The phantom of Tripoli: abandoned and forgotten

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Al-Akhbar Management

Amid the current tension and security concerns in Tripoli that have ignited sporadic violence in the city, a large urban space at the heart of the city has stayed tranquil, intact and forgotten. This site is the Tripoli international fair, which is formally known as the ‘Rachid Karami International Exhibition Center.’ The fair is named after former Prime Minister Rachid Karami, who was assassinated in the last years of the civil war.

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was commissioned in 1963 to design this international fair for Lebanon. Niemeyer is well known for his designs of civic buildings in Brasilia and his collaboration in design of the United Nations Headquarters building in New York. Construction of the Tripoli international fair commenced in 1967 and continued for eight years. In 1975, with the outbreak of the civil war, its construction was indefinitely halted.

The fairground covers 10,000 hectares. It has a 20,000 square meters of enclosed exhibition pavilion. An open space exhibition center, a dome-shaped experimental theatre, an open-air amphitheatre, the ‘space museum’ with heliport, and a panoramic restaurant are the other buildings of the international fair.

But no exhibitions, conferences or concerts take place there. Even pedestrians rarely walk through the fair. It is empty, abandoned and has long been forgotten.

Photos and text by Changiz M. Varzi

The "Rachid Karami International Fair" was added to the World Monument watch list. In its 2006 report, The World Monument Fund highlighted the state of the site, “Abandoned long ago, the site now faces development pressures and demolition of many of its existing structures, as plans form to convert the site into a theme park and tourist destination.”
The "Rachid Karami International Fair" was added to the World Monument watch list. In its 2006 report, The World Monument Fund highlighted the state of the site, “Abandoned long ago, the site now faces development pressures and demolition of many of its existing structures, as plans form to convert the site into a theme park and tourist destination.”
Most of the buildings in the international fair have been abandoned. No one uses them and no one cares for them.
Most of the buildings in the international fair have been abandoned. No one uses them and no one cares for them.
During the 15-year civil war different armed groups used the fairground as a military base. This wall at the end of the ‘administration building’ is believed to be an execution wall during the civil war.
During the 15-year civil war different armed groups used the fairground as a military base. This wall at the end of the ‘administration building’ is believed to be an execution wall during the civil war.
Open space bars, which are now used to store wood.
Open space bars, which are now used to store wood.
The ‘summer villa’ is now a storage place for the hotel that is located near the fair.
The ‘summer villa’ is now a storage place for the hotel that is located near the fair.
The "Winter Villa": This huge modern complex has suffered years of neglect and maintenance has been deferred since the beginning of the civil war.
The "Winter Villa": This huge modern complex has suffered years of neglect and maintenance has been deferred since the beginning of the civil war.
One of the rooms in the unfinished ‘Winter Villa’ building.
One of the rooms in the unfinished ‘Winter Villa’ building.
Empty seats of the amphitheatre and the famous high arch of the fair on the background.
Empty seats of the amphitheatre and the famous high arch of the fair on the background.
The experimental dome-shaped theatre. It is said that during the civil war, this place was used to store munitions.
The experimental dome-shaped theatre. It is said that during the civil war, this place was used to store munitions.
The open-air amphitheatre is located in the middle of an artificial lake
The open-air amphitheatre is located in the middle of an artificial lake

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