A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for August, 2007

Amb. Habib from Marwan Hamadeh: Ebay treasures

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 31, 2007

I love ebay. I find everything from merino wool sweaters (perfect for Lebanon’s mild winters) to archival documents (perfect for … my Ph.D.!) there.

Sometimes I just browse – like window-shopping, but online. When I do, I often find the most amazing treasures – like this “used book”:

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What’s amazing about the book isn’t the book itself, but its provenance. Look at the note sticking out from the book and read the seller’s description:

a personal account. by lina mikdadi. published 1983 by onyx press. pretty sure this is first edition.

great condition. a few crumpled marks from where paperclips once were (there probably was a letter or something attached)

found tucked inside is a note… Amb. Habib from Marwan Hammadeh.. at least that’s what i think it says… dedication of book includes a Marwan her nephew. The author’s married name is Hamadeh or Hammadeh. soo…

from the estate library of former US Ambassador and Special Envoy to the Middle East Philip C. Habib.

about the 1982 invasion of Israel into Lebanon.

actually i just noticed a few places of underlining with check marks. references in text to Mr. Habib. wow.

Surviving the Siege of Beirut was written by Lina Mikdadi Tabbara – I’m not sure where the Hamadeh connection comes in. But – wow indeed, if this is the same Marwan Hamadeh who currently maintains such a stranglehold on Lebanon’s telecommunications sector.

Happy bidding 😀

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Posted in books, Israel, Lebanon, politics | 4 Comments »

life with a jelly rat

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 28, 2007

After a big family lunch yesterday we roamed like unruly sheep through the Edmonds downtown. My mother picked up a top in my aunt Sparkle’s favorite store (Sparkle herself left with some sparkle-y denim), and we headed on to the old-school vintage-style candy shop, where I picked up … something.

“Hey Little D,” my sister Sporty D called from the back of the shop, laughing. “Come over here – I have something for you.”

Did she ever. I may have left my own real-life rat behind in Beirut, but I now have a jelly-bean rat to … err … enjoy. Here it is:

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Its somehow a bit cuter than my rat (being smaller, edible, and non-moving helps) and, according to the package, will provide me with a full day’s worth of vitamin C. Sahtein, me :).

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Posted in Beirut, food, home, humor, photography | Leave a Comment »

Beirut before the war

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 26, 2007

Thanks to some recent idle Google searches I discovered a fascinating collection of photographs taken in Lebanon in 1965. Charles Cushman bequeathed his photography collection to Indiana University, his alma mater, upon his death in 1972; the university has added his photographs to its digital archives, accessible online as the Charles W. Cushman Photography Collection.

While the captions make me a bit uncomfortable (Cushman refers to the Lebanese who appear in his street scenes as “natives” and “Arabs”), the photographs are stunning – a fascinating record of Beirut before the war.

I had no idea, for example, that traffic used to run through Parliament Square:

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Nor did I realize that so much of what I think of as Beirut’s post-war faded grandeur – the cracking facades, the dirty stones, etc. – was part of pre-war Beirut as well. (Of course, the bullet and mortar holes are definitely post-war.)

The collection is well worth a perusal. There are 90 photographs from Beirut and its environs, and another 40 from Baalbek, Jbeil and around.

Posted in art, Beirut, Lebanon, photography, time, tourism | 1 Comment »

timely warnings ii

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 24, 2007

If its late August, it must be time to think about the upcoming (Sept 25) presidential ‘election’. For popular second-country citizenship choices like Canada and Australia, this means that it is time to remind Lebanese dual citizens of the need to register with their local embassies for help during what the Canadian embassy so delicately terms “emergency situations”:

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I’m not holding my breath in hopes that the American embassy will publish a similar notice, but seeing the new crop of registration does make me a bit nervous.

It reminds me of the cabin announcements that pilots sometimes make during long-haul flights – one of which I heard earlier this week.

Folks, we’re going to encounter some chop in about ten minutes, they usually say. If you need to get up for any reason, now is a good time to do so.

I’m in the states for the next few weeks, and seeing these notices makes me wonder whether there won’t be a similar amount of “chop” on the ground when I return.

