Let the Sunshine In

Window panes cracked, shattered, broken. Never mind. They let the sunshine in.

It's a gorgeous day, the kids are playing on the balcony, enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon.



Hamam: it's one of those words that doesn't translate well. Here in Lebanon, it's used to refer to rather amazing bath-houses and regular old bathrooms.

In this picture, you can see the roof of the hamam of a grand old house near down town. At least I've assumed it's a house. The roof is the dome studded with blue glass bottles. The bottles allow light to enter while stopping prying eyes. Inside, I'm sure the light is amazing.

It must have taken extraordinary wealth to have a private hamam back when the house was built.

Here's the same photo, a little more zoomed out.


Looks Like Legos

Yesterday I posted a photo of a half-finished high-rise that has grew old and became a ruin before it was ever finished. Today, I'm sharing a photo of a new high-rise. It's either finished or as good as.

I think it looks like the kind of thing a kid would make out of legos. I posted a photo of this building from another angle (and under different light) a couple weeks ago. Check it out.


That's Entertainment

One of the most well-known landmarks in Beirut is this tower:

I'm a little amazed that I haven't put a photo of it on my blog until now. 

It's the Murr tower, named after the family that began building it in 1974. I learned that and several other bits of trivia from an article that I googled my way into.

Best quote from the article: “As an engineer I’d say destroy it. It’s easy, cheap and gives you the freedom to create something new.” Adding with a smile: “MTV bought the exclusive rights on the implosion.”--Gabriel Murr


Kalabsha, Women's Clothing

There's really no doubt about it. Kalabsha is my favorite clothing store in Hamra, my favorite made-in-Lebanon retailer.

They're located just north of Hamra Street. The workshop and the store are there on the 4th floor. Some of the clothes they sell are really artsy, pieced like quilts from diverse fabrics that somehow work together. The variety of colors and textures is balanced by silhouettes that are relatively simple, classy. It's a good combination.


Look What I Found

Paint, peeling like papery bark on a tree.

It isn't what I was looking for. But usually, the things I find aren't.


This Way and That

I like how this photo turned out, nearly monochrome with lines and angles, planes and fields, depth and flatness.The bright white and the dingy beige, the push and pull of shapes going this way and that.

It's soothing somehow.



This little garden is situated on the west side of the National Evangelical Church, which faces the Grand Serail downtown. I understand why this lovely bit of green is chained up, but I wish it didn't have to be that way.

It's lovely all the same.


In the Past, In the Future

Ever since 2005 I have passed by this building and counted myself lucky.

Never more so than today.


Le Conservatoire libanais national supérieur de musique

Le Conservatoire libanais national supérieur de musique, or the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music is one of the place I pass pretty often on my walks around town. The glass case behind the railing is filled with exercise books for many different instruments. I couldn't tell if the sun bleached the covers or if the dusty blue color was a design decision.

Either way, I like how it looks in my photo.

Sometimes, music wafts from the building as I pass by.


A Little Serenity

We can all use a little serenity. I found a bit of my own looking up that this balcony.

I hope you'll find some too.


Like a Rubik's Cube

Should you have supposed that I was finished with tiled facades, you would have been wrong.


I walked past this one the other day and I immediately began twisting and turning it in my mind, as though it were a puzzle to solve.

I like the idea. It would be fun to reconstruct a building, rotating its planes along a hidden central axis, getting everything to match, imposing order on chaos.


Good Morning, Sunshine

About a month ago I got myself a job. I love it. But having 40 fewer unscheduled hours each week sure has cut into the time I can devote to photography.

I've adapted. I now take photos on my way to and from the office. I took this one on a recent sunny morning, the colors alive in the light.

It's teacher's day, a holiday here in Beirut. Hooray for teachers. None of us would be where we are without them.


This'll Never Work

I walked past this the other day and rolled my eyes. Nice try, I though, because I was feeling particularly sarcastic that day.

In this city, people drive and they do it however they choose: up on curbs, off the shoulder, out into oncoming traffic, going the wrong way down one-way streets. Put an obstacle in their way and they'll just scoot over, under, around, or through, just like molecules of water in a great river flowing on to the wide sea.

It's the truth.

So, if you want to patch the road surface, and you don't want people to drive right through it and ruin it, you have to try a lot harder than this.


The Jeans are Gone

A while I posted a picture of this place. That picture was closely cropped around the balcony near the center of this picture. Jeans hung over the balcony.

And now, the jeans are gone. That, and the window on the left has been half closed up with what looks like cardboard.

