June 10, 2006

Losing the view

When we, or rather I, moved into this house, the war had only recently ended, and the snipers’ bullets were still embedded in the outside walls. All the windows were covered with M3, a thick plastic transparent foil that, in case of shelling, would prevent shattered glass from flying through the house. The balcony railings were a little bent in some places where shrapnel had cut through. We had some holes in the tiles added, a reminder of the Israeli Grapes of Wrath action in 1996, when Israeli jets flew low over town, and the Lebanese army peppered the sky with anti-aircraft bullets. What goes up, must come down.

And we had 360° view! There was not a single building, except for the Murr tower, that covered the mountain line. And we could see the horizon across all of the Mediterranean Sea. The snow in wintertime, the sunsets in summer.

Well, things have changed a little.

A painter dislodged the bullets while fixing the walls outside. I would have thought he’d keep them; a monument, but obviously he didn’t see the significance of it. There is only one left; way up, stuck in an iron bar. Amazing how a sniper managed to get it there; wedged right in the middle of that bar. It's been painted over, but it's still there.
The little chipped part where a bullet hit as my hubbie walked past was filled in, but luckily that piece fell out again, so the chip is back; a memory of that day when he was almost shot on his own balcony by a sniper.
I managed to peel off the M3 sheets (after mailing the company. Their advice; smear the foil with concentrated dishwashing liquid, stick garbage bags on top of this, leave it for 24 hours and then you can peel it right off), and after a leak we had the balcony tiled again, erasing the traces of the anti-aircraft guns.

But all this is not the issue. Although from our balcony we are still doing a lot better than most people in Beirut, it’s the view that is going. We still can see the mountain line, but now it has been cut in several places by high rise building; a hotel in Hamra being one of them, Hariri’s top floor being another. In summertime we can see the flashes from the top floor of the hotel; cameras that shoot photos during weddings. Nobody’s using the top floor in the Hariri’s house anymore; too exposed. Syrians (or anybody else) could blow that top floor off with ease.

On the seaside, we do not fare as well. First it was several buildings with 15 floors and over that blocked our direct sea view, but currently we have more buildings blocking the sea than we have sea. The most recent are three that have mushroomed right at the end of our street. These are apartments that start at $700,000 and up. I wonder who buys apartments like these nowadays. Mortgages are not a very current thing in this country - most people tend to pay cash for their apartment - and people are not exactly making $5000 on a regular basis in this town. I had hoped that with these ever grimmer reports on the Lebanese economy, people would have to downsize a little. I guess some people are downsizing, but not in this neighborhood. They're building, so there must be a market.

So bit by bit we are losing our 360° view.
And thus, when we were fixing the bathroom on the seaside this week, we decided that we would need a large window in order to enjoy the view for as long it would last. Now I can see the sunset while showering. I’m not quite sure of how the details are going to work out, because as the window is quite long and low, and while I can see everything, everyone can see me (taking a shower) as well. We’ll solve that problem when we get there.

But look at my fantastic bathroom view!

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