Vintage Ain Mreisseh

Beirut is a city of change. Not too long ago I found some evidence of that, an on-line stash of pictures of Beirut taken in 1965. If you have the time go ahead and follow this link and browse around. It'll show you around 80 pictures of Beirut back in the day.

What amazes me about these pictures is how little I recognize. So much has changed. But this one looked very familiar.

Those distinctive rotund balconies are still there, and it looks like parking in this part of town has always been a problem.

Other elements of the surroundings have transformed. There are lots of new (and tall) buildings, and the facades have changed. The tall yellow towers carry electrical wires, though it looks like the wooden one (attached to the side of the building in the center) in the first picture is still there now.

It's a little hard to see, but yeah, that's McDonalds and Hard Rock Cafe down the road.

I could do a lot more like this, pairing shots of the old Beirut (that I can track down) with a current image. If you'd like to see others like this, let me know in the comments.


Taking the Air

I really love this. Want to know why?

The architecture, of course. I'm inclined to align this style with art deco, but that's me simply drawing a visual inference. The colors are completely Beirut, so are the rugs--they're a strange collection of new and old, airing out on the balcony. Just another normal day on a normal street in the city.


You Know It

It's summer, and there will be ice cream.

This truck brings it to you on the Corniche, but all over town little shops have restocked their freezer chests, filling them with popsicles and ice cream cups and bars and sandwiches and all kinds of frozen treats.


Double Take

Ooooh, shiny.

You know summer's here when suddenly there are motorcycles everywhere. And there are. But I don't often see the same bike twice, at least, not the way this motorcycle is here twice--once on the street and also reflected in the convex mirror overhead.

You can see lots of other reflections from around the world here.


Unanswered Questions

There he is, out there with his feet in the water, fishing.

I wonder why. The sea was rough. New waves kept washing over his feet. He must have been wet up to the knee. Can you really catch anything with waves like that? And where's his gear? If he actually catches something, where will he put it? How will he re-bate his hook?



The Starbucks on Hamra Street has been under renovation for a few months at least. Recently, while out with one of my kids, we noticed that the sidewalk was completely obstructed. A huge something had just been delivered, and a half-dozen people at least were ripping packaging off of it. Kids love stuff like that so we stayed and watched a bit. Turned out to be a new refrigerated display case.

When we passed by it looked like they were very close to completing the renovation. Good for them, I say. They'll be ready before all the tourists arrive.


Dancing Sunlight

Reflected late afternoon sun danced on the upper floor of this decadent villa in Achrafieh as I happened to pass it.

I love the horseshoe arch, especially when it looks balanced as these do. The horseshoe can look top-heavy and unstable, but these are just right I think.


Before and After

Before the shop opens, and after.


Make Up Your Mind

Some days, I just can't decide. Or more accurately, I won't.

So, I give you three views of the same building.

Good thing the stakes were so low.

Happy Sunday, everyone.



I love this. I don't want to stop looking at it.

It was such a beautiful place, and so distinctly welcoming. Every inch of this doorway is a joy. To stay there and gaze all I wanted was squarely within the realm of the possible. I could have.

It was possible but not practical. If I had stayed to continue taking it all in, it would certainly have ruined the day for my kids. They rely on me, you know. And it very likely would have made the residents of this little piece of perfection nervous. I might have gotten into trouble. So I took a picture and walked on.

And now, though it's nothing to the actual place, at least I have this picture and I can look all I want.


In the Window

I recently walked past this shop window with lots of traditional drums piled high with shiny brass horns.

The shop window reflects the balconies on the opposite side of the road.

You can see lots of other reflections from around the world here.



This door stands in a crowded part of town that I often pass through on foot. Each time, I notice it. It's a beauty.

Trouble is, most days it's obscured by one or more cars. Like I said, that part of town is crowded. But luckily, finally, beautifully, there were no cars obscuring it this time.


At the Pine Forest

I think one of the strangest places in Beirut is the Pine Forest. As newcomers more than five years ago, we were eager to find parks and playgrounds. The Pine Forest, a huge green triangle located almost in the center of our Beirut map looked promising. So we went one afternoon.

It wasn't anything like what we had imagined. There were some ball courts, and a long gravel-paved arcade with trees and a fountain. But almost all of the huge green triangle on our map was completely fenced off--inaccessible to the public. No play equipment either. We were disappointed.

But we explored a bit more and eventually stumbled our way into this unusual place at the south end of the arcade.

To me, it looks like someone's ill-fated attempt to create either a very small, shallow lake or a rather large pool. It's filled with sand, but it still looks like it ought to be filled with water. Anyway, it's doubtless the biggest sand box I've ever seen. Obviously, kids love playing in the sand, scampering up the faux banks made of cement and sliding right back down again.

