Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.

  • Ouzville reclaims Beirut landmark long associated with war, On: Sun, 23 Jul 2017

  • War-trauma and torture victims from Syria, Iraq seek rehab in Lebanon, On: Sun, 23 Jul 2017

  • Lebanon sees tourism rebound despite upheaval in the region, On: Sun, 09 Jul 2017

  • Bkerzay village, a green sanctuary in Lebanon for art and authentic living, On: Sun, 09 Jul 2017

  • Deir el Qamar, the capital of Lebanon’s emirs, On: Sun, 09 Jul 2017

  • Celebrating Eid al-Fitr, even if worries abound, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Lebanon’s mine-clearing effort described as ‘success story’, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Rachana, Lebanon’s open-air sculpture museum, On: Sun, 25 Jun 2017

  • Ramadan TV drama on ISIS stirs mixed reactions, On: Sun, 11 Jun 2017

  • MACAM, Lebanon’s first contemporary art museum , On: Sun, 04 Jun 2017

  • Lebanon set to have its first wind farm as it faces shortages, On: Sun, 14 May 2017

  • Model UN programme promotes peaceful society in Lebanon, On: Sun, 14 May 2017

  • Creative Space Beirut: Where only talent matters, On: Sun, 14 May 2017

  • Documentary sheds light on Lebanese Jewish diaspora in Brooklyn, On: Sun, 07 May 2017

  • Guest houses offer a welcoming way of discovering Lebanon, On: Sun, 07 May 2017

  • Ordination of female Lebanese pastors marks precedent for Arab Christians, On: Sun, 16 Apr 2017

  • Middle East Christians bemoan plight of Egypt’s Copts, On: Sun, 16 Apr 2017

  • Lebanese activists decry Beirut’s lost heritage, On: Sun, 02 Apr 2017

  • Saida, Lebanon’s authentic city, On: Sun, 26 Mar 2017

  • 2016 the worst for Syrian children in six years of war, On: Sun, 19 Mar 2017

  • The long to-do list of Lebanon’s minister for Human Rights , On: Sun, 19 Feb 2017

  • Survivors of domestic violence find a home in Al Dar, On: Sun, 12 Feb 2017

  • \'Last Men in Aleppo\' – prize-winning documentary about the city’s rescuers, On: Sun, 05 Feb 2017

  • The man in charge of Lebanese women’s affairs speaks out, On: Sun, 29 Jan 2017

  • Arab countries face climate warming reality, On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Alarming rise of violence against women in Arab region, On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Illegal migration drama to continue in 2017, On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • Celebrating Christmas in Lebanon, On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • Traffic congestion adds to Lebanon’s many woes, On: Sun, 04 Dec 2016

  • French alive in Lebanon but not the ‘in language’ anymore, On: Sun, 27 Nov 2016

  • Teaching war, reconciliation and history in Lebanon, On: Sun, 13 Nov 2016

  • Beiteddine: A vibrant testimony of early 19th-century Lebanon, On: Sun, 30 Oct 2016

  • In Lebanon, women give birth but not nationality, On: Sun, 16 Oct 2016

  • Art in Motion – Making art accessible to all, On: Sun, 16 Oct 2016

  • Arab education shortcomings overshadow ‘back to school’ season , On: Sun, 09 Oct 2016

  • Lebanon seeks gradual repatriation of Syrian refugees, On: Sun, 02 Oct 2016

  • Lebanon Mountain Trail: A journey into history and heritage, On: Sun, 25 Sep 2016

  • Syria’s ceasefire holds but mistrust prevails , On: Sun, 18 Sep 2016

  • Families come together around Muslim ‘feast of sacrifice’, On: Sun, 11 Sep 2016

  • Ouzville reclaims Beirut landmark long associated with war

    Nasser chose Ouzai, one of the most marginalised areas of Lebanon, to be the location of his pilot project.

    Staying creative. Local children participating in the project of beautifying Ouzville, south-west of Beirut. (Ayad Nasser)

    2017/07/23 Issue: 116 Page: 22

    Beirut - Ouzai is an overcrowd­ed slum with a tough reputation. Ouzville is a clean and colourful neighbourhood dis­playing beautiful murals by local and international street artists. In less than a year, Ouzai-turned- Ouzville has become a public at­traction and a must-visit thanks to the initiative of Ayad Nasser, an entrepreneur with a self-declared mission of “beautifying the coun­try and reuniting its people.”

