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Tuesday, July 18, 2006 

Beirut Confidential - News from Anthony Bourdain


Bourdain.jpg
Originally uploaded by aedixon75.

via eGullet Message Boards.....

I'm very aware of how flip my response to the Post was (made last Wednesday, very early in the crisis)as I sought to reassure family and friends that we were safe and okayand in good cheer. . It was--at the time--very representative of the (outward) attitude of Beirutis themselves, who pride themselves on their resilience and their determination to "keep the party going." Initially, many Beirutis were still going strong at nightclubs as jets flew low and menacingly overhead. Even that proud, famously world-weary attitude quickly changed, however, as circumstances here became even more appalling. I can certainly understand how offensive it might be to those on the ground here--or those with family and friends here--to read some of what's been posted on the other NR thread--and understand why it's been closed for now.

It is indeed heartbreaking and horrifying what has happened to this lovely country--to spanking new, lovingly restored,resurgent Beirut in particular, in only a few days of sustained and seemingly senseless destruction. A few days ago, this was a place where people were bursting with pride for the relative tolerance, progressive attitudes, and lack of conflict between groups. I was standing with a group: a Sunni, a Christian, and a Shiite--by the Hariri memorial when the gunfire started and the Hezbollah people appeared driving through city center and honking their horns in "celebration" for the capture/kidnappings. The look of dismay and embarrasment on all three faces...and the grim look of resignation as they all-- instantly-- recognized what would inevitably come next...it's something I will never forget. Of the three, our Shiite security guy, a tall, taciturn man, was the last to leave us, insisiting on staying by our side though he and his family lived in the much more perilous Southern part of Beirut. After witnessing many quick telephone exchanges between him and his family, and as more bombs and shells began to fall, seeing him nervously fingering his prayer beads, we finally convinced him to leave. His house was later flattened..We were soon relocated to a safer part of town.The sense of regret and ...shame we feel at being relatively safe yet witness to the carnage...and that we never got to show the world how beautiful this country and its people are--how much "like us" (yet uniquely and wonderfully not), how international, muti-lingual, multi-faith..how fantastic the food and hospitality is...will gnaw at us forever. WE will make it home. WE--unlike most Lebanese, have been (relatively) safe and secure during this. Trapped, yes--but trapped by a freaking swimming pool-not under the rubble of our homes. We may be only a few thousand yards or a few miles from the falling bombs-but we have an eventual way out. What hasn't been talked about much in the press, is how many young returnees there are/were here: young, educated Lebanese who'd emigrated abroad or been born aboad and only recenly returned..how filled with hope they were, how much they loved their country, how hopeful and enthusiastic they were that they could make a difference (and they WERE making a difference). That is all ashes now..

We (the NR crew) are indeed well--and well looked after. It's indeed frightening here, it's enraging, it's horrifying,and its frustrating..the classic "long hours of boredom interspersed with moments of terror" phenom they always use when talking about life during wartime. But we are relatively safe. And sooner or later we will no doubt be heading home.

We will never forget the Beirut that could have been-and will hopefully be again. Or what we saw here.

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