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05 August 2020


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Babak makkinejad

Polish Janitor

Nah, it is due to the culture of Lebanon, itself vestigial from Ottoman times.

Greeces or Malta are not much different.


Polish Janitor -

The US Embassy in Beirut has also sent out an alert that there are reports of toxic gases released in the explosion.

Makes sense because when ammonium nitrate is heated and decomposes it can give off Nitric Acid or Ammonia or both.


I mourn for the Lebanese, and Lebanon.


It seems that the Ammonium Nitrate in storage was not merely fertiliser, but a manufactured explosive- ‘Nitroprill’, widely used in Australia as a mining explosive.
There’s probably an interesting story in how it found itself in the Black Sea port of Batumi.


I spent a few days in Beirut about 10 years ago, including a visit to the port where a farmer's market was being held. It was a modest affair, but I had a delightful lunch in one of the stalls. That area has probably been leveled.

Beirut is one of the strangest places I've ever been. Its setting is spectacular, and the Corniche is magnificent. Outwardly, it exuded the air of a prosperous, confident, advanced city.

But scratch below the surface, and it quickly gets creepy. The old city center, the Green Line dividing Muslim West Beirut and Christian East Beirut, had been totally destroyed in the civil war. Much of it had been rebuilt but never repopulated--a no man's land filled with brand new buildings, some quite elegant.

Along the waterfront, spectacular apartment towers had been built and apartments sold to Gulf princes. Upscale Western chains lined the streets around them. But no one was shopping. The stores were biding their time, waiting for some Gulf prince or other to parachute in with his entourage and go on a spending spree, something that happened every few years, depending on the prince.

Further inland, the Place de l'Etoile, built originally by the French, had been painstakingly restored. It was teeming with security guards but few ordinary people, except for occasions such an elite wedding or some other showy event held in one of the beautifully restored churches or mosques.

The old Beirut central commercial district, which had been located right next door, had become a vast parking lot, its only occupant a large tent housing a memorial to Rafiq Hariri, so that people would never forget his assassination, his sect's victimization, and the implicit need for 'justice' or vengeance.

On a hill above the central city was the ruins of the old Holiday Inn, whose Kuwaiti owner had vowed to restore only when it was safe. No one was taking bets on when that would be.

Bottom line: Beirut at that time was several cities, each occupying its own distinct space. I stayed in West Beirut near the American University. It was a safe, pleasant and peaceful area with lots of good restaurants. I ventured to East Beirut to do some banking. But no one would take me to south Beirut, the Shi'a area, because it was too dangerous. The closest I got was the airport, which sits right next to the Shi'a area.

While in Lebanon, I learned that you needed to mind how you said, "Hello." I was accustomed to the Arabic, "Salaam aleikum," which was most common in Morocco. But I learned that that was not proper form in the Cristian areas, where they looked askance when I greeted them this way. I learned to substitute, "Ahlan wa Sahlan," which, until then, I had regarded as a less common equivalent with no sectarian overtones. Apparently some of the Christian population prefer to regard themselves as Phoenician, not Arab, and "Ahlan wa Sahlan" predates the Arabic.

I had the good fortune to take a walking tour of Beirut with a guide who introduced us the the weirdness and dysfunctionality of Lebanese politics and society in general. All government functions have been distributed--permanently--by religious sect. (Thank you France!) To illustrate the absurdity, the guide claimed that the Finance Minister had to be a Jew, even though there were no Jews living in Lebanon then. I have not been able to verify that. But it still illustrates the absurdity of divvying up government tasks on a sectarian basis.

And the fact that there seemed to be a different bank on every street corner seemed weird and made me wonder how they could support all those banks. (Turns out they couldn't!)

At the end my time in Beirut, the hotel found me transportation to Damascus with a couple working for the Church Of England. Syria was months away from its own civil war and was very interesting, peaceful and safe, though weird in its own way.

My heart goes out to Beirutis, particularly since I don't see how they climb out of the deep hole they find themselves in. The leadership is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent, the oil sheikhs are having money problems of their own, and Western institutions have shown that they're generally not much help.

But the good news is that Lebanon somehow managed to survive after the civil war, and they have no choice but to do it again.



"As salaam alaikum" is a specifically Muslim greeting from one Muslim to another wishing for God's peace upon one of the faithful. I would suggest something like "Marhaba, keif al-haal?" (Hello, how are you?) when dealing with Christian Arabs or if you are not Muslim.



Very good.

A medieval Muslim city - with separate quarters for different sects.

The whereabouts of 17,000 people are unknown since the end of the civil war there.

It was known as the Paris of the Middle East before the civil war, largely because of the culture of the Christians there.



The francophile culture was also widespread among the Sunnis.



"A medieval Muslim city - with separate quarters for different sects." Profoundly true. I would say that the same was true for all medieval cities, not just Muslim cities. In a way all of Lebanon is the same thing.


Col. Lang:

Some doctrinaire Sunni Muslims would take offense if greeted with "Al Salam Aleikom" by a non-Muslim - it is reserved for Muslims-only - they believe.

I suppose they should be greeted with "Al Harb Aleikom".



I always seek to avoid offending. That is one of the reasons why I yet live.

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