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Hotel Saint Georges

Historical Background

More than a hotel, the St. Georgeís built in 1929 became a myth and part of the Lebanese heritage. Standing on a unique site, surrounded by the sea, it was designed in the shape of a boat of which the circular front terrace was the deck and enjoyed the advantages of the sea front which carries its name.

In 1973, it was described by Fortune magazine as one of the most beautiful hotels in the world and until 1975 it was the cosmopolitan center of Beirut city and the privilege of the most successful local and international personalities. Many kings, ministers, and political leaders were the guests of the Hotel: King Hussein of Jordan and his family, the Shah of Iran and Princess Soraya, French Ministers Artoli and Malraux, Georges Bush before he became President of the USA, Cypriot leaders, the Aga Khan and the Begum, the King of Afghanistan, the Prince of Abu Dhabi Chakhbut Ben Sultan El-Nahian, and a Prime Minister of Great Britain to mention only a few.

Great stars have also been seen in the Hotel, among them Brigitte Bardot, Charles Aznavour, Johnny Hallyday, Catherine Deneuve, Alain Delon, Gilbert Becaud, Abdel Wahab, and Oum Koulthoum.

Many well-known journalists, businessmen, diplomats and other important personalities met regularly in its famous bar: the Marquis de Cuevas, David Rockfeller, John Paul Getty, the Comte de Paris and Isabelle of France, Abu Said, correspondent of Time magazine, Muhamed Hasanein Heykal, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, and the famous British spy Kim Philby, who was seen in the Bar just before he disappeared.

Among Lebanese personalities figured Former President Camille Chamoun, who was the Honorary President of the Board of Directors of the Hotel, Mr. Raymond Eddeh, Mr. Kamal el Assad and Emir Majid Arslan.

Unfortunately, during the war, the Hotel was completely destroyed, looted and occupied. For Time magazine, this marked the end of Lebanon and it pictured the St. Georgeís in a black frame on its front page.

Today, all Lebanese and foreigners who have known the prestige of the Hotel and have been awaiting its reopening as a symbol of Lebanonís rebirth with the beginning of the new millennium are surprised to see it still closed whereas development in the Hotel region is being carried out. The questions are: Why is the St. Georgeís being kept without repair? Why is work still delayed? Who will compensate for all the losses incurred?

Facts

Since 1994 when Fady El-Khoury decided to revive the Hotel, he has been living a real nightmare facing most alarming and inextricable problems preventing him from implementing his plans for reconstruction. A major conflict has arisen between the Saint George and Solidere, because the latter has been favoured against the former while it should be the contrary, as the Saint George is an inseparable and essential landmark without which Beirut cannot be reborn.

In 1994 a Decree was issued by Mr. Rafic Hariri which allowed the Saint George to be rebuilt with nine levels instead of seven within the same basis and a marina to be built exactly opposite the Saint George hotel. As soon as the above decree was finally promulgated and just after the owners of Saint-George thanked Mr. Hariri, Solidere started a legal action against the Saint George.

THIS DECREE TURNED OUT TO BE A SNARE OR A TROJAN HORSE INTENDED ONLY TO ALLOW SOLIDERE TO ATTACK THE SAINT GEORGE AND TAKE OVER ITS RIGHTS

This decree overlapped with one issued two months earlier for Solidere, which gave it the right to expand in a maritime area outside its boundaries into an area that belonged solely to the Saint George, hence violating all standing rules. This can only mean that Mr. Haririís intention was not sincere and that he gave the Saint George misleading encouragement for it to invest but trapped it in endless problems with the Government.

In 1995 Mr. Hariri issued Decree 7660, which approved a Master Plan for the Hotel area, yet the disputes remained unsolved until 1997, when political pressure was applied in order for Saint George to start implementing the said decree and an agreement was signed with the CDR. This decree divided the area into five sectors.

