Lebanon – Day 2: Beirut

Samer went to the airport to pick up Melissa. Spencer, Holly(s), and I took a taxi into Beirut.   We were all meeting for a tour with Alternative Tour Beirut.  Our guide’s name was Aya Jamorabon Rafeh.   This a wonderful walking tour through Beirut, that juxtaposes class access to the city, organic vs. unplanned urban development, and the evolution of the ever-changing Beirut.  Aya is a very good guide that I would eagerly recommend to anyone.

I thought she did a wonderful job presenting the complexities of the civil war and was very fair.  I’ve been reading about the war for 8 years now, and I still find it completely mind-boggling.   The only time, that I thought she was less than neutral was a brief moment when she told of the assassination of Rafik Hariri.  He was Lebanon’s internationally popular billionaire prime minister who was murdered by a car bomb in 2005.   Many loved him.   Many loathed him. Sam’s dad worked for him and loathed the corruption in the government, others considered it the price to jumpstart Lebanon after the war.  Our guide clearly had a soft spot for him.

Who killed Rafik Hariri? Was it the Syrians, Israel, Hezbollah, Hamas, and/or someone else?  We may never know.   There is a strong likelihood that it is not black and white.   Maybe rogue members of Hezbollah carried out the assassination with the support of the Syrian intelligence community.  At this point, that idea is mere speculation. The one definite consequence was the creation of a Hariri political dynasty now being led by his less politically sophisticated son.

Photo Credit: Josh Ferris

After the tour, Samer and Joe insisted upon showing us “nice” Beirut.  We stopped into a church, walked past the Parliament and Grand Serail (the office of the Prime Minister), snapped photos at the clock tower, and escaped the heat at an expensive hotel bar.   Nice Beirut means the prices are 10x higher than normal Beirut.  We were all pretty tired, so we returned to Broummana to relax.

We had dinner on Chafica’s balcony and then explored the neighborhood a little bit. Ee ended up at a ridiculously over the top bar called Cicada. My cocktail was served to me in a smoke-filled chamber. Also, on the walk home, we spotted the infamous traffic police in short shorts. When asked about this insane policy, the mayor famously said,

“We want to show that we have the same way of life as the West. You wear shorts and we wear shorts. We have democracy. Our women are free.”

This man will be sorely disappointed if he ever sees what female Philadelphia traffic police are expected to wear.

Next – Lebanon – Day 3: Beqaa Valley

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