Destroying Beirut’s Culture: Achrafieh’s Mar Mitr Construction Site

It’s sad to see Beirut losing its culture with all these new buildings replacing better looking older ones daily. It hurts to see your capital slowly turn from a city with architectural taste to a concrete mess. But I never thought I’d see a construction site in the middle of a cemetery – let alone one of the most famous cemeteries of Achrafieh: Mar Mitr.

As I walked back from ABC with a friend yesterday, that friend (being the staunch Orthodox that he is) wanted to visit Mar Mitr for a few minutes. So I wandered around the mausoleums, which I find breathtaking, only to find a horrific site. Next to where people like Gebran Tueini are buried is what appears to be an extension of the church next to the cemeteries. And since space is sort of limited, what did those in charge think as the next best thing? Build on top of the mausoleums of course.

So instead of Mar Mitr being a collection of these:

It now has this to add to its “flavor”:

You’d think the block of concrete forming the Spinneys parking lot next to the cemetery would be enough. Apparently not. You know, sometimes a church is just good the way it is. I’m pretty sure extending the Mar Mitr church isn’t of a vital necessity.

Lebanese Civil War Stories – Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

If Geitawi was being bombed on that April 2nd afternoon, the deeper parts of Achrafieh were being hammered. My dad’s cousin was sheltered in their friends’ house on Ebrine Street, named after my hometown, adjacent to Mar Metr Street, made famous by the Orthodox church and its fancy cemetery.

The house Simon, my dad’s cousin, was seeking refuge in was few hundred meters away from the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family convent (Sainte Famille) present on that street as well. That convent was also the school his little sister Mary attended. He was supposed to take her back home but the bombing had gotten too intense.

Simon looked around at the terrified faces around him. There were two younger girls: Rosalie and Marie-Madeleine, sitting next to their mother, who was hugging them tenderly, not allowing them to see the frightened tears frozen on her face. Her husband and his brother were sitting next to them as well.

As the rockets that were falling increased in intensity and frequency, the smell of burning cement, wood and flesh started to fill their nostrils. The mother looked at Simon. He was terrified. He was worried something had happened to his sister’s school. The mother told him he needed to take his mind off his sister for the time being. There was an underground shelter two buildings away. They had to make a run for it.

The woman felt the bombing subside a little. And soon enough, the sounds of explosions had ceased – at least for a few minutes. But it was enough for them to make a run for it.

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