Beirut residents are fed up: everywhere they look there are cranes and bulldozers turning their city into a giant concrete mess and even the smallest efforts to beautify the city are destroyed. This time they are saying no to a municipal plan to demolish the iconic Massad stairs.
Also known as the Mar Mikhael stairs in the district of the same name, the 73 steps mean something to local residents.
Not only are they a popular destination for tourists and artists, including the Dihazahyners who famously painted the steps in an array of beautiful colors and geometric shapes, but the stairs are also important for circulating human traffic.
Getting around as a pedestrian is becoming increasingly impossible as every inch of space is set aside for cars and buildings, so the stairs offer some respite from the noise and pollution that has engulfed city streets.
Now rumors are circulating that former Minister Mohammed Chatah is involved with groups who plan to demolish the stairs to either make way for a road way, which a local dentist told Al-Akhbar is not necessary, or an underground parking lot that would double apartment prices in the neighborhood, and the locals are livid.
Completely fed up with the incessant drive to build, a group that calls themselves Achrafieh Stairs has arranged a couple of sit-ins. One has already taken place, and another is scheduled for this Thursday at 4pm local time.
With 2,552 people following their Facebook page, it seems the group has a lot of support.
Siham Takayan, who owns a grocery store at the foot of the stairs, has watched the plans progress. First he said a representative from Ogero Telecom came in to remove a phone. And then some engineers stopped by to map out their plans.
“I stood up to them all alone,” Takayan told Al-Akhbar. “I sat in the middle of the stairs and prevented them from finishing their work until the neighborhood’s residents gathered and informed the workers and the engineers that they are unwelcome here.”