April - June 2001
Beirut Francophone Capital for 2001

Lebanon is hosting the 9th Francophone Summit, 'Le Dialogue des Cultures'. 2001 has thus been declared Francophone year by Lebanon, while Beirut has been hailed this year as the capital of the French-speaking world.

A special  role has been assigned to Beirut city center. In the waterfront land, works are progressing on the International Exhibition and Leisure Center in which the conference is to be held in October.

The city center is also being used as the Francophone Village for over 70 events taking place throughout the year.

20th Music Festival

On June 21, 10,000 people were entertained in the city center, with classical, lyrical, choral, jazz, rock, rap and techno music. The festival was opened with a song composed for the occasion, interpreted by schoolchoirs in Arabic and French. Concerts by local and European artists involved four rock groups at the Roman baths, six jazz and blues groups in the Foch-Allenby area, and eight hard rock groups in Martyr's Square. A saxophonist, an accordionist and an Arabic singer performed solo in Maarad street. Classical music lovers were offered a Lebanese symphony orchestra concert and lyrical chants in St George Maronite cathedral; a Lebanese folklore choir and a Canadian guitarist recital in St  Louis  Capuchin church.

A Gastronomy Festival grouping 50 restaurants was held in Martyrs' Square. Schoolchildren joined in L'Orient-Le Jour Friends' marathon of games around Maarad street, the Roman baths, Gibran Khalil Gibran garden, Nejmeh Square and the Municipality.

International Garden

An international garden is planned on the old seashore walk. The first tree was planted on April 20 by Jean Behart, president of Lions Club International. The Lions Club is co-sponsoring the project with SOLIDERE and 30 foreign embassies.

The garden, to be landscaped in a 20 meter-wide strip along the one-kilometer walk, will be divided into 30 sections. A winding footpath will provide access for visitors, with signs explaining the themes of the gardens contributed by various countries. Each section will be designed by the winning landscape architects.

Heritage Day

On National Heritage Day on May 17, the capital's historic buildings and sites were opened to the public, with tours organized for students from around the country.

The visits included: the Grand Serail, Parliament building, Al Omari mosque, Emir Assaf mosque, St George cathedral, the Roman baths and garden, Municipality building, Besançon school and the ancient Tell of Beirut.

The cedar tree of Lebanon was celebrated in an exhibition held at Planet Discovery from May 17 to 24 showing the variety of trees in Lebanon.

Maarad in Maarad

Maarad street has been hosting several exhibitions. On the occasion of the national Heritage day, paintings were displayed from May 17 to 24 under the theme 'Art, Tree and Heritage'. In June, the Canadian embassy organized two exhibitions: a private collection of views of Lebanon by Manoug, a famed photographer of the sixties; and a native Indian art exhibition from the northwest coast of Canada. The street was also the setting for a fashion show by final year students of ESMOD (Ecole supérieure des arts et techniques de la mode), in  collaboration with YWCA.

Festa in Piazza

Nejmeh Square, home of the Italian embassy, hosted a 'Festa in Piazza' on June 4, on the occasion of Italy's National Day. Guests were entertained by music and traditional flag waving.


Other exhibitions

An art exhibition by Jean Maufy was held on May 9 at Compagnie des Arts gallery in Yusef El Rami street.

From May 11 until June 8 an exhibition of ironwork and terracotta sculpture by Hussein

Madi was held at the Aida Cherfan-Fine Art gallery, in Hussein El-Ahdab street near Nejmeh Square.

Paintings on silk by Mona Al Munajjed from Saudi Arabia, were on display from June 21 to 26 at the New Waterfront exhibition center.

City weekends

As part of Saifi Village street life, flowers are sold nearby by members of the Association of Flower and Plant Growers. The market is open on Saturdays and Sundays. Other markets for handicrafts, books, stamps, antiques, toys, paintings and artwork, will be held at different intervals during the next three years.

Since June 17, families, sports enthusiasts and pedestrians have enjoyed traffic-free roads on Sundays. Bicycles are available for hire from the Planet Discovery traffic educational garden.

Official and Religious Celebrations

The restored Emir Assaf mosque was inaugurated on June 22. Beirut Mufti Shekh Mohammed Rachid Kabbani led the prayers, attended by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and many dignitaries.

On the eve of St George's Day on April 22, Archbishop Elias Audi led evening prayers at the Greek-Orthodox cathedral, currently under restoration.

Commemorating Martyr's Day on May 6, a wreath was  placed in Martyr's Square by Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares.

