Two days ago I went to the newly opened Beirut Souks, Beirut’s new largest shopping area, which was rebuilt by Solidere according to the original grid plan and location of the old souks that were destructed during the civil war while maintaining the landmarks and street names.
To my disappointment, the new Beirut Souks look nothing similar to the image I have in my mind for the old Beirut, and I’m pretty sure the new image defies the memories that old people who knew the old souks have in their mind.
In my opinion Solidere did a horrible job at preserving our heritage there as the new souks no longer reflect the real identity of Beirut, in fact the new souks have no identity at all! Nothing inside that big mall makes you feel like you’re in Beirut except for the “decorative” street plates of course. Be the judge yourself by looking at the photos I took below, it can be Dubai, Paris, or whatever other city!
Add to that the fact that the old souks were a destination to almost all society classes prior to the civil, while right now Beirut Souks is another destination for the snobbish people in Lebanon, I really cannot imagine a low income individual being able to spend a day there. Once again, Solidere probably had the Arab tourists in mind when they designed this place! Just like what they did when they were rebuilding the other parts of the central district.
To me, the Hamra street is a much more authentic Beiruti street than the new Souks of Beirut, though it is full of new restaurants and outlet stores but it has at least maintained its spirit throughout the years.
At the end, I will leave you with this comparative video between the old souks of Beirut and the new ones.