'Better Lebanon' Concept Has New Virtual Home

This past March, a pair of idealistic Beirutis installed the ‘Lebanon Would Be Better If’ Wall on Rue Bliss, just past the American University of Beirut’s main gate. The wall invites passers-by to respond to the prompt, “Lebanon would be better if” by filling in the blank at the end of each line with whatever idea, sentiment, or dream comes to mind.
“Lebanon is a place where there is rarely public space,” says Sherif Maktabi, which is why he and Karim Badra decided to transform what was essentially a blank section of wall into an anonymous forum where people could express themselves freely. Their project has met with much enthusiasm from the public, not to mention nearby shopkeepers and street vendors, who appreciate the increased foot traffic the wall has generated.

The original wall (photos from lebanonbetter.com)

It was this enthusiasm for the Better Lebanon Wall that motivated Maktabi to bring this offline intervention online with LebanonBetter.com, an interactive website where visitors can post responses to the “Lebanon would be better if” prompt on a virtual wall. Though still in its infancy, the site already features some clever and poignant responses.
User “mish ghalat” quips that Lebanon would be better if “no cars could enter Hamra Street,” a commercial thoroughfare notorious in Beirut for its frequent congestion. Others comment that Lebanon is need of a more efficient recycling operation, better public transportation, and faster Internet. User “mikey” touches on a heavier subject: “Lebanon would be better if we had less corruption. Everybody always complains about it but nobody does anything about it.”

Maktabi has also created a Facebook page, Twitter account, and blog for the intiative. He has plans to reproduce the original physical wall concept in various locations around the city, and mentions that a mobile version of the wall is in the works.
Sensitive to the blurry line between artistic expression and vandalism, Maktabi hopes that a mobile version will allow communities to “own” the wall, arriving at a consensus as to where exactly it should be situated and what language it should be in.
Fans of the concept are encouraged to stop by Souk el Tayeb this Saturday, July 23, where the second edition of the ‘Lebanon Would Be Better If’ wall is set to debut.


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