heels on fire: Beirut - First Impressions

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beirut - First Impressions


Beirut is a city which enlivens the senses and encourages curiosity. As you move from one street to the next we grew with confidence with each footstep. For a large part of the morning Dez and I walked in relative peace and quiet, observing and trying to find the words and images which might kick start our Lebanese adventure. In the early afternoon I was awoken from my sleepy wandering with a start as I had my knuckles rapped by a passing wing mirror. Shortly thereafter, having eaten, Dez found his camera and got to doing what he does best, clicking the stories of the day. 

Photo's 1,2 and 3 - One of the first observations of the city are the elegant stone front facades of the Beirut's  building's. French windows, shutters and hanging sheets shape the buildings into a view not unlike a bookshelf. The distant charm of the buildings often belie the close reality. Up close the walls carry weary tales of a violent past. Pock marked bullet holes and shrapnel marks date back to the Lebanese Civil war which began in 1975. We have yet to unravel the stories behind the Civil War, but as time goes on we will endeavour to shed light. 

Photo's  4, 5 and 6 – As the sun dipped we walked through a maze of streets snacking on delicious falafel pitta rolls and quaffing down think dreamy thimble sized cups of sweet sweet coffee. 

Not linked to any picture - We shared a random conversation with Gabriel (a struggling film maker and avid movie goer), who was at the time double fisting a pizza slice in each hand. In between forcing down mouthfuls of food he described the contradictions of the women of the city, where it was commonplace here in Beirut to see a woman in a full abaya walking with her sister wearing the latest in mini-skirt fashion. Parts of Beirut are   indeed noteworthy for the large numbers of beauty parlours and lingerie shops. We will be looking into this more closely!

The traffic (and car horns) seemed to lull in the late afternoon. Shop keepers withdrew to their comfy chairs with a cigarette and newspaper. The pace momentarily dipped in anticipation of the night ahead. 

Pic 7, 8 – Traveling back from the Beirut Marathon Association offices in the Hazmeih, to the North of the city we had the good fortune to pick up a 1983 Peugeot (sp?) taxi with Gibrail, a Maronite Christian. Once we  had deftly moved through the standard introductions and looks of bemusement of our reasoning for being in Lebanon, he proudly shared the news of the birth of his second child some fourteen days earlier. His daughter is called Princess, apparently the first girl in the whole city to be given such a noble and worthy name. Gibrail's son is called Antonio-Prince. It was a delight for Dez and I to soak up the pride and joy of a loving father.

Pic 9, 10 and 11 – Beiruti's migrate in numbers to the Corniche water front in the evenings. An interesting cosmopolitan mix of walkers, joggers, cyclists, fishermen, sheisha smokers, couples (young and old), kids, card players and soldiers amongst others, congregate as if on cue as the sun sets. The various acrobatic exercise's intermingled with intense discussions appear to be a routine for the local population. Moving away from the shore line, we wander up to Hamra, the shopping district of the city which is positively abuzz with late night shoppers. If I lived here, given the beauty of the coast line and the gentle atmosphere of the city, I have no doubt that my evenings would happily follow the exact same pattern as those described above. 



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