October - December  1 9 9 9
More Space Delivery and Occupation in Beirut City Center

   The conservation area
The city center is gaining life as more quality space, delivered through restoration and new construction, attracts returnee or relocating activities.
    Restoration is bringing back the historic Beirut Municipality building to its former glory. The building was designed in 1923 by Youssef Aftimos, architect of a number of important buildings and monuments, including the Grand Serail clock tower.
    The four monumental facades, now restored, underline the Municipality as a major urban address, facing Al Omari mosque and forming a grand entrance to the Foch-Allenby area. Internal refurbishment is expected to take another six months.
    A sophisticated design, inspired by architectural heritage, the original Municipality also responded to functional considerations and adopted modern techniques relating to office buildings. Shops with their ancillary basements occupied the ground floor.
    Facing the Municipality on Weygand street, Emir Assaf mosque has been beautifully restored. Al Omari mosque is regularly welcoming the faithful, as its interior is operational. The minaret has been repaired, with works to follow on the dome, the entrance and the Maarad street facade. Along with the   
restoration of other places of worship in the city center, final blueprints have been submitted for reconstruction of Mohammad Al-Amin mosque, near the Maronite St George cathedral, on Emir Bechir street off Riad El Solh square.
    On the corner of Weygand and Maarad streets, the Atrium commercial development constitutes a harmonious infill with the Maarad arcades, while heralding the new developments around the Souks of Beirut. The building facades are nearing completion, with project delivery expected in the year 2000. Decoration works prepare for the opening of the Cercle Hitti gallery on street level.
    Inaugurating the new Al Hayat newspaper and Al Wassat magazine premises in Maarad street on November 26, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud declared: " We are bringing back Al Hayat to its original homeland."
    The Italian Embassy is moving to the Assicurazione Generali Building in Nejmeh Square.
Middle East Airlines and Misr Airlines are returning to the city center, where Tunis Air is already opening.
    New tenants include Ericson on Riad El Solh square and Rim Natural Water in Riad El-Solh street.
The residential neighborhoods

More residential and hotel projects are soon to start in Saifi, Zokak El Blatt, Wadi Abou Jamil and Minet Hosn.
    The Saifi neighboring is regaining its residential character with the progress of restoration and new construction. This will be enhanced by the presence of such communal services as the polyclinic under construction, and the health club which will be part of SOLIDERE's Saifi Village.
    Near one of the Saifi Village apartment buildings, on George Haddad Avenue, the Association of Banks' headquarters adds a quiet and dignified institutional note to the neighborhood.

The financial district

The city center is a focus of financial activity, with quality establishments ranging from banks to insurance companies and other financial institutions.
    Their counterpart in public institutions is of the highest caliber: the Prime Minister's offices, the Ministry of Finance and the Council for Development and Reconstruction. On the international level, the United Nations agencies, grouped in UN House, were joined by the World Bank's permanent Beirut office.
    The financial cluster has traditionally been in and around Riad El Solh street, also known as Banking street. The area comprises the Arab Bank headquarters and branches of the following banks: Atlantico, Beirut Riyad, Berliner, Byblos, Crédit Agricole, Crédit Libanais, de l'Habitat, de l'Industrie et du Travail, du Liban et d'Outre-Mer, Libanaise pour le Commerce, Libano-Française, Misr Lebanon, North Africa, di Panama, Pharaon and Chiha, Société Générale Libano-Européenne, and Banque de Syrie et du Liban.

    The city center has witnessed an expansion of its financial district both in the scope and location. The Arab African Bank has moved to its new building on Riad El Solh street. Assicurazione Generali has recuperated its building, and additional insurance companies include Arab Reinsurance, medgulf, Assurex and UFA Assurances.
    With activities overflowing to the additional areas, Foch-Allenby will house such banks as Bank of Beirut, Crédit National, Lebanon and Gulf, Méditerranée, Misr Lebanon, Saudi Lebanese and Société Bancaire. Jordan National Bank will be in the late Ottoman Tanios and Massoud building in Bab Idriss, along Weygand street.
    The nearby Bank Audi headquarters, strategically facing Park Avenue, heralds another extension of the banking district towards the newly planned sectors of the city center. Further north, Middle East Capital Group is proceeding with its new development.



In the city center

With summer lingering on and leading to Indian summer, Beirut city center was home this quarter to a number of outdoor activities.
    Between October 5 and 10, the yacht regatta competing for the Banque Libano-Francaise trophy gave a foretaste of the exciting waterfront being developed around the city center western marina.
    Outdoor cafés have been popular. The Barghout  flea market proved to be a success for the thirteenth time. From November 3 to 21, visitors enjoyed strolling in and around the Maarad street arcades, looking for bargains and antiques.
    Thirteen United Nations meetings, workshops and conferences were held in UN House during the last three months.
    In the Foch-Allenby area, a short documentary film on pre-war Beirut was shown on October 22, by the French TV company TF1. This was accompanied by music and Dabkeh dancing, portraying  Beirut returning to normal. On November 22, an Independence exhibition was organized by George Zeeni in Nejmeh Square: 156 paintings, 16 sculptures, photo archives and manuscript copies of the Constitutional Oath speech provided a lesson in history.
    The Rover car model for the year 2000 was launched on November 11 in the Roman baths area. An antiques auction was held on December 5 in Sehnaoui building in Riad El Solh street.
    The festive spirit at year-end was enhanced by the special lighting emphasizing architectural details in the restored buildings. Around the illuminated Christmas tree in Debbas square, a choir from Our Lady's Orthodox school sang carols in Arabic and English on December 16 to 19. This was in support of the 'Sweater for Winter' campaign, launched each year by Al Amal institute for the disabled. Another charity, Dar al-Aytam al-Islamiya, contributed its Ramadan decoration to the square.
    During the holy month, the Grand Theater was the venue for spiritual and heritage music, as well as for convivial nights.

The Grand Theater, still unrestored, is associated in the memory of Beirutis with the artistic and cultural tradition of their city center. In this heritage building of the late 1920s, the Nadia Tueni Foundation and the French Cultural Mission organized, on November 5 to 7, successful performances of  'Chagrin d'Amour', an early play by the Lebanese poet and playwright Georges Chehade.
  The closing of the European Film Festival took place at the Grand Theater on December 7 The evening was animated by Iraqi jazz singer Ilham Madfai.
    Planet Discovery and its garden were the object of beautiful lighting. Two new exhibitions have been added to the science museum, teaching the children about water pumps and genetics. A special artistic and cultural activity for the holidays, 'Young Talents' provided 25 workshops for the 3 to 15-year olds.
    The neighboring New Waterfront Exhibition Center was opened to the public on December 22.