Wednesday, December 27, 2006
A drive into Beirut
Evelyne and I went to the port to pick Tante Malakeh up from the bus station as she had come from Tripoli. Tante Malakeh is 85 years old and quite nimble. She had no problem walking around the streets of Beirut as she says she walks a lot in Tripoli. Evelyne and she wrapped shoulders as we took a little walk around the souk area that former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed last year, built- past the al-Nahar newspaper headquarters with a big banner to Gebran Tueni. I will try to translate the banner later. I will need help.
I diverged a bit and took some photos of Christmas trees dedicated to the martyrs who have been killed since last year with the mosque where Hariri is buried a short distance away. People would stop and silently look at the trees and the plaques, paying tribute. I took some photos of the trees with the mosque in the background. Uploading photos is very very slow so I may have to upload more later.
We walked up to the Place d’Etoile. Everything is so new looking and quite haute couture here. TGI Fridays and Dunkin Donuts interspersed with pricey looking cafes and stores. People were praying in the mosques and the streets were nearly deserted until prayer finished. Then the streets filled up some, but not enough to fill all of the restaurants that were also opening up after prayer. We sat down and had a cup of ahwe at the Place l’Etoile Café/Restaurant.
Afterwards, Evelyne sweetly took us to Ras Beirut via the St. Georges and the Corniche. We drove by the still destroyed Holiday Inn on the way. A skeleton amongst a skyscape of cranes. While it has remained in its civil war state, there is a lot of rebuilding taking place around it. I took some pictures from the car window but will try to return to take more.
The newspapers were reporting that the US State Department and the French Embassy said that Americans should not be entering the country and should avoid Shiite and Palestinian areas, French citizens should have a bag prepared to evacuate. Why the alert? Is it related to here or is the U.S. preparing something in Iraq? Is it instead time to put pressure on Iran? I don’t know and I am not going to pay too much attention to it. I am here now and am quite happy to be. I cannot live in fear. I would rather be here in Lebanon than sitting in front of my T.V. watching alerts change from orange to red to flaming fear.
I am glad I am here despite the insecurity. One day they say that talks are progressing, the next they aren’t. Stalemate. Tension. You can even feel it a bit in people’s interaction with one another. I’ve noticed between family members who live abroad and dream up projects and those that live here in Lebanon and are worried about just maintaining what they already have.