These were taken where Borj Hamoud meets the coastal highway just as you leave Beirut heading north. It’s a Christian area. A trail of battered Persian rugs makes for some kind of entrance to the cluster of low buildings, small enough to walk around in a few minutes.
Most are partly destroyed houses, with walls and roofs replaced by aluminium sheets or tarpaulin. Red question marks are painted on the walls. Elsewhere there are black crosses. I don’t know the history of this slum and why or how these people ended up here.
The washing lines are full of kids clothes and there’s a large paddling pool in a clearing which looks like a communal area.
A splash of colour in all the concrete.
The living space of these homes will be drastically reduced when the rains come. Pegged up sheets won’t cut it and few of the roofs look even remotely watertight.
one man's junk is another man's livelihood
This looks like the main bartering yard for the neighbourhood. In an alley a man and a women were carefully sorting through a plastic bowl of lighters and other small finds from the dump. Necessity is the mother of recycling.
Just to let you know my latest piece for the BBC programme From our Own Correspondent will go on air today at 11:30am UK time or 1:30pm Beirut time. You can listen to it online here. This time the topic is going about normal life while the prospect of a spillover from Syria looms closer.
Update: The text appears in the BBC Magazine here. Spoiler alert – I don’t answer the question in the title given it by the BBC. Let me know what you think here on Ginger Beirut.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of recording a new piece for the BBC programme From Our Own Correspondent. It was already just after 12pm and the sun was directly overhead. It was going to be a sticky 25-minute walk and I didn’t feel like turning up panting so I took a taxi to the BBC studios near the Serail. The driver clearly decided I was fair game for a story or two. “I want to welcome you to this country and ask you to pray for me,” he began. I sighed. I’d thought using my few words of Arabic would spare me being taken for a witless foreigner. “My wife has just given birth,” he went on undeterred. So far nothing new. “She’s had quadruplets!” I must look more stupid than I thought. “Mabrook,” I told him, “Lucky you.” We had arrived. I paid making sure to get my full change before tipping him. It reminded me of a funny piece by BBC correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones for FOOC, Taken for a ride in a Cairo taxi, except his yarn-spinner was a good deal shrewder than mine. I wish I could find the audio version as I remember it being particularly lively, but it makes a great read too.
So here we are back for another year. For a moment there I thought we might not come back. You know how Lebanon looks from the outside. If you watch international news you become convinced that Lebanon is a perpetual fireball of self-destruction. And let’s face it, a dozen kidnappings here, a dozen deaths in street battles there. I mean Air France even diverted a flight to Syria rather than land in Beirut. Things must have been bad. I was glad I lugged my PC to Europe after all. Maybe we’d stay. Maybe we’d not return to Beirut for years to come like so many families during the civil war. The food would rot in the fridge with no-one to keep flicking the tripswitch on. My clothes would disintegrate in the wardrobe, or at the very least go out of fashion. The man’ouché seller would miss us terribly.
But here we are. And to be honest, it looks a lot like when we left. Under the surface it may be quite different. But tuning into the tension won’t actually tell us when the explosion will come. So in the meantime, perhaps it’s not a bad thing not to know exactly what’s simmering away under the rug.