Friday, December 01, 2006
Beirut Quiet but Tense
Bon Jour from Beirut!
The city is undergoing an extraordinary building
boom, with skyscrapers going up all along the beach
front. There are still many destroyed buildings
from "the crisis years" from 1975-1990, during
which time much of the central city was completely
destroyed by warring, heavily armed, factions.
Following the assassination of the Industry
Minister a couple of months ago, the city has
been expecting trouble.
[See his image and bullet-riddle car in photo above]
There have been a couple of enormous demonstrations, hundreds
of thousands of peole, but virtually no violence. This is a city that
has seen 15 years of civil war, massive car bombs
to assassinate gov't officials, while taking out
many innocent civilians, interferemce/domination
by Syria, not to mention, being the target of
many thousands of IDF airforce soirtees in the
south. Thousands of landmines remain.
Attached image: Victims of cluster bomb explosions in Lebanon.
The streets, at least the parts we have seen so far,
are crawling with soliders, armored personnel carriers,
sand-bagged gun positions, road barriers, and, Jeez!,
real live tanks with the those super-duper machine
guns that can cut down an entire building in a coupla'
minutes. Extra barbed wired is piled alongside bldgs.
Yet, the soldiers are fairly friendly, "Bon Jour!"
They are impressed with the WMDB's blonde tresses, and
as usual, are bored silly. The soldiers around the campus
of the American Univerisity must feel lucky guarding
the lovely co-eds in the their skintight apparel.
We plan on going clubbing tonight with our
man in Beirut, "Solid" Jackson, but he has not
answered his mobile in several hours...following
his interview with a Hezbollah rep for a radio
We assume he is just running late, but we shall see...
Bye from Beirut,
jim & the WMDB
Back from the West Bank
Another absolutely jam-packed day of traveling!
We woke up in a youth hostel overlooking the amazing
Dead Sea. You really can't sink! Quite a weird
experience. Makes ya' appreciate clean water.
Took a bus to the Old City of Jerusalem and took
in the Wailing Wall, the Souks, Temple Mount,
lotsa' of churches, bus stations and security
check points. Lots of locals and all the IDF kiddies
are openly armed.
Then we took an "Arab" bus (apartheid applies to
mass transit here) to Ramallah, on the other side
of the infamous Wall, which is both impressive,
and oppressive. Spent some time drinking
Turkish coffee and talking politics with a
manager of a Catholic grade/high school. Gave him
a big bag of toys for the honor students. His
brother lives in J-lem and can visit him, but as
a Palestinian he cannot cross into Disneyland.
This is one of the very few places we visited that beinga
foreigner is a handy thing...helps to breeze thru' the countless
checkpoints at malls, bus stations, banks, tourist sites, etc.
Tonight we head for the Disneyland/Jordanian border,
but have no idea if it will be open. We will wait if not...
We managed to get the cute Disneyland immigration
grlz to not stamp on our PPs, but on the disposable Tourist
Entry form instead. Any indication that we have been here
will mean we will not be able to complete the next leg of our
trip to Beirut. We will either have to mail, or hide, any paper,
ticket stubs, trinkets with Hebrew on them.
We were not able to visit the Gaza Strip. It's "closed."
Tel Aviv is a very cosmo town, with nice beaches, chic
cafes, cute lesbian couples strolling hand in hand, plenty
of clubs, and millions of young kids oogling each other.
The polar cultural opposite to Old Jerusalem.
jim and the WMDB
Truckin' Through Jordan
Camels in the
Red Sands in the
Wadi Rum Desert
Just to let you all know that we are STILL
in friendly Jordan! We traveled back to
civilization yesterday, via camel, after spending
the night in a Bedouin goat hide tent in the
middle of the Wadi Rum desert, beneath a billion
stars. Red sand! White sand! Green sand! While
we were truly on the edges of the civilized world,
I did note that our Bedouin hosts would slip away
and gather in one corner of the tent, away from the
guests. What were they doing? Hash? Nope! A sweet
spot were their cell phones could still get reception.
The Bedouins, already very impressed with the
WMDB's golden tresses and powerful demeaner,
were stunned, flat out, jaw-dropping, stunned, when
she began to pet the head of the "crazy" camel she
had just ridden back to civilization. The camel slowly,
slowly, slowly, lowered it's long neck and head down
to the ground. Not unlike a crane slowly loosing its
hydraulics. It seemed to have a smile on its face.
AMARC Radio Update: I was elected to the Int'l
Board! Remarkably, my work at the Houston Astrodome,
post-Katrina, continues to pay off! Wish I could get that
sort of credit for koop radio!!
AMARC10 almost certainly be held in South America.
We head to "Disneyland" and the Pal Territories
tomorrow. Border crossing is expected to be long
and, uh, "interesting." Surf the Dead Sea!
Worry not! More great travelblogs and photos to follow!
jim & the WMDB
just past the big rock that looks like a chicken
from one direction and an elephant from another...
This just in from Beirut:
Greetings from tense Beirut on the eve of the first
mass demonstration to bring down the Lebanese
government since the assassination of the Christian,
anti-Syrian Industry Minister.
More than a million Muslim, Hezbollah, and
pro-Syrian demonstrators will attempt to bring
the city to a halt tomorrow at dawn. Their stated goal
is to bring down the current gov't because they feel
it is not legitimate. The details of how the Lebenase
gov't's power and positions are divided up between
the various factions are wa-aaay too complicated to
go into here.
Already the streets are filling with young kids,
bedrolls under arms, heading to and fro, a few
carloads of kids, waving Hezbollah flags are
driving around honking their horns.
But they are avoiding the heavily militarized
areas around downtown and the gov't offices.
"Security Forces Tighten Grip on Beirut" is
the banner headline of today's Daily Star, the
English daily here. The President has vowed to
stay in town to "prevent civil war."
Remember, this is Beirut, a city that suffered
15 long years of "crisis."
Folks are clearly worried. Soldiers are much less
friendly today, than previously. They are less
likely to respond with a "Bon Jour" than a wave
of the rifle to move your ass along.
The PM has ordered the Lebanese Army to remain
"nuetral" in keeping order tomorrow. Everyone
is worried about a repeat of the crisis years...
or indeed, another civil war will break out.
and anxious people...
Tonight Beirut is a city full of worried
Well, perhaps not everyone! In a "It could only
happen in Beirut" scenario, the 8th Annual Beirut
Marathon, yes Marathon!, is also scheduled for
tomorrow morningas well. The organizers had to clear
the event with all the various factions. Note that it is scheduled
to take place on a day in which the city is crawling with armored
personnel carriers, tanks, thousands of soldiers and police, a
million screaming Hezbollah supporters.
They have repeatedly said the demonstrations will
be peaceful. There's not much else thay can say.
Meanwhile, high overhead, IDF state of the art satellite
surveillance takes it all in.
YET -- It's Christmas shopping season here in the
Christian section of the city, with nice Christmas
lights and decos going up everywhere. You can
buy a Christmas tree!
And the clubs, the legendary nightclubs of the
"Paris of the Middle East" are still packed
with gorgeous young folks. We are going to a
private party at "The Basement" tonight.
Let's hope the both the demos and the marathon,
uhm, both run smoothly tomorrow.
jim & the WMDB