I arrived in Beirut after 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning on a flight from Frankfurt. The Lufthansa flight was delayed by at least an hour due to passenger chaos. Crowd control is not a strong suit with Lufthansa at the best of times, and this mob of passengers, mostly Lebanese, Germans and Americans, was in no mood to organize itself. Everyone pretty much tried to crowd on at the same time. I joined in, I have to admit. It’s hard to resist the crowd mentality. I couldn’t shake the fear that someone was going to steal my seat if I didn’t get on board at the same time as the rest of the lunatics. Before take-off, a guy actually did try to take my seat. He had been bumped from his seat as part of a deal to placate a family that insisted on sitting together. There was a lot of arguing and shuffling around before take-off. The bumped guy was given a middle seat next to me, and he wanted mine instead. I managed to hang on to it.
My room overlooks the site of the 2005 assassination of ex-President Hariri and 21 others by a giant bomb detonated in front of the Saint George Hotel (not the King Georges as I had it until an alert reader pointed out my error). All the windows were blown out of the Saint George. The first time I saw the hotel, maybe six months after the bombing, I was struck by the sight of the white curtains in all the rooms billowing in and out of the gaping windows. The windows still don’t have glass, and the white curtains are still waving in the sea breezes. Surely they must be different curtains after more than six years. But who would have replaced them and why? Except for some repairs on the front façade, where the most visible damage occurred, it seems that little else has been done to repair the hotel.
Most experts believe Syria was at least complicit in the assassination. Syria is less of a threat lately. President Assad’s attention is now totally focused on killing his own people.
The picture of the mosque and apartment building behind it was taken down on the Corniche. The look of Beirut was transformed by the massive damage from the civil war and Israeli invasion in the 80s. The subsequent re-building spurred by developer and Lebanese President, Rafik Hariri, finished off many more of the old buildings.