A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

cedars, Litani canal, and bunnies: still more old Lebanese stamps

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 6, 2008

After my first round of posts on old Lebanese stamps, Faylasoof kindly offered to share photos of some of the stamps that his father had collected as a high school and college student. They are beautiful – and there are tons of them! (And according to Faylasoof, this is just the tip of the stamp iceberg: apparently his father amassed a tremendous number of regional stamps in his collection.)

Here is a sampling of the first set of stamps that Faylasoof so kindly scanned in and sent to me. I’ve split the jpg into quarters, and am including two in this post.

Here’s the first quarter. Look at the first four stamps on the top left: they show three different treatments of the cedar tree. The middle two show the most naturalistic cedar, while the purple one at the far left is the most stylized. My favorite is the blue: the stylization helps me read the tree more clearly, while the natural setting anchors it in Lebanese soil.

If you look down further, to the next row, you’ll see another purple stamp showing an arched bridge – or acqueduct. The text is a bit small, but it reads: “Litani irrigation canal” (in French). The building of the Litani canal was a major undertaking in Lebanon, and not an entirely happy one. Intended to help modernize the south, it involved extensive US aid (and oversight), and became a highly politicized, highly Big Dig-style enterprise, with slow progress and kickbacks for all. But the stamp looks nice:

As for the stamps on the bottom row above, let me address the center one first. With its hard lines and grey and blue palate, it looks to me like it should be promoting nuclear energy, space exploration or heavy industrialization. But no: it celebrates 1967 as the “International Year of Tourism” (in French).

And the two animal stamps that flank it just make me laugh. They are so, so different from all the other Lebanese stamps I have seen. When I look at them, all I can imagine is that perhaps someone in charge of stamp designs had small children who loved animals; or perhaps someone’s cousin was a budding artist; or perhaps they simply had run out of other ideas. They aren’t bad stamps, but they are very different in theme and design from all the others.

Below is the next quarter view of the sheet of stamps that Faylasoof sent. The top left two stamps really appeal to me: I like the linearity of the imagery and the active positions of the house builders. And I get a kick out of the two supervisors, in their overcoats-that-look-like-lab-coats, ushering in the modern era of building with engineering plans rather than intuitive know-how. But I don’t understand the Arabic text, which reads: “ighatha wa taameer”. I know these words as “relief” and “longevity”. Are they supposed to indicate that building via architectural and engineering plans results in longer-lasting houses that provide greater relief to their inhabitants? Or is there some better translation that I am missing?

The stamp on the top right, of course, shows Beirut’s famous Pigeon Rocks.It also uses a particularly beautiful calligraphic treatment of “Lebanon” (the two squiggles at the stamp’s top right, for those of you who do not read Arabic). This same treatment is still used today by the country’s Ministry of Tourism.

The bottom row shows the third stamp in the “barnyard animals” series, as well as another iteration of the Litani canal.

Thank you, Faylasoof – I’ve greatly enjoyed looking at each of these stamps!

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