One place I particularly enjoyed in Tripoli, because it looked like the setting for a science fiction movie (or at least a photo shoot for Vogue), was the Rashid Karami International Fair which was designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (known more commonly simply as “Oscar Niemeyer”). Niemeyer is probably most well known for being the architect behind the master planned capital of Brazil – Brasilia.
The Rashid Karami International Fair was intended as a permanent fairground and exhibition complex, with construction beginning in the early 1960′s during something of a golden age in Lebanon. In 1975, just prior to the completion of the complex though, the civil war started up and the site was abandoned (although it was allegedly used briefly as a weapons storage area by the Syrians).
Today, the Rashid Karami International Fair rests just as it did when it was abandoned in 1975.
To get into the complex, we just followed some local kids through the security fence. Once inside it was just us and the kids and we had no problems at all. However, I was told later by a resident in the city that one is not supposed to go inside the Rashid Karami International Fair.
I’ve heard elsewhere that there is a guard at the main entrance to the site that one can
bribe beg to be permitted entry. Begging is not my style though, so I would just do as we did and follow the local kids.
The dome these street kids are climbing (which you saw from a distance in the prior picture) was particularly fascinating. The light and acoustics inside were incredible.
Inside the dome… This video I shot will help give you some idea of what I am talking about, but it does not fully do the dome experience justice:
Your humble editor inside the dome:
Naturally, I had to climb to the top of the dome and below is the view from the top of the dome out over the complex… If you climb the dome yourself, I would suggest wearing shoes. I was wearing flip flops that day and decided to leave them at the bottom as I imagined they would just get in the way. And that was true on the way up. However, on the way down, I gave myself friction burns on my feet which was an interesting experience because it was the first time I have ever done that, but it was not pleasant:
The Lebanese government has recently made noises about bulldozing the site and constructing a modern theme park in its place. Fortunately, there has been some vocal opposition to this proposal and so I sincerely hope that the idea of destroying the International Fair does not advance.