Beirut – quick update

So here is my latest short update. I am currently in Beirut, and although I know a lot has passed since my last update and I have only spent a couple hours in the city, this is what I want to write about. After an interesting border crossing and a night in Tripoli, I realized that where I really wanted to be is Beirut. Lebanon, and Beirut in particular is a place that has always fascinated me, even more so as I grew older and read and read about the wars, the people, the psyche, the insanity that this city represents. From hearing about my dads time spent there to the books about militia fighting militia, its really a city that doesn’t make sense. It cant be the same place, when I thought about Beirut I either thought about pre war calm and Paris-esque Beirut or post civil war anarchy. Yet there is a little of both in each one, and that was the strangest thing about today. This after noon I walked to down town, it was erie to actually be here. It is honestly the Paris of the Middle East, you walk through the newly done downtown and it looks just like Europe, huge new skyscrapers, new expensive hotels and restaurants. But then around my hotel you see bullet pocked buildings, I had seen them in Tripoli and Syria, but here it is another story. Buildings are riddled with bullet holes, some abandoned, some still with people. But even that was nothing compared to the Holiday Inn. It is something of a landmark in Beirut, I had read lots about it and to be right next to it, looking up at its empty shell was really something else. It was abandoned during the start of the war, and because of its height and prime location it was used as a sniper point. Yet where you put snipers you get people who want to shoot them. Left since the 70’s its walls are all full of bullet holes, RPG holes, sides are blown off and you can see into the rooms. Its as if the fighting happened yesterday. Yet you turn around and there are 3 new restaurants and people jogging, enjoying themselves. The city is such a mix, in a creepy eclectic way. I walked down Hamra, I street I’ve heard about from my dad for years, past the University to the Corniche. There are beautiful buildings and people everywhere, the Corniche was packed with rollerbladers, joggers, people walking, hanging out, listening to music outside their cars (this is night time), it was really as if it were in a mix of Venice Beach, Buenos Aires and Paris. But you still see soldiers with guns in Humvee cruising around, barbed wire lines fences and walls, its such a strange feeling. There is no issue of safety, no real danger, but its just knowing how much these people have gone through is the real trip. From the Civil War for 20 years after 75, to the invasion by Israel in 84 (around then) then when Israel blew it up again in 2006, this is not a faraway and distant war, its recent and deliberate, these people know war, they know hatred and fighting, yet by having a night out you would never notice.

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