Friday, June 3, 2011

more beirut, lebanon:

Lebanon is a small country both geographically and in population (approximately 4 million people).You can see a lot in a short amount of time. We had grand plans, however I caught a really bad cold, so it did limit us a little bit unfortunately as I tried balancing resting, but making the most of our time there.

Lebanon is also a fairly young country, becoming an independent nation in 1943 when it came out from  French rule. The interesting thing to add at this point, is that the population was split 50/50 in the ratio of Christians and Muslims. The reason I mention this is when Lebanon became independent, wrote its constitution and formed its own government, it was set up so that the seats in Parliament would be represented proporationally to this ratio. So 50/50 of Christian and Muslim politicians. The president is to be a Maronite Christian (the slight majority at the time) and the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim. This still stands today, however a census has not been conducted since the 1930s, so it is thought that the ratios have changed somewhat. After independence, Lebanon became an extremely prosperous nation, with Beirut becoming a major financial and tourism hub in the Middle East. Beirut was a glamourous city often described as the 'Paris of the East'.
However, sadly this was not to last as civil war broke out in 1975, lasting fifteen years when it finished in 1990. There is no exact reason for it starting from what I can gather. But there were many militant groups involved, plus nations such as Israel and Syria. It was also largely sectarian violence with Christians and Muslims fighting against each other. Most of the fighting took place in Beirut with the city being divided in half with east against west (the Christians tended to live in the east and the Muslims in the west). Downtown Beirut was the divider, also known as the Green line. This was also the front line and where the majority of fighting took place.
The war was disasterous in the loss of life and the scars can still be seen all over the city today, with significant damage to buildings, some left completely abandoned by those who fled the country.
Unfortunately, this was not the last period of violence, as war with Israel and Hezbollah erupted in 2006. Although this lasted only a month, there was significant damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure, including Beirut. There have also been many political assassinations and instability since, most recently with the government collapsing in January this year.

I’m not making Lebanon sound very enticing with all of this so I’ll leave it at that, I don't want this to be a negative sounding post, but I just wanted to give a bit of  background so you can get a bit of a context. Also for me, I don't really remember the civil war, as it was a bit before my time. I grew up knowing Lebanon had issues, but not why or how. So I think for many this could be the same and might shed some light on the history that you may not be fully aware of.
Despite all of this however, we fell in love with the country (I know I keep saying this!), but it really left an impression with us and we are still talking about it.  I will add also, a lot of people think Lebanon is unsafe, but as long as you stick to the right areas and watch the news you will be fine. We felt safe 100% of the time and were so looked after. The warmth and generosity we were shown blew us away. In fact it is probably one of the more safe Middle Eastern countries to visit at this point in time.
Below are some more photos of Beirut. I really fell in love with the streets.

I hope what I shared above gives a bit more insight not only to the images, but also to Lebanon. We will do a wrap up and share some highlights plus some tips in the next few days.

the infamous Holiday Inn hotel - opened a few weeks before the war started and has been left aband

Martyrs Square in Downtown Beirut - damaged from the war

a romantic dinner at an amazing Armenian restaurant we were recommended to check out

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