In Company

One day, while I was trying to track down a crowing rooster in Ras Beirut, I bumbled my way into an amazing car, a rusted out, broken down beauty of a car. Owen, who blogs beautifully from France, might call even call it a dream car, though I'm not sure it qualifies.

On that rooster-chasing day, this enormous blue beater was all alone and it looked quite solitary and very nearly poetic beneath that huge spray of palm fronds. I snapped a quick photo before walking on, only to discover later that a big smear on my lens had obscured the image. I've passed by often since then to give it another try, only to find time and again that the rusted out beauty had been parked in, blocked by other cars. I was waiting for a clear shot, hoping to be lucky enough to find it alone again.

But I haven't.  Instead I've learned that the truth of this car is that the lonely circumstances in which I first saw it were false. The truth is that this car is always in company; good, bad, and otherwise. Here it is quite elegantly book-ended, silver beauties of one kind and another on either side.


In Bloom

Here's a very little of what's blooming in Beirut now.


Don't Mind If I Do

Today, a photo collage of the interior of the Omari Mosque, downtown Beirut. Like many religious buildings the world over, this mosque has a long and dramatic history.For centuries, it has served sometimes as a church but mostly as a mosque, housed relics, been destroyed and rebuilt.

I really like the crescent and star detail on the entry's iron gate (bottom right). The photo on the bottom left shows what's above you when standing just inside the threshold. The top two show the ceiling decoration (left) and the basilica form of the mosque (right). More pictures of the interior, including photos that show the state it was in after the civil war can be found on the Omari Mosque's website. I think it is very cool that this mosque has a web presence.

Anyway, I don't normally go into mosques, but I couldn't resist this one. Why? This is why:

See that lovely green check mark by the camera? I can't resist such blatant approval of photography. And it helped that the robes we women must don were ready and waiting.

I also thought I should post this exterior shot--

That way, you'll recognize it if you ever go looking for it.


Be Careful

The title of this post is a warning to myself. I'll try to keep it in mind.

There are at least two things that make the Lebanese nervous; Israel and Photography. Combine the two, and you get this post.

The Israel thing I understand, though not perfectly. It isn't my history, after all, and I occasionally say exactly the wrong thing as if to prove it.

The photography thing baffles me. Why it's forbidden, not by law but by the demands of completely normal people on the street, to photograph this mosque or that public building, I'll never understand. Don't they know about Google Earth, wikimapia? While I'm sure the prohibition is in the interest of security, it's entirely futile since all of Beirut is online already for everyone to see. Still, though it's NOT making their mosques or buildings safer, people have strong feelings about it and I hate making people angry or even uncomfortable, so I comply, usually.

A while back, when I embarked on all those cemetery visits, a friend told me about the Jewish Cemetery. It's just south of Sodeco, and it's plainly marked--not in the least hard to find, sort of hidden in plain sight. If I were braver, I'd march right up to the gate, photograph the Hebrew script, and post the picture right here.

But I'm not brave enough for that, because photography makes people nervous, and so does Israel.

For a few years now I've heard little bits here and there about the renovation of a Synagogue in Beirut. It is the Maghan Avraham Synagogue downtown. While walking in the area a few weeks ago, I found it by accident and was delighted by my luck. I immediately pulled out my camera, which immediately got the attention of every security officer and soldier on the street. Downtown is crawling with security officers, so there you have it. I put my camera away and went to talk to one of them.

He said the Synagogue will be finished at the beginning of June. Pictures aren't allowed until then. He said I could look through the gate, and he walked over with me. I looked in the gate, and then I asked if I could take just one photo.

He said yes. More information and lots more photos of the site can be found at the project's official website.

Maybe, someday, I'll be brave enough to take that photo at the gate of the Jewish Cemetery. Maybe one day I'll be allowed to enter and take pictures of the graves within. Until then, here's one of the few Jewish graves at the British Cemetery, one of their soldiers who died during the second world war.

I hope you all have a lovely week.



Every time I post one of these, I think it's the last time. I do it quite convinced that I've found all there is to find, that I've finally added every pattern there is to my collection.

And then, I happen upon new styles, new arrangements. It's silly, maybe, but it makes me happy to be wrong like that.


Going Up

Beirut is a hilly city, and I love that because it means that here and there you're bound to find stairways tucked between buildings.

There are many stairways around town, some are humble like this one or humbler still. I'll post one of those tomorrow. Others are large, almost grand. I posted one of those last year, one of my first photos on this blog.



Cupcakes at the Cupcakery, Jean D'Arc street, Hamra.

