(My Middle East)

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

Posts Tagged ‘Lebanon

Visit to the National Museum of Beirut

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I took a trip to the National Museum of Beirut yesterday with a friend from the newspaper. It was a great experience and I would recommend a visit for anyone who’s in Beirut.

It was incredible to see history that goes back continuously for thousands of years. The complexity of the sculptures, mosaics and tools is really humbling. It’s a history that any Lebanese can be proud of.

The museum struck me in particular because after living here for a while I could associate names to places. After I traveling to Byblos a number of times and then going to the museum and seeing a Bronze Age (3200 B.C- 1200 B.C.) artifact from that city, it gave me a sense of the incredible depth of history that is in this area. It also helps put things like the Civil War and local politics into a much broader context that was eye opening for me.

For that reason (for all the would-be travelers out there) I would recommend the national history museum as one of your last stops on your visit, it helps tie a lot of things together.

Theres also fascinating history of how the National Museum survived the Civil War during which time the “green line” dividing east and west Beirut ran right through the museum. The documentary at the museum about preserving the art work hardly does the topic justice (but is worth seeing for cool shots of breaking statues out of their protective layers of concrete). Heres an excerpt from the museum’s website that is much more informative than what they provide in the documentary:

…The first protection measures inside the Museum were taken while fire-shells and moments of truce alternated. Small finds, the most vulnerable objects of the collection, were removed from the showcases and hidden in storerooms in the basement. The latter was walled up banning any access to the lower floors.

On the ground floor, mosaics, which had been fitted in the pavement, were covered with a layer of concrete. Other large and heavy objects, such as statues and sarcophagi, were protected by sandbags. When the situation reached its worst in 1982, the sandbags were replaced by concrete cases built around a wooden structure surrounding the monument… [the rest]

As usual check out Fisk’s “Pity the Nation” and Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem” for more stories about the National Museum.

ion route between both parts of Beirut during the war.

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Written by stephenddockery

July 26, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Beirut Art Center in Jisr El Wati

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The center piece of the exhibit by Abdel Hamid Baalbaki

The center piece of the exhibit by Abdel Hamid Baalbaki

I took a trip to Jist El Wati yesterday to go to the Beirut Art Center. The location is a bit of a drive fromwhere I live in West Beirut, but it’s worth it. The exhibit was called The Road to Peace: Paintings in Times of War, 1975-1991 and featured only art work that had been produced between those years, the time of the Lebanese Civil War.

There was a real sense of sadness and despair in all of the works, really powerful stuff. Even the abstract art, which is something I usually only mildly enjoy, spoke to me because of the context it was presented in.

Check out the NYT write up of the exhibit. This exhibit ends Tuesday, the next BAC exhibits are called “Earth of Endless Secrets Writing for a Posterior Time” and “Prisoner of War.” They open on July 23.

Also, across the street from the art center is a huge souk (market). Maybe a half mile long of booths packed together selling anything from olives and spices to knock off watches and shoes all of it ridiculously cheap (in both senses of the word).

I scored a nice shirt for $2.66, key chains with the likenesses of Nasrallah, Hariri, Geagea and Aoun on them for $1.66 and some presents for the family. Oh and I had some orange juice for .66 cents with a used glass and used straw, thrifty indeed.

Written by stephenddockery

July 12, 2009 at 3:54 pm

To be an Italian MP you have to have a really deep voice

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I figured out that I don’t speak Italian yesterday. I covered a press conference from the Italian foreign affairs delegation to Lebanon Thursday The press conference was in Italian and Arabic so I had to pretend like I was writing things down and then take the recording back to be translated.

Highlights of the press conference:

All 3 (out of 4) of the Italian MPs who spoke had incredibly deep voices. Like wildly deep. Octaves bellow what I was expecting, even the woman MP. Maybe its a requirement before running for political office in Italy.

Opposition MP, Leoluca Orlando, handing out an entire two sided personal biography instead of a business card.

Wondering if my name would have been Stefano Stefani if I had been born in Italy.

Written by stephenddockery

July 10, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Story on politicized journalism in Lebanon

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Reporters at the first day of the AFP workshop

Reporters at the first day of the AFP workshop | Lana Captan Ghandour

_ I had a story today in The Daily Star on the politicized Journalism in Lebanon and AFP workshops to promote objectivity.

