Return to Beirut

It’s been a while, I know… A few weeks stay in Yemen, 6 weeks of research (and visa hassles) in Saudi Arabia, a quick new year’s eve return to my beloved (albeit now cold and wet) Beirut, and finally a few weeks holiday in an even colder and wetter Belgium. In exactly ten days from now I will go back to Beirut and this time to stay. I’ll be sharing a flat with my friend Adam, a freelance photographer, and wondering when a new Lebanese president will finally be settled on and whether it’s gonna make any difference. Just like Belgium (which meanwhile has a ‘caretaker’ government), Lebanon doesn’t seem to fare particularly worse without a government than with one. The fact that Jeffrey Feltman, US ambassador to Lebanon, is leaving might have a bigger effect on the country. Unsurprisingly, he’s moving to Washington to join David Welch’s club of foreign meddlers (of the non-Iran/Syria variety) in the Middle East. So his departure might not change a lot either after all…

So what has happened in Lebanon while I was gone? An army general was blown up, Israeli planes violated Lebanese airspace almost daily and killed some civilians by means of their left-behind cluster bombs, some rockets were shot at Israel at one point (by vague rootless jihadis of some sort, presumably, as Hezbollah denied responsibility), 2 UNIFIL soldiers have been wounded in an attack by probably the same jihadi types, and a US embassy car was involved in a bombing attempt, while Bush was conspicuously avoiding his M14 friends during his tour of the Middle East. He did visit his pal Blair, who turns out to be hiding out in Kuwait (so that’s where this great envoy of peace is going to single-handedly resolve the Middle East’s problems from – after single-handedly creating a good deal of them). What else? Oh yeah, the presidential election has been postponed for the fifth through twelfth time while I was gone, and all through, of course, the loudmouthed feudal warlords ruling Lebanon have been loudmouthing each other some more, without any noticeable effect (apart from the country sinking ever deeper into political and economic irrelevance, as it has been doing ever since these same warlords took control sometime in the early to mid-seventies). So I don’t seem to have missed out on a lot of action – and when I get back, it’ll probably be just in time to watch yet another ‘important’ date (27th of January) go by without anything happening… or will it?


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