Ouzville: Transforming a City

It’s probably the talk of the town these days. The initiative aims to beautify Ouzai, one of the notorious Beirut neighbourhoods, mostly know by the general public for its cheaper-than-the-market goods.

In their words

In a bid to shake off its status as a degraded area, Ouzai is undergoing a magnificent makeover.

Artists, students, locals, and foreigners have come together to colours the murals of the old buildings adjacent to Beirut’s International Airport.

The project aims to transform the first area travellers see when their plane lands in Lebanon, into a stunning display of bright colours and whimsical designs.

This initiative requires the time, efforts, and dedication of artists and locals as well as an important quantity of paint and material.

Looking at these photos, you can get a sense of neighbourhood pride. The before and after, even at this very young stage of the project, looks amazing.

photos courtesy of Ouzville
photos courtesy of Ouzville
photos courtesy of Ouzville


But a bigger question, besides the bigger picture, is this: why?

photos courtesy of Ouzville

Fariha Rahman, in “The Impact of Fevala Painiting”, speaks of the Haas&Hahn experience in the Rio, focusing on concepts like “slum tourism” and “ghettourism” whereby viewers feed on “voyeuristic tourism” and feel better about their own lives and social classes. More here

Considering that this has been done, not in the same exact way but somewhat similar, in other neighbourhoods like the ones on Pierre Gemayel highway, and Nabaa neighbourhood next to the old train tracks.

In the Simpsons episode “Blame it on Lisa”, Marge comments on the aesthetics of a similarly painted neighbourhood, to which Lisa says “…these are slums. The government just painted them bright odours so the tourists wouldn’t be offended.”

So besides making slums look pretty, can this form of art be functional as well?

photo courtesy of the New York Times

Regionally, French-Tunisian calligraffiti artist el Seed transformed 50 buildings in Cairo into one big mural of peace.

In his words

In the neighbourhood, the Coptic community of Zaraeeb has been collecting the trash of the city for decades and has developed the most efficient and highly profitable recycling system on a global level. Still, the place is perceived as dirty, marginalised and segregated.

Ouzville has the potential to bring to light this very marginalised suburb in Beirut. So far it has already mobilised artists, volunteers and donors for the project. Only in time can we tell what the ripple effect of it might be.


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