A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

Archive for the ‘umbrellas’ Category

freedom from (or is that to …?) want

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 8, 2008

Did you post about the Independence Day parade? my father asked me on Sunday morning.

Yes, I told him. Twice.

And did you include the photos of the tchotchkes? he asked excitedly.

I didn’t! I got so caught up in the Revolutionary War bits and the Shriners’ Syrian connection that I totally forgot about one of the major major highlights of the parade: the display of American consumerism 🙂 !

Just before the actual parade began, an unofficial mini-parade rolled down the street: a parade of street vendors, selling balloons, stuffed animals and other amusement park-type goods. Their “floats” weren’t the traditional back-of-a-flatbed-truck; instead, they used grocery carts. (If you’ve ever wondered what happens to those orphan grocery carts that linger overnight in supermarket parking lots, now you know :).)

The vendors were mostly young, probably high school or college students home on break. They probably had to be young, or at least strong: each cart had become a movable feast, piled high with toys to tempt young parade-goers, and it looked like the vendors were working hard as they pulled their carts along the street:

We counted at least four over-stuffed carts, as well as one that was almost bare. Either that vendor was an incredibly persuasive seller, or he hadn’t stocked up before the parade.

In any case, the vendors found no success with our group (although my grandmother would have looked lovely under that pink parasol!). But a little further down the road, they found a cluster of eager young buyers – an extended family, each of whom ended with a new treasure for Independence Day:

(For those of you who are curious about the title of this post: President Franklin Roosevelt listed “freedom from want” as one of the “four freedoms” that he believed each person – in the US and the world beyond – should enjoy.

The four freedoms were celebrated in paintings done by Norman Rockwell during World War II. He represented freedom from want as a large roast turkey served at Thanksgiving dinner:

Source: the Norman Rockwell Museum in Vermont.

Of course, the freedom to want is something else entirely :).)


Posted in Americans, holidays, politics, umbrellas, words | 2 Comments »

Lunch with love and protesters: Valentine’s Day in Saifi

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 16, 2008

Like many people in Lebanon, I had Thursday off, thanks to Prime Minister Siniora’s declaration that February 14 would be a national holiday in honor of Rafik Hariri.

I didn’t mind – it would have been difficult to get much done on Thursday anyway, with half the country staying home for fear of roadblocks and political tension, and the other half turning out in force either to the March 14 rally downtown or to Imad Mughniyeh’s funeral in Dahiyeh.

With two dueling politicized commemorations scheduled, not to mention Valentine’s Day, Thursday was the perfect day for a holiday – and a luncheon.

M & M live in Saifi, just below Gemmayze and a few blocks from Martyrs’ Square, where the March 14 rally was being held. None of us is ardently March 14, especially on a rainy winter day – but we all do like to eat, and we all love to keep up with current events. So when M invited H & I for lunch, we happily accepted.

Outside the downtown area, the city was largely deserted. I took this photograph of Hamra at 9:30, when the street is usually packed with honking cars & trucks:


Ghost town.

We left for the M’s early, before noon, assuming that it might take us ages to reach their neighborhood. But we had almost free rein over the roads – at least, over roads like Basta, which were far from the scene of either side’s gathering, and heavily policed by army patrols.

In fact, the only trouble we encountered was the usual kind: parking trouble in Saifi/Gemmayze. Pasteur Street was blocked to non-neighborhood cars, and most street parking was taken by Ouwwet and Kataeb supporters who had come for the rally. Luckily, I had worn “walking” heels, and H had brought an umbrella – so we were well-prepared, by New York standards at least, for the long walk to M’s.

What amazed us were the number of people leaving – it was 12:30, and the rally was only half over, but the cold and rain were clearly sending some people off in search of warmth and dry clothing.

People leaving the rally on the near side of the divided road; people going to the rally on the far side:


For us, the afternoon was all about warmth and dry clothing – not to mention good food. M had made a thick vegetable soup, followed by mjaddara with raita for me, and beef lasagne with salad for the normal (i.e., meat-eating) guests.

As we ate, we listened to the speeches and tried to discern who was speaking and what was being said. Since we heard both the rally’s loudspeakers and the Kataeb headquarter’s rebroadcasting, it was mostly a wash.

I think he just said “Hariri”, J said at one point. J’s Arabic is limited to “hello”, “thank you” and “all of it”, for when he goes to the barbershop for a head shave – but given the day and the occasion, “Hariri” was a good guess. (And when we needed confirmation, H would check with the television in the living room, where all the news channels were broadcasting the rally.)

Looking towards the northern edge of Martyrs’ Square from M’s mezzanine terrace:


Looking towards the upper center of Martyrs’ Square (the white tent covers Hariri’s grave):


Looking down at Pasteur Street and the lower end of the Kataeb building:


Looking across the way to the next building, whose rooftop had been rented by France 24, according to H:


The square emptied quickly once the rally ended – by the time we left the M’s, the neighborhood was as empty as Hamra had been that morning. But as we spooned up the chocolate mousse-cum-praline that M had made, round after round of machine gun fire reminded us that quiet is a relative term.

Does someone in Gemmayze love Nasrallah, who was just finishing his eulogy/call to war? We couldn’t figure it out. And what I can’t figure out is how five utterly sane people can hear sustained machine-gun fire and consider it so normal 😐 .

Posted in Beirut, food, French, friends, Lebanon, media, neighbors, photography, politics, rain, television, time, traffic, umbrellas, vanity, weather | 2 Comments »

Sunday in the mountains with St. Charbel

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 26, 2007

Yesterday was still rainy – a cold pelting rain accompanied by biting winds. It would have been a good stay-at-home-and-drink-tea day, but I was invited to join some friends on a trip to Deir Mar Charbel, St. Charbel’s monastery up in Annaya, in the Lebanon mountains.

Once we began climbing up into the mountains, a thick fog joined the rain and wind. It was difficult to see much beyond the car, but happily I am a serene passenger, oblivious to hairpin turns, skidding tires, and dangerously deep puddles. For me the weather only made the monastery and the saint’s hermitage all the more magical.

The rain was coming down too hard for me to stand outside and take photographs of the buildings themselves (even with one of my new and very much appreciated umbrellas!), but I did take a few photographs from various overhangs.



These two above were taken through the iron slats of an open passageway at the hermitage.


This photo I took near the monastery proper – its a guesthouse, or restaurant, or something. The building is nice, but what really struck me were the trees.



Another view near the monastery.


and a misty view into the mountains …

After leaving the monastery we went down to Jounieh and had lunch at a lovely seaside restaurant, where we watched the waves crash wildly into the shore.

Two of us ordered argilehs, which presented a rather unexpected political dilemma when we were given our plastic mouthpieces. My tablemate was given orange – the color of Aoun. Don’t you have other colors? she asked the argileh man. Sorry, he told her.

I was given a choice: orange or … red. I went with the latter – its not often that an American gets the chance to safely try out an affiliation with Communism!

Posted in Americans, Arabic, holidays, Lebanon, photography, religion, tourism, travel, umbrellas, weather | Leave a Comment »

rainy day happies

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 20, 2007

I am not embarrassed to admit that one of the reasons I most looked forward to this brief trip home was the umbrella shopping I intended to do.

The morning after I arrived, still jet lagged and a bit exhausted after the whirlwind Texas stop, I headed off to my favorite off-price shop.

I found one, two, three umbrellas to take back to Beirut with me. No more rainy day grumpies for me!


Posted in Americans, Beirut, Lebanon, travel, umbrellas, weather | 3 Comments »

rainy day grumpies

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 20, 2007

The beautiful sunny skies of the past week have given way to a steady, rather Seattle-like drizzle. Ordinarily, I love rain, but this morning its steady fall as I walked home from the gym made me grumpy. grumpy, and also wet, because I have no umbrella.

I lent my apartment to a friend this fall, while I was in the states. On the whole, it is just as I left it, and I am grateful – I love this little warren of white-walled rooms.

My favorite umbrella, however, seems to have been a casualty, though whether of the war or the winter rains, I’m not sure. I like to think that it made its way across the street to the park, and helped to shelter some of Sanayeh’s refugees from the summer sun.

In Seattle, people often walk heedlessly through the rain, and when I am there I like to simulate some West Coast cool by doing the same. As a New Yorker, however, I have learned to care deeply about my umbrella.

Most New Yorkers carry black, standard-issue, $5 or $10 umbrellas, whose cost and manufacture make them easily disposable when the city’s winds turn them inside out. After a rain, the city’s trash cans are littered with exploded bumbershoots, their spines sticking mournfully out of the barrel.

Inside shops and restaurants, these umbrellas are almost interchangeable. You place your umbrella in the canister just past the door when you enter, and … take an umbrella when you leave. There is no guarantee that you will take the “right” one – nor that someone leaving before you will not have already taken yours.

Not being a fan of either disposable umbrellas or Manhattan’s umbrella roulette, I realized that by moving beyond the city’s black parapluie palette I could purchase an umbrella that would be both, to quote Mary Poppins (another umbrella fan), “a thing of beauty and a joy forever”.

During a brief visit to New York last April, I found the umbrella of my rainy day dreams in one of my favorite off-price haunts.

Automatic opening, strong hinges and steel construction, yet light, compact, and easy to carry. The handle was a burnished gold (rendered in plastic, which softened it from the zoot suit styling my description suggests), and the umbrella itself a refined grey plum color, with a lightly contrasting geometric print. It was distinctive and elegant, and I loved it.

I carried it with me to Florida, Iowa, back to New York, and on to London before finally returning to Beirut, where I hung it on the hallway side of the door to my salon. Oh, I loved that umbrella.

Several times this fall, during particularly aggravating rains, I thought of my umbrella and missed it. In December I saw another beautiful umbrella at a Seattle department store. I was tempted, but reminded myself: save the room in your luggage for something else. You have an umbrella in Beirut already.

Its absence was one of the first things I noticed when I returned, and I emailed my friend to ask her where I could find it. Oh no! she replied. I’m so sorry – I must have lost it.

Of course I told her that it was okay – I can always buy a new one. Of course now my childish heart is whining snottily that is not okay. I have seen the umbrellas here, on the streets and in the shops. They are either of the $5 New York sort, or of the loud primary color solids or intense florals sort.

I miss my umbrella – I miss its grace, and I miss how ‘me’ I felt under it. I will buy a new one (I will have to, if the forecaster’s promise of days of rain comes true), but first I will pout.


a photo taken after a rainfall in Beirut last winter (standing on rue de France, overlooking Wadi Abou Jmeel)

Posted in Americans, Beirut, friends, Lebanon, rain, Seattle, travel, umbrellas, weather | 3 Comments »