Saturday, September 18, 2010

Photo Nostalgia = Lebanon, 2007

Not long after entering Lebanon from Syria (which is the only way to enter by land), we came across the bombed Mdairej Bridge, which at 656 feet tall was the highest bridge in the Middle East. It was bombed by the Israelis almost exactly a year before I arrived in Lebanon. My trip to Beirut snaked slowly through mountains, as this shortcut was obviously not an option.

My first day in Beirut saw me sick with something like the flu. The next day I tried going to Byblos, on the Mediterranean shore north of Beirut, but the bus driver took me all the way to Tripoli. It wouldn't have been a problem, except it was the same day that the military was shelling a Palestinian camp adjacent to the city. Machine gun fire could be heard all day, and yet somehow I didn't realize what it was until I talked to locals at the end of the day.

Fishermen in Tripoli

Fishermen

This picture pretty much summarizes the Middle East for me = life-affirming passion amidst life-shattering chaos

Lovely coastline in Tripoli

The shop of Abdel Rahman Al Hallab sweet shop, in Tripoli. I took their sweets back into Syria... the ones I didn't eat immediately, that is.

Walking uphill towards Tripoli's citadel

View over Tripoli

View behind the citadel

Detail of staircases in the citadel

On the way out of Tripoli, I "braved" a photo of a tank (a serious no-no)

Sunset over the Mediterranean, seen from my bus ride

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut (construction was finished in 2007)

Razor wire, a common sight in Lebanon. This particular patch prevents unauthorized entry into the Hezbollah camp, adjacent to Beirut's downtown.

The National Museum of Beirut (highly recommended; for some reason I didn't take photos inside)

This Lebanese Maronite Christian man stayed at my hostel, and worked for the Red Crescent (Red Cross). He sustained a bullet wound in his hip the previous year while helping those inadvertently wounded by invading Israeli forces. His girlfriend, who also worked for the Red Crescent, was shot in the head and killed, along with some co-workers, by the Israelis.

I think of all the photos I've ever taken in my life, I'm most fond of this one of Beirut, complete with a UN vehicle. It's been published on a CD-ROM encyclopedia in Brazil, if that means anything.

Baalbek, a pagan site in northeastern Lebanon

Baalbek

Baalbek

Baalbek

The Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, site of unholy rituals

Lion's head and an ancient form of the swastika, Baalbek

Baalbek

Baalbek (I'm pretty sure those are not Lebanese cedars)

The altar inside the Temple of Bacchus, possibly including the adyton (the pagan holy of holies)

My butt was resting on the same site where pagan atrocities occurred

I decided I wanted a photo with a soldier; cue the "sucker for a man in uniform" jokes

A pock-marked building, a casuality from one of Lebanon's civil wars

Beirut's downtown, deserted late on a Sunday morning (directly behind me was the Hezbollah camp)

Orthodox church, in the middle of downtown near the clocktower seen above

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque

Interior of a cafe near my hostel

I took a daytrip to the Jeita Grotto, Lebanon's answer to Carlsbad Caverns. For the tourist, it's tricky to get to, but once you're there you get to ride a gondola to the entrance.

For whatever reason I dressed up a bit.

Obviously not my photo, but yes you get to ride a boat in the caverns. I've been to Carlsbad Caverns, and this place was more photogenic (ironic, given that they make you stow away your camera).

I finally made it up to Byblos to see the ancient sites. While walking the long walk from the bus stop, I made a friend (the man on the left), and he took me to tea at his relatives' house. He spoke English, though neither the man in the middle nor his wife did. However, she and I spoke French, as she was quite fluent.

Byblos

Byblos, against the Mediterranean

Back in Beirut, another pock-marked building

Life goes on = HSBC built their new building next to a devestated one

Beirut's famous corniche

Many people walk out on these naturally polished rock outcroppings

Poster depicting father and son politicians; on the left is Prime Minister Rafic Hariri (assassinated in 2005), and on the right is his son, Saad Hariri, who in 2009 became the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

The Pigeon Rocks, a well-known landmark in Beirut

Pigeon Rocks

My final photo of Lebanon... I was admittedly trying to do something arty, though the result is an unintended enigma. Somehow it still remains one of my favorite photos from my Middle East trip.

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