Tags Posts tagged with "Before and After"

Before and After

Before and after pictures were at the heart of the project to rebuild downtown Beirut following the Lebanese war. These images filled the pages of promotional material, coffee table books and photography exhibits hosted and commissioned by Solidere, the private real estate firm that undertook the project. Some of these images can still be found displayed at the airport today, 25 years after reconstruction began:

Credit: Ayman Trawi
Credit: Ayman Trawi

Even holograms have been made to showcase the transformations.

But then there are the before-and-after pictures you don’t see-those that cover the vast majority of  neighborhoods in the old city reconstruction zone, which were not restored but demolished.

Take this image that was recently uploaded to Facebook by Gabriel Daher. (If you like old Beirut buildings, you should definitely be following him.)

Photo: Gaby Daher

You might recognize the large Capitole building on the right, a former cinema that still stands today and is more recently known for hosting nightclubs like the now defunct Buddah Bar and its current rooftop lounge. The Riad Solh statue would later occupy the empty space in the corner, which seems to be still under construction here.

While Capitole–and the corner building just left of it (formally used by Pan American Airways) are often seen in old photos of the city,  what is less often seen is the neighborhood in the foreground.

Here is another shot of the neighborhood as posted on the same Facebook thread by another great archivist, Kheireddine Al-Ahdab. This time the perspective is from above the Capitole building (left) revealing a large swathe of buildings across the street, bordering the Lazarieh tower on the far left.

Al-Ahdab identified this neighborhood to be known as Ghalghoul. So what happened to it?

I was able to track down this photo of Ghalghoul from 1991. Many of the buildings appear to have survived the war:

Photo: Rene Burri

But during reconstruction, the entire area was eventually leveled.

In this picture from 2013, we can see Ghalghoul has been reduced to a series of parking lots. All that remains is the double arched building in the photo above. Its blue canvas roof now replaced with red tiles.


The big hole in the foreground was supposed to be a mall but that project was stopped when ruins were found on the site and a public pressure campaign began not long after photos of the excavations were leaked to the public. You can read more about those discoveries here.

In this shot we can see that the Capitole building on the far right has been restored, but now faces a large void where Ghalghoul once stood.

Dozens if not scores of buildings were razed, leaving barely any trace of the neighborhood.

Here is an aerial view showing the extent of the destruction in between El Amir Bachir street and the Fouad Chehab highway ( Route 51) and in between Syria street and Cheikh Toufik Khaled-nearly all flattened as parking lots.

In fact the only time Ghalghoul saw life again in the postwar period was during the protests of 2006-2009, when a tent city was established in its parking lots by opposition parties calling for the resignation of the government.

Photo: Richard van der Graaf

I tried to find more about Ghalghoul but the only results seem to be images of its destruction shot in the early 1990s, such as this 1995 series by Fouad Elkhoury. Many of the buildings were still standing:

Fouad Elkhoury

Until the bulldozing began:

Fouad Elkhoury
Fouad Elkhoury

It’s often said that more of Beirut was destroyed by the bulldozers of reconstruction than through the shelling of the war. In fact, some 80 percent of the old city was reportedly demolished under the Solidere plan. So while there are plenty of pictures of the 260 odd buildings that were restored, you won’t find any trace of the hundreds of buildings that were leveled, entire neighborhoods and streets erased, not only in Ghalghoul but everywhere large parking lots are found today such Martyr’s Square, Saifi, Zeitouni and others. Wadi Abu Jmel, Beirut’s old Jewish quarter is among these. I was lucky enough to document some of the last buildings and meet the Wadi’s last resident before she died in this piece a few years ago for Al Jazeera.

How many other untold stories are out there from people and neighborhoods that were left out of Solidere’s vision?

If anyone has any memories of Ghalghoul or other razed neighborhoods, please feel free to share in the comments below and I would be happy to update the post.





I managed to capture the final moments of Lord’s Hotel this afternoon.
The gradual destruction of this 1950s landmark is almost complete. Luckily, I took some pictures last month and was able to compare some of these to a wonderful archive I was given access to by researcher Camille Tarazi,  who saw my previous post and forwarded me a 1956 article about Lord’s in La Revue du Liban magazine.

Elder residents eyes light up when asked about the place, describing it as one of the finest in the area, known for attracting tourists both from the West and the Arab countries.


