Christmas 2011 • If Beirut has an anthem, it's likely played with just two instruments: the car horn and the jackhammer. The whole city seems to be in a mad rush, as if making up for the decades it 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, despite the outward signs of renewal. Pointing a camera in almost any direction invited a warning, usually from a plainclothes-security type, and every church was guarded by heavily armed soldiers during Christmas weekend. I hopped from service to service on the 25th—Greek Orthodox, Maronite Christian, Latin Catholic. The Beirut on display was wealthy, chic, multilingual, confident. But the Beirut I saw later, on the way to the airport, had 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