The candlelight walk in Gemmayzeh gathered about 500 people | Live Achrafieh

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The candlelight walk in Gemmayzeh gathered about 500 people

A few hundred people participated on Saturday 25th of September in a march in Gemmayze Gouraud Street, calling for the preservation of Beirut’s patrimonial heritage which is threatened with total destruction because of the real estate madness. From Paul bakery to the old Cinema Vendôme now destroyed, the marchers paused six times holding candles in front of the gaping holes where stood not so long ago Beirut's traditional houses. Casting light on the march with Giorgio Guy Tarraf, a member of Save Beirut Heritage and organizer of the event.

The destruction of Beirut’s traditional houses breaks the heart of the patrimonial heritage lovers. Is there a particular moment that touched you during the march?
Yes, at the end of the march. When we arrived at the Cinema Vendôme now destroyed, we told people it was over and they could go. But nobody wanted to leave. Spontaneously, they headed for the building site and left the candles on the rubble to honor the memory of the old cinema. Magida Roumi sang at the back, her voice amplified through the public address system. It was really a powerful moment.

Over 1000 people showed their intention to participate in the march on Facebook. Finally a few hundred made it. Are you disappointed?
Sure, when we organize a popular event we expect and hope a large participation. But here in Lebanon, people are jaded. They think that nothing can be done, and it's useless. There is a sense of apathy prevailing in the country. We estimate that 500 people participated in the march. We counted from the number of candles distributed. We had 200. And almost one person in two held a candle in his hand! The coincidence also played a bit against us. When we set the date and got the authorities' acceptance, we did not know it was going to fall on the same day of a political event (editor’s note: The Lebanese Forces Martyrs Mass). It is possible that some people did not want to be on the street at that time. The rain that fell in the morning may have discouraged them as well. It was also the last day of the festival "The days of cinema". But in Beirut, there is always something happening! Anyway, we are pleased with the media's reaction, which has been exemplary. They were very responsive and receptive to our cause.

What's next for Save Beirut Heritage?
We will keep going and organizing new marches. But not immediately. We rather think of evenings to raise funds. This would allow us to have a little capital to work more broadly and effectively. For the moment we are a team of about twenty activists. At first, each of us felt isolated with his grief, powerless in the face of destruction. I felt my heart burning when i saw the lifestyle of Beirut disappearing under the bulldozers' onslaught. Together, we formed a nucleus to speak and act, to raise consciousness, to give people hope, and to create the popular movement that we were waiting for.

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