At Jeita

Not long ago we took the kids to Jeita Grotto--an impressive (& huge) cavern north of Beirut. Photography is strictly prohibited inside, but you can still see pictures of the interior if you follow the link to the grotto's website.

Since I couldn't take pictures inside the cavern, I got this picture outside instead.



My kids were born one day shy of exactly two years apart. Yesterday was the five-year-old's day, and today, I have a just-turned seven-year-old.

So, again, here's a picture from five years ago to celebrate. This picture was taken during my father-in-law's visit. That's him holding my first. She was then just two years old.

My husband took the picture, and that's a first 'round here, y'all. And a last. My blog, my pictures. Except today.

The little garden where this picture was taken directly adjoins the Roman baths that were excavated in Beirut's downtown after the civil war. In the past five years, this spot hasn't changed at all. In a city where so much churns, evolves, contorts and transforms, the permanence of this little garden is a bit unreal. It makes five years feel like a heartbeat.


A Chaotic Kind of Peaceful

Five years ago, our second child was born here in Beirut.

She's a fantastic kid, and I feel like her personality reflects qualities we've seen in the Lebanese people. She is unfailingly friendly, extends herself to strangers, loves excitement and adventure and the comfort of family. At times she is unbelievably bold, completely unafraid. She even seems to have a bit of that peaceful chaos that I hope Beirut will hold onto forever.


Stone Facing

It seems like most of my posts these days are following up on previously posted images. Here we go again!

This time we're following the progress of a luxury residential high-rise. A while ago, I posted a picture of some workers painting tar onto the rough cement exterior.

Now, they're attaching stone to that surface. This is done with a kind of metal bracket. The bracket is attached to the building. Pins extending up and down from it are inserted into holes drilled down into the stone facing. This keeps the stone secure and none of it is visible when installed properly.

If I ever get a chance to take a picture of the bracket up close, I'll do another follow up.


On the Way Up

. . . continued from yesterday.

When it was our turn, we climbed into our little pink pod and began the ascent on the teleferique.

We watched the decending pods that passed by. Matthew got out the video camera.

There was a lot to see as our pod was pulled up the mountain.

See what I mean?

Way out there on the horrizon, we could see Beirut. And before we knew it, we had arrived at the station.

The kids loved the ride, and parents love happy kids.



Yesterday we decided to take a chance on the Teleferique; a 9 minute (530m?) ride in a cable car up the side of a mountain north of Beirut.

We arrived early, but still we waited in a very long line. Popular destination. Thankfully it wasn't hot. One kid was satisfied to be held by her dad, and the other was satisfied to play with his i-phone.

Finally it was our turn.

The kids were delighted to ride in a pink pod. Tomorrow, I'll post shots of the ride to the top.


Concrete Blocks

It has been a while since I've done a post about concrete blocks. For those of you who might not know, these blocks are to be found all over the city. They're ideal for creating a semi-private area, stopping the eye without stopping air circulation. Here are my most recently collected shots.

You can see the others by clicking on the tag 'concrete blocks' at the bottom of this post.



Here's a little (well, a lot of) context for an image I published about a week ago. In that post I suggested that I'd go back for more, and I did.

The impression I had of the structure from the highway (the elevated road in the picture) was that it was really crammed into the available space. But here somewhat southeast of it, well, the surroundings almost look roomy.

But just to prove that it looks altogether different from the highway, here's the view approaching from the south:

That's it, to the left of the speed limit sign--with two minarets swathed in green gauze. It looks miraculously wedged into a tiny space.

This next shot, taken from the west, is rather blighted by the highway. This face of the building should look familiar if you saw the photo I posted before. The three mostly-obscured-arches are the same ones captured in my previous post. Obviously, they're best viewed from the highway rather than below it.

I walked under the highway and continued on for another few hundred feet to get a picture of the east-facing side:

I noticed some workers and zoomed in.

When it's finished I want to go back and take some more pictures. They've finished a lot of nice carved stone ornamentation and I can't get a good picture of it until the green gauze hanging in front of it is taken down.



