A foreigner in Beirut: The wayfinding guide
By Guest M : There’s another thing that can be as shocking as the “hi, kifak, ça va” for the Lebanon-loving foreigner: addresses!
While here in Italy almost everything has its specific information talking mapping and signage, in Beirut I had to deal with: “it’s near place X” or “3rd floor building Y”. This kind of directioning is not coming totally out of the blue since we use that in informal conversation, but what’s striking is that in the land of cedars this takes a glow of officiality since even magazine listings bring on this kind of indications.
So imagine a guy walking around to avoid Beirut’s traffic jam and trying to reach a place having a dialogue like the following:
- Sorry where’s the XYZ venue?
- Easy, near 123 restaurant!
- Oh and, ehm, where’s that restaurant?
- Cinema X building, second floor
- and where…..
Ok, ok I’ll be easy on you but seriously this kind of conversations can last countless times!
So, how to solve way finding issues in Lebanon?!
Admin I recently introduced me to a guide about wayfinding in Beirut called “Addressing Beirut” which consists of a pack of cards, simplifying this complicated process into practical easy steps. This guide is by “Tammam Yamout” a TedxBeirut 2011 speaker (Tammam is a co-founder of PenguinCube, a Lebanese design firm).
so briefly, the steps to reformulating your Lebanese address are:
- Identifying “Grade A” landmarks (official or religious landmarks that won’t be relocating in the foreseeable future), “Grade B” landmarks (functional or institutional landmarks that are difficult to relocate), “Grade C” (shops or outlets that may close or change), “Grade D” (might literally change overnight like graffitis or trees), identifying “Dead” landmarks and finally using the right landmarks usually between “Grade A and B” for a starting point.
- Knowing roads between “zaroub”, “cheri3″ and “Autostrad” and believe me Lebanese do really misuse those words! Then you should know your junctures (mafra2, msallbiyye and ronpwein). The next step is to specify choices on a “Y” junction between right and left and finally identifying inclined roads without referring to the road as uphill or downhill.
- Giving address from far to near (from landmark A to B) then “go with the flow” following the flow of traffic, avoiding dialogues while giving an address, avoid using distances and time (a la Libanaise time estimates can get confusing!). You should finally give clear directions (mainly left,right,straight and U-turn) and a final “design” related note: Less is more, and rhythmic pausing while stating an address can be quite helpful!
Good luck and thanks to PenguinCube, Addressing Beirut became much easier!