Street fair brings hope, cheer back to downtown Beirut

A band parades at a street fair in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 21, 2023. (Xinhua/Liu Zongya)

 

Tens of thousands of Lebanese on Sunday visited the famous Gemmayzeh Street in the capital city of Beirut to enjoy the festive and joyful atmosphere of a grand street fair that gathered more than 300 craftsmen, designers and artists.

Participants in “Aa Tarik El Gemmayze 2023,” which means “on the street of Gemmayze,” said seeing such event was still popular despite the country’s steep financial crisis gave them faith in the future.

“We are trying to revive Lebanon and prove that the Lebanese can be united,” said Wissam Houry, owner of Zakour Leather, a manufacturer of leather products.

Houry told Xinhua that the locals were surprised to know that Lebanese craftsmen did not give up on making quality products despite the difficult times.

About 320 booths were running under the backdrop of music played by bands and DJs along Gemmayzeh Street, attracting passers-by thirsty for a lively atmosphere.

Rami Badr, a strolling visitor, said he has not seen people in the city getting a buzz out of a street fair for a long time.

Cynthia Warde, an organizer of the fair, told Xinhua that this is the second edition of the annual event to pay tribute to Beirut, especially Gemmayzeh Street, which was severely affected by the Beirut explosions on Aug. 4, 2020.

The explosions killed over 200 people and destroyed a big part of Beirut, including Gemmayzeh, an area adjacent to the port, dealing another heavy blow to a country that has been facing an unprecedented financial crisis since 2019.

Over the past three years, some local initiatives tried to revive the downtown commercial area famous for its lively atmosphere.

“We relaunched the event this year to celebrate success, happiness, and our willingness to survive despite the difficult times,” Warde said.

Pascal Imad, a seller at Glady’s shop, a store offering different local products, told Xinhua that he could see the joy on people’s faces and many wished the event would occur more often.

“You can see that people are enjoying their time reconnecting with each other and distancing themselves from politics and the various crises in the country,” she said.

Meanwhile, Lea Cherikian, owner of a store selling handmade clothes and beach accessories, said she does not want to leave the crisis-ridden country because she believes in Lebanon.

“We are here because we believe in Lebanon. I have French nationality, and people often ask me why I am staying there. I simply don’t want to leave. We are struggling, but I hope the situation will improve,” she said.