We Apologize for the Inconvenience

Looking back at what was in March 2011, what the protestors did was reclaim the location of Duwwar Dakhliyeh as a public space for non-violent civil disobedience. The location was contested from the beginning; retractors claimed it was too central and a protest would disrupt mobility for many. Others criticized the choice because it was too exposed and could endanger the lives of the protestors. These points of view turned out valid in the end, but, still, the organizers insisted on that location because it was so central. Actually, the real name of Duwwar Dakhliyeh is Midan Jamal Abdel Nasser whose significance as a symbol of Arab Nationalism was also a reason for the choice. For those 2 days in 2011, the Duwwar was ours.

After the 'destruction' of the gathering, the space remained eerily quiet, and then the 'renovation' began. I remember when I first noticed the construction work, I couldn't believe they dared to change it so soon; the memories, anger, controversy and also the disparate discourses were still so fresh. The newspapers at that time mentioned that these works were planned long before the events of March 2011 and bore no relation to them. The cynics couldn't help but wonder, and I was one of them. It felt like they stole the space from us for a second time. Through this placing of objects, they made sure no one would dare to gather there again. It was less of 'renovation' and more of 'reconstruction' over the remains of a public outcry, the rubbles of 'destruction'. 

Ironically, the space has been turned into a different kind of public space with these changes. Stepping out of my vehicle and the usual circular motion, this time I walk around and see the reconstructed space, as described in my previous post. On closer inspection, it is harder to walk around because you have to meander around the railed plant basins, but there are now benches for passers by to sit on (I wonder what they are thinking?). The black stone placard seems to be more than that; it is the protruding part of a larger structure - a fountain perhaps? For now I can only see it is a playing ground for dust and debris.

Whereas monuments are built to preserve public memory, this placard and the gardens around it, those which I like to imagine as monuments, are built perhaps for the purpose of erasing memory. I might call it them accidental monuments of will, or monuments of despair.

Below is my driving route again (in red) and the space in question roughly delineated in blue.