January - March 2001

The Grand Serail has been opened to the public since January 8, 2001. Visiting hours are Sundays from 9 am to 2 pm, and everyday from 3 to 5 pm.

The city center witnessed a variety of cultural and leisure activities in the last quarter.

On the occasion of their 75th anniversary, Bang & Olufsen displayed audiovisual equipment on a world tour. The exhibition, entitled '75 years of excellence', was held in Beirut at the Waterfront Exhibition Center, from February 23 to 27.

Between February 16 and March 2, a street market was held daily from 4 to 10 pm in the Lazarieh complex.

In the Foch-Allenby area, the Compagnie des Arts gallery was inaugurated on February 27 with an art exhibition featuring the work of Egyptian artist Omar El Nagdi.

The seventh Lebanon International Book Fair, sponsored by parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, was held in a marquee in Martyr's Square on March 15 to 25. With 160 publishing houses from many countries represented, a wide selection of books was on display. A number of lectures and debates were organized during the exhibition. Different events are planned in the marquee throughout the year.

The Lions Club of Lebanon and Jordan, in collaboration with SOLIDERE, invited Lebanese architecture and engineering students to submit plans for a 4,000 m international garden. Sections of the garden, to be located on the old seashore in the Zeytouneh area, will represent countries participating in the project. 125 designs were submitted by February 24. Results were announced and prizes were presented by the club governor Gaby Gebrail at the New Waterfront Exhibition Center on March 23. With 15 winning designs chosen, the first prize went to Natalie Maroun from the Lebanese University for her design of an Austrian garden.

With the suspension of works in the Ministry of Finance headquarters project, SOLIDERE had put on hold the transformation of the city center dome into a conference facility. In line with its pre-war vocation as a cinema, the dome was used on March 23 for the screening of the German film 'Run Lola Run'. This was followed by a dancing party. The event was organized by Artcore-Kentertainment.

A treasure hunt was organized on March 24 by the international congregation of All Saints church. Around 100 participants of all ages enjoyed learning about the city center. The trail on foot involved many stops, with games played on the way. These involved answering questions relating to landmarks and restored buildings; counting steps up to the Serail hill, benches in the Roman baths area, willow trees and flagpoles in front of UN House; and bowling on an empty lot. Points were gained for correct answers, with extra points for collecting such items as a feather, a purple flower (not to be picked from the planted area), and a Lebanese flag (a kindly army officer on duty near Parliament helped participants by handing out paper flags). The winners received prizes in the form of vouchers from restaurants.

Gibran Khalil Gibran garden
To be a garden without  walls, a vineyard without a  guardian, a treasure house for ever open to passers-by.
                                                                                            Gibran Khalil Gibran
A tribute to the Lebanese writer and artist of international renown, the Gibran Khalil Gibran garden was officially inaugurated on March 30. The ceremony was held under the sponsorship of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

The public garden, planned, executed and financed by SOLIDERE, constitutes a formal entrance to the city center, facing UN House.

A bust of Gibran by Zaven Hadichian, presented by the Gibran Khalil Gibran Association, was unveiled during the ceremony. It is the latest example of public art adoring the garden.

UN activities
Four conferences organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), were held at UN House during last quarter.

85 schoolchildren from South Lebanon came to the city center on March 9. Their visit, organized by the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP), included UN House, Parliament building and SOLIDERE.

The 14 - to 18-year olds voiced their aspirations and concern about job prospects, and wished for more cultural and leisure activities in their home towns and villages.

Planet Discovery
Autistic children, accompanied by their parents, visited Planet Discovery on March 12. A marathon day will be held on May 20 in Martyrs' Square to increase public awareness of the problems associated with autism.

On its second anniversary on March 15, Planet Discovery inaugurated the Traffic Safety Educational Garden, created in collaboration with the Beirut Cosmopolitan Rotary Club.

450 students from government schools were invited to visit the children's science museum and attend the inauguration.

In the purpose-built driving circuit equipped with special miniature cars, children ages 7 to 15 are trained in driving and taught road safety rules. The project aims at instilling a sense of civic duty in the young, by encouraging them to drive safely and learn the traffic rules at an early age.

The Microsoft Electronic Library website design competition was launched on March 27. With entries to be submitted by May 20, winners will be announced on June 7, on the Library's first anniversary.