The Cupcakery has a nice variety of straight-forward, classic flavors including lemon, chocolate and carrot. But it isn't about the cake--that's an afterthought, really--just a pedestal upon which a cheery pile of frosting is perched. And it really is the frosting that makes these cupcakes special. "The Queen", for example, is a very normal cupcake, a yellow cake if memory serves.  But it's topped with gorgeous pink frosting infused with rose and dotted with pieces of Turkish delight.

So, if you love frosting, this is the cupcake place for you!


Thé, Clemenceau

There's a little tea lounge in Clemenceau that I'd been eying for weeks, called simply Thé.

I can't pass up a good tea, especially if it is served in a shop that makes me feel just a little bit decadent. This shop made me feel quit a lot more than just a little decadent. Being there with friends made the whole thing even better.

They had teas of many descriptions, and some were even in locked jewelers' cases--it felt like having tea at Tiffany's.

They have a variety of cakes and desserts and a sandwich menu to complement your cup of choice.


What's Left

Down on the Corniche, there aren't many old style houses left. This is one of the few that remain.

There's a part of me that feels a little claustrophobic when looking at patterns like the ones above the doors. I look knowing that the lines, angles and intersections could continue in every direction for ever and ever in unending and ever-repeating mathematical perfection. It's always on my mind whenever I see these patters. I can't help feeling drawn to the infinite since only a small slice of it is seen here.


Quiet Evening

I like how quiet this photo makes me feel.


Street Harassment

Yesterday, a friend's facebook status alerted me that March 20th was the first International Anti-street Harassment day. I found out too late to do anything about it just then, but today I have three street harassment stories to share.

I do this with some trepidation because:
1. I have to walk the line of calling out harassment while plainly stating that this problem isn't a Lebanese thing--it's an international, human, thing.
2. For me, there's always going to be the tension of being a foreigner here and knowing that I have an outsider's view and an outsider's experience. I know this impacts how I'm treated and how people respond to me, so just take that for what it is.
3. My blog isn't usually this personal or this wordy. Sheesh. 

March 20th was all about sexual harassment, but I've chosen three stories that highlight a variety harassing situations that happened to me or that I saw happen to someone else. I've included a collage of pictures that I took near the places where these things happened. Since photography is what I do, I already had photos of these places.

Top Left
It was 11:30, nearly mid-day. I was on my way to pick up my daughter from school. There was a jittery looking fellow ahead of me, pacing. He was probably in his early 20s, a tight-jeans, greased-hair kind of guy. As I walked past him, he slapped my butt. Without even thinking about it I wheeled around and screamed at him. He was a little more than arm’s reach away when I yelled, and it startled him. It startled the drivers on the road and traffic halted. Since I’d acted without thinking and now found myself confronting this guy I decided to do the thing properly. I began shouting again. I had about two syllables out when he took off running to get away from me.

I continued on my way, feeling extremely angry. One of the cars in the road, part of the traffic I stopped with my outburst, pulled over ahead of me. A very clean-cut guy got out, a polo shirt and trainers kind of guy. He asked if I was ok, said that the guy who slapped me isn’t educated and that not all Lebanese are like this. I think I understand why he stopped, what he assumed I was thinking, why he felt compelled to get out of his car to tell me all this. He had no way of knowing that I’ve lived here for the better part of five years, that I KNOW that not all Lebanese are like that.

Top Right
I was walking with my children. A whole group of those guys who sell flowers on the street were seated together ahead of us. Maybe they were taking a break. As we passed them one of them got up and began following us, right next to me, trying to get me to buy a flower. I said no. This had no impact on him. I said it again, but he continued. It’ll matter to some who read this for me to include here that when I say no I do the chin-lifting eyebrow-raising gesture that is the Lebanese equivalent of shaking your head. It’s a clear, international no. After doing this twice I stopped, made eye contact, and yelled no. He backed off right away, but I could tell he thought I’d wildly over-reacted. I spent the rest of my walk worried about this situation. It was a bad feeling.

I was walking to my kids’ school along a wide and busy street, lost in my own thoughts. Ahead of me on the other side of the road, I heard laughing, and then a scuffle broke out. Two middle-aged guys were laughing as a third, their buddy I’m sure, knocked a shoe-shine kid’s kit out of his hands—these kits include all their stuff (creams, rags, brushes, etc.) to do their job. I’ve called the shoe-shine a kid because his build was slight, his face looked really young—maybe 16. The guy shoving him toward traffic must have outweighed him by at least 40 lbs. Every bit of that circumstance made me angry. The older guy was clearly middle class and he was surrounded by friends. He was pushing around a younger smaller person who was alone, pushing him toward traffic, messing with the only tools the kid had to make a living. So, from the other side of the street I yelled at him to stop it. He either couldn’t hear me because of traffic or didn’t care that I was shouting, but other people heard me and they began to intervene. I stood there until more people were involved, until I could see that whatever was happening between them would be solved without the kind of bullying that made me shout in the first place.