Posted in Canada, Canadians, citizenship, Lebanon | 1 Comment »

are you conditioned?

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 22, 2007

Like most of Lebanon, the office where I work has been subject to increasing power cuts this summer. When the power goes off, the generator goes on – which sounds like a good thing.

And it is, except that the generator runs everything except the air conditioning. So when the power goes out, all the “work” elements continue – lights, computers, internet – while the machine that makes working in 90+ degree heat feasible stops.

When the power goes off, the work slowly slows as the heat seeps in, and my online status changes to “missing the mukayif”.

Mukayif is the Arabic word for air conditioning – or so I thought.

What does ‘mukayif’ mean? one of my colleagues asked.

When I explained, he said: Oh. In Lebanon we just say “air conditioning”. Doesn’t ‘mukayif’ mean comfortable?

I had no idea, but I knew how to use my dictionary! As it turns out, neither ‘mukayif’ nor ‘air conditioning’ are the proper Arabic term. ‘Mukayif’ is short for ‘mukayif al-hawa2’: conditioning the air.

The literal translation made me wonder why we call it “air conditioning” in the first place. After all, when its hot outside, we want COOLED air, not conditioned air.

The Online Etymology Dictionary tells me: Air-conditioning first attested 1909, originally an industrial process; main modern use in residences and office buildings is from 1930s.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that air conditioning is: The process of cleaning air and controlling its temperature and humidity before it enters a room, building, etc., and in certain manufacturing processes. Hence air-condition v. trans.; air-conditioned ppl. a.; air-conditioner, an apparatus for conditioning the air (of a room or building).

It lists the following references as early instances in which the term was used:

1909 S. W. CRAMER Useful Information for Cotton Mfrs. (ed. 2) IV. 1395, I finally hit upon the compound word ‘Air Conditioning’..suggested by the use of the term ‘conditioning’ in the treatment of yarn and cloth. Ibid. 1411 Well-known ‘Air Conditioners’ of both individual and central station types.

1930 Engineering 11 July 34/2 Air-conditioning is dealt with fully, with the methods for washing, cleaning, humidifying, cooling and drying the air.

1930 Discovery Sept. 317/2 Tobacco leaf..is extraordinarily sensitive to changes of atmospheric humidity, and this has led in recent years to much development in the matter of air-conditioning.

Fascinating. I had never thought about the fact that “air conditioning” as a term refers to more than simple cooling.

Posted in Arabic, research, words | 4 Comments »

life with an un-dead rat

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 19, 2007

It turns out that I was a bit optimistic (or delusional) in taking the rat-shaped lump on my rocking chair for an actual dead rat.

I’m too embarrassed to admit what the “rat” turned out to be, but suffice it to say that I had been wondering where some of my freshly laundered undergarments had gone.

Meanwhile the rat wars continue. I’ve barricaded my closet door shut with a chair, and judging by the pile of gnawed-door shavings spilling out from the closet onto my floor, the rat is not pleased.

That’s all right though – neither am I.

Posted in animals, home | 1 Comment »

life with a dead rat

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 18, 2007

My quality of life took a steep nosedive a little after midnight on Thursday/Friday night, when I woke to the unpleasant sounds of a rat skittering around my bedroom.

I chased him out of my bedroom and into the kitchen, and spent a largely sleepless night jumping at every potential rat sound. Its amazing how many noises sound like “rat” to an anxious mind.

I called my apartment manager at the earliest decent hour on Friday (7:30 is decent, isn’t it?) and he promised to put “medicine” out for the rat after I left for work.

Medicine, poison, whatever. I don’t need the euphemism – I just need it to work.

Curiously enough, I was hoping to come home yesterday to find a dead rat sprawled on my kitchen floor (its the easiest to clean). No such luck – although I did appreciate how many cardboard plates of “medicine” had been laid out for my unwanted guest.

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The “medicine” isn’t poison, exactly – its “rat glue”.

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My understanding is that the rat is supposed to get stuck in the glue – which makes the dead-rat cleanup easier than poison baits. A poisoned rat is just as likely to die in its hiding spot as out in the open, leaving one with the unpleasant “sniff test” to determine where its body lies. This would make a bit more sense if the rat were smaller, as the pieces of cardboard are smaller than the rat I saw, but … oh well. I’m no expert.

