Tag Archives: Corniche

How do you de-stress?

Something about this city is suffocating.  And even though I spend a lot of time walking outside (not having a car will do that to you), I always feeling like I’m not really breathing.  (Am I making any sense here?)  Maybe it’s a combination of the high levels of carbon emissions in the air, the constant construction happening all around you (I wake up to construction every morning – even Saturdays!), and the seemingly incessant honking (there is such thing as noise pollution ya know..)….or maybe..just maaaayyybe.. it’s because I’m an anxious, nervous wreck who stresses herself out all of the time for nothing? (yup, that’s probably it)..

Every time this feeling (aka. anxiety attack) becomes to much for me to bear (usually once/twice a week)..I make my way from my apartment to the Corniche…for a stroll along the beautiful Mediterranean Coast.

Corniche, Beirut

The Corniche, My Corniche.

Corniche, Beirut

This view reminds me of why I moved to Lebanon in the first place.(you can't see it here, but there are mountain ranges in the distance..)

What’s supposed to be a relaxing activity, is actually anything but that …as the Corniche is always buzzing with activity and excitement (don’t let the above photos fool you!).  But you know what?  I absolutely love it!  (You could say I’m one of those people who’s most relaxed when I have a million things going on around me which force me to take my thoughts off of myself.)..

And while I’ve written (one too many) posts about the Corniche/Raouche in the past.. I just wanted to dedicate this last one to what is easily one of my favorite parts of Beirut.  To show you what I’m talking about, I photographed some of the landmarks I always look out for along the route from my apartment, to the Corniche, and back..

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So, there you have it..my typical “de-stressing” routine..what’s yours?  How do you de-stress?

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Invisible boundaries..

I’ve been walking a lot recently for one reason or another..

And without fail,,I’m always surprised at just how many invisible boundaries exist all over the city.  Possibly the most tangible (at least for me) is when I make my way from my apartment in Hamra, down through Ain Mreisse, and onto the Corniche.  It’s like passing through three different worlds..really..

I was walking on the Corniche today, when I stopped to peer over the railing..this is what I saw..

When it struck me..a LOT of Lebanese..let’s say of a certain “class” completely cut off/disregard some of the most beautiful parts of the city just because it’s not “the thing to do,” or they “can’t be seen there.”  But let me just say one thing..the people in the pictures above aren’t the ones paying a 30,000LL entrance fee for something that should be free – the sun and the sea.

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I’m a rainbow too.

Beautiful panoramas of Lebanon

The sun is shining

Beautiful panoramas of Lebanon

the weather is sweet

Beautiful panoramas of Lebanon

make you want to move

Beautiful panoramas of Lebanon

your dancing feet.

(Click to enlarge the photos, they’re absolutely beautiful)

I can’t wait for summer to finally descend upon Lebanon..

It’s been wayyyy too long.

Until then, Bob will keep me warm..

Thanks for the photos MJ.

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One Nescafe to go please..

Nescafe Lebanon

Uncle Deek's "cold food hot" Nescafe curb side drive thru off of the Corniche

Apparently Uncle Deek makes the best Nescafe in town..even better than your teta.

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More design interventions in Beirut please!

I was taking a walk along the Corniche with some of my friends (something I don’t do often enough) when I noticed these beautiful benches decorated with ceramic tiles, all along the length of the boardwalk.  I can’t believe I’ve never noticed them before!  Each unique from its neighbor, they are such a refreshing burst of color and intricacy in the otherwise grey cement surroundings..and I just love the fact that there is a chess board in the middle of each bench!..

Beirut Benches

Beautiful benches along the Beirut Corniche

Beirut Benches

Beautiful benches along the Beirut Corniche

Beirut Benches

Beautiful benches along the Beirut Corniche

Beirut Benches

Beautiful benches along the Beirut Corniche

Beirut Benches

Beautiful benches along the Beirut Corniche

Beirut Benches

Beautiful benches along the Beirut Corniche

Beirut Benches

Beautiful benches along the Beirut Corniche

And towards the end of the stretch, and right across from the Ain Mreisse McDonald’s..is this giant, life-sized chess board.  Now in desperate need of a facelift..

Beirut Benches

Anyone for a game of life-sized chess?

Heading back home, I noticed this statue, and took down the website for the “Embellishment Project of the Ain Mreisse Corniche Waterfront Avenue De Paris” project: www.beirutbenches.com

Beirut Benches

Statue announcing the "Embellishment" project

I couldn’t figure out whether or not this project was new from the website..but judging from the press articles (and from the worn out chess board), it was likely conceived around 2001, and carried out in 2003.  For those of you who don’t know about the project, or who overlooked it,,like I did.. read below to learn more about this beautiful design intervention – I lifted some text from the website to give you insight into what the project was all about.

