October 19, 2006

Beirut: Best of Both Worlds

A hilarious shot, I think. So absolutely Lebanon! Got it from another blogger. Insiders will recognize this immediately; the Ashrafiye crowd touring the devastated Southern suburbs. War Tourism at its best.
In a way it is very symbolical; the Western (christian) crowd from East-Beirut (in the cabriolet) coming to visit the Eastern (moslem) crowd in (in the rubble of) West-Beirut, although Lebanese do not like you to use that terminology, West and East Beirut. “We are all one united Beirut” they always say.
To me it has been clear from day 1 that there were two Beiruts: the differences between East and West Beirut are very present. I kind of like it; two worlds in one. There are days I cannot stand the chaos, and spend some time on the other side, and then there are days when I am in a more laid-back kind of mood, need the down-to-Earth friendliness, and delve deep into the suburbs. ‘Getting the best of the both worlds’ is very possible in Beirut. That’s what makes this town so much fun.

I have had numerous experiences though with people in the East that have never set a foot in West-Beirut. Once I went shopping for plants somewhere in the East, and the guy asked us where we lived (I was with an American friend). “In Hamra,” we replied. Like he was smelling something bad. “Oh, you live there? Very dangerous. It is much better on this side.”
You hear similar stories on the moslem side, albeit less graphic. They do not feel so threatened, which explains the difference in attitude. I once got thrown out of cab from Damascus to Beirut (Lebanese cab) because I was not willing to listen to their remarks on how wonderful the shiite were because they ‘allowed’ the christians to live in Lebanon. When I asked them if they could replace the Koran prayers (had been listening to that from Damascus to Shtoura continuously) with a tape of Haifa Wehbe (just to piss them off a little), the atmosphere turned a sour, and I was asked to exit the cab. Never happened to me before in this country. You’ve got idiots on both sides.

I love the picture though. Wonder who took it?


Anonymous said...

This picture is photoshopped.

Anonymous said...

and the western is muslim and the eastern is christian...check your first sentence

Anonymous said...

definitely photoshopped...

Anonymous said...

The person who took it is known now as the photo became World Press Photo 2006. More info: www.worldpressphoto.com