Other events

A marathon in support of the Lebanese Autism Society took place in Martyrs' Square on May 20, under the patronage of first lady Mrs Andrée Lahoud.

The 6th Arab World Travel & Tourism Exchange was held in Martyrs' Square between April 5  and 8. A joint cultural tourism program was agreed by Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

The city center dome was the venue in April for an exhibition on advertising in the last 100 years, coupled with a dinner; an international DJ's rave party; and a dancing party with the theme 'flashback on music' from the 70's and 80's.

From May 1 to 6, J M Auctions in Riad El Solh street featured antique furniture, crystal, lamps, sculpture and paintings.

On May 5-6, the Kennel Club of Lebanon held its Beirut spring dog show in the Planet Discovery car park area.

On May 24, the Roman Baths open space hosted the yearly International College Alumni gala dinner.

On June 22, Merck Sharp and Dohme pharmaceuticals invited the medical profession to an outdoor conference and dinner in Yusef  El Rami street.

In June 14, Audi Motor Show took place in Abdel Malak street.

On June 29, Beirut city center was the starting point of the Lebanon Automobile and Touring Club's 25th Marlboro Middle East rally championship.


SOLIDERE chairman-general manager Nasser Chammaa welcomed Dubai Municipality head Kassem Sultan with a delegation. Six members of the Bundestag with the foreign affairs commission president, and a delegation from the UK House of Lords including actor Sean Connery.

Official visitors also included Jordan deputy prime minister Saleh Reshaidat; Belarus prime minister Vladimir Ermochine with finance minister Vladimir Lopato Zagorsky; a Czech delegation led by transport minister J. Schling; a Belgian parliamentary group; Yerevan governor with an Armenian delegation; Shawkat Musulmani; heading a delegation from Rock City municipality, Australia; and representatives of the defense affairs ministries in Finland.

From the financial world came: Cyprus Central Bank governor A C Afxentiou; delegations from the International Monetary Fund, the National Bank of Canada and the Swiss Development and Cooperation agency; International Financial Center (Canada) chairman with a delegation; HSBC board members with the Beirut bank chairman-general manager Kevin Smorthwaite; Banque Audi chairman Raymond Audi with representatives from 13 US and British banks; the lead of Zurich Financial Services real estate division; UBS executive director; Crédit Suisse First Boston and Indosuez representatives; and executives from international insurance companies attending a conference in Beirut.

Business visitors included investors from Saudi Arabia, businessmen from the US and Europe; British Gas vice-president Timothy Forbes, Carrier US commercial vice-president and general

manager for North Europe and vice-president of operations for the Middle East, Africa and Europe, Henry Heald shipping company chairman John Joly, senior members of Saudi Cables, Sycamore Networks and Almaz Corporation; the president and general manager of International Conferences, Exhibitions and Fairs in Bonn; the manager of leisure and tourism for KPMG in South Africa; Giorgio Armani marketing manager; the president of Bahraoui group in Rabat; senior executives from West-Brook Enterprises International Inc, New York; 30 memberss of Austrian Airlines and Metropolitan Hotel marketing manager.

Organizations were represented by Lions International president Jean Behar with the governor for Lebanon and Jordan; 10 Rotary club  members from Paris; a delegation from the Lebanese-Brazilian chamber of commerce; and a medical delegation from France and Switzerland.

Foreign and local academic groups included 30 students and professors from Sorbonne University (Paris), five from Ecole Supérieure dee Topographie (France), and 30 from TEC de Monterrey (Mexico).

From the media came journalists from Paris-Match, 'W' magazine, European Business Report and Expansion magazine (France).

Conferences, books, exhibitions

Under the patronage of Prime Minsiter Rafic Hariri, a conference on the development of Beirut was held at UN House on April 7. Six ESCWA conferences tool place during the quarter.

A conference on the urban morphology of Beirut, organized by the Centre d'études et de Recherches sur le Moyen-Orient Contemporain (CERMOC) and the Institute of Urbanism at the Lebanese American University, was held on April 27 at the French Cultural Center.

Fouad Debbas

The current exhibition of old Beirut photographs from Fouad C. Debbas' collection constitutes a posthumous homage.

From April 4 to June 10, the photographs were displayed at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, accompanied by the publication of Debbas' new book Des Photographes à Beyrouth 1840-1918.

The author-collector died between the two exhibitions.

Fouad Debbas is a great scholarly figure and will remain forever an authentic personal companion to anyone cherishing Beirut, Lebanon, history, photography and heritage.