(My Middle East)

77 days with a journalist, Lebanon, and a list of non sequiturs

Archive for May 23rd, 2009

In Beirut, 36 hours later (Part 2)

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I’ll keep this brief since we are starting a new day right now (drinking fresh OJ and eating a nutella bagel at the Euro Cafe on Bliss street)
To finish up yesterdays events: On our way back from visiting Deen Sharp Brian and I stopped off at the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque.

Mohammad al-Amin Mosque built by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he is burried next to it

The mosque is HUGE, so massive that the mosques construction supposedly created sectarian tension because it dwarfed the other nearby religious buildings.

The interior was stunning, it has 3 massive crystal chandeliers, one which is the most massive I’ve ever seen, It would have filled a large sized living room.

We then stopped by the Rafik Hariri burial site right next door. Where the former prime minister was buried in 2005 after his assassination outside the St George Hotel.

It was quite the scene , there were around 200 people in the tented memorial,

ranging from covered women wearing the future party scarf ( Rafik’s son Saad’s party) to westerners like ourselves. It was as much a social atmosphere as one of memorial, people posed for pictures next to his tomb and chatted with their friends who also came to visit.

The tent itself had dozens of photos of Hariri, his face looked over every part of the tent. Gazing over Hariri’s flower covered tomb was a stack of around 12 flower wreaths each containing the same picture of Hariri’s face. Behind Hariri’s tomb were the burial site of members of Hariri’s entourage who were killed with with him in the bombing, all with a photo of Hariri super imposed on

a photo of the deceased.

Arab funerals and ways of memorial are things I’m still trying to figure out, and thats no different if Lebanon. In fact, it may be even more complex. Martyred political and religious leaders live on throughout the city in posters and billboards and give life to the next iteration of their movement (see Saad Hariri)

On Beirut

I definitely don’t want this blog to be a day to day r

ecounting of things in my life, hopefully I will be able to share some insights into whats going on in Lebanon. For now though while I’m still figuring things out, I don’t think I can say too much without feeling like I’m talking about something I don’t have a grasp of.

But, a few things that I have noticed in the 24 hours

I’ve been in the city.

The city is incredibly diverse, you are very likely to hear arabic french or english being spoken on the street, and the mix of religio

ns is really striking (Fridays and Sunday’s are the weekend and you work a half day on Saturday, which I thought was a nice religious compromise).

The city is also very divided, there are apparently some people in East Beirut who never go to West Beirut and vise versa. This is something I’ll be exploring much more in the future.

The history of the city is incredible, there are old mosque

s and churches, roman baths and bullet hole marked buildings everywhere giving the city an

incredible energy.

On the note of bullet hole marked buildings, there are quite a

number of police and soldiers all over the city, which are mostly all touting well oiled machine guns that look something like an M16. It’s interesting to compare the military presence here to how it was in Cairo. In Cairo the police were mostly there to

fill jobs, maybe direct traffic and on the off chance stop a protest (although that is not to say Egypt didn’t

have a very strong security apparatus that violently suppressed dissen

t), but you weren’t sure if their guns even worked let alone if they were loade

d. But here, you are sure, or at least it feels like it. The police have much more of a ‘we mean business attitude’

Mohammad al-Amin Mosque built by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he is burried next to it

Written by stephenddockery

May 23, 2009 at 9:54 am