Troubled Geography: Imagining Lebanon in 1960s Tourist Promotion

Zeina Maasri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapterpeer-review


Through a close study of the promotional prints issued by the newly formed National Council for Tourism in 1960s Lebanon, this paper examines how the coastal capital city Beirut was constituted as a Mediterranean site of modern leisure and tourism. It unpacks the discursive and aesthetic implications of visual culture by historically examining the tourism prints through two intersecting frameworks, that of global cultural modernity and that of post-independence nation building.
I argue that the Tourism Council sought to substitute in the 1960s an older image of Lebanon as a regional mountain summer resort with the visuality of modernity on the Mediterranean coast. My analysis relates this transformation first to the modernizing discourse of the state and that of hospitality entrepreneurs which sought to position Lebanon on the global map of emerging mass tourism, particularly the one flourishing on the European side of the Mediterranean basin from the French Riviera all the way to the Greek islands. At the outset, this approach was situated within a 1960s global framework of economic modernization of developing countries that looked towards the “developed” West for a tourism model to emulate. However, this lens becomes complicated once Lebanon’s colonial history, its creation as a nation-state and ensuing national identity politics are brought to the fore. Accordingly, I move to critically interrogate the politics of a Mediterranean geography of belonging, especially in light of its antagonistic relation to contemporary politics of Arab nationalism. My study traces the purported Mediterranean geography and associated tourism discourse genealogically back to the nationalist discourses of the country’s most influential intellectuals. I demonstrate how Lebanon’s 1960s–70s tourism visual culture contributed to the articulation of a Lebanese subjectivity premised on separatism from the Arab context, endorsing a Euro-Mediterranean character of the nation in polity and culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDesigning Worlds
Subtitle of host publicationNational Design Histories in the Age of Globalization
EditorsKjetil Fallan, Grace Lees-Maffei
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherBerghahn Books
ISBN (Electronic)9781785331565
ISBN (Print)9781785331558
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameMaking sense of history

Bibliographical note

Made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. with the support of the University of Oslo and the University of Hertfordshire.


  • Design History
  • global studies
  • tourism
  • Middle Eastern Studies
  • visual culture


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