downtown at dusk
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 22, 2008
By 4 pm yesterday afternoon, I had the impression that everyone and his brother was planning to head to Beirut’s decamping downtown as soon as they finished work. So when Charles Malik asked if H and I wanted to meet in Sahat al-Nejmeh for a coffee, I suggested that he make a reservation.
H was hungry, so instead we decided to have an early dinner in Gemmayze and save the downtown tour for dessert. (Even if the restaurants bring in fresh food, they haven’t served a full house of diners in 17 months, H said. I don’t think I can deal with that kind of chaos – I’m too hungry.) We picked CM up around 7:30 and headed east.
Traffic was light and moving normally on our side, but people heading west-bound had turned the right-hand two lanes into a Bliss Street-like illegal parking zone.
Um, do you mind if we loop around and stop to see the view from the bridge? H asked, hunger magically replaced by curiosity. Did we mind? I was cheering!
H chatted up a soldier stationed (in the loose sense of the term) on the bridge. CM took notes (this, coupled with the fact that he was dressed in a sport coat, made the teenage boys around us lean in. Clearly they thought that CM was Someone Important!). And I took pictures:
We stayed on the bridge for ten minutes or so – long enough to watch one de-camper take down the Tayyar flag that had hung from the odd-looking (modern art?) collection of rectangles. I held my breath while it was taken down – it seemed like one of those this-could-be-dangerous moments, had some partisan for either side decided to start cheering. But the people on the bridge and those on the streets below were both quiet and respectful.
After dinner we returned – this time to walk up Riyadh al-Solh and down through Maarad Street to Parliament Square. It was much fuller than at any time last year when I worked downtown – but there were many cafes still closed or half empty. I doubt we would have needed a reservation :).
I took a few photographs, which I will spare you as they all turned out to be variations on the theme of “dark and not interesting”. I think it will take a few days before all the shops and restaurants are open and running again – some must have closed up almost immediately after the sit-in began, like this Bisou store:
One of my colleagues said this morning that a big concert/re-opening is in the works for next week. If so, I hope its celebratory and not vindictive. I worked in downtown until last fall, and I would happily have gone shopping or to dinner had there been shops and restaurants open. It wasn’t a scary space during the sit-in – it was just a space empty of scared people.