Day two, though technically today is day four or five. Last night was a casualty of the eruption of tension in the region. We were having birthday cake up in the mountains when suddenly we heard a loud explosion echoing across the city. The bomb was detonated in one of shiia Muslim neighbourhoods in Beirut, but it could be clearly heard everywhere. One day this will most likely boil over into another civil war. Very sad.
On a happier note, we got to go to a great concert on Wednesday night. The face of Arab culture in the West today is dominated by religious issues and so it surprising to many just how much Arabic poetry and music talk about love and longing. We went to see Sabah Fakhry, one of the pioneers of reviving the traditional forms of Arabic singing. It was really interesting to see a live performance. Too bad most of the singing was done by Fakhry’s son (who has a great voice no doubt) which I think left people a little disappointed since they wanted to hear the man himself.
The concert was held in the downtown area of Beirut which has been totally rebuilt after the war. We were both really impressed how it looks today; wide sidewalks and fancy store windows. Much of the original architecture is still there but the area was clean and nice to walk in.
The downtown reconstruction process has been a huge project for the country since most of Beirut still visibly bears the wounds of the civil war and extreme poverty. The downtown, oddly enough, reminds me of what could have been if history had taken a brighter turn. If Beirut was once called Paris of the Middle East, it’s quite far from it today. However, in the downtown area you can soak in the feeling of the city’s glory days.