which began operating in 1891. Tripoli’s railway station used to connect to Homs in Syria and Beirut’s central station in Mar Mikhail and formed the terminus of the famous Orient Express line. The station was badly damaged during the civil war and has been closed ever since.
I passed by the old railway station a couple of weeks ago and it took me around 45 minutes to visit it all. It’s abandoned and neglected yet a beautiful site to explore and I wish someone would preserve it and turn it into a touristic attraction to showcase Lebanon’s railway heritage. You will find there several multi-purpose wagons and century old Locomotives. At this time, the site is open and easily accessible to all but be careful when walking around as the place has been abandoned for 30+ years.
We always hear of new plans to revive Lebanon’s railway but we all know it’s not happening anytime soon. Riyak’s railway station is next on my list.
Agent 505: Death Trap Beirut, also known as La trappola scatta a Beirut (Italy) or Baroud à Beyrouth pour F.B.I. 505 (France) is a 1966 movie shot in Beirut and directed by Manfred R. Köhler. The stars are Frederick Stafford, who was known for his lead role in European spy movies, Chris Howland and Geneviève Cluny.
Here’s the plot:
A couple of beautiful girls are murdered while sunbathing at a luxury hote. The killer too is murdered, but able to reveal – before dying- that they were disposed of because the “knew too much”. Something bad is being planned in Beirut, and it has something to do with a man called The Sheikh, who has only four fingers. It seems this isn’t a lone incident. The Sheikh is also thought to be behind the assassination of several prominent scientists.
What’s interesting is that the movie was entirely shot in Lebanon. It’s not the best spy movie out there but it’s fun and contains a lot of action scenes. Moreover, there are some pretty cool shots from Lebanon’s Golden Age (The 1960s) and I even spotted the Lebanese Police and Army taking part in a couple of scenes.
You can watch it [here], the image and sound quality are perfect.
Here are some of the shots from the movie:
The seaport facing Phoenicia Hotel if I’m not mistaken
This is an old interview with an AUB student (Engineer) talking about a garbage crisis at the time (Not sure about the year), and asking people to wrap their garbage properly and not throw them in the streets randomly.
Funnily enough, the journalist is asking him if burning the garbage can help them (she’s serious) and he answers that there’s no need to as long as the garbage is being collected every day and dumped in the sea!
You can’t really blame them as there wasn’t much awareness in the world at the time (assuming these were the 60s or 70s), but the shocking part is seeing people nowadays still burning garbage and dumping them in the sea. What’s even more shocking is having incompetent and ignorant ministers and officials still suggesting hazardous solutions to the garbage crisis instead of promoting recycling.
The sign on Charles De Gaulle’s Beirut residence in Mar Elias disappeared few days ago and got reported on Save Beirut Heritage’s Facebook page. There were worries that the house might get demolished but the Ministry of Culture denied the rumors. However the stories that emerged were not really convincing, as one source said that the house owner removed the plate to clean it up and protect it and another version said the owner removed it out of fear that Georges Abdallah supporters might damage it.
What matters now is that the plate was put back and both the Minister of Culture & Beirut Governor re-assured everyone that the house will remain preserved and is not up for demolition.
French Commander Charles De Gaulle stayed in Beirut between 1929 and 1932 before he became Head of the Free French Forces.
I compiled a list of old pictures of the American University of Beirut from 1890 until today to celebrate its 150th anniversary. I found old photos from 1890, 1907, 1910, the 1920s, 1930, 1942, 1953, 1969, 1971 and 1980 all from three main sources [OldBeirut], Life and AUB. I also added a couple of recent pictures.
I always miss AUB and try to visit it every now and then. I miss hanging out with friends near Bliss, on the green oval or the cafeteria stairs. I miss running around from one class to another, I miss walking around the campus on rainy days, I miss having lunch breaks at Universal Snack and buying snacks from Abu Naji. I miss some of my teachers but I will never miss exams or studying at the library hours before an exam 😀
AUB will celebrating 150 years all year long. They are asking old students to share their AUB stories and organizing several events. Check them out [here].
