A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

stadium seating for no one

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 12, 2008

Tripoli has been on my mind frequently in the past seven weeks – the weeks since I left Lebanon. As I have mentioned before, I am good at living in foreign cities as a resident (I can locate a neighborhood dry cleaners, a local locksmith and a good grocery store in record time) but I am a terrible tourist. Consequently, my first visit to Tripoli was the day before I left the country.

H’s family is from Tripoli, although none of them live there now. So part of the draw (and his incentive in taking me there) was to get a sense of the mysterious forces that make him tick his roots.

The other reason I wanted to visit Tripoli was to see the Rashid Karame International Exhibition Center, a World’s Fair-like complex designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in the early 1960s. (Yes, Niemeyer was Jewish – he was a native-born Brazilian but his parents were immigrants from … Eastern Europe? Russia? I forget. Lebanon has a number of modernist structures designed by Jewish architects, including the Gefinor Center in Beirut. I’m not sure how receptive the population today would be to a Jewish architect, but I’d like to think that he or she would be welcome. Some people in Lebanon do seem to conflate “Israeli” and “Jewish”, but many are able to differentiate the two categories.)

Construction on the Rashid Karami complex was begun and the major physical structures were completed, but none was finished. I don’t think that work stopped precisely in 1975 – my understanding is that it had slowed before then and petered out over a longer period, but I’m not really sure of the precise time line.

What I am sure of is that the complex is an utterly fascinating place. We loved wandering around its several buildings and spent over an hour there, despite the 95+ degree weather.

Fascinating, but also a bit eerie. What struck us most were the theater seats set up for outdoor performances. Apparently there have been some performances here – including one as recent as 2005, I believe – but in general, the seats look a bit forlorn. As does Tripoli in general.

(You can read a bit more about the complex here, at the World Monuments Fund’s website, or by googling Niemeyer and Tripoli.)

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3 Responses to “stadium seating for no one”

  1. Kheireddine said

    Rachid Karameh lived in our building in Ain El-Tineh from 1984 to 1986 when he was PM…

  2. Kheireddine, no wonder you have such rich stories (and memories!) of Lebanon. You seem to have known everyone! Did Karame ever mention the complex :)? (I’m guessing not – as PM in the mid-80s I’m sure he had more pressing issues on his mind!)

  3. Except saluting him from the balcony (we had a first floor condo), I did not have much contact with him.
    His father Abdel-Hamid was a political ally of my grand father in the 30’s…

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