For years, Beirut was a synonym for chaos and destruction. But it has also been called the Paris of the Middle East. Today, the city retains vestiges of both those legacies, making it an enchanting — if disturbing — place to visit. For those unable to make the trip, we've compiled these postcards of the sights and sounds of Beirut. Press play to see the drawings come to life!
Construction of the Beirut Holiday Inn was completed just in time for the outbreak of civil war in 1975. The only guests the hotel ever had were snipers who took advantage of the building's height. It was passed back and forth between the warring factions several times, and was pounded by all varieties of artillery. The building is still occupied by the Lebanese army, but has been deemed structurally sound, so it could theoretically be remodeled.
Raouche is the western tip of Beirut, where the city juts out into the Mediterranean on bleached cliffs. The area has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years. Today it's home to upscale cafes and apartment buildings and, farther out on the shore, a small fleet of fishing boats.
Shatila is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. What started in 1949 as a temporary tent camp with a few hundred refugees has grown into a sprawling neighborhood of 12,000. The influx of Palestinian refugees, who now make up a tenth of the Lebanese population, has been a destabilizing force for most of the country’s history. Children born here are given Palestinian, not Lebanese citizenship, in the symbolic hope that they’ll someday return to Israel.
Le Chef Restaurant is a classic symbol of Lebanese cuisine. In the hip Gemmayze neighborhood, it is surrounded by upscale eateries, surviving only on its dingy charm, and the efforts of its overfriendly head waiter. International reviews of the food are divided, but locals and foreigners keep coming back for more.
For 25 years, the green line divided Muslim West Beirut from Christian East Beirut. It wasn’t a formal political boundary; it was a devastated and overgrown stretch guarded by snipers in the bombed-out buildings. Recently, reconstruction by Solidare, a controversial development group associated with the Hariri family, has given the area a facelift. But a destroyed church and bombed-out theater remain.
Prime Minister Rafik Hariri dominated Lebanese politics during the reconstruction period following the end of the civil war in 1990. Then in February 2005 he was assassinated by a massive bomb in central Beirut. A memorial shrine still stands to Hariri along Martyr’s Square. Blame for the assassination has been cast far and wide — from Hezbollah to the Syrian government to the Israeli secret service — and the controversy threatens to plunge Lebanon back into civil war.
The United States and Cuba will seek to re-establish diplomatic relations, according to a statement released by the White House Wednesday morning. President Barack Obama also delivered an address Wednesday morning on the announcement.
“Neither the American nor Cuban people are well-served by a rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born,” he said during this morning’s address.
According to a a statement from the White House:
“It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba. At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.”
“We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.”
(Read the full statement on whitehouse.gov.)
Cuba President Raul Castro addressed his country at the same time as Obama’s address, and Castro called for the U.S. embargo of Cuba to be lifted, according to NBC News.
The announced plans include some easing of travel, but tourist travel will not be eased, according to a story by the Associated Press.
Key to the changes are:
AP also reported that the change in policy was announced as Cuba released a spy who provided intelligence to the United States and an American prisoner Alan Gross, who was convicted in Cuba five years ago after installing censorship-free Internet access. The U.S. also released three convicted spies for Cuba, who were convicted in Miami in 2001.
Pope Francis reportedly encouraged the warming of relations between the two countries and the Vatican released a statement following the announcement.
“The Holy Father wishes to express his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history,” the Vatican’s statement read in part.
Several Congressional critics of Cuba who are also members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized Obama’s move, according to The Huffington Post.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) criticized the exchange of convicted spies for Gross.
“There is no equivalence between an international aid worker and convicted
Two young Seattle entrepreneurs are raising funds to open 'the Meowtropolitan' — Seattle's first cat cafe.
Are you an immigrant with a degree from abroad who can’t find a position in the field you studied? Then the nonprofit World Education Services is looking for your input on a study on “underutilized” college-educated immigrant workers.
The group is conducting a Knight Foundation-funded study on college-educated immigrant workers, and seeks respondents from the Seattle area.
World Education Services is conducting the survey as part of a study to track the experiences of underutilized, skilled immigrants in six cities to discover ways to better integrate and leverage the talents of workers who were educated abroad. The study, which is funded with a $70,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, also includes Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and San Jose, California, and Boston, as well as Seattle.
Seattle and the other cities were selected because they have large pools of college-educated immigrants.
According to World Education Services, the goal of the survey is to document the factors that help immigrant professionals to succeed, and the barriers that can hold them back. The Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University will serve as lead research partner, according to the group.
“Gathering this information will help ensure that cities can draw on the full talents of their foreign-born residents,” said Paul Feltman, director of the Global Talent Bridge initiative at World Education Services, in a prepared statement. “While many of these individuals hold jobs as doctors or engineers, others have struggled to transfer their international credentials and obtain professional employment in the United States; this study will help us to understand why.”
According to World Education Services, approximately 3.7 million immigrants to the United States have degrees from abroad, but 26 percent of these skilled workers are unemployed or working in low-wage jobs.
Results will be publicly announced in March 2015.