Beirut Benches

Beirut Benches

“The Project” section of the website reads,

“Under the patronage of the Municipality of Beirut, the embellishment of the Ain Mreisse Corniche, Avenue de Paris, conceived and designed by the internationaly renowned Lebanese artist Lena Kelekian, is being realized under the theme, colors and shapes of the Mediterranean.  The existing old cement benches are being replaced with new ones covered with colorful cut ceramics with an encrusted chessboard, along with a mega chess board in the center section of the sidewalk, destined for educational entertainment.  Each sponsor’s name will appear on a bench(es), integrated artistically in the design and on the commemorative panel of the names of the contributors and supporters.  This embellishment project will certainly give color and life to the dull gray cement, thus adding a touch of cultural input by transforming a prominent public avenue into a more distinguished point of attraction in Beirut city.”

Sassine Tunnel Trees

The ceramic trees that line Sassine Tunnel were also done by "Beirut Benches" artist Lena Kelekian

photo credit

In the “Words” portion of the website, Abdul Monaem Al Aris, former mayor of Beirut, had this to say about the embellishment project,

“One might ask, why pick this spot in Beirut and not elsewhere?  Well, because the Corniche symbolizes the city of Beirut standing against and rising above the ashes of the despicable war, and because the Corniche was and still is the place where restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions meet.  In this exact place, also, our children and elders find a place of fun and solace, for they have the right to a safe and welcoming meeting place like this to enjoy.  For this, the Municipality of the City of Beirut has decided to implement the project of embellishing the Corniche, showing to everyone that Beirut lives and thrives by the genuine and sincere efforts of its citizens and all those who love it.  Why not, when the city is highly regarded as the portal to the orient, and the center where civilizations meet.

Our thanks to all those involved, and we hope that this project is one of a series of projects that will help show Beirut’s cultural identity.”

-Abdul Monaem Al Aris

Former Mayor of Beirut

Beirut Benches

The benches stand in stark contrast to their surroundings..

photo credit

And finally, in an article by The Daily Star, titled “King of Tyre’s quest for Europa retold along Corniche,” Garine Tcholakian wrote this on the embellishment project and on the artist behind it,

“Lena Kelekian’s passionate commitment to icon and mural paintings has manifested itself in churches, permanent displays and outdoor projects around the world over the past 12 years.  Her latest endeavor, under the patronage of the Municipality of Beirut, is along the Corniche in Ain al-Mreisseh.  Kelekian speaks with contagious enthusiasm about the project as she sits by the sea on the first installment of her project – the uniquely decoratedbench on the Corniche across the Hard Rock Cafe covered in colorful cut-ceramic pieces.  It represents the legendary King Agenor of Tyre.  A year ago, Kelekian proposed – and gained approval from the Municipality of Beirut – for the Ain al-Mreisseh Corniche Waterfront-Avenue de Paris bench project.

Beirut Benches

The sample bench "King Agenor" completed by Kelekian Oct. 2001

Since then, “the project of embellishing the Corniche has become the focus of everybody’s attention,” says Beirut Mayor Abdul Monaem al-Aris.  While the 2.5 kilometer project – which extends from the Phoenicia Inter-Continental Hotel area to the Bain Militaire – is an ambitious one, it only adds to Kelekian’s accomplishments, which range from honorary degrees to La Toile d’Or in France and the Sixteen Rayed Star of Macedonia in Greece.  “What we need is color.We need to give life to this city,” she says.  “There is now only cement everywhere. “With this project, I want to put Beirut on the map the way Gaudi put Barcelona on the map,” she says, referring to the famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, whose environmental designs and use of cut ceramics inspired Kelekian’s design for the project.

Gaudi Barcelona

Casa Batllo - Gaudi's work in Barcelona, Spain. I would love to see this in Beirut! Wouldn't you?

photo credit

Gaudi Lizard Barecelona

Gaudi's famous lizard in Barcelona's Park Guel..I've been there! :D

The beautification of the Corniche will see the transformation of every one of the old cement benches – 76 in all. Collectively, they will tell the story of the legend of Cadmos and Europa.  There are different versions of the fable, Kelekian’s – approved by the Municipality of Beirut – is based on the Phoenician version.  In the legend, King Agenor of Tyre sends Cadmos to bring back his captured daughter, Europa, from Crete, where Zeus held her imprisoned by a dragon.  In the process of saving his sister, Cadmos propagates the Phoenician alphabet to the rest of the world.  “Cadmos and Europa is, after all, the legend of our land,” Kelekian asserts.  The story will be told in color, reminding visitors that Beirut is the “faithful guardian of Arab culture,” wrote Roula al-Ajouz, project coordinator and Beirut municipal council member.  “This is the only place where people can come and walk,” Kelekian says.  “I wanted an outlet that’s beautiful for all people. The underprivileged don’t have chalets … they have no place to breath but here, it is for everybody.

