Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A visit to Beirut

Seen on the Beirut Art Fair.
Unfortunately we did not write the name of the artist.

We are back in Antioch after several weeks of absence. Our last stop before returning to Antakya was Beirut, a place as close to the Syrian conflict as is Antakya, but a totally different experience.

We met several Syrians who had fled to Lebanon because of the war. Not surprisingly they were sad and upset. One had fled Aleppo in the middle of the night as the fighting spread to his street. He told us that some of his friends are living in a quarter of town that is surrounded by forces fighting the Syrian army. They cannot get out and it is difficult to get in. He himself is trying to find work in Lebanon, but he told us that in spite of his qualifications he finds it difficult to find work because the Lebanese can hear on his language that he is a Syrian.

The atmosphere in Beirut was relaxed. In the Shiite quarter close to the airport, though, the control was tight, both by the Lebanese army and by Hizbullah, as a bomb had killed a number of people a some of weeks earlier. The extremist Islamists who are fighting in Syria have been blamed for the bombing.

Nevertheless, we were in for a surprise. A Syrian friend of ours gave a banquet to our honour. The people he invited were Syrians and Lebanese alike. Some of the Syrian guests started to arrive about 8 PM. We were amazed to learn that they came directly from Damascus. We were even more astonished when we realised that they were going back to Damascus after the party the same night. They told us that the situation there was relatively quiet, but people had been frightened by the threat of American bombing.
  Our host had called a famous cook from the city of Tripoli up north
No, it is not a cake,but stuffed vine leaves
This information made us happy as we had been worried about the safety of our friends in Damascus. However, the situation of our friends in Aleppo still gives us ample reason for concern.
Another picture from the Beirut Art Fair

. . . . .

Living in the Middle East and at the same time following the stories in the press is an interesting experience. You somehow feel sorry for people who only have the television news and newspaper stories to rely on. This, in fact, is one of the problems of democracy. How are people going to make the right decisions when the journalists only tell them what they think people want to hear! Of course, this is nothing new. The same bias is seen in most countries when the press deals with unpopular religious minorities.

This does not mean that all journalists just tell stories. If you want to read fairly reliable news about the Middle East, go to Also the articles of Robert Fisk are recommendable (

A new post about interpretation has been on my blog