Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lebanon: Turmoil and Tranquility


A balloon salesman at the Beirut Garden Show demonstrates how to
'walk the dog' against the backdrop of the Beirut Race Track.

Dutch woman in Lebanon: In retrospect, visiting the Beirut Garden Show may have been a better choice than say for instance the Verdun Shopping District after last night’s bomb. That’s the second one in 2 days. Another blogger called it new meaning for the expression: “shop till you drop.” The Syrians seem to be widely blamed for this one. Who knows? You guess is as good as mine. It could be a dissatisfied customer with some left-over civil war era explosives over in the attic.
Brace yourself, this promises to be a rough ride.


While the Lebanese armed forces are still engaged in full-scale battles with a number (some say no more than 200) of broom-bearded radicals in the north of Lebanon, and the eastern part of Beirut gets shaken (but not stirred) last night by a 15 kilogram car bomb near a major shopping center (remember the shoe story?), I went to the Beirut Garden Show. Garden show? Well yes, because life goes on.

A soldier, waiting on top of his tank, while eating 'bizr' (pumkin seeds).

Because even when this place is in turmoil, there’s always a place where you can find tranquility. There are a great number of Lebanese who – over the years – have developed a sort of ‘ostrich syndrome’. Instead of getting all upset and nervous, they steadfastly ignore the entire situation and pretend as if nothing unusual is happening.Last summer, while the southern suburbs of Beirut got bombed to smithereens, many Lebanese took cover in Feraya, an up-scale ski-resort some 45 miles above Beirut, and partied as if the country was not at war. “Well, you could hear the Israeli planes going over,” explained one lady I interviewed, “very annoying.”

It is gardenia season in Lebanon. They grow like weed, and people string 'em on a rope and sell them to wating commuters at traffic intersections. Usually at 1,000 for 1, but today they were selling them for 'tlate be alf' (3 voor 1,000 pounds)


When you watch the news, you get the impression that the entire country is at war. This is quite inaccurate, as all those that have been in a war zone will know. A bomb may explode, but 3 blocks down the road, you probably won’t even notice it.

An old man in Beirut, waiting, watching the traffic pas by.

There isn’t much else to do anyway. While the fighting continues, and bombs may (or may not) explode in your part of town, there isn’t much you can do. You cannot really plan ahead, as you need to have an idea what the future is going to bring in order to do some planning. All you can do it wait. And wait is what we do best here in Beirut. We've become experts at it.And so it is best to just ignore it, in order to make life bearable. After all, no sane person can live in similar circumstances for over 2 years if they were going to get all worked up over each and every fight.

This may explain the overall insanity of Lebanese.And so the garden show, which is held annually on the grounds of the Beirut Race Track went ahead as planned. It was a bit of a bland affaire; people right now are obviously not in the mood to buy new balcony furniture or replant their garden (who’s got gardens in this town?).


And while you are pondering over the mysteries of Lebanese life, go figure this one out; which one came first; the lamppost or the awning?

1 comment:

Jungle Mom said...

It is amazing to me, how we as humans, will carry on. I chuckled at the line about the Israeli planes being "annoying" but I have felt the same way at times when having to detour around student riots and such. Life is still lived.