A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

Archive for the ‘Seattle’ Category

citizenship scenes from Seattle

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 22, 2009

While on our way to meet H and M for a Saturday lunch downtown last weekend, my parents and I came across a sizable pro-peace, pro-Gazan demonstration in Seattle’s Westlake Plaza:


The protesters included a broad mixture of people – many young adults, but also children and older folk. Most looked like normal Seattle-ites (sensible, quasi-hiking shoes; water-resistant parkas; warm hats) rather than ‘professional protesters’, which made me happy. Peace and justice should not be causes that only society’s fringe members take up.

A close-up of some of the signs, with the caveat that although this photo makes the protest appear largely male, it was actually quite mixed:


I didn’t take a photograph of the policemen and women assigned to this protest, but there were approximately ten of them. They were behind me, on the Westlake Mall side of the plaza, relaxed and chatting with one another as they stood near their bicycles. (Yes: Seattle police get around on city-friendly mountain bicycles.)

All in all, it was a mellow, peaceful protest; one clearly welcomed by many passersby and very much in keeping with the city’s pro-justice vibe.


Posted in Americans, Palestine, photography, politics, Seattle | Leave a Comment »

Hi, you; Intah, hiyak: Seattle ferry names

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 19, 2009

Warning: This won’t be funny unless you speak both Arabic and English, and are a bit goofy besides.

Last night we decided to take a post-dinner ferry ride from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and back, so we could enjoy seeing how beautiful the city skyline is at night. Thanks to our unusually efficient planning (and the fact that there was no competition for waterfront parking), we arrived at the Seattle ferry terminal with many minutes to spare – some of which we put to good use reading the “historical timeline” that runs up and down the length of the entrance.

This timeline entry, listing the ferries that were built in the 1960s, made me laugh and laugh:


The first two ferries sound like the start of a conversation in Lebanon: English greetings, but with an Arabic touch.

Hi, you! One person might start.

Intah, hi-ak, the other might respond. The “ak” is the “you” – just like “kifak?” means “how are you”, with “kif” meaning “how”, “ak” meaning “you”, and the “are” implied within the structure of the language.

So: Seattle’s swinging 60’s ferries were way ahead of the linguistic curve :). Who knew?

Posted in Arabic, family, Lebanon, sea, Seattle, time, tourism, words | 1 Comment »

Seattle sparkles

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 19, 2009

Seattle was beautiful today – utterly beautiful. I have more to post from this weekend, including shots of a very nice pro-Gaza protest we ran across yesterday – but for now, a shot of the harbor water catching the sunlight this morning:


Taken on the waterfront walkway across from the lower level of the Sculpture Park, which we wandered through this morning as the sun was just beginning to dry off the nighttime damp.

Posted in family, photography, sea, Seattle, weather | Leave a Comment »

Beirut mysteries: the Space Needle in Saifi

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 14, 2008

One of the joys of living abroad is finding bits of home where you least expect them.

For me, the latest bit of joy came last Friday evening, as we searched for a parking space near 961, the Gemmayze bar du jour for beer-loving expats.

On the corner of a fairly ungentrified side street was a Moeller Electric franchise with a curiously familiar sight decorating its metal shutter:


I recognize the Space Needle, and I love seeing it, but … I can’t understand why its there. Was Moeller originally a Seattle-based company? I can’t find anything special about Seattle on the company’s website. What am I missing?

Posted in advertising, Beirut, Seattle | 1 Comment »

Merry Christmas from the land of 24-hour power

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 26, 2007

I have been off the blogging grid for the past few days, ever since arriving back in Seattle for the holidays. The delights of uninterrupted power and drinking water have been too distracting – I just walk around open-mouthed at all the lights I can turn on, the heating that remains constant, the fact that I can drink from any tap in the house. Woo-hoo 🙂

And in my spare time, I have had some fun (and some funny) adventures. Last Saturday I went on a walking tour of Seattle’s Art Deco architecture with J, a friend from college days. We both waxed a bit New York-nostalgic when the tour guide compared the Seattle Tower to its design “cousin”, the Empire State Building. And we both wished that Seattle wasn’t quite so rainy that day, since unlike the actual tourists on the tour, neither of us had brought an umbrella.

On Sunday night, we had dinner with the H’s at Flying Fish, a seafood (obviously …) restaurant in Belltown. My tuna was delicious, but some of the dishes were for more adventurous fish eaters, like ono and monkfish (“like mackerel but less oily”, explained the server). M soldiered bravely through an adult plate of steamed clam pasta (“I didn’t eat one piece of seaweed”, M announced proudly at the end, ignoring the fact that prying clams from their shells would have turned off most children of the same age) while my sister recounted the saga of our arrival.

Upon reaching Seattle’s downtown, we were rear-ended by a Lincoln Navigator whose driver turned a deaf ear to my father’s “please stop reversing so you don’t hit us” honking. After exchanging insurance information and business cards, we drove off.

Can you believe he’s from Iowa? my sister, who had gotten out to take photos of our fender (and type the information on her Q Phone, since none of us had a pen). The driver’s parents live in a town near my parents’ suburb, surprising him so much that he dropped my father’s business card. Its not all that often that two Iowans have a car accident in downtown Seattle.

What surprised us was the fact that my brother-in-law knew his name.

Are you serious? he asked. He’s a sports star.

So, there you have it: Merry Christmas from the land of functional government, 24-hour power, and white athletes from Iowa. Its snowing here – big beautiful flakes dripping down from the sky – and I’ve just been asked to bring in more Riesling. Happy holidays to you all, and see you back in Beirut for New Year’s Eve!

Posted in Beirut, family, holidays, Seattle | 2 Comments »


Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 18, 2007

Yesterday marked the end of a project I’ve been working on for a very long time.


Posted in academia, family, media, photography, radio, research, Seattle, time, words | 2 Comments »

a day at the beach

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 29, 2007

In the past few days at least three people have asked me how often I go to the beaches here.

The truth is that I don’t go very often. The beaches that I love look like this:


(thanks to my mother for taking such a lovely photo last week, while the rest of us were lounging around in the sun).

Outfitting oneself for this beach requires only a pair of shorts (or a summer skirt), a pair of flip-flops, a beach blanket, a bottle of water and a good book.

A typical beach in Lebanon looks like this:


This beach is in Jiyyeh, south of Beirut. The one I’ve gone to more often is Edde Sands, which comes with its own map.

Outfitting oneself for this beach requires something more: a style-y bikini (which I own), designer sunglasses, a car to be valet’ed, and appropriate footwear:


Okay – I have the footwear too, but I don’t usually wear shoes like that to the beach.

I have no objection to Lebanese-style beachgoing, but … I’m lazy. I like my beaches to be as low-maintenance as they can be.

Posted in Americans, Beirut, clothing, fashion, holidays, Lebanon, maps, photography, sea, Seattle, swimming, time, weather | Leave a Comment »

no tea in paradise: Starbucks in Beirut

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 12, 2007




I love Starbucks. I know, I know: its a corporate monster sucking the lifeblood out of local American business and homogenizing the country.

But before Starbucks was corporate, it was a Seattle institution, part and parcel of the city’s shift towards a coffee culture.

In my mind, Starbucks is connected with the mysterious changes in Seattle habits that seemed to proliferate with every visit: drive-through coffee shops, espresso at the local lube shop, etc. I remember my cousin S gleefully bringing me an espresso chocolate bar one year, and laughing with her at the thought of how in Seattle even the chocolate was caffeinated.

I also remember my aunt A and uncle T appearing with tall white to-go cups one morning at the beach cabins in Oregon where we used to go for family reunions. Where had they been? What were they drinking? Lattes, they told us. So this was urban culture, my sister and I realized. Gourmet coffee to go – excellent!

