This is a city under construction. Cranes fill the skyline in most if not all parts of the city. Within a stone’s throw of our balcony are five apartment buildings that have been completed within the past six months or are in some phase of construction. The same is likely true in many parts of Beirut.
The odd part of this construction boom is that many of these apartment buildings are either sparsely occupied or sit empty. Supposedly, some of the apartments, especially those with views of the Mediterranean, are owned by wealthy people from the Gulf states who only come here in the middle of the summer when Beirut’s 95 F degrees is a cool retreat from the 135 F in the Gulf states. We see at least one new apartment building from our balcony that has never had more than one floor of lights on it at any time during our time in Beirut. We were out of town all of July, but I can’t believe the place fills up for that one month only. We have also been told that the builders do not need to pay any taxes until the building is occupied. Don’t know if that is true or not, or why it would serve as a reason to allow them to sit unoccupied.
That said, one aspect of the building of these high rises that continues to amaze us is the method of construction. Everything is concrete and cinder block. Very few buildings, except for maybe the tallest, use any steel framing. Some walls are poured concrete, while others are cinder block. I suppose there might be a reason for that, but I’m clueless as to what it is. Some of the crews working on these multi-story buildings seem to be as small as six people. The block work seems particularly shoddy, with sloppy looking mortar joints common.
The most incredible aspect of the construction methods used here is the utter lack of safety measures for the construction workers. Hardhats? Have not seen one. Buckets of concrete hanging from a crane, suspended over a busy sidewalk or road? No big deal. I was able to capture on camera a great example of this lack of safety measures this morning. There is a 12 story building going up within 100 yards of our apartment. Unfortunately, this building blocks a whole section of view of the Mediterranean we had up until 6 months ago, but that is another story. Anyway, the last story went up over the summer, and now workers are putting a finish of some sort on the exterior. The minimalist platform on which these men work exemplifies the lack of interest in safety in this country. Take a close look! Amazing. The pictures don’t even catch the platforms as they sway from side to side.