    South-west of Beirut adjacent to the airport, the Ouzai area offers the first glimpse of the city for trav­ellers arriving in Lebanon. From a spacious stretch of sandy beach on the onset of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, Ouzai turned into a shan­tytown of illegally built dwellings harbouring squatters and people displaced by war from southern Lebanon.

    The Ouzville initiative is not merely about beautifying the fa­çade of Ouzai.

    “It’s about unifying the citizens and breaking stereotypes. It is ini­tiating every citizen to take care of his own future and stop counting on others,” Nasser said.

    Nasser chose Ouzai, one of the most neglected and marginalised areas of Lebanon, as the location of a project he hopes will be copied in other parts of the country. “For 40 years, no government, politicians, political parties or even the local people and the 4 million Lebanese looked at it,” he said. “I said I had to fix it. It is also the façade of Leb­anon, the first thing you see every time you land at Beirut airport.”

    Inhabited by Shias with strong allegiances to Hezbollah, the area was perceived as lawless and as­sociated with crime. “I wanted to encourage Lebanese to start changing what they do not like in their country without waiting upon anyone to do it, to cultivate a sense of good citizenship among each other, to break stereotypes and change perceptions. In brief to lead by example,” Nasser said.

    The entrepreneur’s initial idea, triggered by Lebanon’s trash crisis of 2015, was to get international artists to create art from rubbish, a plan that collapsed when the trash in question was eventually cleared.

    Undeterred, he formed a new plan: “I thought why not paint on the walls of areas that are ne­glected areas that we consider as garbage and no one wants to go there.”

    He sought the support of the local authorities who are mostly members and partisans of Hezbol­lah. “I told them all of you pray and fast and worship God but you can­not go to paradise unless you fix the paradise that God gave us. We have to clean our country, respect each other and open up,” Nasser said.

    The 46-year-old began his mis­sion in December. He enlisted the help of residents and volunteers to clean the shores and the neigh­bourhood’s derelict and narrow alleys. At the same time Lebanese and international graffiti artists, assisted by local youngsters, craft­ed creative murals on the walls and spread a positive spirit across the streets.

    Artists have come from as far as the United States, Brazil and Rus­sia, with renowned Lebanese graf­fiti group Ashekman also contrib­uting to the effort.

    Some Lebanese artists had never set foot in Ouzai before the Ouz­ville project due to preconceptions and stereotypes. Mary-Joe Ayoub, who worked with local children to create a big, colourful work of art, confessed that it was her first time in Ouzai even though she lived only 15 minutes away.

    She said she had not expected to be able to communicate with the people in Ouzai but found “they were very similar” and had the same aspirations for Lebanon and “all sought happiness at the end of the day.”

    Young and old from the area are taking part too, with many wel­coming the change. “We’re grate­ful for the efforts you’ve exerted here in our region… go ahead and continue your astonishing crea­tions,” commented Fatima on Ouz­ville’s Facebook page.

    Repainting and decorating the seaside area cost $120,000, which Nasser paid out of his own pocket. “After one month, we will start crowdfunding to complete the beautification of the inner part,” he said. “The people in Ouzai are very committed. There is Ali, who is eight years old, who told me, ‘Ammo (uncle,) Ayad don’t leave us. I am going to put aside one dol­lar every day to contribute in buy­ing paint’… I thought he is hope; the kids are going to fix the coun­try.”

    Ashekman artists, in the mean­time, will be painting the word “Salam” (Arabic for “peace”) in gigantic Arabic calligraphy on rooftops of Ouzville that will be viewed from space, with the aim of showing the world that Lebanon is a country of diversity, tolerance and peace.

    “You don’t see garbage in Ou­zai anymore. Now when you look from the plane you see Ouzville. Pilots mention it saying, ‘This is Ouzville, the united colours of Lebanon’,” Nasser said.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Senior Correspondents:

    Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

    Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor

    Subscription & Advertising:

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    177-179 Hammersmith Road

    London W6 8BS , UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved