With the news that ABC is opening another mall in Beirut, set for a 2017 opening, it dawned on me: bureaucracy isn’t the only thing that’s centralized in Lebanon. Malls have their own centralization as well: I will call it Mall Centralization: Al Markaziye Al Malliyé.
Prior to ABC’s grand Verdun-related unveiling, CinemaCity had announced that they will be bringing their cinema experience to Beirut Souks, a souk-mall hybrid that we are all familiar with.
With that, let’s look at the total tally of malls and cinemas in Beirut and immediately around it:
- LeMall in Dbayyeh
- ABC Dbayyeh, less than 200 meters from LeMall
- CityMall, a few kilometers from ABC Dbayyeh
- ABC Achrafieh, a few kilometers from CityMall
- LeMall, Sin el Fil, a few kilometers from ABC Achrafieh
- Beirut Souks, a few kilometers from ABC Achrafieh
- ABC Verdun, a few kilometers from both Beirut Souks and ABC Achrafieh.
All of the above malls have (or will have) multiplex cinemas in them as well.
Which other Lebanese cities have malls other than Beirut? I can think of Saida and that’s mainly because it’s Mr. Hariri’s hometown. If you go North from Beirut, you will find no malls and no cinemas until Las Salinas in the North and City Complex in Tripoli, both cinemas only with the latter having a few stores here and there and both of which are nowhere near decent enough to show movies.
Tripoli is Lebanon’s second biggest city and hasn’t had any major construction projects that found their way to completion even during the periods when the city didn’t experience the clashes that take place today.
And let’s assume Tripoli is a big no-no for political reasons, despite that being downright despicable, what’s wrong in having similar development in Batroun or Jbeil? You know, something to serve those who don’t want to drive an hour in order to watch a movie to buy a shirt.
So while places like Beirut Souks ruin the idea of an old fashioned Souk and while places like ABC Achrafieh overcrowd neighborhoods that are already beyond crowded with cars and traffic, someone saw it fit to add another mall in an empty space in Beirut. Because the city absolutely needed one.
I won’t go into how malls affect negatively smaller retailers that create bustling streets and bring life to some aspects of urban life in Beirut. A metropolitan place like Beirut should have malls and such projects, there’s no denying that.
But the question is the following: What’s Lebanon’s Mall Centralization limit?
I say it’s until every single empty space in Beirut runs out.
Other places in the country don’t (and won’t have) have similar developmental projects hat would bring jobs and some economic life to arguably an entire region.
Flipping the coin of Lebanon’s mall centralization, and in broader terms the centralization of capital, economy and development, is rise in poverty and consequently extremism. But there’s no point in caring – Beirut is getting a new mall soon. The other twenty right next to it were not enough.