Turquoise Doors

There's so much to this building, but these doors are what initially caught my eye. They're such a lovely color.

Maybe turquoise isn't the right name for it. It's deeper than Robin's Egg. It's too gray to be an aquamarine. Too green to be a peacock.

Here it is, below the upper floor. This section of the building sits directly to the right of the balcony in yesterday's image. The stone details, window tracery, proportions--all of it--are identical. But this section is in significantly better shape. There's glass in the windows, plants on the balcony. This portion surely has residents; lucky, enviable residents.


Continuing, Counterclockwise

What began at the gate continues here, around the corner from the building's flank shown in yesterday's image.

This is the upper floor where a family very likely lived at one point.

Below, at street level are carriage doors. I'll show those tomorrow.



The gate in yesterday's photo is just to the left of what you see today.

It's a funny shot, full of unexpected angles and lines all bound together by an illogical web of wires.


Round Trip

I recently had the good fortune to wander all the way around a very lovely ramshackle old place in Kaslik. We had already seen most of it when we found this gate--with the date the place was built set into the iron.

In the following days I'll upload pictures of its many faces.



It's winter, yes, I know it is. It's nearly a new year.

But it felt like fall when I walked past this spot recently.

Most of the green and growing things in Lebanon don't even bother changing color.  The ones that do tend to change at unexpected times of year. Like this grapevine--I think it's a grapevine or some sort of vine anyway. It made such a lovely rainbow growing there that for a minute I felt hadn't missed autumn after all.


Vintage Amir Munzer

A few times previous, I've mentioned a cache of pictures of Beirut taken in 1965 that are available online. If you have the time go ahead and follow this link and browse around. They're fun to see.

The collection of mid-60s images includes this one.

I knew I recognized the place, and finally the other day, I took photo of what it looks like now. It's the Emir Munzer mosque downtown, very near Place de L'etoile. In fact, if you're standing there by the clock tower and look over to the northwest, this is pretty much what you will see.

Wikitravel has this to say about it: The Amir Munzer Mosque was built in 1620 on an earlier structure. Also called Nafoura (fountain) Mosque, there are eight Roman columns in its courtyard.

That's interesting stuff.  But what I'd love to know is, why weren't there crescents atop the minaret and dome in the 1960s.  When were they installed and why?  


Beirut Exhibition Center

On Christmas, a lot of Beirut shuts down, but a lot of the city continues on it's merry way and it's a good thing it does. Think of all the families with active children--families like mine.

After a nice slow morning at home we went to Beirut by Bike downtown. While the girls rode bikes, I wandered over to this place with my camera:

Huh, I thought, because I hadn't been here before and didn't know anything about the place. Since I was with my kids on bikes I couldn't exactly investigate further.

But one thing I knew for sure: cool typography for the sign.

Once we were back home I went to the web where I found the following information about the Beirut Exhibition Center:

1. The artist who designed the typography for the sign is named Mary Choueiter. I like her website, which has many more pictures of the sign at the Exhibition center, but (and this was a real treat) she also has a photo up of another project that filled me with envy such as I have not felt in a very long time.

2. The Exhibition Center has a website, but it's a work in progress.

3. Arch-Times did an article on it complete with great photos and even an image of the architect's model.

Ah, Christmas and modern architecture--two of my favorite things.


Gingerbread Village

This year we had a few gingerbread decorating parties with friends. Here you can see the festive and delicious results.

So much fun. Very merry.


Silver and Blue

More photos of the trees at the Souks.

Amazingly lovely trees in a dilapidated shell of a building-- my two favorite things in one. 


Red and Gold

We've had lovely, clear, sunny skies lately. Perfect for photographing the trees downtown in the Beirut Souks shopping mall.

A friend recently told me that she saw real trees for sale in a shop near her home--$250 for a tree that would sell for a tenth of that in the states. It's silly, but I actually thought that sounded like a price I might pay . . . some other year.

The trees decorated in red and gold are at the south end of the Souks. The north end is decorated in gold and silver. I'll post those pictures tomorrow.


A Very Hamra Christmas

An array of imitation trees all over the Hamra neighborhood--and real mistletoe hanging in a florists shop.


More Christmas

I spent the day in Kaslik yesterday. It's just north of town.

I noticed in this neighborhood as in others here in Beirut, Santa finds a way in even where there is no chimney.

Oh, you can get poinsettias at this time of year--they're EVERYWHERE. I liked this shop though, because they have little palm trees too.

Oh, and I haven't forgotten about the REAL trees downtown. They're coming . . .


Peculiar Decay

I continue to love THIS VERY THING.

Beirut has plenty of it--history-heavy houses, paint that bears the signs of it's age, wood that has had time's magic applied in quantity.

Love is always a complicated thing, certainly this isn't any different. I grew up in a world with an entirely different kind of decay, a totally different history. The decay of my childhood isn't beautiful to me, I don't love it and I don't praise it. I don't go looking for it when I visit my old home. American decay speaks of failure, of lost dreams and broken spirits. I'm tempted to say that it is provably uglier, but I know better.

And I don't mourn when American decay is torn down--unless it's a really remarkable structure. I'm glad to see it go.

Beirut's peculiar decay has it's own stories to tell. These old houses indicate failures and losses and damage too. But these aren't my stories.



Several sections of the Corniche were damaged during last weekend's storm.

This is what I'd expect it to look like if a truck crashed into it--except that the truck wouldn't have damaged the pavement. It's hard to imagine a wave doing this.

The sea was still tumbling and rolling and crashing when I took this picture. We enjoyed a few sunny days, but it rained again last night.

I've been keeping an eye out for good rain boots. Still looking.



On the street in Beirut, you can see snow on the mountains east of the city. It doesn't snow in Beirut. Ever. It's too warm.

I had to really darken the foreground so that the mountain would show up in the picture.  And it's too bad, because this is a somewhat unusual street. But, even as dark as it is, you'll note that the right hand side of the street is lined with buildings (typical), and the left is all leafy (atypical) . There aren't many streets in the city where you'd see so many trees all in one place and so cleanly separated from the other side of the road. So, why all the trees, why the stark contrast?  This street runs along a the southern boarder of the American University campus.  It's another world in there.


It's Beginning

Christmas is coming, and in Beirut it's even starting to look like it. Here, decorations at a Hamra fast food joint.

This year there are REAL trees downtown, actual trees that are so insanely gorgeous I've been thinking of nothing else for days.



We've had a recent spat of stormy weather. Lots of rain, wind, more rain, more wind. Temperatures have dropped and long sleeves are becoming advisable, if not absolutely necessary most days. By January it'll be colder still, but that won't stop big leafy things like this one.

I love that it's December and this enormous green thing is still going strong, speckled with fantastic blooms of purples and reds.


Stormy Weather

It has been a rain-soaked weekend. We're coping by staying in and not doing much.

From my apartment, I can watch as rainwater slowly erodes the facade of a house nearby. There are worse fates.

Tomorrow I'll be performing (I'm a violinist, too, by the way) with a choir composed of my husband's colleagues. It'll be festive and fun.


Another Plumber's Window

Here's another plumber's window, this one oddly enough with gourds.


The Plumber is In

In just about every neighborhood, you'll find a store like this one. But I guess it isn't really a store. It's more like a little warehouse. That's why the display shelves are caked in dust, why the stuff on them is a haphazard jumble.

A storefront like this lets you know that there's a plumber in town. This is where he keeps his extra stuff. It's a little bit crazy that the rent is low enough for the economics to work out favorably for the plumber, but there it is.

It's fun to try and identify all the bits and pieces in the window. Kind of like the kids game "I Spy", or those funny "Where's Waldo" books.


A House of it's Age

Across the street from the house I posted yesterday stands this house. It's a gem. I love the iron, the window tracery, the bowed glass that makes such a strange reflection, the greenery. For a house of it's age, it's in remarkably good condition.


Just Enough

I was at street level, looking up.  That's where all the good stuff is.  

  The sky was perfectly clear, peeking through the little tin roof over the second floor entrance.  It provides just enough cover.  Any less and it wouldn't be a roof at all.


Deep Clean

This is where carpets hang out while the house is being cleaned.

  This way the stone (typically marble) floors can be mopped without getting the carpets wet. It's not an uncommon sight.



A few months ago I moved to a new place here in Beirut. The apartment is better for us in every way possible. We lost our view of the sea, trading that view for this one:

This is what I see from my kitchen. I happen to love it. I love it a lot.

And speaking of kitchens, I've spent a lot of time in mine lately--it's the season for baking, among other things. This year I'm becoming a Gingerbread expert. If you were to wonder why, I tell you it is because I invited 12 children to decorate Gingerbread Houses with my children, and I made the houses for all of them. I'd never done this before which means I'm learning (LOTS) as I go. Experience is a fantastic teacher, and in addition to learning all about Gingerbread Houses, I'm also learning that I probably won't volunteer to make this many houses ever again . . . even though it is fantastically fun for the kids and the houses they create are as haphazard and untamed as the one in this photo.


Take Your Time

This is another City Daily Photo theme day. Today's theme is time. Time. Tricky.

So I settled on this image--one that I took at an hour that is unusual for me, with lighting I didn't know how to work with.

Still, I wanted a picture of it. It's such a warm scene--lights in the windows and on back stoops, and I loved how the pockets of light created separate spaces within a single image. The lights did that in real life too.

After quite a bit of trial and error, I finally had the image I had in mind.

It just took a little time.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants


Balconies, Light

I liked how these balconies looked; crooked and sort of piled up on each other.


New Poster

Ever seen that Italian movie about the bicycle thief? The main character in that movie had this job--hanging posters the old fashioned way with a bucket of glue and a ladder. The bicycle is how he got from one place to the next until it got stolen one day. Then everything falls apart. The movie is a cinematic classic, a masterpiece even.

I couldn't help thinking about that movie when I saw this man. He didn't have a bike though. His car was waiting by the curb below him.



This is shot of the interior courtyard on the building under renovation that I mentioned the other day.

I really like the iron on the windows. It's like three suns rising.



While I fantasize about the renovation of old buildings, there are those out there who actually DO IT.

This historic structure is on a tiny side street that runs parallel to Bliss Street in Ras Beirut. It looks like it's being saved by someone with the means to do it. Amazing.



When I spotted these two I was sure they were going to scamper away before I had the chance to take their picture.

Turns out that these cats were simply fascinated by my camera's sound effects. Every picture I took increased their interest and attentiveness.


The Rising Generation

I once read an Ibsen play about a famous, well established architect who harbored a robust fear of the "rising generation".  He would be replaced by them--he knew it--and he could barely name them without feeling a bit terrorized.  "The Rising Generation", he'd gasp with white knuckles--or at least, that how I remember my reading of the play.

I love how this image splits down the shadowy middle.  A new generation of buildings is rising in Beirut.  I wonder if old buildings like the one on the right know the terror of Ibsen's architect. 


Beautiful Visions

Usually when I see old buildings like this one my imagination runs wild. I fantasize about buying the place, fixing it up (I'd start with that balcony!), modernizing it in all the right ways, relishing the details of my own piece of history. In my imagination, simply living in a place like this would put me in a state of unending joy. I see myself happily doing all the boring day-to-day stuff of life because I get to do it in a rare gem of a home.

It's one part fantasy and one part theory--fantasy being that life is never as beautiful as the creations of my imagination. It's fun to get lost in my own beautiful visions, but they're just that--visions.  And then there's the theory, which is that if my surroundings were beautiful enough, clipping my daughter's toenails would be become beautiful also. Now if only I could turn this fantasy into reality and test that theory. . . .


Hanging On

Look at this photo. It's bold, structural. It's got great lines, straight and not so straight. The shadows add a lot, doubling the left-over awning's impact. In the background, the sky is my favorite kind of Beirut Blue.

I'm also struck by the fragility of this place. So many parts of it look like they're barely holding together, barely hanging on.  So much of it looks ready to fall over or get blown away by the next stiff wind.



I happened to pass this place recently.

Such a delightful collection of planes, shadows, directional lines, intersections, angles. I'm glad I found it.


Cut Vines

I posted a picture of this building once before. I said I'd return to take a picture of it when the vines became leafy again.

I came back, but the vines didn't. Someone is fighting back. Someone is trying to conquer them and it looks like they will.


Mouth Full

It's risky to publish pictures of things you can't read. I might end up being quite sorry I did.

Even though I'm Arabic-illiterate I like it. It's well done, it's comic, it's entertaining to look at. Who is this funny bald guy with crazy eyes, wearing a straight-jacket? The look of it makes me want to understand it.



I used to love the rain. Puddles and rainbows and umbrellas; they're so much fun. Plus, rainy days were sort of rare when I was a kid. Rare things are easier to adore than common ones.

Living in Germany changed things. Going for more than a month without seeing the sun even one time . . . that undid my ever-since-I-was-little preference for cloudy, rainy gray.

These days, I don't love rainy days more or less than their sunny opposites. They just are what they are and they're both good.


Got a Lot to Say

Graffiti. Today's the day for it at City Daily Photo. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants

Typical graffiti in Beirut near AUB. Don't really read Arabic, myself. But the boycott stuff is something I've been hearing a lot about lately. Burger King, Gloria Jeans, H&M are all targets of consumer boycotts because they have opened stores in Israel's illegal settlements. The idea is that global consumer pressure will lead to political changes that will improve the situation of Palestinians.

It's a long shot.


Good Intentions

I meant to post this last night. I meant to do it before I got distracted by other things.

It's one of those pictures that seems simultaneously open and closed.


Step Out

Here's a tiny balcony that I admire every time I see it. Look how small it is. It's just big enough to host a small gathering of plants, just big enough for the lucky resident to throw open the shutters and step out into the sun.



I saw this amazing place while I was walking the other day.

There's a lot to love here, a lot to comment on. But the only thing that I'm going to say anything about is that absolutely perfect teardrop shaped window. It's baffling but also completely charming.



One morning, I passed this odd set of wheels on the sidewalk. The crates had been bound together. The bases of the two on top had been cut out, so all together they made one really tall jumbo-crate.

I haven't seen it since that day. It hasn't been there. I guess that's what they call serendipity.