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Tripoli, Lebanon....a world of contrasts here

Lea Stogdale, usually a resident of Winnipeg but travelling right now, heard our interview with Thanassis Cambanis, author of A Privilege to Die, about Hezbollah and its legions of followers in Lebanon.

She wrote:

As I was listening to the podcast of your interview about the renewed strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon, I was eating tabouli salad in a backstreet restaurant within the old city of Trablous, or Tripoli, in northern Lebanon.

 

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This was Friday, October 8, and I had travelled on the local mini buses from Beirut to Tripoli, stopping at Byblos to explore the archeological site there. My non-Arabic-speaking tourist impression of Lebanon is of consumptive contrasts.

Beirut is narcissism 24-7. (Everyone has) new cars; this is where Lamborginis and Hummers actually sell. The souk (market) is now designer-label shops; Tiffany's is a minor store. Average Canadian city clothing is both shabby and conservative in comparison to the brief and slinky atop high-rise stilleto heels.

All (this), often overlooked by enormous posters of Ahmedinajad of Iran.

Tripoli has the same crazy traffic but here scarves and long loose dresses flutter along streets lined with mosques and food stalls. Everywhere the army is present: soldiers with automatic rifles walking along the streets, travelling in the buses, groups (of soldiers) in jeeps (and) tanks... Everywhere, all the time.

 Prior to my evening meal I had sat on the Sadat el Tall square with Riyadh and Amed, two older gentlemen who meet there each evening to smoke and chat. Riyadh explained to me that the large repetitive posters behind us were of the Chief of Police, placed prominently "because the people love him." Also, that the army was voluntary "because Lebanon was a democracy." Not good enough was my Arabic -- none-- or Riyahd's English -- learnt while working in Ghana -- for me to pursue these ironies.

After listening to your interview, I wonder where Lebanon's army, police force and love of conspicuous consumption fit into the intractable real estate-population-dignity-Hezbollah philosophy complex that is Lebanon?

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