AUB Assembly Hall 1890
AUB in 1910
AUB – 1914
AUB in 1920
AUB in 1920
AUB Biology Classroom in the 1920s | Copyright Library of Congress
On January 18, 1976, Beirut experienced a major blackout for a total of 20 minutes due to the ongoing fights. A 20 minute blackout was considered a scandal at the time even though the country was at war, and the story was mentioned in most newspapers.
Can you imagine how the Lebanese would react if the current goes out for only 20 minutes these days? They would probably panic at first, then they would hit the streets singing and dancing Dabke and offering Baklawa for a week.
This is the sad reality we are currently living, and I don’t expect the electricity situation to get better anytime soon.
The screenshot shown above is from L’OrientLeJour archives and was recently shared by one of my favorite FB pages “La guerre du Liban au jour le jour“. Check it out as they have an endless number of awesome old footages and articles.
PS: If you want 24/7 electricity, you can always move to Zahle 😀
How many of you have been listening to Ziad Rahbani plays for the past 20 years or more? How many times have you visualized the scenes in your head while listening to the plays? How awesome would it be to actually watch the original footage and put a face to all these voices you have been listening to?
Well M Media is finally making it happen and you will be able to watch two Ziad Rahbani plays in theaters starting Jan 2016. The first play that will roll out is “Bennesbeh Labokra Chou?” and you can already watch its trailer [here]. The plays will be available on [M’s online platform] afterwards along with other movies and plays.
I’m not a Ziad Rahbani fan but I’m really excited about this project, because these plays were all part of our culture and still are, and because the original scenes were recorded in bits and pieces and reconstructing them audio and video took several months of hard work. I have no idea how these plays looked like and a lot of Rahbani fans were too young at the time, so watching the original footage is going to blow their minds away! Two of my friends are already going crazy about it and can’t wait till January.
I am still not sure in which theater “Bennesbeh Labokra Chou?” will be playing but I will have further details next week for sure. Stay tuned 😀
The Heinene Palace, one of Beirut’s oldest and most iconic palaces, has just been placed on the 2016 World Monuments Fund Watch List thanks to Save Beirut Heritage! The 19th century palace was built during the Ottoman rule in Zokak el-Blat, which used to be one of the upper class districts in Beirut where villas and palaces were built and was the first area to have a paved road as well. Heneine Palace was abandoned in the 1970s with the death of its last owner. It was designated a landmark in 2010 and currently has several owners without clear agreement about its future, just like several other historic buildings in Beirut.
Save Beirut Heritage and other organizations have trying for years to save this old heritage and were able to gain support from World Monuments Watch, an organization aimed at “preserving the world’s irreplaceable treasures — architectural and cultural sites that span the history of human civilization”. This is definitely good news and I hope it will help turning the Heneine Palace into a public space to be enjoyed by all and avoid what happened with the nearby “Akar Palace”.
Sietske paid a visit to Zkak el Blat back in 2009, check out her [post].
Here’s a brief description of the Heneine Palace:
Heneine Palace is one of the most remarkable buildings in Zokak el-Blat, once a bourgeois garden district outside the old city walls of Beirut. The house was built in the late nineteenth century, during the final years of Ottoman rule, when Zokak el-Blat was an area of elite homes surrounded by orchards and gardens that was rapidly urbanizing. The plain exterior of the building concealed an unusual Moorish-inspired interior, with fountains, plaster decoration in geometric motifs, and arcades of crenellated arches separating the different spaces. A long list of illustrious occupants have graced these sitting rooms: from the Russian nobleman for whom the palace was built, to the Mezher family of local landowners, who rented it to one of the founders of Beirut’s French School of Medicine. Between 1914 and 1936, the building housed the United States Consulate-General, and it also served as a consulate of the Netherlands. Starting in the 1940s, the upper floor was rented to the writer, philosopher, and art collector Dr. Dahesh, whose collection of European academic art later formed the basis of New York’s Dahesh Museum of Art.