Hamra Street – Allow me to question the colors

Allow me to question the colors,

The so-called economic development in central Beirut, which is mainly real-estate driven, is risking (not to say already destroyed) the class-diverse demographics of Hamra Street. We are witnessing a change in the street’s architecture, atmosphere, and demography.
I have lived in Hamra Street for almost two decades. I was raised with neighbors of different cultural, social, and religious backgrounds; with different income levels and lifestyles. These differences were major contributors in my individual development. However, thanks to another claim for development – that of the economy – the second generation is experiencing a very different (sometimes contradicting) Hamra Street. Traditional oriental architecture, middle-sized and small-sized local stores, wooden kiosks and old coffee shops with the smell of coffee following the sidewalks has been replaced with cement concrete boxes with huge glass covers to portray overpriced Western outfits; along with overpriced burgers pizzas and hotdogs, with the smell of nothingness and commercialism in perfect harmony.
A new trend has risen on Hamra Street that shall turn it into a geographic area exclusive to the rich class. I live in a 60 year old building. Most neighboring buildings are similar to the building I live in; old weary walls and diverse population. In my street, four old buildings will be demolished (including mine) to be replaced with monstrous modern ‘luxurious’ apartments over shopping malls. Yes, you read it right: those people will be living in a mall, in between price tags. With apartments’ price ranging between 1.5 and 6 million dollars, one can easily foresee the class of people that will replace me and my neighbors; and the sort of lifestyle they seek to live.
In short, Hamra Street is turning into Vero Modas, burger diners, hip-hop pubs, and coffee shops with twenty three types of coffees (none of them local) and cold imported sandwiches with the price of twenty three coffees combined. While newly-built societies with neither culture nor history (such as the Israeli Kibbutz) are desperate to artificially mold a culture and claim its old and entrenched in their non-existing delusional history, our societies have rich distinctive culture and history, voluntarily giving it away in favor of a hollow commercial alternative.
Endorsing such policies of “economic development”, or at least accepting and living with such “developments”, will inevitably have dire consequences on our identity as people of this land and on the political causes (if any) that we uphold. As we destroy our last remaining trees with the thick deep-rooted trunks and the old weary barrages that keep our history “present”, on what stand shall we ask for our invaded lands and our stolen rights? The only answer I have for now is “surely not on the stands of Veromoda and Jackn’Jones, nor on streets of lavishness and luxury”.

Ibrahim Halawi

Published in Mish Jareedi April 2013 Printed Edition – click here to view original publication