I like this tall, tall whatever it is towering over its own roots stuffed into an absurdly small pot. It seems to be in the midst of an odd sort of dialogue with the squatty, humble chunks of cinder block nearby. I wonder what four pots overhead think of it all.


In an Immense Void

Take a good look. Nothing to protect the eyes, no hard hats, no gloves, no proper footwear, no problem. This is what a man wears to do a day's labor in Lebanon.

They were hard at work not too far from this guy in the straw cowboy hat.

See his sandals?

This is where I found these shots, in the most massive construction site I've seen so far.

Don't go thinking these fellows are some kind of anomaly. One rarely sees a hard hat around here. You'll also rarely see decent shoes, and I've NEVER seen gloves. Almost every man (again, it's never a woman) who works these kinds of jobs is as unprotected as these guys.



Like yesterday's photo, this one was taken while zooming past on the airport highway. I had to share this lone, very green balcony.

It takes either an immense force of will or an unending reservoir of love to so bend one's environment. But whatever it is, I hope they'll continue.

Imagine if everyone did the same.


At Work

The other day while driving into the city, I noticed this guy hard at work on a new mosque going up along the airport highway. I barely had enough time to get my camera out before it all passed out of sight.

Architecturally, this mosque is neat, a triumph of verticality set tidily into a crowded district near one of the major hubs of the city. I'll have to go back and get pictures to contextualize it.



Here, a fig tree growing out of a hole in the wall.


Beautiful Mess

Not far from where I live, there's an amazing old building. In nearly every respect, it's a tumbled-down dilapidated gem. But it has one thing in common with masterpieces of classical sculpture, the kind that demand a strange sort of pilgrimage walk, a circumnavigation so that it can be viewed from every angle. One does this because the sculpture, or the old building in this case, rewards you for going to the effort. Every angle reveals or conceals something worth seeing, and it's the totality of these views that gives the full impression of it.

Museums generally have exactly this sort of viewership in mind. They enable you. Sculptures stand on pedestals placed where you can walk all the way around--not in corners or against a wall behind a velvet rope. No.

But crowded city architecture is a different matter, and necessarily so. It isn't possible for most buildings to be set apart and alone. Often more than one side will be blocked completely or perhaps the structures were simply built too near each other to allow a decent view.

This bulding was special because I was able to walk all the way around, to see it from every side. It was on the alley-way side of this beautiful mess that I took the picture you see here.


Yuppie Park

Not long ago I took the girls and some friends on an exploratory excursion to Yuppie Park. I say exploratory, because the park is nowhere near my home, in a part of town that's well off my beaten track. It'd been years since our last visit and Beirut being a city of change, I wasn't counting on getting there easily.

But got there we did!

Yuppie park is a private, paid-entry park. Kids get in for 6,000 and adults (maids, moms, whatever) 3,000 ($4, and $2). They have a little cafe, but only sell drinks and junk food (I think). They don't post or advertise business hours, and when I asked, they said they're always open. Huh. I could tell it was time for follow up questions. I suggested that perhaps they closed at sunset. The fellow pointed to their flood-lights. We close when everyone leaves, he said. For now, we'll just have to take his word for it.

They facility is pretty good. I don't much care for the dirt/sand covering most of the ground. I'd rather have the kids running around on something less messy. But given that they have the rope jungle gym pictured above, a huge jungle gym-pirate ship, trampolines, zip-lines pictured below, etc., the dirt factor is something I've decided I'll live with.

Getting there is not easy unless you already know how to do it. Because of recent construction in the area there are fewer ways to access the park. The map that I've got below (Satellite image from Google) isn't quite up to date. The red x is there to show you that this portion of the road is now completely blockaded.

As is my custom, the park's perimeter is marked in red, the entrance is shown by the red arrow. The Mt. Lebanon Hospital circled in blue is the best landmark. The park and this hospital are on a side road that you can access from the road where you'll find Galaxy mall. All of this (Galaxy, Mt. Lebanon, Yuppie Park) is situated below Hazmieh. In other words, if you're headed uphill, you've missed it. And that's the best advice I can give you if you want to go there someday.



