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Lebanese photographer Fouad Rafiq Khoury, who has directed films on Lebanon's world heritage sites, cuisine and tourism spots, has produced a new book of photographs, "Beirut Inc."

Through 110 images of Beirut, many from the renovated and rehabilitated downtown area, Khoury tells the story of the city's inhabitants and its transformation into a commercial centre.

His book opens with a photograph of the city's Martyr's Statue and ends with one of the Expatriate's Statue. In between, residents burdened by worries and alienated from their own city are portrayed alongside modern high-rise buildings and shops.

Khoury spoke with Al-Shorfa about the Beirut captured in his book.

Al-Shorfa: Why did you write "Beirut Inc."?

Fouad Khoury: Because Beirut has become a trademark. The photos I took are not imagined, but real. Through this book, I tell the story of how Beirut turned into that trademark. Between the first picture of the Martyr's Statue and the last picture of the Expatriate's Statue, the everyday life of a resident in this city is revealed.

The book shows Beirut through the fine details. The camera zooms in and captures certain moments in time that portray lives and mentalities. In reality, my book is dedicated to martyrs and [Lebanese] expatriates because Beirut was built on these two groups.

Through this book, I ask a question: Are Lebanese people able to rent a home in Beirut today? Class divisions are not apparent, but rather the result of circumstances. Central Beirut in all its areas is no longer for average citizens, although this is how it should be.

Al-Shorfa: Why have you chosen to take pictures of Beirut, and not other cities?

Khoury: Because Beirut is rich with history, and excels at moving smoothly towards the future. It is a bustling city par excellence, and bustles with culture, arts and the search for creativity and pleasure. It cannot be confined to an eastern or western mould, but rather has a piece of every city in the west and the east. This is a reality that summarises the history of Lebanon.

Al-Shorfa: Why did you begin with the Martyr's Statue and end with the Expatriate's Statue?

Khoury: Because they have both been transformed into brands, with certain interests hidden behind them, and stripped of their original content. Both statues took a stand. Both loved Beirut. The first died for the sake of its survival and the second emigrated to build his life and his homeland. Those who stayed behind peer into shop windows as they ponder the paradoxes of their lives, either because they are unable to leave or they don't think about it because they are preoccupied with other concerns.

Al-Shorfa: Why did you address this in a book instead of in a film?

Khoury: I did have the chance to make a film, but chose a book. When we piece together picture after picture, the full story emerges. A film is in motion while a picture is still. What I wanted to do was capture a moment in time: If we look through the pictures of the book, we can never get enough of it, but if this moment is conveyed in a film, it would not make us pause.

The photographs address the forgotten component of the city: human beings in all their nuances and social classes.

Al-Shorfa: In the book, you quote famous thinkers.

Khoury: What I did was capture a certain moment that I was looking for and added quotes such as this one from Jeremy Irons: "We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they're called memories. Others take us forward, they're called dreams."





The republic of Lebanon maintains a privileged relationship with UNESCO. It has five sites listed on the UNESCO WORLD Heritage List: Anjar, Baalbek, Byblos, Tyre and the ensemble composed of the Holy Valley of Qadisha and the nearby Forest of the Cedars of God.

In addition, some of the vestiges containing inscriptions in the Phoenician alphabet were listed on the UNESCO Memory of the world register in 2005 in order to be digitally preserved.  That same year, the Commemorative stela of Nahr el-Kalb (the Lycus of Dog River) were also inscribed on the Register.

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