Work With It

When I see big piles of scrap lumbar, I can't help thinking off all the things I could do with it. It's fun to contemplate the possibilities.


AUB Archeology Museum

A few days ago I took the kids to the AUB Archeology Museum. I'd been there before, but it was several years ago. Back then, the kids couldn't read and the museum's renovation wasn't yet finished.

This is another museum that doesn't allow photos inside. That's why we gathered the kids for a photo before we went in.

The museum has a website that goes into detail about the collection. We decided to visit during our kid's spring break because the museum's operating hours (M-F 9-5 in the winter, 10-4 in the summer, closed on holidays) make it difficult to see the museum during the school year.

The displays in the museum are presented in an attractive accessible way, and even though it isn't a huge museum I could tell that my kids had seen more than they could take in all at once. So we'll go back when we have another chance, which I hope will be soon, and see it all again.


With Friends

It's Spring Break for our kids--has been for a week. And we've been fortunate to spend days here and there with friends.

I took this picture at a friend's house. She had invited a small crowd, shoes came off at the door, and everyone had a fine time playing (the kids), talking (the grown-ups), and eating (everyone). It's a nice feeling to look at that collection of shoes and remember the day.


Another Oddity

I took the picture for the rusted out parking sign. I liked that.

At the time, I didn't notice the little graffiti bomb with a heart on it (on the right in the middle). Now that I've seen it, I like the photo for that that little oddity too.



Here in Beirut there are quite a few buildings with tiled exteriors. They're all from another age and most of them are really run down these days--they've become ruins. I'll have to start photographing and sharing the facades of these places because they're amazing. They're also doomed. Someday, they'll be razed and nobody will regret them.

This tiny wall isn't one of those ruins. This isn't some relic of an over-and-done-with architectural fad.  When I look at it that isn't what I see.

I feel like I can see the owner of this tiny section of wall by the gate. As I imagine it, every time one of the neighbors re-tiled a floor or bathroom or kitchen, a furtive inquiry would go out about any excess, any remaining and perhaps unneeded tiles. And, if fate would have it so, the leftovers ended up right here.


Smiling Yellow

I love this picture for a lot of reasons. It's a serendipity shot, one that made me feel lucky in a right-time, right-place kind of way. I like the remnants of stairways hinting at the building's history and former neighbors.

And I love the smiling yellow plastic chair, perched on the blue blanket thrown over the balustrade edge.


Flowering Stairway

It stopped me in my tracks, those remarkable wildflowers growing upon the stairway.

There's no sign of abandonment more telling than plants springing up and thriving where they wouldn't normally. It's such a lovely little house and I can't help feeling fond of the flowering stairway.



I grew up in a culture that placed great value on its tumble driers.

Here in Beirut, though, it's all about solar and I love it. I persist in the belief that there's no better smell anywhere in the whole world than the scent of freshly line-dried-in-Beirut laundry.


Selling Flowers

This poor car has seen better days, back before the front bumper began falling off, before the hubcaps disappeared.

I'm glad its owner, whoever the owner is, sells flowers. Flowers. It could have been anything in this city: fruits & veggies, foreign perfumes, car parts, cell phones, counterfeit DVDs, kaak, ice cream, watches & jewelry, etc.

But the car wouldn't have been improved quite so much if it was serving up any of those things.


The Robert Mouawad Private Museum

I've finally found the place in Beirut that I will describe as a "must see" destination. In downtown, situated near the west edge of the Grand Serail, there's an old mansion, home of the Robert Mouawad Private Museum.

The collection is eclectic. Chinese pottery from the 15th century, Syrian pottery and metalwork, burial reliefs from Palmyra, rugs, books, the second biggest diamond in the world, and lingerie Heidi Klum modeled on the runway for Victoria's Secret in 2005.

But it wasn't the collection that sparked my curiosity about the museum. It was the house. I'd heard that the house was the real treat--and it was. Of course, the collection is interesting, but the house is fascinating. At one point, I simply sat and stared at the walls, the beautifully inlaid, artistically crafted, intricately designed, meticulously maintained, excellently preserved, walls.

Photographs inside were not allowed. Bummer. I was just brave (defiant?) enough to take ONE anyway--on top right in the collage. The others are from the grounds outside where photography was no problem.

Visiting information is (very oddly) not on the museum's website, so, as a public service here it is:

The museum is open from 9-5 every day except Monday. Admission is $1 for children and students, $3 for Lebanese, and $6 for foreigners. It is worth every penny.

For $20, you can schedule a tour (give them a few days' notice if you want the tour in English).


Back to the Pine Forest

On Saturday I participated in an event in the Pine Forest, an opportunity to help care for one of the most beautiful gardens in Beirut. I blogged about bumbling my way into the pine forest last year. I thought I'd stumbled upon one of the best-kept secrets in Beirut. Turns out it's no secret. It's just that entering the garden is one of they many things that you can do as a foreigner that you maybe can't do if you're Lebanese.

A few weeks ago, a friend began organizing an event to get people together caring for the garden. I was happy be a part of it.

Here we all area the beginning--weeds more than knee high.

Here's the middle with the crew my friend assembled.

And here are the results, a plot ready for new plants, more action.

Finally, here are some shots of the assembled crew.  Chris, who planned it is in the back, third from the left.  Zahra, who manages the garden is seated, third from left.  Sarah, who organized lunch is hidden in the back,  fifth from the right. 

While we were there, we learned that school groups are invited to come here to learn about the plants and to learn about the landscape and ecology of the city was before it was slowly transformed into a concrete jungle. I hope that in the future it will be opened to even more visitors.


Begging Your Pardon

If you'll be so good as to excuse the repetition, I'll share this image with you today.