Last night before going to bed I closed off the kitchen door, the salon doors and the door to my bedroom (which I then “sealed” with a rug – I didn’t want a repeat of last night). This morning when I woke, it was easy to tell which room the rat had taken for its own – droppings littered the floor, table and bookshelves of my salon (how much had he eaten yesterday? I wondered), and he had gnawed at the underside of one door in an effort to escape. Two glue traps were disturbed – as was I.

I cleaned up the droppings in what was admittedly rather dim light (the power went off early today, thanks to a blown fuse), closed and barricaded the doors to the closet that I think serves/ed as his home, and headed off to the gym.

When I came back, the power was officially off (another reason for the quality of life decay …). I sat at my table in the salon, having breakfast and backing up my computer files, working contentedly and not a little smugly at having dealt so well with the rat issue.

Content and smug, that is, until I looked over at my rocking chair. My cleaning lady had come yesterday and had draped my favorite sweater flat across the seat of the chair. Now, I realized queasily, it was not so flat.

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Yes, that’s right. Like the cockroaches of early summer, the rat appears to have decided to leave this earth in my presence, using my favorite sweater as its shroud.

I say apparently because despite my usually sanguine approach to animals, dead animals and gross issues generally, I cannot bring myself to remove the body. I’m waiting for the concierge to return from his morning errands and counting the minutes until he does.

And meanwhile yes, I am not only living but also working in the presence of a dead rat.

Posted in animals, art | 3 Comments »

in another lebanon …

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 16, 2007

… people read headlines like this one:

Roller coasters, funnel cakes and pig races in Lebanon

As an avid if sometimes bemused Iowa State Fair-goer, I fully support bringing more fair culture to this country. Its already a carnival – why not try for something a bit more wholesome?

Posted in animals, Lebanon, prosciutto, words | Leave a Comment »

there at our homing: the eve of the day

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 14, 2007

I love the early evening – I love the “day is done” feeling – and I love the early evening in Lebanon because the light is so wonderful. The late-day sun catches the warm yellows of the traditionally painted buildings and makes ordinary reality appear warmer, brighter, better than it does under the hard noon-day sun.

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(I increased the contrast 46% on this photograph, and decreased the brightness by 4%, but the color changes only heighten the mood, rather than altering it.)

Today the end-of-day feeling has an even sweeter flavor. Tomorrow is a holiday – Eid al-Saydet, the Feast of the Assumption, a Catholic holiday that celebrates Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven.

For me, Assumption is a particularly special holiday, as it brings back fond memories of a Sunday afternoon I spent with Owlfish, grading the final exams of Abu Owlfish’s Art History 101 students. A painting of the Assumption was among the IDs, which one good-humored if poorly prepared student identified as “Mary’s getting carted off to heaven”. I doubt the Maronites here would be as amused as we were.

Posted in Beirut, holidays, photography, time | 3 Comments »

red, red w(h)ine

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 14, 2007

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To most Lebanese bartenders, I look like a white wine drinker.

This would be infinitely more appealing if I were a white wine drinker. Instead, I prefer red, which creates all kinds of confusion when ordering.

Last night, for example, I went out with some friends for drinks in Gemmayze. When the waiter arrived, I said: a glass of red wine, please.

White wine? he asked.

Red wine, please, I replied.

White wine? he asked, again.

No, I said. Red wine.

Of course, he said, returning a few minutes later with a glass of rose.

Sigh.

For a while, I thought the problem lay in my pronunciation – particularly since I often ordered in Arabic. Maybe my “nabid a7mar” and “nabid abyad” somehow sounded similar.

So I switched to French – vin rouge vs. vin blanc, with no success. Obviously, it wasn’t the language – the problem is me.

I used to find the glasses of white wine that magically appear in front of me annoying, but I’ve learned better. Now I just smile and tell my friends: watch. Its like my own little magic trick.

Posted in Arabic, Beirut, French, nightlife | 2 Comments »