November 01, 2009

Beirut Souks

The newly opened Beirut Souks

Something I learned in Lebanon is that people actually pack up their summer wardrobe for the winter. I had never ever heard of anything like that. In Holland, you have the same clothes in your closet all year around. Because it could be cold just about anytime of the year. Or rainy. Or both. The weather is very unpredictable. In Lebanon it is the other way. The rains start in November. Snow comes in January. Beach is possible in April (well, for a Dutchie). The heat is on starting halfway June. And end of September the weather becomes bearable again. You get your summer clothes out in May, and in November, you stash them away and get your winter stuff out. View from the new souks to the old part of downtown that was restored

And so today, since it is the beginning of fall/winter, as far as I am concerned, now that the rains have arrived, I got out all Hana’s winter stuff. I remember that, when I packed up her winter clothes earlier this year, I only packed her winter clothes that were actually big on her. Anything that fit her right, I threw out. I’m afraid she grew even faster than that. Of the 7 pair of pants, 2 could stay. The rest were all ‘high water’ fit, as we say in Holland (hoogwater broeken).
I had an excellent excuse to go shopping. It is odd. I understand that a 15-year old boy abhors shopping (especially with his Mom), but a girl? Especially one with Lebanese blood? Never mind, I dragged her along anyway.

I went to the recently opened Beirut Souks, a shopping area in downtown Beirut. This project was only opened to the public this month. The new souks (the old ones were destroyed during the civil war) are built along the original grid plan and the landmarks and street names are kept the same, but I doubt anybody would recognize where they are. Even I didn’t recognize where I was. Doesn’t look at all like Beirut. The place looks so non-Lebanese; I could have been shopping in Almere, Holland. Or Le Mans, France. These days, these big chains, such as Zara and M&H, have these multi-country price labels on their merchandise. So basically, even the price tag doesn’t tell you where you are shopping. I could have been in Italy, for instance. It was a weird time warp, I must say.
Of course, when I needed to pay, I was told they preferred cash over plastic, because ‘due to the rains’, the phone lines couldn’t reach the bank, and paying with a bank card might take a while. That felt just right. Don’t worry, I can wait.


Anonymous said...

The pictures of the new souk reminded me somehow of the movie 'Metropolis' by Fritz Lang. Brave new world... Anna

Serpico said...

Interesting post and nice pictures.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures! But what's with the Nabriche (water hose)?

Marieke said...

Oh wow the bizarre new souks... I should check them out. I would like to state though that the old souks were not so much destroyed by the Civil War as by Hariri's company OGER in 1983 ( ( 'In 1983 a private engineering firm, OGER Liban - owned by Rafiq Hariri, billionaire, commissioned a master plan for the reconstruction to the consultancy group Dar al-Handasah. At the same time demolitions, without any control, started in central areas that were called for rehabilitation in the 1977 plan. As a result some of the most significative parts of the urban fabric, such as the traditional souks, were erased.'