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Try to locate any place in the Lebanese capital and this, typically, is what you will hear: details and places, not the names of streets or their numbers. Whether visiting a friend for the first time or trying to find someone’s office, the best bet is always to find landmarks, not official addresses – they may exist, but probably won’t be of much help anyway, because no one really uses them.
The landmarks, meanwhile, can be of all kinds – from visually imposing buildings such as the war-scarred Holiday Inn or Kahraba Lubnan (the electricity company with a sign that’s never entirely lit up), to popular shops and eateries – less random than the stairway dog, but in equally strategic locations.
What’s more, some of these favourite landmarks may have long ago ceased to exist, surviving only as points of reference, such as the old Medina theatre (not to be confused with the new Medina theatre, alive and well but located 20 minutes away). A few years ago, a Lebanese design firm even introduced the idea of grading the city’s landmarks from A-D, with the latter indicating “dead” or “may be removed at any point”, for things like trees or posters. […]