It's that change to the window that has grabbed my imagination now. It's a pretty clear sign that someone was trying to make things inside a little more comfortable. After all, we just had all that rain and a cold snap. Cardboard isn't the best weatherproofing material in the world, but it's better than nothing and nothing is all there was before. Nothing is all that some of us have.

I hope it worked, putting cardboard in the window. I hope it made things inside a little better when the wind and rain was so bad.


All You Want

There are places with so many secrets. You can try, but you'll never unravel them all.

A wall has gone up, solid and strong. You'll never get in and the secrets will never get out.


Twin Tin Roofs

I'm ready for the rain to stay away. I'd love a return to days like this, where you need a little shade from a roof overhead.

In a vain attempt to call back the days of sunshine, I'm posting a sunny picture of lovely twin balconies near downtown.


Double Helix

During a brief pause in the rain, the sun cast a shadow on this spiral stairway climbing the side of the Robert Mouawad Private Museum.

I liked how the stairway and its shadow made a double helix.

I've intended to post a map showing the location of the museum for quite some time.

The red arrow indicates the entrance. A wall runs around the entire garden surrounding the museum (the green area) so it's easy to miss the museum.


Above and Beyond

I really love this building. It's so ornate. And for what? Not for any practical reason, no. It's ornate because that is what it is. Nothing less, and nothing else.

And I really would love to see that scalloped whatever-it-is cresting the building, that neat looking though half-destroyed bit of decorative delight, I'd love to see that more often.


Watching the Lion Roar

At school, my daughter has learned that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. It has this year, that's for sure. There was so much wind and rain yesterday that my umbrella simply gave up. Then later while the rain temporarily abated, the winds were so high that I had to stop for a picture of the waves crashing a little off the Corniche.

And tonight it's cold, cold. Can't wait for warmer weather.


Two Balustrades

Here and there. Wire wrapped, curtain swept, paint-faded, weather worn.

They're quite a pair.



A little balustrade, like lace.

There's something amazing about the mottled richness of the fading pink beneath.


All Day

I like this place.

I could stay here all day.


Not Quite Perfect

It's a simple day, just right for a simple shot of not-quite-perfect symmetry.

I hope you're enjoying the weekend.



I'm afraid this place must be abandoned, forgotten. It's falling apart, of course. Plants growing up between the stones aren't a good sign.

The general state of the place is a shame because there are such amazing details here, the carvings around the door and the shaped window openings, the delightful balustrade too.

So what do you make of the jeans? Were they abandoned as well? They could have been. Or, maybe they're just hung up to dry and the place hasn't been forgotten after all.


What is Written

It's funny, the tricks our eyes play on us. All you have to do is throw out a few loops and hash marks, and the eyes try to read it. But what's written in this apartment balustrade?

Nothing at all.


The Tallest Buildings in Beirut

Here they are, a few of the tallest buildings in Beirut:

There aren't many buildings in Beirut that have more than a dozen or so floors.  In this photo, the tallest one, the squarish  Platinum Tower, is 152 meters high and is currently the city's tallest building.  The pointy one is Marina Tower, and it is 150 meters high.

But a kilometer or two away near Sodeco, Sama Beirut is under construction. It's anticipated that it will be completed in 2014 and rise to a height of 200 meters. It's hard to imagine what that will look like.


A Little of Everything

Let's see, what'll it be today? Deteriorating walls, crazy wires, pipes akimbo, that awesome metal roof stuff, balcony curtains, peeling-paint shuttered windows?

All of the above.


Hopeless Romance

Life is full of little surprises . . .

. . . like the hopeless romance of a stranger's balcony.


Mary, Mary

I grew up in the US, in an area with Catholics, Protestants, and plenty of others though their numbers were small. But, because I was rooted within the community of others I looked around at the world from that position knowing not much about what everyone else believed.

It's funny how those things look different as a grown-up. As a kid I felt irretrievably different from everyone else and now I see most of that was in my head. Not all of it, just most of it.

I suppose that experience informs my understanding of Lebanon.

Candles for sale in Achrafieh.


Over the Rooftops

Just a few clouds, evidence that it was raining earlier. And there was also hail this morning.

Normally I'm on the ground when I take pictures, but I was a few floors up for this one. I like it, looking over the rooftops.


Four Centered Arch

It's been a while since I paid much attention to the variety of arch shapes that are to be found on older buildings all over Beirut.

Based on a diagram that I swiped from a nice website called "Looking at Buildings", I'd call this one a four centered arch.

Do you agree?


Life is Sweet

Today I grabbed a quick photo of the petit fours at my neighborhood bakery. They're 22,000 LL for a kilo, or about $7.50 a pound. Yum. When you buy them, you can pick and choose or you can just ask for a little of everything. There's no wrong move and everyone wins.

