Earthquakes and tarantulas – Lebanon’s unexpected extras

Last night after nine months in Beirut two unexpected things happened which freaked me out. I am used to worrying about the normal things: money, work deadlines, walking home by myself at night – but then up popped two things I had (perhaps foolishly) not anticipated.

Firstly at ten o’clock last night I was in a fourth floor flat in Gemmayzeh, babysitting and watching a DVD, when I felt the sofa rocking under me. The dog was some way away and couldn’t possibly have moved it and I was alone in the house. I got up and walked around it, trying to work out what had happened, then decided I must have imagined it. I sat back down and a minute later the same thing happened. I realised that the sofa couldn’t moving by itself – which meant that the building must be moving, which meant – earthquake!

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Beirut Snapshots: Valentine’s in a gay bar and the invisible man

I’ve had a rather exhausting but very fun week reviewing three plays in Arabic, followed by a lazy weekend which was spent not partying but doing rather mundane but necessary things. I spent yesterday cleaning the house, which in my absence has become a cess-pit, then baby-sitting last night and today cleaning all my clothes, which over the past couple of weeks have over-flowed the basket and made their way in a steady mass across the floor forming an impregnable fortress between bed and door.

Everitte went to the post office again on Friday and was once again served by Shireen. Having not seen Noor in a long time he inquired as to her whereabouts and was told that she had left. “She told me you upset her very much,” Shireen said to him. “But she wouldn’t tell me why.”

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Healing Images – Beirut’s Graffiti

A couple of people expressed interest in seeing more of Beirut’s graffiti. In my previous post on Beirut’s Street Art I posted pictures of the art around Hamra and Gemmayzeh, two central, residential districts of Beirut. In the process of researching my article on graffiti in Beirut for Hibr online I subsequently made a trip to Karantina, one of Beirut’s industrial areas out by the port, in order to photograph the graffiti art there, which is a lot bigger and more impressive, as artists go there to bomb the ugly concrete walls along the main road in and out of Beirut so that people see their work on their boring commutes to and from work from Northern Lebanon.

A skeleton road-sweeper surrounded by ravens on the side of a bullet-ridden building

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Beirut Snapshots: baby versus dog, a burning car and the post office saga continues

Over the last week my life has suddenly got about three times as busy. I’ve gone from working for Everitte, helping to answer his emails and deal with commissions for his calligraphy, a job which clearly left me with far too much time on my hands – as evidenced by my taking an entire day to shoddily sew one giant pair of trousers out of two perfectly good, reasonably sized pairs:

And by my spending another whole day last month making my own Christmas decorations for our tiny Christmas tree: Continue reading

Beirut’s Street Art

I am in the process of researching an article about Beirut’s graffiti, and been photographing street art all around the city for the past few weeks. Of the first things that struck me about Beirut when I arrived was the volume and quality of the street art, which is not only in the industrial areas of the city such as Quarantina, but also in the richer and more upmarket areas, such as Hamra and Achrefieh. As a picture is worth 1000 words I’ll let these images speak for themselves.

A man in army uniform holds a sign reading 'I love corruption' in Arabic

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Ringing in the New Year Beirut Style

I welcomed in 2012 in great (if chaotic) style, partying with my family, visiting from England, in the streets of Hamra and enjoying the balmy 18 degree night air. We took some beers and went to wander around the busy streets of Hamra, finishing up in one of our favourite night spots. Known as ‘The Alleyway’, is it a little back street just off Hamra’s main street. Car free and covered on both sides in little bars, all abutting one another, at night the patrons spill out into the alleyway itself which is always filled with a laughing, drinking, singing, chattering crowd. Continue reading

Beirut Property: from Student Accommodation to Solidere

Beirut’s property boom

My experience hunting for someone to live in Beirut left me very curious about property prices in the city, which seemed to be fairly high in comparision with the average income. After meeting several new Lebanese friends thanks to couchsurfing, a site which seems to attract friendly and interesting people, I found the conversation kept coming back to the expense of living in Beirut and in particular to Downtown, the district in central Beirut which was almost completely destroyed during the civil war, and subsequently rebuilt under the former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Everybody I talked to had something different to add and a slightly different viewpoint on life in Beirut and the politics of property ownsership. When it comes to the topic of modern Beirut, and particularly the controversial Downtown district, there are a thousand different opinions, facts and rumours in circulation and everybody has his or her own personal viewpoint. Continue reading

A New Life in Lebanon

Moving to Lebanon

As a freshly minted university graduate, unsure what exactly to do with the rest of my life, moving to Beirut to ostensibly improve my Arabic and do some vague sounding imaginary job in some way connected to journalism and/or human rights charity work seemed as good a plan as any. Lebanon, once the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, has for the last 35 years been considered one of the Middle East’s most unstable countries. With its beautiful expanse of Mediterranean coastline and its lush green mountains providing hiking in the summer months and skiing in the winter, it has the potential to be a prime tourist destination. However it is landlocked by Israel and Syria which have directly contributed to Lebanon’s political problems, including the civil war which lasted from 1975 to 1990, and the subsequent skirmishes between Israel and Hezbollah. Somewhat ironically, Continue reading