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If you hurry, you might be able to get a glance of this historic facade before it is gone.

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The demolition is taking place on a small alley next to the Phoenicia hotel called Hyram street, behind the hotel’s security barricades, where few may have noticed it.

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Luckily, I was there a few weeks ago, and fearing the worst, I took some pictures. Here is what it used to look like:

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Finally here’s a view from the top street:

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The building seemed to be in pretty good shape, considering the circumstances. So why was it not preserved?

If anyone knows more about it–the building’s age, owner, legal status, architecture, etc.– please comment below and I will update the post.

And remember, always take pictures of old buildings. You never know when your images could be the last ones.

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After years of darkness it seems the northern suburbs of Beirut will finally be lit up at night. Like most highways in Lebanon, the street lamps in the Dora area are constantly turned out due to electricity cuts. Finally, someone seems to have decided to rely on the sun instead of the failing national power company. And it’s hard to imagine why this wasn’t done years ago.

But the solar panels are set up only on a small patch of highway.

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They seem quite close together:

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Maybe because they don’t give out a lot of light?

The work began a few weeks ago.

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The company is called Irsal Telecom Solutions Provider, as seen on the truck:

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I wonder if anyone knows more about this company or the cost/duration of this contract and whether it will be expanded to other areas. Sadly, there exists no publicly accessible database or website listing government projects–at least to my knowledge–so that the public can keep track of such projects and know how their money is being spent. Because as it stands, most citizens will know only about what they see with their eyes after it has been paid for and executed.

Poles are now going up in the Nahr El Mawt area. Could this be the next site of solar panel lighting?

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Let’s hope these lights will be effective and properly maintained. Can you imagine if the whole national highway was lit up at night? One can dream.

UPDATE:

Shortly after posting this, I noticed that only a handful of the new lamps were working tonight:

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Maybe they are still installing them?

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It’s not easy flying into Beirut these days. With fears of ISIS beheading soldiers and invading villages, refugees spilling out onto the streets, a lack of a president or parliamentary elections, constant tensions with Israel– and most recently– serious health hazards exposed at restaurants and food suppliers across the country, many of those privileged enough to travel may not consider coming back. But not for this woman.

The returning passenger was welcomed with a marching band, balloons and dancing friends wearing T shirts saying “proud to be Lebanese.” The famous TV host Zaven Kouyoumdjian even stumbled upon the action, stopping to capture the moment with a huge smile on his face.

At a time of so much anxiety, it’s nice to know some people are still hopeful in this country. Without their optimistic spirt, how else can we face the challenges ahead?

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Courtesy Tom Young

Next week, Beirut’s storied “Rose House”, which sits on a rare green hill overlooking the Mediterranean, will be open to the public for the first time. The artist Tom Young will be showcasing his work and hosting a series of events beginning next week. He sent me these pictures:

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Young hopes to shed light on the 19th century building, which he feared would be destroyed after learning that its long term tenant of 50 years, Fayza El Khazen, had been asked to leave. So he got in touch with the new owners and convinced them to allow an exhibit, featuring musical, theatrical, film events and activities for children, in addition to some 40 of his painted pieces.

Dubbed, “At the Rose House” the exhibit will run from November 19 until the end of December 2014. Young will also be sharing what he has learned about the history of the home during his two month artist residency there, particularly its importance as a cultural meeting place during the 1960s.

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“I’ve been exploring the house’s context in the city, drawing inspiration from the forest of towers which surround it, and nearby landmarks such as the old lighthouse and Luna Park,” Young said an email. “These places are anchors in the city’s soul.”

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“Rise and Fall” by Tom Young from “At the Rose House” Beirut

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Here’s a video Young has made about the project:

And here are some of the paintings that will be on display:

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“Survival” by Tom Young from “At the Rose House” Beirut
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“Zones” by Tom Young from “At the Rose House” Beirut
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“Age of Innocence” by Tom Young from “At the Rose House” Beirut
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“Arches Mirage Wall” by Tom Young “At the Rose House” Beirut
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“Interior Erasure” by Tom Young from “At the Rose House” Beirut

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Young developed a similar exhibition last year at another abandoned mansion in the Gemmayze neighborhood known as Villa Paradiso. The hope is that art can help us celebrate, remember and perhaps even save some of these buildings, which are being rapidly destroyed across the city to make way for multimillion dollar towers only the wealthiest can afford. But such efforts can only succeed if concerned citizens attend in large numbers to make their voices heard. So spread the word and see you there!

 

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For more info about the exhibit, get in touch with Tom via tom@tomyoung.com and his Facebook page.

All photos courtesy Tom Young

Exhibit opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11am-7pm, open until 10pm on Fridays

 

 

 

Local channel LBC ran this brilliant five minute interview with an unidentified man on the street in Tripoli. His language and delivery is powerful in Arabic, but I thought I would do a rush translation into English, particularly for a lot of the foreign press who continue to focus on “Islamic extremism” instead of gripping poverty as a major cause of violence in the city.  In fact the media, both local and international, frequently frame recent clashes in Tripoli as part of “spillover” from the Syrian war and potential ties to armed Islamist groups operating across the border. Yet what many seem to forget is that intense clashes have been ongoing in Tripoli well before the Syrian war, as early as 1990s.

