Beirut Souks

Monday, 22 January 2024 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Bon appétit, Shopping, Union for the Mediterranean
Reading Time:  5 minutes

Beirut Souks © flickr.com - n.karim/cc-by-2.0

Beirut Souks © flickr.com – n.karim/cc-by-2.0

Beirut Souks is a major commercial district in Beirut Central District. With over 200 shops, 25 restaurants and cafes, an entertainment center, a 14 cinema complex, periodic street markets and an upcoming department store, it is Beirut’s largest and most diverse shopping and leisure area. Beirut Souks also features piazzas and public space. Designed in five separate commissions by international and Lebanese architects, Beirut Souks offer 128,000 sq. m of built-up area interspersed with landscaped pedestrian zones.

The souks have historically been at the commercial heart of Beirut. They sustained severe damage during the Lebanese Civil War and were rebuilt by Solidere according to the ancient Roman-Greek street grid, maintaining the historic landmarks and pre-war street names.

Beirut Souks were opened to the public on October 2, 2009, after a 10-year delay due to political instability. The Gold Souk’s opening was also delayed due to financial disagreements between the syndicate of Expert Goldsmiths and Jewelers in Lebanon and Solidere. Visitors on the opening day wandered through the few opened shops while construction works were still underway.

The new Souks are a low rise complex of two components: the South Souks and the North Souks. The Souks were designed in five different commissions by international and Lebanese architects. They offer 163,010 square metres (1,754,600 sq ft) of floor space and 17,307 square metres (186,290 sq ft) of pedestrian areas that follow the ancient Greek street grid.

Fakhry Bey Street © A.K.Khalifeh/cc-by-sa-3.0 Beirut Souks © flickr.com - n.karim/cc-by-2.0 Imam Ouzai Square © A.K.Khalifeh/cc-by-sa-3.0 Beirut South Souks map © Eli+ © A.K.Khalifeh/cc-by-sa-3.0 Entrance from Fakhry Bey Street © me
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Fakhry Bey Street © A.K.Khalifeh/cc-by-sa-3.0
Reconstruction of Beirut’s central district began as soon as the guns fell silent in 1990. Dar Al-Handasah was commissioned by the Lebanese Council for Development and Reconstruction to prepare a master plan for the rebuilding of the dilapidated central district. Henri Eddeh, a senior architect planner at Dar al-Handasah proposed a complete demolition of the historical city center which was to be replaced by modern buildings and infrastructure.

The notion of bulldozing the entire cityscape stirred a heated polemic within the intellectual circles and widespread opposition to the master plan led to the adoption of an alternate strategy aiming at preserving and renovating what could be salvaged of Beirut’s historic buildings. The new master plan drawn by Lebanese architect Jad Tabet was approved by the Lebanese parliament and its implementation started in September 1994; a private share-holding company (Solidere) was created by the Lebanese government to manage the entire process of reconstruction and rehabilitation of Beirut’s central district. Except for specific landmarks that were later salvaged and restored, a large part of the souks’ medieval buildings were too damaged to be saved. The void left by the destruction of the Souks left a gap in Beirut’s identity, Solidere sought to bring back the souks historic commercial function at the heart of Beirut and appeal to the mercantile community that had fled to the periphery during the 16 year civil war. Solidere launched an international design competition to rebuild the souks while in keeping with the original Hellenistic street grid that characterized the old souks and the area’s historical landmarks. The contest was won by José Rafael Moneo Vallés who designed the southern souk and British architect Kevin Dash who designed the Gold souks. The construction of the souks were entrusted to Lebanese firm Hourie. The master plan for the Beirut Souks was approved by ministerial decrees which preceded the launch of the reconstruction project. Costs of reconstruction were estimated at 100 million dollars and work duration between 18 months and 2 years. The souks was set to open in 2000 but inauguration was postponed due to licensing delays related to political issues; meanwhile the construction of the underground parking was underway. In 2004 Solidere received the license and work on the souks began to be withheld in the aftermath of summer of 2006 war and the subsequent political instability.

Read more on Beirut Souks and Wikipedia Beirut Souks (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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