The heart of downtown Beirut is an elegant area, fringed with expensive buildings. But on a beautiful sunny day, you may not find anyone there — there’s no cafe, no park, no place for people to hang out. Even though the Lebanese capital is a bustling and even glamorous place, the heart of Beirut is empty.
That’s because the ghosts of this otherwise vibrant city’s past still play out in Beirut’s neighborhoods. Decades after Lebanon’s civil war in the 1980s, those divides still carve up the city and help determine who lives where and who interacts with whom. To understand why, we’ll first head west to my neighborhood, the Hamra area. My neighbor, Mona Harb, is an architecture professor with the American University of Beirut. And, like me, she likes Hamra because it’s mixed in terms of sect, class and education levels. But that’s rare, she says — much of Beirut is divided. "It is a fragmented city, made of more or less self-sufficient neighborhoods, or sets of neighborhoods, with clear, segregated lines," Harb says. [Link]