Someday, I'd like to be allowed into the areas that are fenced off. I'd enjoy walking the paths that are visible from satellite images of the city. If you're interested, you can read a bit about the park's history on this wikipedia page.


Horse Racing in Beirut

Most Sunday afternoons, there are horse races in Beirut at the Hippodrome. We decided to drop in for a race or two just the other day.

I had never been to a horse race before, only ever seen dramatized versions in movies or on TV which doesn't count I've decided. At the stadium, you get to see the horses up close. Tension builds as you wait for the race to begin. You see exactly how fast (and difficult to photograph) horses really are, and it's over in a hearbeat.

Most of what I usually photograph holds still, or still enough. So I'll have to go back and give it another try.

Here's google's satelite image of the race track. The entrance is off Omar Beyhum road, and there is parking inside. The road above the Hippodrome, Abdallah El Yafi, is the highway connecting Cola and Adlieh. So now you know how to get there.

Before the race starts, the horses are led around a small loop (visible in the google map-- it's the small green oval below the large orange track), which allows all the spectators to see the horses and make up their minds about what to bet. Lots of betting going on.

I took too many pictures, none of them very good. But I had such a nice time there with my family. Horses are beautiful, and there's always a lot of energy at a competition like this.


Beirut Art Center

When you live in a place like Beirut, reading international news can feel surreal especially when your city is the subject. It can also feel really redundant. Take this NYT food-blog article about new restaurants in Beirut. I've seen this same outline a hundred times: civil war, Paris of the middle east, opportunities, risks, live for today!

Although I find these reports tiresome and formulaic, occasionally I learn something new.

NYT, again, but this time with a schedule of what to do if you have 36 hours in Beirut. #6 on their list was the Beirut Art Center. They're located along this graffiti-enlivened alleyway. Their facility is visible from the Emile Lahoud highway, and I'd seen it while driving past. But I was in a hurry and forgot to follow up. NYT jogged my memory. Cool, I thought, contemporary art in Beirut. I called and made an appointment for a tour--a tour for kids. I invited a friend and her kids to join us.

The tour was very good. Our guide did a great job of interacting with the kids and helping them understand what they could of the art on display. Every piece was political, about war, negotiation, and all the shades of gray in between. I'm very glad we went and I'm sure we'll go again. If you're interested in going, visit their website. They have great information, a map, and *grin* it's free.


Sin el Fil Park

Years ago when the kids were babies, we often brought them to this park in Sin el Fil. It's cute, well cared for, small, and free.

There is a small assortment of play equipment, a sand box, lots of greenery and benches.

At the front gate, rules are posted. No pets, no food, no balls, don't step on the grass, and possibly a few others. Clearly, the rules aren't strictly enforced, per my opening picture. I'm glad they're not.

Here's a map if you want to visit the park. The red circle indicates the park, with the arrow identifying the entrance.



Phew! Now that I've got that out of my system I can move on to something else.


Near Cola

Cola is the name of a major intersection and bus/taxi hub in Beirut. I think I must have mentioned it before in connection with the amazingly vertical mosque going up right at that intersection.

Today I drove from Cola to the sea, and along the way I took this shot of some shops.


On the Road

Usually when I post a picture, I'm sort of excited about it. It's a picture that I feel good about, maybe it turned out beautiful or maybe it was fun to take or maybe I love the subject matter.

This isn't one of those pictures. I'm ambivalent about it. It's just here. Nothing special. Mundane. It's a slice of life along Hamra Street.

Some notes about the image:
1. It is so strange that the guy on the scooter is wearing a helmet. No one wears helmets.
2. It is not strange that he has stopped in the middle of the street to have his conversation. Nor is it strange that the man on the cell phone is simply out there on the road.
3. The blue truck full of twisted up rebar!
4. Parked two cars down from it, the German flag completely interfering with rear-visibility. More World Cup cheer in Lebanon.
5. The wall in the background is patchy like that (exposed cinder blocks and yellow painted stucco) because a building has just been torn down. There's nothing but rubble behind that black wall--for now anyway.



There are two lighthouses in Beirut. The old one:

And the new one:

They're within only a few hundred meters of each other. I took this picture from way up in the air on the Ferris Wheel. Every so often, our kids persuade us to take them there.



All over town, flags are waving. Why? The World Cup.

Flags hang in the streets, but are also flown from cars and scooters as they zoom around town. Restaurants and pubs have started advertising that they'll broadcast the games. Don't have a flag to wave? No problem. They're sold on the streets or in the shops where you can buy bracelets, pins, wrist cuffs, key chains and so on . . . all to show support for your team.


