Beirut, Lebanon, Nov 2005: A video capturing some scenes from Beirut back in 2005. Beginning from entering the city from the north [Tripoli], to where I was staying near the former “Green Line“- the start point for the 2005 Beirut Marathon. The Green Line was a demarcation through central Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War [1975-1990]. It separated the mainly Muslim factions in West Beirut from the predominantly Christian controlled East Beirut. The appellation refers to the former coloration of the foliage that grew along the boulevard.
The hallmarks of such a long and brutal conflict were still evident 15 years after the conclusion to this most bitter of wars. Along with the many cranes and signs of reconstruction, there were still plenty of battle scarred buildings standing, such as the infamous Holiday Inn- a favored snipers nest during [and after] the Battle of the Hotels. The film concludes at the Corniche, looking west into the Mediterranean Sea.
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Lebanon, November 2005: Prior to traveling to the Middle East I had read William Dalrymple’s 1997 book “From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium. It was in these pages that I’d first heard about the Qadisha valley. The mystery of the place intrigued me, so I was determined to visit it while in the area.
The valley is a deep gorge carved by the Qadisha River. Qadisha means “Holy” in Aramaic and the “Holy Valley” has sheltered Christian monastic communities for centuries. The integrity of the valley is at risk due to encroachment of human settlements, illegal building and inconsistent conservation activity. Although it is not yet on the UNESCO “in danger” list, there have been warnings that continued violations may lead to this step.
In the northern city of Tripoli I met three Slovenian travelers and asked them if they were keen for a bit of adventure- and they were. So the following day we set off, finding the appropriate local buses to take us up into the mountains to begin the adventure at Becharre and the nearby Cedars of God. Alas, the full story of what happened will have to wait for another day. Needless to say it did not end well: we got lost, day turned to night, we had no torches or food and hardly any water- and this was just the beginning of our troubles…
Stay posted for what happened next. In the meantime enjoy the film, cut from a 10 year old tape shot on a budget video camera…
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Tripoli, Lebanon, Nov 2005: Tripoli is the largest city in northern Lebanon and the second-largest city in the country. Situated 85 kilometres (53 miles) north of the capital Beirut, old Tripoli dates back to at least the 14th century BCE. It is home to the largest fortress in Lebanon- the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles- and is the second largest city (behind Cairo) in Mamluk architectural heritage.
In ancient times, it was the center of a Phoenician confederation which included Tyre, Sidon and Arados- hence the name Tripoli- meaning “triple city” in Greek. Later on it was controlled successively by the Assyrian, Persian, Roman, and Byzantine Empires: the Seljuk Empire, Crusader States, the Mamluks, the Ottoman Empire and France.
I had arrived from the North, sharing a taxi down the coast from the Syrian port of Tartus, eventually crossing the border into Lebanon. After finding accomodation I visited the nearby Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles. The impressive fortress gave way to spectacular views of the city. Pigeon fanciers were notable in Tripoli, as I filmed what I saw as the sun went down…
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South Lebanon, 2005: Came across this man while driving around South Lebanon in late 2005. He was atop of the local Amal Billboard, changing the ragged Amal flags for new ones. His brother was one of the “martyrs’ featured in the mural. Thankfully he and his friends were ok with me taking photos, after the fact. For more information on The Amal Movement, click here.
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Baalbek, Lebanon, Nov 2005: Baalbek- situated in the Beqaa Valley 85 km northeast of Beirut- contains some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon. Known as Heliopolis during Roman rule, it had one of the largest sanctuaries in the whole of the Roman empire.The history of settlement in the area of Baalbek dates back about 9,000 years, with almost continual settlement of the tell under the Temple of Jupiter, which was a temple since the pre-Hellenistic era.When I visited in November 2005, there was hardly a soul around except the odd military security patrol.Less than a year after my visit, on August 4, 2006, as part of the 2006 Lebanon War, Israeli helicopter-borne soldiers supported by aircraft entered the Shi’ite Islamic Hikmeh Hospital in Baalbek to capture senior members of Hezbollah. They were considered to be responsible for the kidnapping of the two Israeli IDF soldiers on July 13, 2006, and who were believed to be residing in the building. The fighting caused minor damage to the hospital. Several gunmen were killed, and weapons and ammunition were seized from inside the hospital building. It has been reported that during the conflict, vibrations caused by bombing damaged the ruins.“Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee”, UNESCO reported in making Baalbek a World Heritage Site in 1984.
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Beaufort Castle, Lebanon, November 2005: The Crusader fortress of Beaufort Castle- constructed in the 12th century- has been the focus for countless battles and the home of many occupiers over the centuries… Beaufort (French for “beautiful fortress”) sits atop a 300 meter cliff which declines steeply to the Litani River. Its commanding location, with views […]
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Bcharre, Lebanon, Nov 2005: One of the few remaining groves of Cedar trees (Lebanon’s national symbol) are on Mount Makmel near the town of Bcharre. One of the trees has been carved with religious icons such as the crucifixion of Jesus. Bcharre’ most famous son is Lebanese-American artist, poet and writer Khalil Gibran, born here […]
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