We waited and waited for Iowa to catch on to the gourmet coffeeshop craze – and it did, kind of. We had local artsier-than-thou places like Java Joe’s and more boutique outfits like Friedrich’s World Coffees and Zanzibar. What we didn’t have, despite the 1990s and early 2000s coffee explosion, was a Starbucks.

This was quite a sticking point, especially after my first trip to Beirut, in July 2002.

Even LEBANON has a Starbucks, I would complain on visits home to my parents. It had a CIVIL WAR. It has MILITIAS. There are MEN WITH GUNS and CHECKPOINTS and you can withdraw DOLLARS from the ATMS because people have so little faith in the local currency. Yet the country STILL has a Starbucks before IOWA.

The Starbucks gods must have been listening to my whining, because that winter, Iowa’s first Starbucks opened in the renovated Masonic temple in downtown Des Moines. Yes, the Masonic temple – but please, no Freemason/gourmet coffee conspiracies.

I should note here that I don’t even like coffee. I like the smell and I do love chocolate covered espresso beans, but I only drink coffee when its been tarted up into something totally other than a simple morning drink – like a cafe mocha with caramel, for example.

What I like about Starbucks and all the other gourmet coffee emporiums is that they also offer a fine selection of teas. This offered a great improvement over nearly every other restaurant and cafe in central Iowa, whose tea selection usually consisted of

1) Lipton

2) camomile

Ugh. To me, Lipton tastes burnt; and … camomile? Only as a rinse to lighten my hair. What I love is a good rich English breakfast tea, with milk and sugar.

Starbucks sells Tazo teas, whose black tea is sold as “Awake” in the US and as “English breakfast” overseas.



Something must be wrong with the Starbucks franchise here, though.

Last weekend I went to two Starbucks – in Hamra and in Raouche.

In both places, the experience was … just like going to a cafe in Des Moines, circa 1990.

We have Refresh, the servers told me. Refresh is Tazo’s camomile tea.

What happened to your other six flavors? I asked.

The server in Hamra shrugged his shoulders and said, I don’t know.

The server in Raouche looked down at his cash register and began cleaning the buttons.

Tea fiend that I am, I actually had a teabag with me in Hamra – I stash St. Dalfour’s organic English breakfast in my handbag to drink at work. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised: me, at Starbucks’ lack of tea, or the server’s, at my have-tea-will-travel preparedness.

Sadly, I changed handbags (different outfit!) when I went to Raouche, and had to content myself with an anemic “iced coffee”, made the traditional-but-not-Starbucks way: one espresso, two glasses of water and a few forlorn ice cubes.

I hope the Starbucks concessionnaire sorts out his tea-ordering troubles soon, as “Beirut – just like Des Moines 15 years ago” isn’t the ideal slogan for this city.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Beirut, childhood, economics, family, food, holidays, humor, Iowa, Lebanon, New York, Seattle, tourism, travel, vanity, women | 4 Comments »

more adventures in real estate: al-Qaeda in Seattle

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 2, 2007

It looks like The Onion has some competition in the humorous news field:

Al-Qaeda to open branches in Pakistan, Bahrain, Seattle

KABUL, Afghanistan (CAP) – Senior leaders of al Qaeda have announced that the terrorist group is moving forward with plans to open a number of new branches, including expansion into the untapped markets of Pakistan, Bahrain and Seattle, Wash. The news comes after a massive restructuring that saw al Qaeda’s workforce reduced by 25,000.

“The Board of Directors has voted unanimously to provide the necessary funding for 12 to 15 new branches around the world,” said al Qaeda CFO Abil MusDos al-Fraedo. “However, we are most excited about the possibilities of our new location in Seattle.”

al-Fraedo said the group hopes to move into its new digs on 1st Avenue South in Seattle by this fall. They’re currently putting a contract out to bid to perform some renovations to the property, including 45 new double-paned windows, an additional 60 spaces in the parking lot, and a terrorist obstacle course and training center behind the building.

