Christmas 2011 • If Beirut has an anthem, it's probably played with just two instruments: the car horn and the jackhammer. The whole city seems to be in a mad rush, as if to make up for the decades lost to civil war, occupation, and stagnation. Today's skyline is beyond the imagining of anyone who watched Beirut's implosion on TV in the 1970s and '80s—but it's still a city on edge, no matter the outward signs of renewal. 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 hopped 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 vibe: 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