For the first time in 15 years of devastating civil war, the bomb-shattered St. Georges Hotel served as a backdrop for a fashion show with Moslem and Christian models.
"This is the message we hope to carry to the people of our country: the phoenix rising from the ashes," said fashion designer Loulwa Abdel-Baki, the creator of Thursday's 30-minute program.Abdel-Baki, a member of the Druse Moslem sect, and 20 models worked 20 days to clear the debris from the lobby of the once-majestic beachside hotel for the exhibit, "but left just enough to remind people of what happened," she said.
The show, called Kalabsha, Arabic for handcuffs, was intended to boost the latest government efforts to dismantle Beirut's dividing Green Line and reunite the capital, Abdel-Baki said.
The government began effacing the divider that split the city into Moslem and Christian halves after Syrian troops backing President Elias Hrawi crushed rebel Christian Gen. Michel Aoun on Oct. 13 to end an 11-month mutiny against the government.
Hrawi is struggling to unite the city, securing the promise of the main Christian and Moslem militias to leave Beirut and help create a military-free zone.
About 650 people, mostly women, turned out for the show, applauding the models as they paraded on a makeshift stage under the wrecked lobby ceiling, displaying Abdel-Baki's fall and winter collection.
Many were apprehensive that the loud music played during the exhibition would send loose debris crashing down from the ceiling. But it held.