No Parking

Sometimes, the temptation to anthropomorphize something is simply too great.

This sign, for example. The rusty crack looks like a frown on a big, moon shaped face. The diagonal shadow, like the slash through a 'no smoking' circle reinforces the sign's forbidding message. The redundant cross bar is like arms drawn by a child, with one side raised just enough to add a touch of menace, like a cocked fist.


Kaak on the Beach

Here's a photo from our recent trip to the public beach. To drive there takes us only 10 minutes (it'd be less but for traffic), and although proximity is on our side, our visits are rare because there's an awful lot of preparation and clean up involved.

But it's good to know that we can strike "snacks" from the list of things to prepare. The man with that wonderful bicycle is selling Kaak, a circular bread with the hole in it. Makes a nice handle. The bread is hollow inside, so you can put stuff in it, normally Zaatar (an herb mix of thyme and sesame and I'm sure other stuff too). Later in the day we bought Kaak with cheese in it. Yummy, and they cost only about $1 each.

Bike-enabled commerce like this is common on the streets of Beirut, though now that I get to wondering about it, I can't say I've ever seen someone ride this kind of bike. I've only seen them pushed along by the owner, and on the beach that would be a must in any case. The sand was so soft.


Brace Yourself

Elsewhere, I've remarked on buildings going up in the city, noting that they're almost always faced in stone. I tried to describe the way these sheets of stone are attached to the concrete facade, and the metal fixture that makes it possible. I don't think I described it well.

Here's a picture of the metal bracing contraption that fixes the decorative stones to the facade. Several of these pins are inserted into holes drilled into each side of the stone, bracing it to the wall and to the stone adjacent to it.



Sukleen is the trash collection service in Beirut.

I thought I'd share this picture of the fellow I recently saw opperating the dumpster lift on the back end of a garbage truck.


The Builders

Another scene of work in progress.

What struck me this time was the element of teamwork involved here. I spend most of my time alone, doing things that are done easily (perhaps best) in solitude. Even back when I busied myself with heavy, hard work, I still was at it alone.

I've complained (perhaps that's too much. Reported?) that these guys have no protective gear, but they have each other and this picture almost makes me envy it.


Lion Twins

For me, this blog is first and foremost, a great excuse to get out there with my camera, to create something to keep and share of a city that I love. It helps to be part of the City Daily Photo community. Y'alls comments mean the world to me.

City Daily Photo is world-wide. Anyone, anywhere can join and that openness allows us all a simpler view of the world, sometimes from very different points of view, one photo at a time. Without this community, I'm sure I never would have seen this picture taken in Jerusalem. Go ahead and click, and compare it to my photo below.

We have almost-matching lion buildings.

I don't know when Beirut's Assicurazioni Generali building went up but it is shockingly like the one in Jerusalem. Also, I'm not sure if the building still houses the Generali Group or not, but the ground floor is now an upscale cafe in one of the most squeaky-clean sections of town.



A&P in Hamra.

Standing on the street, you'd never guess. Tucked behind the rainbow striped canopy and down a half flight of stairs, you'll find a fantastic store filled with all kinds of household and culinary treasures. I was in there the other day and among other things, I found a real waffle iron, top quality utensils, cookware and bakeware. There were fancy trash cans with sensors that open the lid when you put your hand close to it, beautiful hardwood tea boxes and a great selection of glass canisters in all sizes. It's probably my new favorite place.



Recently, while driving near the National Museum, I noticed half of a really nice building.

The other half? Very likely it was destroyed during the war. The National Museum was very nearly destroyed too, but it has been nicely restored since. If you visit the museum, be sure to watch the movie that they made of their efforts to preserve the collection. They encased larger items (statuary and sarcophagi) in concrete--think of them as tailor-made mini bunkers. Then, when the war ended, they carefully chiseled them out. I'm so glad it worked.



It's a little bit shocking how much there is to see and do at Jeita Grotto. The sign I posted yesterday gave but a hint of all the on-site attractions. There's a little train that travels between the upper and lower caves and the parking area. There's also a cute little cable car that covers the same territory (there's a servicable pathway to walk if you choose--a nice option to avoid waiting in long lines). There are gift shops and restaurants and a fun little zoo with birds, turtles, rodents, monkeys and goats. And there's a sculpture garden. These statues stand at its entrance.

Across the path from it, the sculptor's workshop caught my eye.

I really liked the terra-cotta color of the wall, the beat up wheelbarrows and the slabs of unworked stone.

Today's post is part of the theme day 'statues' at City Daily Photo. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants