A Palace

Palace isn't too strong a word, is it? I mean, it is very grand--too grand to be just a house.

I didn't even know it was there until the other day when I was out wandering through Clemenceau looking for a nice picture. Such a beauty, I thought to myself, a hidden treasure.



Another gorgeous balcony--in a picture taken right after a downpour.

That's why the walls are streaked, darker where the balcony above this one didn't shield the wall. Even if it hadn't just been completely drenched, I'd still have loved this one. Maybe it's the proportions or the verticality of the door, or the shutters drawn closed. Who knows.



Architects around here know it, and have known it for years. People want balconies.

So there are balconies on most buildings around town. On many of these you'll see outdoor curtains--usually made out of a heavy canvas or plastic fabric. They block light, dust, rain, and they do it without stopping air circulation.

Whatever advantages they offer, I didn't like them much when we first got here. I thought they looked messy.

But, like so many other things in this city, they've grown on me.


Variety Show

It's something that I really like about Beirut; that the word 'homogeny' doesn't seem to be in it's vocabulary.

Here, there are so many difference packed into such a small place.


Just Right

Usually when I take pictures it's my dumb luck that the light is exactly wrong. But this time, the light was exactly right.

I'm not wild about the composition of this shot, but with light like that I couldn't resist.


Fancy Doors

It's fun to look at these doors--they're so scallopy, swirly, loopy, check-marky. And the symmetry isn't too bad either. I can see all kinds of funny things in there--mickey mouse and a lute. What do you see?


All That Loveliness

Years ago, I was a nanny in a picturesque village and vineyard-dotted valley in Germany. It was overpowering, all that loveliness. But the awe it inspired didn't last. After only a few months I was back to photographing rust, peeling paint, garbage.

I'm fascinated by the unexpected beauty of these abject things. This facade in Clemenceau for example:

Those worn-through layers of paint! It's like a modernist canvas. Situated on this background is a grid of windows, each one unique. The glass is broken or not, shutters open or closed. Their mismatched colors punctuate the grid, breaking up the image and giving it greater interest. All this variation is complemented by the uniform darkness framed by each window opening.

I know (because it has happened before) that I'll eventually get sick of this aesthetic. I'll get to a point where I've had my fill of peeling paint and broken shutters. I'll wish for the crisp, freshly painted and clean-swept vistas that were quite unavoidable in Germany. I won't have to go to Germany to get it though. Beirut's got that kind of pretty too, and when I'm ready for it, it'll be there waiting for me.


Berkeley School

It's been a rain-soaked week.

This shot, taken in Hamra looking north, is no different.

Happy Birthday to my husband Matthew.



Pouring Rain

Today I was obliged to venture out into the pouring rain. I took this photo as a souvenir.

About a hour later I had all my business taken care of and was soaked from the knee down. Thank goodness for umbrellas and warm houses to return to.


Living on the Ledge

This caught my eye the other day.

As with so much of what I choose to feature on this blog, this sight caught my eye because it is so common--not uncommon in the least. Just look around and everywhere you'll see gardens growing up out of over-sized stock pots and old paint buckets. Eminently practical.


Nobody Home

The photo makes it look like this house might be out in the country. It isn't. It's nestled into a section of Beirut that is just as crowded as all the others.

The house stands about a block from a cluster of newly constructed, very sleek office buildings and shops. It's a part of town full of banks and other convincingly permanent establishments.

In the US we spin tales about abandoned houses. The huge and formerly gorgeous ones are almost certain to be thought haunted. The neighbors will swear they hear odd noises (weeping? doors closing? the rattle of keys?) coming from it. Stories will circulate about the former residents of the house, how they died or what private miseries they may have endured. Children will dare their friends to break into the place (for they're always locked up) after dark to prove their bravery, a right of passage.

I can't help thinking that abandoned houses are too common to attract this kind of interest in Beirut--the neighborhood's need for the mystical and the slightly terrifying would have to be satisfied some other way, if indeed such a need was felt in the first place.


Mini Chinese Pizza Papa

I love this poor little building.

The roof . . . heaven only knows what happened to it, or when. Did the stylized Chinese window dressings on the upper floor arrive before or after the roof collapsed? Was the restaurant really called Mini Chinese Pizza Papa -- or were there two different establishments? It's fun imagining a restaurant that served some kind of Chinese-Italian fusion. But these are just dreams, the sole remains of a bygone enterprise. I'll probably never know what kind of food you'd get at Mini Chinese Pizza Papa, and maybe that's what makes this place fun to dream about.

Snack Faysal, the little place on the ground floor, serves typical Lebanese street food--good food, and fair prices too.


Number 79

Take a little break with me and enjoy a little bit of common, every-day beauty.

The gateway, the thriving things just past it, the colors, the textures, so unconsciously lovely.


Lovely Dilapidated

I used to pass through this intersection twice daily taking my daughter to and from school.

On our way, I'd steal wistful glances at this once-grand ruin of some other generation's boom. I can't explain being drawn to these derelict left-overs.

The other day I was in that part of town again, for the first time since our return in October. So much had changed, but my lovely dilapidated corner had not.


January Windows

Ah, January.

This picture seemed appropriate as I welcome myself back to blogging. It's lovely, this little house situated somewhere in between Hamra and Ras Beirut. I especially like the curly iron grills and the shutters all askew, missing, haphazzardly open or not.

Oh, and I am sorry for the prolonged strech of absolutely nothing here on my blog. There wasn't a good reason for it. I'll try to keep that from happening again.