Over 300 young men and women answered the calls of Save Beirut Heritage and braved the rain Wednesday night to join hands with Gemmayzeh locals to pay a last homage to their beloved 'Café Gemmayzeh', better known as Glass Café.
The youth movement Save Beirut Heritage started the ceremony with a speech expressing their anger and sadness over the disappearance of the historic Lebanese landmark. The speech was then followed by a short movie by Sarah Gharzeddine.
It was a symbolic funeral, a safe space where Lebanese citizens, café regulars and its long-time employees decried the loss of a space that holds within its walls so much of their common history.
Then followed a musical concert where the youth, through their music, also expressed regret over the loss of their city's heritage.
Save Beirut Heritage stressed: "We are all to blame for the loss of our cultural heritage."
The group also mentioned that the memory-laden Glass Café is but a symptom of a much greater wave of disappearance of traditional semi-public spaces in the city.
They also insisted that the closure of the café is linked to the disappearance of historic buildings. In this light, they issued six major demands:
1 – The ratification of a law that protects traditional buildings before it is too late.
2 – The establishment of a proper urban plan that is to be applied urgently.
3 – Preserving Beirut's remaining green spaces and creating new ones.
4 – Finding a drastic, heritage-friendly solution to vehicle parking in the city. It is abhorrent to approve the demolition of traditional homes and gardens to become parking lots.
5 – Finding a middle-ground solution to the complex issue of old rent.
6 – Financially and morally support the owners of traditional houses and buildings through the creation of a fund, and/or tax deductions so that they do not resolve to sell their homes as a mean for financial survival.
"Nostalgia lingered throughout the ceremony. We wanted it to be a meeting point between the 'old faithful' customers of the café and the young generation," Save Beirut Heritage added.
In her short film, the young student Gharzeddine expressed empathy and compassion towards the older generation who will lose their cherished space.
"The interventions from the participants reflected the café's history and their attachment to it. They also expressed their anger at the social and economic framework that leads to the loss of our heritage," Save Beirut Heritage noted.
They also linked this closure to the 'emigration' of traditional Beirutis to the suburbs. Some interventions also focused on the remaining window of hope in preserving the café, even after its exile.
"While loud music may not be what Glass Café is historically known for, in its last night, we wanted it to be dressed in beautiful sound and light," the group stated.
"Thanks to the wonderful and generous contribution of local artists Tina Yamout, the White Trees, Adonis and Zeid and the Wings, we were able to offer the café and its last patrons an eclectic mix between traditional and modern, Feiruzyiat and electronic music," it said.
The artists also voiced their strong attachment to the preservation of heritage and Save Beirut Heritage's work.
And when the music died, the café closed its doors for the very last time at 2 am, in the rainy early hours of a Thursday on the 6th of January 2011.