Thursday, November 23, 2006

Interesting Times

The Chinese have a saying: may you live in interesting times. It sounds nice but is actually meant as a curse. It wasn't until these past few days that I got an inkling as to what that really means. Lebanon is certainly experiencing interesting times, and I am certainly experiencing disruptions. Since Pierre Gemayel was gunned down in his car a few days ago the country has ground to a bit of a standstill as three days of national mourning were announced (yesterday was Lebanese Independence Day as well, adding to the general non-activity) causing most shops and museums to close and reducing public transport. The only activity that has gone on unabated has been the erection of posters of Gemayel that have sprung up all over town, to join those of Rafiq Hariri and several other politicians who were all assassinated last year. This means that it is very difficult for me to get anything done on the tourist, or bureaucratic (I've been trying to get a visa but the embassy will be closed until next week), fronts. Add to that the fact that the downtown headquarters of the Phalangist party, to which Gemayel belonged, is right across the street from my hotel, meaning that since Tuesday there have been noisy demonstrations well into the night and frequent checkpoints in the neighbourhood. At least I was close to the demonstration and funeral ceremony that took place today in downtown Beirut when tens of thousands of Lebanese turned up to protest at the assassination and perceived Syrian meddling in their politics. It has, however, been reassuring to see that the protests passed off in an atmosphere of peace and calm, because such a protest, with open criticism of the government, would never be allowed in other Arab countries. Let's just hope that they have had enough with demonstrating for the time being and get back to running the buses and opening tourist sites tomorrow (and perhaps letting me get some seep tonight)!

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