Just like nearly every other girl in their age-range, my kids are currently completely delighted by hello kitty. I took this picture because my kids spotted the hello kitty on the clothes hung above the cleaners' shop. Their excitement was contagious.

We hang all our laundry to dry, and have done since our electric dryer broke in the US in 2008. In the US, there were two reasons we didn't run right out to buy a new one. First I'm a penny-pinching tightwad; and second, it was the green thing to do.

But here in Lebanon there's a third reason. Line-dried anything smells fantastically good, unbelievably, rapturously so.

This I can not explain. How can it be that the dirt and dust and grime and pigeon dander 'n poop and cigarette ash and pollution and exhaust and whatever else hangs about in the air of this (and any other) city could possibly produce what is likely best smelling laundry I have ever had?


Mini Shop

He's there most days, taking a bit of mid-morning sun.

There's something about him, even if I can't quite put my finger on it. Looking at this picture, I get the impression that nothing in the world could roust him from that chair.


Along John F. Kennedy Street

Funny, how some days I don't have anything to say.


lines, planes

I grew up in the suburbs of the suburbs of St. Louis, a mid-size mid-west city in the US. We had backyards, not courtyards. This courtyard, near the Basta neighborhood of Beirut is rather typical: antennas, wires, windows, lots of different structures jutting out in all directions.


Reverse Ogee

One book I wish I had with me here in Beirut is the Grove Dictionary of Architecture, because it gives comprehensive treatment to all kinds of arches and provides vocabulary to specifically identify virtually anything. But I don't have it, so I'm stuck with the internet. These funny little arches are called 'reverse ogee'. Wikipedia only discusses the ogee arch and has nothing more than a picture of the reverse ogee.


Weekend Relaxation

Afternoon, warm sun, friends, relaxing in Sanayeh Park, Hamra.

If you want to go to the park, here's a little map with some landmarks. Hamra Street is up parallel to the top edge. TSC Plus at Concord is in the blue circle. The red square shows the perimeter of the park, the arrow shows where the entrance is.

Sanayeh park is filled with mature trees (palms and others) and the many wide, paved pathways are lined with benches. It's a perfect place to ride a bike, read a book, kick a ball around, etc. There is play equipment in the park (slides, teeter-totters, etc.) but a lot of it needs repair.

This is a public park, no entrance fee. I think it stays open from sun up to sun down every day. A guy with a whistle lets you know when it's closing time and everyone has to leave. You can buy coffee, bread, beans (and plenty of inexpensive plastic junk) from venders near the entrance. Oh, and there are hundreds of pigeons to watch, feed, chase, or avoid as pleases you.



Here for you today, another set of three windows on a traditional old house near downtown. One of the three windows is completely obscured by that enormous blooming something. Even with broken glass, I'd love to look out of these windows and see it heralding spring.


Going Up

All over town, things are going up.


Thin Blue Wire

I wonder what the thin blue wire is doing there. What does it carry?


Decadent Arches

In the past, I've often referred to Wikipedia's descriptions of arches when I present a new one here, but in this case I don't think it will help.

Aren't they wonderful?



These men have just applied a layer of tar (or something as black and stinky as it) to the outside of this high-rise. I think it is supposed to help protect the structure from moisture . . . maybe? Anyway, after this layer is finished, it will be time to install the decorative stone facing.


In the Shop

Throughout the city there are workshops like this one where craftsmen (it seems they aren't ever women) construct or finish wooden furnishings.

I love stumbling upon places like this. It always makes me feel like I've found something special.



They look like they belong here, don't they? They look right. And it's a good thing they have each other. They're so tiny, they need the company.


Green and Rusty

I think this is the kind of green that would remind my husband of St. Petersburg. He lived there years ago, and there are a few muted shades of green that bring it all back.



It's a new month and that brings with it theme day for City Daily Photo. This time, red.

Red isn't exactly a rare color for shutters and doors here. There are others here and there just as bold as this one. But I think I like this one best--at least so far.

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