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December 2014


January 2015










Today, only one room remains:


But when I was here in December, I managed to get some shots of the vintage overhang:


At the time, the entrances were sealed with breeze blocks:


But there were still some holes…


Revealing glimpses of the past:



I reached over the wall and found a larger opening:



Could these equally-spaced holes on the left be the shelves of the old bar?

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I could also could see a hallway area:


Could it have been part of the old lobby?

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According to the 1956 Revue du Liban article, Lord’s was known for its modern art and matching furniture:

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I made it over to another sealed off section….


And found this mural through the cracks:


And got a better view through another opening:


I wonder who painted it? Just left of the painting, there were other parts of the lobby, marked by pink marble columns:



The 1956 Revue article makes note of decorative paneling and wallpaper throughout. From another hole, I found some remnants of those panels:


And the wallpaper:


I wonder if these were similar to those used in the the dining rooms?

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Back in December, I managed to get around the back side of the hotel, where a large tree was growing:



When I walked beneath it, I could see the vintage bubble balconies:


As well as a hidden atrium section:


The windows had been bolted shut:


None of this remains today…


Amid the rubble are chunks of the blue tile facade:


The walls seem to have been made of archaic sandstone:


Sandstone construction is supposedly one of the criteria for preserving a building.  So why wasn’t Lord’s Hotel saved?

And how many more will be lost before parliament and the public begin mobilizing to save what’s left?




Attached are the original pages discovered by Camille at Saint Joseph University’s “Bibliotheque Orientale.”

La revue du Liban 1956_006

Among other things, they discuss special Thursday candlelight dinners, “happy” ladies at the bar, and receptionists trained at France’s Grenoble Hotel School:

La revue du Liban 1956_007



Yes, this blog is mainly about Beirut, but I’ve added a new travel section to share some of my trips and the experiences that may resonate across borders.

In the early 1990s, I watched Beirut patch up its bullet holes and repaint its facades. In the late 2000s, I moved to New York after that city’s transformation had already happened. That’s why I found this photo collection of 1980s New York so interesting.

I spent much of my time in the city living in the old lower Manhattan neighborhood known as the “East Village”– sometimes referred to as the East Rat Trap due to its generous rodent population. That may not have changed much since the 1980s, but almost everything else has. The once gritty, impoverished, crime and drug war infested part of town is today one of the most expensive and “trendiest” places to live–somehow similar to the transformation of downtown Beirut, where most original inhabitants were pushed out to make way for posh cafes and unaffordable high rises.

The New York Times recently published a series of 1980s photos of the village produced by photographer Ken Schles –fascinating to me because I lived all over this neighborhood. I decided to use Google Maps Streetview to create some before and after pictures. Not all the pictures were very specifically captioned, but I knew I could find some of them with the help of memory and google.

This shot was described as somewhere on “8th street between Avenue B and C” (1983)

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I found the same spot today:

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Notice the war like concrete block barricade (below right) has been removed, the facades cleaned up and the addition of gentrified graffiti:

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This next shot was a bit more specific, described as “View from 224 Avenue B” (1983)


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But that is the location of the photographer. The liquor store was across the street (notice same window space above the store)

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I confirmed this by using streetview’s pan around function to look across the street after entering in the address.

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I zoomed in and matched the iron work on the fire escape that Schles shot through in his original black and white.

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Finally, the hardest picture to match was this one, which only offered the caption “Winter (East 4th Street) 1985.


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It’s a long street, but I’ve been down it hundreds of times and remembered a church. I walked down 4th with streetview and found it:

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In addition to the breeze blocks and boarded-up facades, 1980s New York also reminded me of 1980s Beirut with the proliferation of abandoned lots and open spaces. Yet during redevelopment, the soaring cost of gentrified real estate means that almost no plot is now left unconstructed in both cities. At least in New York a few plots have been saved by the city from developers and turned into “community gardens.” By contrast in Beirut, no plots are purchased by the city and existing parks are not even opened to the public.

Also, not only is Streetview not available in Lebanon, but you may get arrested for taking a picture. That doesn’t stop us though.


Correction: An earlier version of this post noted the photographers’ caption on the first image as “…between Avenue A and B” when it actually says “…between Avenue B and C” which matches the location in the google maps photo.