Solidere, or the Société libanaise pour le développement et la reconstruction de Beyrouth, is a public-private partnership created in the aftermath of Lebanon’s civil war (1975-1990) in the name of reconstructing devastated downtown Beirut.
It was owned by then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri before his assassination outside of the St. Georges Hotel (depicted in this picture above). Hariri’s assassination catalyzed a division in Lebanese politics between the March 14 alliance, whose Cedar Revolution caused Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, and the March 8 alliance, whose Hezbollah allies are currently engaged in their neighbor’s civil war.
The reconstruction of downtown Beirut has proven every bit as controversial. The devastation of the civil war is no where to be seen while strolling amid the luxury-lined souks or across the café-lined Zaytuna Bay (in the shadow of the St. Georges Hotel). Academic and activist critics claim that, in the name of reclaiming Beirut’s title as the Paris of the Middle East, Solidere is building Beirut at the service of the wealthy – for the investors and tourists from the Gulf states where Hariri earned his fortune before returning to Lebanon as its first post-war prime minister. They assert that more buildings were demolished by Solidere than by sixteen years-worth of artillery bombardment and house-to-house combat during the civil war. The privatization and securitization of Beirut is evident in the proliferation of private security guards, barbed wire across sidewalks and frequent army checkpoints.
Post and photos by Julia Tierney.