A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

more firsts: Hariri in Time magazine

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 18, 2009

I’d like to say that Rafiq Hariri’s first appearance in Time magazine was just as much a non-sequitur as his first appearance in the New York Times. But it wasn’t. In fact, Hariri’s first appearance in Time heralds many later associations: construction wealth, civic generosity, an interest in ridding the streets of garbage, and a focus on Beirut’s downtown.

Hariri was first introduced to Time readers in a November 8, 1982 piece called “Coming Back to Life“, which is excerpted below:

Beirut rebuilds, but old wounds are slow to heal.

The flower shops are open again, with their carnations and birds of paradise spilling out of the open stalls and onto the sidewalks. Fruit and vegetables are once more being hawked on nearly every street corner, and coffee wagons have again sprouted their gaily colored umbrellas along the avenues. The sound of a car backfiring is likely to be exactly that and not the blast of gunfire. And early every morning, joggers of every description—Lebanese and foreigners, students and businessmen, paratroopers and housewives—swarm along the Avenue de Paris, popularly known as the Corniche.

Beirut, slowly, is coming back to life. It is a remarkable feat, considering what the city has endured. For most of the summer Beirut was a bloody battleground for Israeli troops and Palestinian guerrillas …

Nonetheless, recovery has begun. Aside from the gradual revival of commercial life, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in the shattered western section. Every day dozens of bulldozers clear away rubble, and convoys of trucks cart off debris. Shell craters have been filled, sidewalks repaired. The result: West Beirut is cleaner than at any time since the beginning of the civil war in 1975. The Corniche Mazraa, site of some of the war’s heaviest shelling and once littered with broken masonry, is well groomed, and the four-lane high way to the airport has been repaved.

Most of the credit for the cleanup operation belongs to Rafiq Bahaeddine al Hariri, a wealthy Lebanese businessman from Sidon. Owner of a construction firm called Oger, which has headquarters in Paris, Hariri has donated the services of hundreds of workers and a small army of equipment, including 40 bulldozers, 60 trucks, ten garbage trucks, five excavators and a pair of cranes, each able to hoist up to 40 tons. The estimated tab so far: $7.5 million, all of it paid by Hariri.

The siege has also created a chance to rebuild the old city center, which was reduced to rubble during the 1975-76 civil war. By cleaning up this section, Hariri hopes to bring life back to a no man’s land that most people in Beirut did not dare visit for seven years.

(The inflation calculator at http://www.dollartimes.com tells me that $7.5 million in 1982 dollars would be worth $16.77 million today.)

1982 was a very rough year for Beirut and its inhabitants. I’m tempted to say that I wonder how grateful the (Amin) Gemayel government was for this in-kind donation, but I’m not sure that one can wonder when one thinks she can already guess at the answer.


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