14 May 2015

Public space is disappearing in Beirut

Al Jazeera America

The city of Beirut is not going to win any awards for public space anytime soon. A densely populated metropolis dominated by vehicles and exhaust, it boasts only a smattering of euphemistically designated parks and gardens.
The William Hawi garden in the Geitawi neighborhood, for instance, is not much bigger than the fountain it contains. Also, it’s named after a right-wing Christian militia leader from the Lebanese civil war, marking it as more of a sectarian space than a public one.
Horsh Beirut, a pine forest amid Beirut’s concrete jungle, is closed to the public — although Europeans and other trusted foreigners are allowed in, as are Lebanese with the proper political or social connections. According to the self-colonizing logic underpinning the park rules, local hordes would sully the place and create unsustainable maintenance costs.
Meanwhile, not even the streets of the capital are consistently open to the public. Out for a walk the other day, I was stopped by police from accessing a city road that had apparently been appropriated as the personal fief of National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berri, one of the permanent fixtures of Lebanese politics. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA