June 09, 2011

Civil War Relics

A civil war relic; one of the few still standing

You do not see them that often anymore. They’ve become quite rare lately; the civil war buildings. The shell shattered façade sporting the well-known star-rays pattern of exploding RPG’s, They’re bullet ridden, the targeted victims of snipers, or just accidental victims in the cross-fire, and patched up by a criss-cross work of bricks..

The star sprayed pattern, result of a shell impact, and patched up again

 Most of the buildings that were heavily damaged, especially those along the former green line, have been either leveled, or renovated. Bullet holes have been closed up, and a layer of plaster cover whatever traces were left of a sad past. I find it a pity, because with those buildings, all outward traces of the civil war are slowly disappearing. I am sure that most Lebanese are happy about that; many do not see the necessity of constantly being reminded of a dark past. But those born after 1985 do not really have a vivid memory of this sad, yet immensely intriguing past. Just like Vietnam was the first televised war, Beirut was the first televised civil war. 

Beautiful patch work

Here’s a quote from an article that appeared some years ago: ‘Sociologists and historians have observed that many Lebanese have a tendency, at least on the surface, to try to leave the war behind them and simply move on with their lives. The fact that high school history textbooks still fail to address the civil war is just one example of how greater Lebanese society has tried to forget the past.’ (source)

When I just moved to Lebanon, the place was full of these buildings. One particular part was my favorite; the drive along the Green Line, especially that stretch of road between Tayouneh and the Damascus Road, between the christian neighborhood of Ain el Roummeneh, and the muslim populated Shiyah. That was a kilometer long alleyway flanked on both sides by stone skeletons. House after house, building after building, all the cement had been totally eroded away by years and years of bullet hail. Not one single house was intact. In the very beginning there were still the sandbags. Here's a visual of thet Green Line.

The staircase (Definitely not to heaven)
 I never lived through any of the atrocities of the civil war. When I got here, people were war wearied and exhausted, while I came all chipper and bounced of that plane full of energy. Back then, you had to walk from the plane to the terminal, where ceiling tiles and electric wires were hanging overhead. There was no electricity, and the luggage conveyer belt had not been working for many years. A little cart drove by and dumped all the suitcases on the tarmac, right at our feet. Welcome to Beirut. 

The old Barakat building at Sodeco, in a state of constant cultivated disrepair

But I always thought those buildings were beautiful. Perfect memorials, created by the people, not artists. They have something magical. Memories of a not so distant past really.  And so when I saw this building (top one) while driving through Badaro, I 'shot' it. For old times sake.

Some interesting articles on the architecture and urban growth around the Green Line can be found here and here .


Patrick said...

WOW! This looks like an amazing building. So many lovely details!

You are totally right about us wanting to put the past behind.
In my family, we don't have a single picture of our house with the shrapnel sprayed walls before we repaired them or the two layers of sand bags in front of every door/window, even though I must have spent half my childhood playing behind them.

Whenever I ask about the reason I get those strange looks of "why the hell do you want pictures and memories of that!"

Marillionlb said...

A few years back I burned all the prints and the negatives I had of the war, this is one act of stupidity I still regret today. I do not think that we should forget the 15 years of war we had, on the contrary it should be included in the history book we teach our children at school. Hiding our head in the sand will only lead to another civil war at the hands of this new (ignorant and fanatic in most part) generation of ours. The war museum in Sodecco is a good idea, but not enough, if Hezballah can have a theme park to remind us of their divine victory, it is only fit to have something to remind all Lebanese what led us to the sorry state our "failed state" is in right now.

Anonymous said...


I find your comment pretty offensive. Being myself a Christian from the South who suffered from occupation. The museum you're talking about is the Resistence museum and is dedicated for all the lebanese who fought to free their lands. Something you clearly don't understand. Keep hiding your head in the sand and do not at any cost try to learn from your mistakes.

Sietske said...

Hahaha, I like this.
It doesn't really matter what you say. It will always upset someone. Doesn't matter, it does mean you hit a nerve. I though today's post was relatively 'controversial free', i.e. I didn't think this was one that would get people going.
Tomorrow I'm forced to go to a dog show (my daughter's choise)that will be a pretty boring event. Do you think that will upset someone?

htj said...

When I was a kid, the neighbor’s dog, Rufus, chased my cat, Fluffy, out into the street, and she got hit by a car. Even decades later, I am still traumatized by the events of that day. :)

Needless to say, a post about a dog show will be extremely upsetting to me, unless of course, you’ll be going to a cat show later on that day, and you’ll be blogging about that as well. :)

Anonymous said...

@ Sietske

Well , we Lebanese don't really know each other enough , do we ? People of the South have resistence running in their blood , so it is normal to be offended when someone spreads ignorance.
And this post is not controversial whatsoever. Actually I love your blog ^^

htj said...

One of the main civil war relics, the Ain El-Remmaneh bus that sparked the Lebanese civil war has been found.


viagra online said...

It is impressive that something like that it has been for so long time and It represents something that people fight for.

jhony bravo said...

Hmm superb!! A great look of old building with complete details, I’m really impressed by seeing this and know about details. civil war relics