The Cars of Beirut

Pauline Chardin

July 26 2015

After just a few minutes in infamous Beiruti traffic, our driver declared that in Lebanon, it is as if they have never once thrown a car in the junkyard.

We were, indeed, about to discover that in this small country it sometimes feels like there are more vehicles than men. It’s a dreadful thing really, all those SUVs racing through the tiny streets of Achrafieh, these cramped lines of honking cars on Independance and the highways scarring up the coast. But with no trains or, really, any kind of public transport, the car is king. There are car dealerships on the Corniche, Beirut’s posh seaside promenade, entire neighbourhoods are devoted to garages and pedestrians are a rare sight much of the city. 

There is a small silver lining to it all, though—a small consolation prize. That influx of foreign cars has been going on for a while now, and even though it’s highly unremarkable to most Lebanese, their streets are a sort moving car museum. The variety of models and colors is unlike anything we have in Europe. The state they’re in makes for real fascination—how can these jalopies still go? There are a few pristine specimens, of course, but each one counts for hundreds of beat-up ones. 

Life sure looks tough on this side of Mediterranean with metal cracking like an eggshell and dust eating away everything. You’d think that some of them have been forgotten as they lay in the tall grass or in the corner of an abandonned plot, but as you turn you head, you see one in an even worst state of decay going down the street. It seems that there is no such thing as beaten in this country.

Pauline Chardin is a French fashion designer and runs The Voyageur. Follow her onInstagram, too.