Christmas 2011 • If Beirut has an anthem, I'll bet it's played with only two instruments: the car horn and the jackhammer. City seems to be in a mad rush to make up for all the years lost to civil war, occupation, and stagnation—today's skyline is beyond the imagining of anyone who watched TV news in the 1970s and '80s. Yet despite all the outward signs of repair and renewal, Beirut is still a city on edge. Pointing a camera in almost any direction invites a warning, and during Christmas weekend every church was guarded by heavily armed soldiers. On Christmas Day I hopscotched from service to service—first Greek Orthodox, then Maronite Christian, then Latin Catholic. The Beirut on display was wealthy, chic, multilingual, confident. But the Beirut I saw later, on the way to the airport, was an entirely different matter: grindingly poor, controlled by Hezbollah, and presumably empty of Christmas worshippers and foreign tourists.
Filipina domestic workers, Christmas Day
Bronze Age statue, National Museum of Beirut
Nejmeh Square, Christmas Eve