Sector 1 - Hotel
Sector 2 - Beach
Sector 3 - Parking

A triangle in front of the Phoenicia Hotel and HSBC was defined and intended as a public underground parking for 350 cars. The Saint George signed a contract with the CDR to execute at a very high cost this parking through a BOT. This contract was kept in abeyance. Suddenly, through the Mouhafez and the Municipality of Beirut, the Sector 3 was illegally divided into a construction area for the statue of Mr. Rafic Hariri and a new road to go through it, thus keeping the public road to be used privately for access to the Phoenicia Hotel. Now Solidere is proud to have built a parking lot for 350 cars, whereas the need and expectations would be for thousands of cars to serve the area.

Sector 4 - Passages / Roads

The decree stated that roads and entrances pertaining to this sector should be designated for public use and be considered public property. Soldiere again violated the decree by turning the roads and entrances into private property. The Saint George management and lawyers have been warning the Government and the officials concerned through all possible means. This reached the General Inspectorate, and the plots were not registered as public property. Thus the situation remained confused and undecided and at the discretion of the ministers of finance, who might hand over the Government properties to Solidere.

Sector 5 - Marina

The hotel management was allocated one third only of what was its right. It accepted and executed all the work requested, from digging four to five meters into the sea and building the Quay as per the specifications of the CDR. The Government approved and received the work as complete and as per the agreement.

AGAIN IT TURNED OUT THAT THIS WAS ANOTHER SNARE.

As soon as Saint George built its part of the Marina, Solidere started a series of actions in order to separate the Saint George Hotel from the sea, that sea which is integral to the Saint George site.

What Solidere has done is totally inadmissible.

Solidere put up signs to stop boats from entering the Saint George Marina.

Solidere directed the sewers inside the Marina instead of extending them a little further in the open sea.

Solidere placed barges across the main entrance to the Marina to block the passage.

Solidere built a huge wall that does not comply with any of the Lebanese laws, which restrict the height of a wall to six meters.

Solidere is blocking the main entrance to the Marina west of the Saint George Hotel; in this connection Fadi El- Khoury was arrested in one instance, for which he has brought a lawsuit against the police. The case is still pending.

It is obvious and clear to everyone that the intentions of the directors of Solidere are to landfill as much of the sea as they can lay their hands on, including the West Marina, having illegally filled in the Lagoon between the Saint George Hotel and the Beirut Commercial Port. Solidere was penalized for it but a decree was issued making the illegal landfill 100 per cent owned by the Government contrary to the sharing agreement to which Solidere is partner.

Solidere filled in the East Marina, which is nowhere to be seen.

Solidere has laid hands on the land surrounding the West Marina and blocked public passages and walk ways. This land was sold to a company owned 50-50 between Solidere and Mr. Safadi, ex-Minister of Transport, who is normally entrusted with the safe-keeping of the country's public water domain and its adjacent land.

Mr. Safadi issued 3 Decrees in three month bypassing all the regulations in regards to the land he has acquired illegally and built a nine level building underneath the road hence blocking the only remaining sea view for the Saint George.

The permit was issued by the Governor Mr. Kaloush in 2007 initially for 3 basements plus a ground floor and one mezzanine to which he added 4 additional floors just after the elections in 2009.

Now Solidere is blocking intentionally the Saint George sea front with boats including one ugly rusting metallic boat.

The Saint George whose name is synonymous to the Sea is not allowed to use its Marina, which historically was the first of its kind in Lebanon.

Solidere irregularities and illegal trespassing are obvious to everyone, and yet, no one in the Government is objecting. For the first time in15 years the minister of tourism Mr Fady Abboud tried to intercede in favour of the Saint George but failed to convince the ruling majority. The Saint George is regularly and consistently opposing every one of their actions but the concerned courts are not responding.

Beirut without the Saint George Hotel is like the Cedars without its trees and Baalbeck without its columns.

- Hotel Saint Georges: >> View Movie << (2010-09-15)

 

 


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