The man in the video– a resident of Bab Al Tabbaneh (one of Tripoli’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods)– helps us understand why.

He begins by questioning Saad Hariri, former prime minister and one of the richest and most powerful politicians in Tripoli. He then takes aim at the members of parliament, whom he accuses of having a major role in stoking the violence in order to pass the recent “emergency” legislation that cancelled parliamentary elections and extended their terms in office. Their excuse was the ongoing instability related to the war in Syria. Needless to say, our man in Tabbaneh doesn’t buy it. Pay close attention to how he characterizes the vulnerabilities of both the impoverished youth and the ill-equipped military, especially in the closing lines.

 

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Man: The whole country is zifit (tar) (i.e. disgusting/worthless) the politicians, the government, the parliament, all tar, even the presidency, because we have no president.

Where is the public works, where is the security? Where is Saad Hariri?

He is sitting in Saudi Arabia. He sends billions to the army. Instead, why doesn’t he employ the young men sitting without work?

Today, if the young boys are working, no one will think about carrying weapons. But if they are unemployed, anyone can come and manipulate them to get armed and start a terrorist organization.

I have six children, I can’t even afford diapers.

Man 2: People are scared to come into our neighborhood

Man 1: There is work to be done in this country, but the members of parliament are sitting in their houses, they don’t care, they are well fed, they’re children are well feed, they are comfortable, they sleep comfortably. And then they get up and give a speech to ignite the whole neighborhood fighting and no one does anything about it.

One (militant group) goes down, another will come in its place.

There is no security in this country, nothing. People need to work, to get back to work.

There is poverty here, there is poverty in the country. It’s a shame. How many MPs do we have? If everyone gave a quarter of his earnings we could fix up the whole city.

The MPs are making 11 million lira ($7,300) per month, they are people, families more important than them, they can’t even make 1,000 lira (60 cents) and you want to extend your term too? Go home and take care of yourself, curse every MP in this country. The biggest MP in this country is (bleeped expletive)!

Man 2: We don’t vote for any of them and they are the ones that got us fighting with the army

Man 1: Who do you think the army is? Everyone knows that this solider standing behind us is either my brother or my cousin or my neighbor’s son. You think I want to go kill him?

It’s the politicians, look what they pass under the table. First they extend their mandate, then they don’t elect a president and then what? We are paying the prices and they are padding their pockets. Leave us alone already, do they have no mercy?

They tore up all of Tripoli just to pass the laws to extend parliament. Go extend yourself, just leave us alone to work.

Reporter: So what your saying is deprivation is the cause of what’s happening in Tripoli?

The people of Tabbaneh are good people, they are poor people. They have the wrong impression about us. The people of Tabbaneh are a poor people.

When we knock on the politicians, they never answer, people come begging them for help like dogs but they can’t provide anything. They are all crooks, each one of them!

$3 billion was sent to the army, for what? To kill people? Use the money to employ people. Make a tissue factory, you’ll employ 1,000 people. Where are they? Just terrorism?

Where is the terrorism? Go to any street in Tripoli, where is the terrorism? No one will bother you. If you wear a Bikini no one will attack you. Where is the terrorism?

Reporter: But what about the issue of backwardness. They say there is extremism in Tripoli?

It’s the politicians! They made a world war in Tripoli just to extend their terms. These bastards call themselves representatives of the people, they are only representatives of themselves, just to collect their salaries at the end of every month. They are the ones that created this.

I mean it takes just 10 armed men to destroy the country. They attack the army and they shoot at the army. 

 

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I’ve been working on a project called Checkdesk, which is a tool for verifying news stories and holding the media and public officials accountable. The site encourages collaborative fact checking and wants participation from people like you for their campaign in Lebanon called “Taakad” (verify in Arabic). To get you motivated, the developers are giving away prizes for the most active participants. These include three tablet devices as seen in this photo from their site:

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The best thing is that it is easy and fun. Just go to the Taakad site, create an account and start flagging articles, TV reports, tweets or other posts that have issues you think need to be verified or further discussed, questioned or contextualized. The competition will be held throughout November so get started asap if you want to win.

Some recent Checkdesk stories I have been working on include:

Unprecedented Ashura commemorations in Damascus?”

Eden Rock project: Journalism or Advertising?”

” ISIS and Nusra involvement in Tripoli?”

“Mystery Beirut visit by US general”

“Gunmen attack hospital “over body hair”

You can contribute to these or other stories on the main page and they don’t necessarily have to be political. The site is also available in Arabic, by clicking on the Arabic tab. For more details on the developers and tips on using the Checkdesk tool, see this article on their partner site, Social Media Exchange or SMEX.

Here’s a quick video on Checkdesk:

There is also an article and tutorial in Arabic.

To boost collaboration, share links to your stories on social media using the #Taakad hashtag.