Of all the countries in the Middle East Lebanon has one of the most free media environments. It’s notoriously weak government can hardly keep the country stable let alone have time to censor journalism. In Reporters without Borders press freedom index Lebanon is beat only by Cyprus for press freedoms in the Middle East, also check out the U.S. ranking of 36. (Although it should also be noted that the situation hasn’t always been that way, anti-Syrian occupation journalists have been intimidated and killed in the past and during war times internal journalism was very difficult)

Despite the current free press ranking the media in Lebanon is firecly political and exacerbates the already unstable poliotical scene. The Agence France Presse and UNDP is holding workshops that has reporters from opposite political spectrum working together to promote objectivity, which was the news peg to my story.

The conference itself was very cool, there were journalists from the Hezbollah TV station Al-Manar working with journalists from Saad Hariri’s Future TV and LBC. People had really intense debates about journalism but got along really well despite that. I talked to people from Al-Manar LBC and even a reporter from a Lebanese Communist owned radio station called Sawt al-Shab (voice of the people), it was great to see such different people getting along so well.

Oh and a major plus was the workshop was ran by Robert Holloway who is director of the AFP Foundation. Holloway is also a pretty big deal as an international correspondent. Also running the workshop was Najib Ben Cherif from Al Arabia, Saad Hattar from BBC radio Jordan and Joseph Badaoui from AFP Cyprus.

Written by stephenddockery

July 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Deliciousness

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Quickly taken photo of a wam half eaten cinnamon roll

Quickly taken photo of a wam half eaten cinnamon roll

Theres a sweet shop in Hamra on my way home from work that I love stopping by when I walk home. The sweets are delicious (today I had a cinnamon roll, warmed it, delicious) And the gray haired mustachioed (handle bar!) man who sells them is pretty awesome too. Its right before Jeanne D’Arc street across from the intersection from Flying Pizza. I’ll update with the name when I figure it out.

Written by stephenddockery

July 2, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Story on Lebanon’s failed state ranking

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I have a story in The Daily Star today on Lebanon’s recent ranking as the 29th most failed state in the world, an improvement on last years rankings.

Be sure to read the article explaing the index before looking at all of the rankings from Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace. 

The Foreign Policy articles accompanying index are worth checking out too. My favorite was the one on green zones in the failed states.

Written by stephenddockery

July 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

Nonsense in the News

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I’d say about 60-70 percent of whats published in newspapers in Lebanon is politician or prominent figure quote stories. Things like Geagea said this or Aoun said that (speaking of which, Qifa Nabki sites two sources that say around 50 percent of Chrsitians are still down with Aoun ) Anyways of that 60-70 percent almost all of it is garbage that tells you absolutely nothing like this headline from An-Nahar :

Sources close to PM-designate Saad Hariri told An-Nahar yesterday evening that Hariri is “calmly completing the process of forming the government.”

Really An-Nahar? I’m so glad you told me that. And I’m really happy you used an anonymous source to tell me the PM is calmly completing government formation, I’m now so well informed. It’s a real shame. Stories like these don’t tell you anything, quotes make up over 70 percent of the story and it avoids the real journalism work that should be done.

Almost all the time the quotes are positive things like “the government formation is going well” “all guns are almost off the street” there should be no fighting”. People literally take quotes like that and turn them into front page huge headline stories. BUT, after sifting through dozens of these useless stories every day, there were two that did catch my eye.

Sfeir says ‘nothing going well’ in Lebanon

“Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir was pessimistic on Tuesday about the overall political situation in Lebanon. Sfeir told a delegation of residents from the Chouf town of Brih, that the Lebanese were “currently facing a difficult period.” “Nothing is going well,” he added”

and this one

General Michel Aoun: we don’t know who’s forming the cabinet anymore

“We no longer know who is forming the government amidst all of the diplomatic visits and the clear interventions (Syria-US-France)”

Positive quotes never tell you much, and those have been almost all of these quote stories since the election. But the fact that people are deviating from the reconciliation line in addition to the recent clashes, could be a sign this government formation is headed for rough waters.

Written by stephenddockery

July 1, 2009 at 10:51 pm