“They were actually quite pleasant to deal with,” said Seattle Zoning Board member Chad Barker. “They got their paperwork in on time, showed up at the hearings – I think we had one, maybe two death threats when we denied a rezoning request, but eventually they were understanding.”

While there were a few small protests when al Qaeda signed the purchase and sale, opponents of the deal were noticeably absent from the city meetings. Most city leaders remained nonplussed about the event, saying that terrorists eat and shop just like anyone else and that any money being put back into the local economy is good business.

“You know, terrorists put their bombs on one strap at a time just like the rest of us,” said City Council President Nick Licata. “While I’m not excited about having a terrorist cell right here in Seattle, legally our hands are tied. They could prove to be very good neighbors.”

al Qaeda also sought tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization, but the City Council turned that down by a vote of 6-3. A determination on the terrorist group’s request for a common victualer’s license is still pending.

I’m sending this “article” on to my sister. She’s a friendly person – perhaps she will offer to bake a batch of cookies to take to Seattle’s newest corporate neighbors :-).

Posted in al-Qaeda, Americans, explosion, family, humor, media, news, politics, Seattle | 3 Comments »

books around the world, one flight at a time (iii)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 23, 2007

Today seems like a good day to stay inside. Not to be indelicate, but when I cough or require a tissue, I see visible evidence of the morning’s air quality, though the skies outside my window remain clear and bright.

As I write, the muezzin at my neighborhood (Sunni) mosque is giving the call to prayer. He has a particularly beautiful voice, and today he has decided to add a number of vocal flourishes to the shahada (leaving the Allahu akbar a straight call). I have heard him do this before, and the effect is breath-taking.

I love this mosque anyway, because it is small but lovely, a newly built edifice next to a late Ottoman facade shot to bits by the civil war. The two share a sweetly poignant, if pointed, banner hanging in front of the latter, which says:

As we remained with the resistance during the days of the Israeli aggressions,

So we will remain with the government and its president, Fouad Siniora, during the period of the rebuilding.

The parallel structure (kama bqaina m3a al-muqawama … sanabqa m3a al-7hukuma wa ra2siha Fu2ad Saniyora) makes it even lovelier in Arabic – and, for emphasis, the words “resistance” and “Fouad Siniora” are written in red.

I will put in a photograph later, but I fear that going out with a camera now might vex the Interior Ministry’s gendarmerie.

Back to books …

After reading de Bellaigue’s In The Rose Garden of the Martyrs, I decided to continue the theme by reading another, rather different book on pre- to post- revolutionary Iran: Farah Pahlavi’s An Enduring Love: My Life With the Shah.


I know – who reads this stuff? I do – and not because it is all a bunch of fluff.

Enduring Love, like Queen Noor’s Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, was written by a smart woman. Farah’s self-control and her ability to stay “on message” are evident throughout the book – even in her unfortunate defense of SAVAK as a well-intentioned but perhaps ‘over-eager’ institution.

What interests me about books like this is how the men whose public roles defined these ‘women in black’, to borrow a phrase used here to describe Lebanon’s women in Parliament (all of whom entered politics as the wife, sister, or daughter of a dead politician) could inspire such loyalty in them.

Farah’s life was so deeply invested in the shah – whether she believed his reign was as uniformly progressive as she presents it, to challenge this view would mean challenging the value of the course of her own life, as well as the legacy she and her husband have given their children. Hence she is a very careful writer, leaving no loose ends, and no hook for anti-shah or pro-Islamic Republic readers to seize upon.

And she is a good writer. The stories she tells of her childhood are as engaging as the sad tale she tells of the shah’s last days, reviled and refused entry by country after country. In short, a perfect airplane book, if you can bear the smirks you imagine on the faces of your fellow travelers.

Posted in Americans, Arabic, Beirut, books, family, Iran, Islam, Lebanon, media, Paris, politics, religion, Seattle, travel, women | 3 Comments »