Walking the Green Line

September 30, 2011


Walking the Green Line

The Show Must Go On

Life in Beirut always persists, it adapts when necessary but pushes on. Even during the civil war the Lebanese managed to find some normalcy, occasionally maneuvering past snipers like traffic around construction. Somehow people have learned to persevere, so no matter how difficult my classes are becoming, time does not slow down.

Last week, after a month of uninterrupted sunshine, storm clouds appeared over the city. The sky opened up and Beirut began its transition into the rainy season in a deluge of water and thunder. All around the city drains overflowed flooding the sidewalks and turning the roads into rivers. By the end of the day the sun was back and the water dried up leaving small piles of litter in the streets.

The changing of the seasons goes hand in hand with the change in nightlife here.  Many of the famous rooftop clubs will soon be shutting down, so my friends and I decided to see some while we still could.

This building is right in the middle of downtown, and up on the top is Club Iris. It’s thanks to places like this that CNN named Beirut as the world’s “Best Party City,” in 2009.

The other day my friend told me, “it’s like that saying, live everyday like its your last, I really think they take it to heart here.” The statement made a lot of sense to me because they undoubtedly spend like they wont live past 25. From pedicures to massages, to fancy sports cars and upscale restaurants, every trade seems to be seeing some business. I dont get the impression theres a real concept of retirement savings here. Club Iris was no exception to Beirut’s expensive model but fortunately there was no cover charge.

We took care to dress up and made sure that our party had an even ratio of guys to girls.

This is a taste of the view. There aren’t many places you can count church towers next to minarets from a roof top bar.

This is a blade-less fan, I know I’m easily entertained but seriously, this is cool.

A scene from a another bar that night

The Commodore Hotel

Hotels tend to have a lot of history in Beirut and my roommate and I wanted to see this one specially. During the civil war the Commodore became a hangout for some of the bravest journalists of our time. Even the controversial Thomas Friedman spent time here. For me this place was a must see, and what better way to see it than with an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet?


Walking The Green Line

August 13th, 1975. This is the day that little Beirut would forever change the world. A group of people, attempting to assassinate a former Lebanese President, storm into a church, accidentally killing four others. The tragedy may have stopped there had the deceased not belonged to the Phalangsits, the Catholic Maronite Militia. Believing that the growing Palestinian Liberation Organization presence was to blame, Phalangists massacre 27 Palestinians later that day. The ethnic groups arm, begin fighting in the streets and soon the military splits and takes sides. This was the beginning of the Lebanese civil war, a grueling 15 years that saw some of the worst massacres of the Middle East, invasion by the Israelis, invasion by the Syrians, the bombing of Americans, the bombing of the French, an influx of Iranian agents, and the dissolution of Lebanon into warring factions. Much of the infrastructure here went into ruin and Beirut’s clashing Catholic and Muslim sides became divided by a strip of grass that sprung up through the cracks in the streets.

Last weekend my friend and I set out on a walk into town. Our hike took us along the former “Green Line” that segregated Beirut for so long. An amazing amount of the city has been restored but the marks of war are still unavoidable.

This is the monument of Martyr’s Square. Officially it commemorates the intellectuals that were killed by the Ottoman Turks in 1915 but the 15 years of war have given the monument a second meaning.

If you look past the bullet holes you’ll see that the war has also taken an arm.

There was a Red Cross event in Martyr’s Square that day for International Peace Day.

The walk continues.

Green movements popping up in Lebanon.

Along the way we passed through the “Beirut Souks.” If your new to the Middle East a Souk is a traditional open air market commonly associated with locally produced goods. Its a sort of one stop everything shop, however the “souk” of Beirut wasn’t anything like I expected. Contrast these Souks I saw in Egypt to the Souk of Beirut.

And this is the Souk in typical Beirut fashion.

Like I said, Hotels tend to have a lot of history here. The pink building in the middle of the picture below is the Phoenician. During the civil war hotels would assemble small armies to keep their guests safe and the Phoenician was known as the best. Ever since, political candidates have taken advantage of the security, staying there during elections. Ironically its sandwiched between two completely devastated buildings. The building in the foreground is the St. George Hotel, which was unfortunate enough to be next to Primer Rifik Hariri when he was blown up in 2005. The tall white structure behind the Phoenician is a Holiday Inn that was destroyed in the civil war right after opening its doors for business.

This is the St. George, destroyed by the equivalent of 1000 kg’s of TNT.

was able to snap this one off before some guards started shooing us away…

Rifik Hariri Memorial near the St. George

This is the Holiday Inn

This was a movie theatre at one point.

This would have been a Church, every time I look at it I think someone had a really bad aim.

This is the Beirut National Museum. The building is relatively modest in size but has an impressive collection of ancient artifacts from Lebanon. Its a miracle that it even exists considering it straddled the Green Line during the war and was itself largely destroyed.

A Lebanese politician once called his country a “land of smoke and mirrors and castles made of sand.” To me, this picture is the epitome of his statement..


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4 Comments on “Walking the Green Line”

  1. Caitlin Blanchfield Says:

    Hello, I would like to use your image of the Holiday Inn in a publication about architecture and representation in Arab cities to illustrate an essay about architecture in Beirut. Please contact me about image permissions.


  2. Al Says:

    I would like permission to re-print one of your fotos in a non-profit newsletter I publish for students and academics. How can I email you?


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