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AFTER THE BLAST, BEIRUT FIGHTS TO SAVE ITS ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE
Bloomberg by Lin Noueihed October 26, 2020
The Aug. 4 port explosion decimated neighborhoods filled with historic buildings. Now activists are struggling to keep developers at bay.
It’s been two months since the blast, and Maria Hibri has glued together the splintered filigree from her triple-arched windows. In a bathroom, the broken sink stays broken, a reminder of the day her world blew apart. The folding balcony doors have been refitted or replaced with salvaged lookalikes, but they still look out of place.
Bokja, the Beirut furniture design company Hibri co-founded with Houda Baroudi in 2000, quickly repaired its studio in Basta, a neighborhood crowded with antique shops, following the massive Aug. 4 explosion at Beirut’s port. More than 190 people were killed, 6,000 injured and some 300,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
Their boutique, located in upscale Saifi Village, remains closed as the women focus on mending customers’ furniture free of charge, leveraging Bokja’s knack for refreshing dated pieces with vintage fabric and embroidery.
“I wanted to keep the anger. I didn’t want to brush it away, rebuild, reopen. I didn’t want to be resilient. I wanted us to mourn our dead, our wounded, our homes and all these places where we made our memories,” said Hibri, 56. “Then we decided to do what Bokja does best: Take what’s broken, take those old pieces and make a new whole, put something together from what’s already there, try make sense of it, give it meaning.”
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