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Monday, July 31, 2006

Return

Arrived in Beirut on Saturday uneventfully. At the border hardly anyone was crossing into Lebanon, and the road through the town of Masnaa was strangely empty. In a time of peace, the road would be chockablock with vehicles.
Just where the town ends the road had been destroyed by an Israeli bomb, so we took an alternative route that went through Zahle and the mountains another way. We passed several vehicles, including a UAE humanitarian truck, that had been destroyed by rockets.
We - Ben Gilbert, a US radio journalist, and myself, along with Syrian driver Bassam - took the road down through Antelias through Jounieh. The road through Jounieh is usually a log-jam, especially on a Saturday afternoon, crawling along meter by perspiring meter. We drove through as if it was Sunday morning. Some restaurants were open, but what was very noticeable was that all car show rooms were shut through the Jounieh, ad-strewn strip.
My apartment is fine and my neighbours, an elderly couple, had been keeping an eye on it. They told me their son along with his family had left to France, but due to her disability - she has to use a zimmer frame, and finds travel difficult, she has decided to stay. The son’s Filipino maid had be re-assigned to look after her.
Curiously, speaking to my friend Abass, who left the south last week, he said his father, also in his late 70s, had decided to stay in their village, as had all elderly people - too attached to their homes, land and the transition potentially too traumatic. Abass' sister stayed behind to look after him.
The whole of Beirut is like a ghost town, or to use another example, like the city at 4am with a few shops open here and there and the odd car driving around. Except it is like this in the daytime. Everyone it seems is staying at home and not really leaving their neighbourhoods.
The supermarkets are open, fruit and meat available, but no fresh milk. Talking to a friend yesterday he said that many food/drink manufacturers are struggling because of the lack of trucks, and the fact that the Israelis have destroyed over 450 trucks. Such industries can probably weather a few months of this, but if it continues they will go bankrupt.
It is good to be back after three weeks away – an initial 10 day trip in Syria and Jordan – but equally very strange to see this once-beating city turn into a ghost town.

1 comment:

St.Clair Bourne said...

Glad to hear you made it back safely. I'll post your
blog on mine.
By the way, Gary Younge told me that he passed your info on to the editors at The Guardian.

Take care,

St.Clair Bourne