Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Untitled Street

Bahi Ghubril, an ex-expatriate Lebanese, has been long working on a street map 'atlas' of Beirut, to combat the lack of any formal indexing of our labyrinth city - which is a great idea for tourists, returning Beyruthians maybe, but feels kind of dubious to me. Not that I wouldn't mind knowing how to navigate through the maze with far greater ease, but I seem to have a deep-engrained love of our total road anarchy and organized chaos.
The Daily Star article rightly tells of the spontaneous absurd conversations between lost driver and well-meaning aider when pinpointing directions; and I love, as a designer, drawing a crazy map of my Broumana home for a party, complete with "turn left on traumatized tree at red gas station corner" to "shift to first gear on very very steep dotted lane under olive trees." A stamped & posted letter even managed to find its way safely to my door landing, sporting the hilarious address of "2nd floor, orange-brick building, behind Bellevue hotel, Broumana" or something of the sort.
In a way, for confirmed Beirutis, the street index would be a precious reminder of what we do not really need, but would love to know: Cleopatra Street?! A sort of 'funny' formal, yet miscellaneous, layer beneath the more confirmed navigational landmarks of "ALBA university roundabout" and "nazlet Pharmacie Berty". I believe it would take another decade, and at least a couple of new-generation drivers, before referring to tarmac roads as "Xxxx Street". I would still definitely get one of those A to Z, though, for the sake of laughter, that of History (probably the mentionned 2nd updated edition, then), and to maybe find the new traffic-beating shortcuts before they too become bottleneck avenues...

1 comment:

Maha said...

Im actually looking forward to this street map and finding out all the names of the streets. Given my amazing sense of directions, the A to Z has been glued to my side since i got here so i've developed a new appreciation for maps. But like you said it'll take a generation or two before it really gets integrated. Besides it'll be hard to let go of the old way of giving directions which has become i think part of Lebanese culture no?Also are all the streets still marked in Beirut or do i just not pay any attention to them that at all?