Numbers of visitors arriving to Lebanon in 1974:
2.390.334 from the Arab world, 143.070 from Asia (non comprising the Arab world), 131.044 from America, 316.080 from Europe, 12413 from Africa, 10584 from Australia, 4965 from other countries, totaling just over 3 millions visitors in that year.
While the hotel district accommodated well traveled businessmen, their families, politicians, foreign functionaries and tourists, in Beirut there were also people whose traveling and displacement did not happen for leisure or for business. Workers, refugees from Palestine, political asylum seekers, and immigrants from the Lebanese countryside, converged onto Beirut for necessity rather than vocation. These were also guests of Beirut, only experiencing a less comfortable hospitality, and a violence-driven mobility. The very different living conditions in the “misery belt” outside Beirut portrayed by National Geographic in 1970.
Back in the hotel district not everything was glittery and fun either. As the independent club owners saw their businesses decay under the soaring rents linked to the increase of the land value, the original residents practically saw a jungle of concrete going up around them.
A well known local institution was the College de la Salle (CDLS) for boys, on Phoenicia Street. THe Holiday Inn, presumably in the final stages of construction, is visible in the first seconds of this 1972 video.
“But by now, the Alma Mater lacks vital space, clean air and tranquility. Buildings, pushing their floors until the sky, have robbed us of the mountain and its views towards its clean snowcaps…! Even the sea is hidden from our gaze. How can our youth of exhilarating divers, of the nostalgic chant of the waves, accept the suffocation of cimented [classes?], without horizon?”
(Brochure, 50th anniversary of the College de la Salle, 1922-1972).
The Holiday Inn (3D building) and its perspective towards the neighbourhood View Larger Map
Except for Google Earth image, all images © 2011 Sara Fregonese