Hedonist Urbanism

‘Ok. Here we are. There is a nice Italian shop here. Another one there.’
‘Nice. There are a lot of those. But you told me that we were going to see the souk....’
‘This is the souk!’
‘What do you mean? Are you kidding me? Have you been drinking?’

Crossroads between three continents. Gateway to the East. Paris of the East. The conglomeration that goes by the name of Beirut seems to have a built-in capacity for stimulating the word mint that pre- dates globalization. As of late a new label is becoming increasingly popular for the capital of Lebanon: ‘Las Vegas of the Med.’ Everyone seems to agree: a new hedonism has found hospitality on the Lebanese shores. Is this hedonism a reflection of Beirut's mythical joie de vivre? Or is it induced by Beirut's new urbanism? Is it possible to theorize such parallelism? And, if so, to what ultimate metaphor is it aspiring? Parallelisms are always problematic, yet, the scale at which the phenomenon is occurring is so overwhelming that it must mean something. Could Beirut be the final arena of the cultural disconnect between words and what they imply? Confusion between languages, references, constituencies that beget greater semantic confusion? Or the agreed upon meaning of words, such that, within the same conglomeration, different people use different words to give a name to the same thing? Is this due to a lack of authenticity? Identity gets blurred. What is left?

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