October - December 2000
A Festive Season in the City Center

Emir Munzir mosque

St Louis Capuchin church

Beirut city center is rich in places of worship.

Symbolically standing out together against the city center skyline are four high points of spiritual life.

One is the minaret of Al-Omari mosque, originally Nabi Yahya mosque, built in the thirteenth century AD around the twelfth century St John the Baptist church. Two other minarets belong to the Emir Assaf and Emir Munzir mosques, dating back to the seventeenth century.

Nearby is the bell tower of the eighteenth-century St Louis Capuchin church. The restored church was reconsecrated on December 3 by the Papal Nunico.

Restoration is completed in the Emir Munzir mosque, and ongoing in Al Omari mosque's Maarad street façade, and both are open to the faithful.

Advanced restoration works will soon allow the resumption of worship in the Emir  Assaf mosque.

The following places of worship are also operational.

From the nineteenth century: the Evangelical church, with its clock tower and red tiled roof; and St George Maronite cathedral, built along the style of Santa Maria Maggiore.

From the twentieth century: Abu Bakr As Saddik (Ad-Dabbagha) mosque, designed by Altounian, architect of the Parliament building and the Nejmeh clock tower; St Elias Maronite, St Nichan Armenian-Orthodox, St Elie Armenian-Catholic and All Saints Anglican churches.

St George Greek-Orthodox cathedral is the only remaining vestige of a medieval episcopal monastery, dedicated to the patron saint of the city.

Rebuilt several times after being wrecked by earthquakes and other disasters, it took its present shape and was consecrated as a cathedral in the eighteenth century. It suffered serious damage during the Lebanon war.

Excavation and renovation works began in 1995. Due to lack of funds, they were postponed until August 2000.

With the Directorate General of Antiquities' authorization, and at the request of Greek-Orthodox Archbishop of Beirut Elias Audi, the excavations are endeavoring to piece together the history of the church.

The final plan is to create a museum within the cathedral, displaying the unearthed artefacts under the church, to be viewed through a glass floor.

St Elias Greek-Catholic church, built in the nineteenth century, still remains unrestored.

Martyrs' Square festive decorations

Riad El Solh Square and the Grand Serail

Panoramic ciew of the city center

Independence Day had a special meaning this year, in view of the Israeli withdrawal from the south of Lebanon in May 2000.

The traditional November 22 parade took place in Martyrs' Square, for the first time since Lebanon became independent in 1943. It was previously held in Abdullah Yafi Avenue, near the Hippodrome, where preparations created traffic congestion. Pending the reinstallation of the Martyrs' monument in the square, the president of the Republic placed a wreath for the unknown soldier near a symbolic painting. A display of marching bands, soldiers and military equipment also passed through the square.

In the evening, the Grand Serail opened up to music, with a concert performed by the 28-member chamber orchestra from Mantova in Italy. The concert, sponsored by the Italian Embassy and the Monuments en Musique association, also featured the Lebanese soprano Fadia Tomb El-Hage accompanied by Notre-Dame University choir.

The Grand Theatre was the setting for a concert by the Greek soprano Penny Pavlakis, on November 25. Interactive art in the form of a multimedia concert also took place at the Grand Theatre on November 11. Photographs and other cultural attractions were displayed while music was played by the five-member Art Core group.

Bang & Olufsen's 75th anniversary was celebrated with a reception, held at their Weygand street showroom, on November 17.

A march took place through the city center on November 12, organized by former first lady Mona Hrawi in support of the Thallasimia foundation.

The Bizzarro motorshow was organized in Martyr's Square from November 9 to December 10. The Italian motorshow team of eleven stuntmen and women entertained spectators, performing stunts with cars, motorcycles and trucks, and jumping from one moving car to another as they hovered on two wheels.

Antiques are popular in the city center. J M Auctions organized an auction in November in the Sehnaoui building in Riad El Solh street. In the Foch street area, starting from November 5, the Souk al Barghout flea market featured a rich variety of antiques and brocante in addition to a wide assortment of cafés.

Souk al Barghout was prolonged to the end of December 2000, contributing to the festive spirit during the Ramadan nights and the Christmas season. This was enhanced by the holiday lighting. Martyrs' Square was illuminated by the Dar al-Aytam al-Islamiya Ramadan decorations, as well as a giant Christmas tree installed by SOLIDERE. Attractive arrangements and lights were provided in streets and buildings.

Planet Discovery, the children's science museum, organized special festivities for Ramadan and Christmas. Apart from a Santa Claus workshop, puppet shows and a magician entertained children daily from December 14 to January 8.

The UFA Assurance building

Maarad street and Nejmeh Square