Gemmayzeh Before the Bombs: Memories of My Grandparents’ House

By Zina Hemady Beirut’s historical district of Gemmayzeh came under the international spotlight when it took the brunt of the blast that pulverized the city’s ancient seaport and ripped through nearby residential areas killing and maiming dozens of people and causing unimaginable damage. The neighborhood’s charming early 20th century buildings, that had survived the civil war and ensuing gentrification, partially or totally collapsed under the impact of the explosion which ranks among one of the worst of its kind in history. Besides the tragic human toll of this Beirutshima, a blast blamed on the detonation of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, the explosion was yet another blow the country’s cultural heritage. To the generation that came of age in post-civil war Lebanon, Gemmayzeh became synonymous with hip restaurants and bars nestled among architectural gems which miraculously survived the pitched battles that raged only a few dozen meters away, in downtown Beirut, during the [Read more...]

Lebanon’s Grand Hotel Sofar Given New Life On Canvas

By Zina Hemady Art and photo exhibits are taking Beirut and, more recently, other areas of Lebanon by storm. As the country regains its pre-war status as a cultural hub, much attention has been focused on preserving Lebanese heritage with the term spanning over several fields including architecture, art, photography, music, oral history, theater, literature and food. The latest such initiative is an exhibit by British artist and conservationist Tom Young featuring the Grand Hotel Casino Sofar, once considered an architectural wonder before it was ravaged by the country’s 1975-1990 civil war. Built in 1892 in the mountain resort of Sofar located on the Beirut-Damascus road, the hotel acquired a reputation as a summer escape for the social elite but also as a playground where the who’s who of Lebanese society rubbed shoulders with royalty, diplomats, and entertainers with whom they spend the evenings playing poker, singing, and dancing. It was occupied by Syrian troops when [Read more...]

Balfour Declaration Centenary

by Dr. Nagia Abdelmoghney Said The second of November 2017 marks the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, which promised Jews a homeland in Palestine, based on the premise that the rights of the pre-existing, non-Jewish population would not be prejudiced. Yet, the Balfour Declaration signaled the start of a process that has rendered Palestinians stateless, living under occupation in their own land, in refugee camps, or scattered throughout the world. Britain’s collusion with the so-called Zionists has contributed to this unforgivable human tragedy of the Palestinian Diaspora. According to Samih K. Farsoun, an AU Professor Emeritus of Sociology: “Palestine was dismembered as a patrimony and destroyed as a society, and most of its Arab people dispossessed and dispersed into a modem diaspora.” To commemorate this occasion, several events are scheduled in London, one of which is organized by the “Balfour Project Trustees.” Titled “Britain’s Broken Promise, Time for a New Approach,” [Read more...]