In June last year, I posted a image of the same place, taken from a spot near where I stood this time around--I think I like the other picture better. That one is an image that I love.

If you compare the two pictures, you'll see little change. It's the same cluster of buildings, the same three trees at the bottom right, the same blue bucket inexplicably tied near a window. Nearly a year has passed, but I see no sign of the elapsed time.

That's Beirut for you. Tremendous change and its absence all in one little city.


Riding Lessons

The kids started riding lessons not long ago. They love it.

Here they are after the lesson, watching a more advanced student gallop past.


Strange Ways

They don't have a death wish, and they probably really do love their kid. They just have a strange way of showing it.

And come to that, I don't have a death wish either and I really love my kids too. Neither stopped me taking this picture through the windshield while driving.

Call it a strange way of may own.


There's More

You know there's more behind the wall. You can't prove it, not from here. Not with the wall in your way, but you know there is.

Because there has to be.



It's a normal street, a normal day.


Good Morning, Headache

It's Monday, and on this particular Monday morning, I've got an errand-filled day ahead of me. I'll spend my time running all over town to pay bills, check out shops, find what I'm looking for, check off my list.

I was already at it first thing this morning when I passed this lovely sight. The sunlight dazzled my eyes and I couldn't pass without taking a few photos.

But now  I look at this photo and it gives me a headache--it's all those funny angles. The way I framed it makes it look like the right side isn't really parallel to the left.  It actually hurts my eyes to look at it and it's that feeling that makes me think I've got a headache.

Or maybe, the headache is just because it's Monday and I'll spend the day chasing after my to do list.


Something So Simple

Springtime flowers on the window ledge:

They appeared a few weeks ago and they brighten my way as I pass by.


Looking East

Standing on a friend's balcony, looking east:

All the buildings in this shot are familiar sites and landmarks on my frequent walks through the city.  Though I know these places, I'd never seen them from this angle before.  For me, and other city dwellers too I imagine, a new perspective on familiar scenes is a distinct, if small pleasure.


Have You? Could You? Would You?

Not long ago our family had our first day at the beach of the 2011 season. I'm glad it's already here.

We went to the public beach, which is what it sounds like--a public strip of coastline. It's not the cleanest, not the nicest beach in Lebanon, and it lacks facilities like showers and toilets. But its proximity can't be beat, it's free, and it's open. We still have a month to go before our favorite private beach opens for the season.

Beaches are great for people watching, great for quietly noticing what everyone else is up to. And, for me, noticing what everyone is doing and wearing.

Children can wear whatever they want. Little boys and little girls were wearing bathing suits, and some were in street clothes. Even the ones in street clothes got into the water, and in the past I've seen kids swim in their underwear without incurring any social censure.

Men also wear a wide range of clothes.   They'll sunbathe, play ball games, etc. in anything from tiny Speedos to full street attire.

Women are another matter.  Lots of women spend their time at the beach covered from head to toe and some even swim that way.   On our most recent visit to the public beach there were dozens of women there, but I saw only two women in sleeveless shirts and shorts--not totally covered up, but also not a bathing suit, not by a long shot. 

I'm not sure why this is.  It's not that Lebanese women don't wear swimming suits.  Many of them do.  You see them crowding the many, many private beaches where women's swimwear is, if anything, MORE risque than in the US or Germany (my two points of reference).   So why aren't they wearing them at the public beach? 

Maybe you, my dear reader, can help me figure this out.  Women of Lebanon, or women who are familiar with Beirut's public beach--Have you ever worn a bathing suit there? Would you ever do it? What would it take for you to do it?  Leave a comment because I'm dying to know.


Her Favorite

My daughter was on the balcony, looking over the edge. I asked her what she was doing out there.

"I'm looking at my favorite house," she said.


Through the Glass

When the light is just right, you can see through the glass.


It's been a wind-swept, rain-washed, sea-rolling few days.

I love how the air feels just after it rains--cool, humid, clean.


Wonders of the Sea, Les Merveilles de la Mer

Lovely old homes like this one are becoming ever more rare in Beirut. This is one of the few that I've seen that still has a garden, just as it would have years ago when this style was the standard here in Lebanon. And, as you might have already guessed, this is not just any historic house in Beirut.

Well, first of all, it's not actually in Beirut. It's in Jdiedeh, which is just about 10 minutes north of here.

But as I was saying, it isn't just a nice old house. Inside there's a fantastic museum of marine life. It's called Wonders of the Sea, Les Merveilles de la Mer.

They have a website, which is nice and includes lots of information about the thousands of specimens you'll find on display and the species you'll find in their aquariums. Also on display is a very fun movie that shows various sea creatures eating, molting, giving birth (daddy seahorse!). The kids loved it.

The museum has parking, which you can get to from the road running along the north side of it. City Mall is a good point of reference to help you understand how to find it.

They're open year-round on weekdays 8:30-1:30. September-June they're also open Saturday/Sunday 3-7. Admission for adults is 8,000 LL, kids 5,000 LL.  Well worth the trip.


Blooming Yellow

This picture feels like Spring.

So does Beirut.


Scrap Path

About a week ago I said I'd upload a photo of a very humble stairway, and here it is. Its treads are made of scraps of wood and the handrail is a thin wisp of a tree trunk, an improvement over the original rope. I don't know how long the stairs have been here or been in this form. I imagine that years ago it was just a dirt path. Then, probably, someone brought in the wood scraps so that the path was still useful in the rainy season.

These stairs are a shortcut, bypassing a hairpin turn roughly 100 meters to the right of where I stood to take this picture.


Everywhere Edges

There's a staircase edging past that little hut.

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