The last time a train stopped at the Mar Mikhael train station, it was 1976. But starting tonight, this relic of Lebanon's past will breathe new life when an exhibit is unveiled on a 150 meter wall of the hangar showcasing the work of 18 different artists, designers and illustrators.

"What was once a lively railway terminal - a beautiful hub on the corner of the east side of Beirut - is now but a deserted residual, so we asked if we could revive the train station through this wall art exhibition and the municipality approved, free of charge... the best things in life are usually free," says Sheimaa Oubari, general manager of Achillea, a cultural events management company based in Beirut.


Artist Geroge Tabatadze lays the groundwork for his mural as part of the 'Waiting for the Train' exhibit. (Photo via Facebook)

Each artist's work will revolve around the theme of the exhibit: Waiting for the Train. "It's a depiction of the aspirations of a person waiting for the train, an exploration of what were once daily impressions in the average day of a Lebanese commuter... telling the story of those who stopped waiting, those who left, and those who stayed and never lost hope," Oubari tells beirut.com.

Lebanon's railway system goes all the way back to 1891 when the Ottoman Empire gave approval to France to build the tracks from Beirut to Damascus. Fast-forward to the 1960s, and the train was one of the most popular ways to travel, extending from Beirut to Damas, Syria. While the Mar Mikhael train station hasn't functioned since 1976, railway workers are actually still paid to show up to work every day under the auspices of needing to protect the old grounds from thieves and property developers.

For two of the participating artists this weekend, the exhibition serves as a starting point for a conversation about reviving the train station. "We need better transportation methods in Lebanon. We want to wake people up by sending a message through our art," say artists Jubran Elias and Lana Shukri from the Dihzahyners collective.


The Dihzahyners are a colorful collective who for months have showed up in Mar Mikhael painting stairs and sidewalks with a rainbow palette of paint colors. (Photo via The Humans of Lebanon Project on Facebook)

While the train station won't be starting up anytime soon, it has, along with the rest of the neighborhood, witnessed an explosion of traffic over the last year. The railway exhibit is the third event to be organized at the train site in Mar Mikhael since the start of the summer. DJ Luciano played a special concert there in June, followed by a Red Bull King of the Rock basketball tournament shortly after.

Unless there's a special event going on, railway workers don't usually allow the general public inside, so take this as another great opportunity to see some of Lebanon's living history in person while checking out what's sure to be a very cool exhibit. Waiting for the Train starts tonight at 6:00 p.m. and runs through Sunday. For more information, click here.

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