(My Middle East)

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

Posts Tagged ‘elections

Samir Kassir award & election time

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Here is the Samir Kassir award story I was talking about yesterday. Not a whole lot, more fun to cover really. It ran at the top of page 3. Some background:

St George Hotel, Beirut

St George Hotel, Beirut

The bombed out St George hotel that I reference in my story was destroyed by the bomb that killed Rafik Hariri, another anti-Syrian occupation figure.

In other news, I started working on a story about the students who are volunteering to observe the elections. I’m not sure if it will happen, but we will see.

Also, the newspaper is planning to cover the elections. Things are going to be spread pretty thin, theres a lot to cover for a small staff. I think I will be taking photos and doing reporting, I’m not sure in what district yet though.

I had to give my two head shots to the secretary to get my election press pass, but then she needed one more for my Daily Star press pass. Seeing as I didn’t have another I had to give her my American University of Cairo student ID to scan from last summer… when I had a beard. So it looks nothing like me now. I’m just hoping it will give me some pull when I go for my Hezbollah interviews…

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Written by stephenddockery

June 3, 2009 at 4:04 pm

So much to ignore

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It’s easy to get distracted by whats flashy in Beirut, the fast expensive cars, the attractive women, the French and English speaking ‘cosmopolitans’. More than that, its easy to surround yourself in it, in whats familiar and appealing. I found myself doing it on the first days I was here. I would associate with friends in the city and friends of friends, who were mostly English speaking and affluent, I rarely used Arabic.

With so many different types of people crammed into such a small space, I figured it would be impossible to isolate yourself to whats going on next to you. But it seems as if, thats part of ‘the problem*’, how easy it is to tune out the different ethnicities, languages, and social classes. In Nicholas Blandford’s book Killing Mr Lebanon (which I highly recommend for trying to understand the current political situation in Lebanon) he quotes a Lebanese official on how it was Rafik Hariri’s death and accompanying political rally that brought people to the streets out of all areas of Beirut ,even the French speaking Achrafieh. If it takes the death of one of, if not the largest players in Lebanon to get people to cross the street, think of the social misunderstanding and miscommunication that can occur on a regular basis. I feel if I write more I will make some absurd platitude with no basis, so I will stop there for now.

On the subject of conflict, on a walking tour with an AUB medical school student Ranni, I spoke with him about the nature of the divided city and what the fault lines are in the city. He seems to think it is now as much a social class disparity rather just specifically a religious one, which seems to mesh with what I’m reading.How that plays with the March 14 Sunni, Druze, Christian Alliance and the March 8th Shiite Christian alliance I’m still figuring out.

Until next time

*and by the problem, I don’t mean I’m here as an emissary of righteousnesses, looking to diagnose and heal this state in my two months here. This is just the musings of a journalist trying to understand … and looking for a job.

Written by stephenddockery

May 24, 2009 at 7:32 pm

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