The Egg – Beirut, Lebanon - Atlas Obscura

The Egg

This modernist cinema has survived war and reconstruction to become a symbol of Lebanon’s revolutionary spirit. 

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This modernist movie theater was once the jewel of a bustling downtown in pre-war Beirut, but today it is full of bullet holes. The district is a short walk from the rocky Mediterranean coast, and was once dotted with cinemas. The Egg, which was officially part of the never-finished Beirut City Center complex, was one of the most unusual. It was popular among Beirut residents until civil war broke out in the 1970s, and the building suddenly found itself on the front line separating the West and East.

The structure was built in 1965 by Lebanese architect Joseph Philippe Karam, part of a golden age of construction when modernist designers were commissioned to experiment with new ideas and materials across the city. Karam envisioned two large towers on either side of the cinema. Only one was built, and it didn’t survive the war. What did survive years of fighting was the distinct, egg-shaped shell of the cinema—with the scars to prove it.

The Egg remained off-limits to the public as downtown Beirut was razed and reconstructed after the war. For years, it remained a curiosity to a generation of Lebanese with no connection to the old downtown area. Only after massive protests swept the country, beginning in October 2019, were the barriers torn down. Protestors flooded the building, decorating it with art and holding raves and film screenings inside. Now, any passerby is welcome to explore the building and witness an iconic piece of Beirut’s history.

Know Before You Go

The structure is impossible to miss from Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut. Simply walk over the remnants of a barricade to go inside the building. Take care, as the site hasn’t been inspected for safety in decades.

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Justin Higginbottom
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