So much for my three stories. In the end, all I can say is that circumstances like these are always on my mind a little when I'm out on the street. Someday I'll yell at someone who isn't a coward, or I'll yell and none of the passers-by will care. I'm really thankful for the people who helped in circumstances where I've felt threatened or I've seen someone else threatened.

If you'd like, leave a comment about your own street harassment experiences, what you've done about it, how you respond, or what you think of what I've shared.



Spring is upon us, and all over town flower shops are exploding with the proof of it. For days, I've noticed many a flower-crammed storefront, doorway,  hatch-back, and street corner--but my hurried photos of them weren't taken carefully enough.  Such hastily snatched images usually don't work out for me.

Not this shot, though. No hurry, no rush.  I was out exploring, chasing down beams of super moonlight. I'm not happy with any of my moon-catching photos, but this one, taken when I briefly put that task aside--I like this one well enough.

Spring is here. It's here to stay.


Antoun's, Sadat Street Hamra

A few weeks ago, errands for musically-inclined members of my family took me into Antoun's, a music shop in Hamra. It's a lovely old shop, the kind that transports you to a different world once you're inside. The proprietor was kind, helpful. I left the shop feeling glad to have entered there.

Follow-up business brought me back to his shop a few days ago. After seeing to all the items on my list, I asked if I could take a photo of his shop. "Of course," he said. With a deep sigh he continued, "I'm old, and my shop is old. It was very beautiful once, but that was 50 years ago. And now. . . ." he trailed off.

"Now," I told him, "it is still beautiful."


Chocolate Dreaming

If someone told me that there was a yellow VW bus packed to bursting with chocolate candies of every kind . . . a bus carrying so much chocolate that it couldn't all fit inside and some of it had to be stashed on the roof . . . that once the door opened, the chocolate would spill forth like the tide washing up on the sand . . . I'd say it sounded like a child's fantasy, a dream.

Just after we passed, a box of chocolate cookies tumbled from the roof and a few fugitive packets rolled carefree downhill toward the sea.



There's constantly tons of construction going on all over town. Beirut is a city of machines.

I passed by this one recently. It isn't something that I do often, but I decided to drain this one of color. I liked it before, but I think I like it even better this way.


Tell Me

I no longer recall if it was the weathered wooden window frame, the wall's surface, or the plants seeping out of it that first caught my eye.

The image won't tell me.


Cars, Bikes, Trikes

The preschool play area at my daughter's school:

Mid-way through the school day, the preschoolers' cars, bikes, and trikes are all neatly parked in a row. I like the pink one.


Through There

There's something lovely through there.



It's a big day in Beirut today, a big rally/protest/demonstration/commemoration day. As I type, horns are honking, people are shouting, crowds are gathering, loud-speakers are blaring. I imagine most everyone in Beirut is hearing similar things and will continue to for much of the day.

And if this time is like last time, when it's all over everyone will go home and tomorrow it's business as usual. It's a pattern we've seen before.

I've done several other photo collages of concrete blocks. Can't seem to stop myself from doing it. You can see them all by clicking here.


New Roof

Workers replacing a traditional red-tile roof.

This is how it looked midway into the process when all the old tiles had been removed.


Carved Stone Details

I recently assembled this collage of carved stone details from Beirut's downtown. I like wandering through those streets because there's so much artistry, craftsmanship in these old buildings.

It's only a small sample, representative of the kind of stonework that is almost everywhere in that part of town.


French Protestant Cemetery Near Sodeco

I found the gate locked, and since there was a phone number posted on it I took this photo, thinking I'd call later and hopefully be allowed an appointment to go in some other day.

Just the information here made me want to see the inside. The smaller plaque to the side states that the graves of 17 WWI era German Soldiers are also at this cemetery.

I was about to walk on, but then someone called to me over the gate and about a minute later, the door opened.

There was an old man in there with two younger men--the old man explained that I was welcome to see the site for $4. I didn't have $4, but I did have LL 20,000 ($13). For about half a second I weighed my options and inwardly rolling my eyes at myself, I handed over the LL 20,000. He told me I wouldn't be allowed to take pictures, but I insisted that I would and he said no more.

It was wild in there, weeds grew up to my knees. Most of the headstones were broken, and many of them had German inscriptions--not just of soldiers, but regular people.  There were several nationalities in there. I tried to take good photos of everything but fell short.