“I want to make Ain al- Mreisseh an attraction for people to come and get away from their monotonous life.  ” The project is both entertaining and educational.  Each bench includes didactic details, such as the incorporation of the alphabet into the designs.  The letters represent four of the languages – Phoenician, Greek, Latin and Arabic – that have passed through the area.  The benches will also include chess and backgammon boards, adding to the outdoor cafe feel.  Finally, the story of Cadmos and Europa will be narrated in its entirety in both English and Arabic along the AUB beach front wall.””

source

Putting this post together really made me smile.  :D  I sincerely hope to see more “design interventions” like this in Beirut.  This is what this city needs!

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Beirut By Bike and The New Waterfront District.

After spending the better part of last Saturday and Sunday lazing around the house, I thought it best to get up and do something active.  Only this time, I skipped the gym in favor of an outdoor activity – biking.

One of my more active friends had been trying to get me to go biking along the New Waterfront District for a long time..he kept telling me how I have to see the “New Corniche”  how it was so much bigger and nicer than the “Old Corniche”,, so, I decided to finally take him up on the offer.  To read more about the New Waterfront District/New Corniche, click here.

We arrived at Beirut Souks at around 2:00pm, and walked down to the area where Beirut By Bike had its stall.

Beirut by bike

The Beirut By Bike stall in Beirut Souks, right across from The Met

From the moment we arrived, it was pretty obvious that we had gone to the “kiddie” bike section..  The children, maids, and mothers in high heels (Why do they do that?  Don’t they know they’re taking their kids biking?)  kind of gave it away..

Even though we showed up to the wrong place, it was nice seeing all of the families out and about, and kids doing something other than playing their PS3s and munching on Tarboush :)

Beirut by bike

Kids on their bicycles

We were directed to another Beirut By Bike location, closer to the BIEL, to find bikes that were more suitable for us.

Beirut by bike

Beirut By Bike..the location closer to the BIEL

Beirut by bike

Beirut By Bike

We walked up to the cashier and paid our LL5,000 for an hour rental, and went on our way to the New Waterfront District.

Beirut by bike

Pick one, any one! - the bikes at Beirut By Bike.. Make sure and choose one with a seating pad or you WILL have a sore bum the next day. I guarantee it!

After getting our bikes, we headed outside toward the Downtown area that is blocked off on Sundays, and then toward the New Waterfront District.  After only five minutes riding uphill, I was huffing and puffing and gasping for breath..as if I hadn’t exercised in years!  I still can’t believe that I’m really that out of shape!  Sheesh!  Just goes to show that just because you go to the gym, doesn’t mean you have any sort of endurance whatsoever.

Anyway..after climbing the hill, we turned right into the district.  It was, well…, surprisingly underwhelming..  By the way my friend had described it, I thought it was going to be something truly magnificent, and instead, it looked like a construction site.  I was hoping to see some greenery..some trees.. SOMETHING to look at.. (the “old Cornice” has WAY more personality) but instead you see rubble, rubble, and more rubble..Butttt, at least the roads are paved right?.. and you don’t have to worry about getting run over by a car while your biking!

I took a couple of photos for you to look at.  I almost fell about five times trying to take these shots, as I swerved from left to right, trying to balance the bike while holding the camera..but I managed to get some good shots nevertheless.  What do you think?  Have you been there yet?

The new Rouche

The New Waterfront District...if you look closely in the left hand corner you can see me taking the picture!

The new Rouche

The New Waterfront District

The new Raouche

The New Waterfront District

Aside from the fact that the district is underdeveloped, I am surprised that they even chose to include biking and jogging lanes in the first place.  That’s a great step in the right direction, don’t you think?  The lanes are clearly demarcated with different icons, and there even guards in place to make sure that no one is using the lanes for any other purpose than what they are meant for…Preeeettyy impressive I should think.

The new Raouche

Biking lane...

The new Raouche

Jogging lane..

And if you want to let go of your bikes for a while, you can take a walk down to the boardwalk for a look out onto the sea..

The new Raouche

The boardwalk

All in all, I was happy that I took part in an outdoor activity, but I look forward to the day that the New Waterfront District is a bit more developed and more appealing to look at!  Maybe then I’ll want to spend more time there..but for now (and maybe even after), the “Old Corniche,” is still a better choice. :) What do you think?

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