It's a good thing that I finally have a picture of some of the sweets sold at my neighborhood bakery. I go in there so much you'd think it wouldn't be a problem to get a picture, but I've noticed that it's the places I go all_the_time that I never seem to photograph.


In the Alleyway

I stepped into an alleyway, turned back the way I'd came and looked up. Such simple actions, everyday, mundane.

It's a big city. Maybe someday, I will have stepped through every alleyway, turned back along every path I've walked to look around and consider where I came from.




Can't help it. Look at that enormous lump of green. So many types of leafy what-not piled up, going in all directions, looking gorgeous.

style="display:block; margin:0px auto 10px; It's the variety that I love, that so many shapes and shades are layered together along the path ahead. Beirut keeps its pockets of green pretty well hidden, and it doesn't have nearly enough of them, but it does the green it's got really, really well.

Happy Valentine's Day, Beirut.


Nobody's Favorite

I don't like air conditioners, particularly these. They're in the way. That balcony is small enough without sacrificing space to AC units.

And you know what they remind me of? They remind me of Hal, from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hal's nobody's favorite character, especially once he starts to malfunction.

Just about the only thing I remember about Hal is that he apologized a lot in his predictably uninflected AI voice. And in the end, he lost.

Now that I think of it, I'd love to get an apology from my AC unit. We could start with "I'm sorry for operating inefficiently". "I'm sorry for being so noisy". "I'm sorry about that time I broke down last summer". And we'd finish up with "I'm sorry for being appallingly ugly on the side of a beautiful building".

But, just like Hal, the AC's apologies are empty, meaningless, and it will carry on just as before.



I see two eyes, one winking and a big mouth gaping open.

Shocking! It's going to eat me up.



Nothing like a huge tumble of Jasmine spilling over a wall to give an otherwise normal building that extra special something that might just pass for magic.

My daily route used to take me past a huge jasmine plant like this one. Whenever I had time, I stopped under it and took a few deep breaths.

I loved that.


On the Outside

I have no idea what this place is like on the inside. But I like the outside.

It's a realistic fiction that stops short of any true attempt at trompe l'oeil.



I like finding little patches of green in the city. Winter is the best time for that in Beirut. The rain helps.

It's a holiday today, so school's out and we're having one of those run-away family days.


To You, To Me

I took these pictures in Achrafieh. The building is just down the street from where I once lived. That seems like a lifetime ago.

See the face at the base of this baroque-looking over-the-door ornamentation? What does it say to you? Is that a look of serenity? Haughtiness? Contemplation, introspection, placidity, indifference? Is this a wise, knowing face? Or is it the face of innocence, youthful ignorant bliss?

For years the world has gone by, literally under the nose of this funny little face. I can't help wondering what I'd look like if I'd been up above a door for as many years, what sort of expression I'd have on my face.

And what would it be like to go through this door every day? A lifetime of coming and going, arriving and departing, alone or with friends and family. What effect would it have to pass beneath that face over and over again?


Somewhat Unusual

Reddish wall, green doors and plants. And textures, textures everywhere. I like how the white is really clean looking, bright and unbroken.

The squarish design in the iron balustrade is somewhat unusual in Beirut, which makes it all the more interesting to me.


Have it All

When it comes to houses, they don't make them like the used to. In most cases, all I have to say to that is "thank goodness". I'm not a big fan of homes with only one bathroom (or no bathroom), I find ancient kitchens appalling and impractical. I'm not a fan of insufficient electrical supply or receptacles, and I also prefer the greater efficiency of modern HVAC units. For these and many other reasons I'd take a modern home any day.

Still, you can't beat the craftsmanship, the classy woodworking, the decorative stonework of older buildings. The perfect house would have it all.


Like the Sky, Like the Sea

Ah, blue. Such wonderful associations. This is a calm picture, a picture for a quiet day at home, taking advantage of every little bit of serenity.

It makes me happy just thinking about it.

I've tagged a bunch of Beirut Pursuit photos that show street lamps.  You can see that group of posts by clicking here


Truths Told Slant

Mirrors tell it like it is, and they tell it like it isn't.

Hope you're having a nice weekend.


Where I Am

At this time last week I was in the American west, in a small town, at a funeral. There are buildings in Beirut that remind me of the small towns in western America. These, for example, in Mar Nicholas remind me of that region for no good reason at all. They also remind me of funerals, and there are a lot of good reasons for that.

Anyway, I've been back for a few days, back in Beirut. I love pictures like this because they're from here; I don't think anywhere else has architecture like this. And right now, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.