This one in particular caught my eye. Here are two views of it taken while facing north (on the left) and east (on the right). The inscription in the photo on the left reads "Appointed United States Consul to Beirut Syria September 21st 1893". Times have changed.  Beirut isn't in Syria these days.  The inscription in the photo on the right says:

Far hence he lies in some lone Syrian town,
And on his grave with shining eyes
The Syrian Stars look down.

I have a third photo of this marker that gives the death date as September 20, 1896. But somehow I missed the fourth side that would have included his name.

It took an insupportable amount of googling, but I did eventually find out who the American Consul to Beirut was in 1893. His name was Thomas R. Gibson (T.R.G.). He was a newspaper editor from Georgia, appointed consul to Beirut during the administration of US President Grover Cleveland and died of small pox while in service. Gibson was a childhood friend of Woodrow Wilson, who was elected US President years later (1912). It is through that connection that I found a brief biography of him, from which almost all of what I've related here was taken.


Christian Cemetery, Near Sodeco

There are several Christian cemeteries just south of Sodeco Square along the east side of Damascus Road.

On the day I visited, most of them were locked. But here, the door was wide open. The sign above the door has the year 1850 on it, and does that say Catholic? I'm sure one of you will tell me in the comments.

In I went.

After the simplicity of the military sites I'd already visited, the ornate angels sort of surprised me. Angels. And then I was surprised that something so familiar to me had become unexpected.

They were quite beautiful.

Someone asked when I posted the photos of the Martyrs Cemetery if I could read the inscriptions. I can't. I can make out dates and sometimes names, but that's not the same.

Tomorrow, I'll post photos of a second Christian cemetery only a few hundred meters from this one.


Little Things

A single grain of sand that makes its way into the shell of an oyster. A baby's first smile, first giggle. One straw too many placed upon a camel's back. A single "thank you" on a thankless day. The smallest spark that kindles a roaring fire.

It's the little things. It is.


White on White

Today I've got a couple blind windows of a historic building near Sodeco.

It's a new week, everyone. Hope you enjoy it.


The Crypt Museum, St. George Cathedral

On a lark the other day, I stepped into the St. George Orthodox Cathedral downtown and asked if I could see the crypt.

I'd read that after the civil war, archeologists excavated the space beneath the cathedral before restoration work began. There they found burials, evidence of roman baths, foundations of bygone structures, a bit of a canal and road, mosaic floors.

This and much more is presented in the museum. I love the way the exhibit leads the visitor into the past--every few feet you'll find information about what the archeologists found beneath the cathedral. Push the green button on the info panel, and lights turn on drawing your eye to the notable things nearby.

I enjoyed looking, reading, learning in this museum. I could tell that they had carefully considered how to present so much history in an easily-understood way.

I'll be going back with my kids soon. Admission is LL 5,000 (adults) and LL 1,000 (children).  They're open every day except Monday--10 AM til 6 PM.


Martyrs Cemetery

Like the other sites I've visited recently, the Martyrs Cemetery is very peaceful, serene.

There are several large cemeteries in Beirut. This one is located near Horch Beirut. It shares a border with the British War Cemetery.

I've really enjoyed my recent cemetery visits. My imagination runs wild in those places surrounded by a lives, deaths, a million stories.


Vintage Dabbagha Mosque

Another vintage photo from the 1965 Cushman collection.

And, here's the street today. It is very likely one of the only places in Beirut that is more green than it was nearly 50 years ago.

The Dabbagha Mosque (I've also seen it referred to as the Abou Bakr Mosque or the Al-Omari Mosque) stands on the east side of Foch Street, downtown. These days, it's a pretty swanky street--Chanel just opened a boutique on that road.

I googled my way into some interesting information about the Mosque. Sources conflict about when it was built--some say late 13th c., some say mid 14th c. What is not in dispute is that during the period of the French Mandate it was destroyed to widen the road. But instead of building a wider road, they rebuilt the mosque in 1932. It was damaged during the civil war, but by 1999 it had been restored and was again open for prayers.

You can see more vintage photos from the Cushman collection along side contemporary photos of mine by clicking here.


Was and Is

Place de L'etoile from the Charles Cushman collection of Beirut photos, 1965. Please click through to see the whole set.

Place de L'etoile as it looks today.   Cars are usually prohibited, and anyway I was there around 10 AM.  Only soldiers and security guards were there at that hour. 

You can see more of my photos that compare old and new images of Beirut by clicking here.


My Favorite Part of Town

The past is a foreign country.

I often go looking for it.

It can be difficult to find the past.

But in the end I do find it, and in that moment I believe that I will continue to return there forever.

You can see more of my photos that show the present against an image from the past by clicking here.

This post is part of City Daily Photo's theme day "Your Favorite Part of Town". Click here to view thumbnails for all participants