Monday, January 23, 2006

Cultural Capital

Downtown Beirut (10 blocks)

8 Mosques.
10 Churches.
1 Synagogue.
1 Buddha Bar.
100 Restaurants.
10 Night Clubs.
10 Bars.
20 Jewelry Stores.
40 Fashion shops.
1 Bookstore.
0 Art Galleries.
0 Theaters.
0 Libraries.


Eve said...

didnt know there were so many religious places in DT!

Libraries? I don't think we even have a formal public library in the entire country! (and if we do, it's not promoted well enough!)

gabrielf said...

there is albourj library and virgin megastore, there is some art galleries ( mogabgab ... ) but no theaters

Jamal said...

there is a Project for a major public library in Shwaifat, but it doesn't seem to be a priority right now.

Jamal said...

gabe- albourj is a bookstore, i know it's confusing because in french bookstore is librairie :)
i'm not familiar with mogabgab, so i'll have to double check that.

Anonymous said...

I did not know there's a Synagogue in DT. Am really amazed.

Lazarus said...

anon ... there is actually a point in downtown which lets you see the synagogue, a mosque, and a church all at once.

there is actually a public library close to downtown. it opened a few years ago, but i'm not sure how it is doing now.

linalone said...

There are 4 bookstores in downtown. There is a lack of libraries and... culture all over Lebanon and not only in Beirut. People who do actively read are becoming fewer and fewer every year specially among youth. Dommage!

Fouad said...

Jamal, the fact that downtown Beirut does not have the cultural venues you mentioned does not by any means strip Beirut of its cultural imprint. If DT is all nightclubs and restaurants, try to remember places like UNESCO, Sursock Museum, Al-Madina theater, Beirut Theater, The Centre Culturel Francais, AUB, LAU and their cultural events, the countless art galleries spread all over the capital, just to name the few I remember off the top of my head. Now granted we do need a public library, although we do have tens of bookstores, publishing companies, ma3rad al kitab etc.
If all these do not quench your cultural thirst, then I don't know what will, Jamal.
One last point, to keep things into perspective, no one claims that Beirut is the cultural capital of the world, but for its size, its location, and all the backward influence it's constantly subjected to, I say it deserves some recognition and a whole lot of respect.

Anonymous said...

Where is the synagogue exactly located?

Eve said...

I believe that having a " public library" is totally different than having bookstores and publishing houses, since a public library speaks to the persons who are not so well-off, and who cannot afford buying books on a regular basis (it also proves that reading is not a luxury). A public library can in itself be a ritual that trains an entire nation to the culture of reading/to art. The quantity doesn't matter; we could have dozens of art galleries, but if no one is interested, la shou? (didn't Masrah el Madina itself closed its doors so many times?) What I'm saying is before building those "entire cultural shrines", it is worth building the "readers", so that those shrines don't turn into cities of ghosts!

Btw, anonymous,
there is a synagogue in "Wadi Abu Jmil" previously called "Harat Al Yahood", here are some pictures:

Anonymous said...

Believe me I know jamal, and I know that when it comes to knowledge and culture, it is really very hard to satisfy him. For this same reason Jamal pays great attention to his vocabulary. That’s why he said Down Town, and for God's sake Down Town IS NOT Beirut, it's IN Beirut!
Btw, Beirut is Jamal’s favorite city in the world!

Jamal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jamal said...

I know there are a couple of places that sell books but I don't count them as bookstores because they are a magazine stand with some horoscope books, an office supply store with a couple of books, or Virgin Megastores, but point taken.

DT represents Beirut of the last 15 years and the direction it's heading in. True, there are some places around town that you named, but those are the remnants of what once was, rather than a post war cultural resurrection.
All we have is religion and food. Religion is not really ours, and we all know what happens to food 8 hours after you eat it.

Fouad said...

eve, you don't need to convince me that we need a public library. Of course we do, and I said it in my comment. I was just pointing out the positives rather than the negatives.

Anonymous, it is quite obvious that Jamal is a cultured and educated person. I was just trying to defend the significant sum of cultural activities that happen outside of DT Beirut.

Jamal, first let me just say that it is a pleasure to read your smart and cynical take on the world. Second, you are right, and your point is very well taken, DT has been in the spotlight for a number of years now, and for reasons that are anything but cultural. Still, there's enough cultural vim around it, in and outside Beirut, for us to just ignore. We still haven't recovered from war to embark on a true post-war renaissance. Let's just hang on to what we have, which again, is not bad at all, until things stabilize for good.

Hisham said...

Maybe I don't have enough faith in our people (and I hope I'm wrong) but I think the "Public Library" concept is a difficult one to implement in our part of the world. Do you really think that people are going to return books on time, if at all? Who's gonna call people and ask for books back, the librarian? I can't see it. Do you think we'd be deterred by late fees? Unlikely. Not to make light of the issue, but it's similar to why we don't have all-u-can eat buffets (we're better off without them, I know). The majority of people (Not EVERYONE) are not responsible enough to handle the all-u-can-eat concept without wanting to abuse it. The same applies to checking books out. Most people in our society are always looking for the loophole to get away with something. We simply take opportunism to a detrimental level.

Jamal said...

Fouad, Thanks, please do keep coming by, but I don't promise much positivity :o)

Hisham, You wanna see buffet abuse? Go with your colleague to Camilla's, the brazillian buffet in DT, or Porcao the Rodizio in brickell(and somehow Brazillian butts are the tightest in the world). Anyways, back to Lebanon, a Lebanese lunch by definition is an all you can eat buffet.

Eve said...

Btw guys, did you check this article today (wednesday) in annahar? it immediately brought me back to this post:

only 14% of the Lebanese people read, or in other words 86% don't.

Hisham said...

Jamal, The Porcao is disasterous...A few pounds of meat and a few caipirinhas...forget about it!! U gotta love that place.