Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 9th, 2014

Respiratory viruses (Enteroviruses): Responsible of heart diseases? 

I received a comment on my post related to community life-style

There is increasing evidence for viral infections (especially from entero-viruses) precipitating heart attacks.

Enteroviruses are respiratory viruses, which can be caught through kissing or close social contact.

The Roseto Italians lived in a traditional close-knit community with probably lower levels of contact with outsiders, and most likely with lower levels of sexual and amorous promiscuity than the average American.

This behavior may well have protected the Roseto Italians from picking up viral infections, thereby reducing their heart attack risk.

There are around 460,000 fatal heart attacks per year in the US, with 40% of these (184,000 deaths) linked to enterovirus infections (reference here: ).

So any lifestyle that can prevent the spread of enteroviruses in a community will likely result in lower rates of heart attacks.

This is not to say that good food and a supportive family network don’t play a role in reducing heart attacks as well.

But the fact is that enteroviral infections are likely the major mechanism of precipitating heart attacks.


A lost Lebanon caught on camera

When artist Ania Dabrowska started working with Diab Alkarssifi, a homeless Lebanese man in London, she made a startling discovery.

Diab was a compulsive photographer with a hoard of unseen pictures from his homeland.

See a selection of the extraordinary images in our gallery

Miss Universe 1971
Frozen in time: Miss Universe Georgina Rizk visiting Baalbek in 1977. Photograph: Diab Alkarssifi

In 1971, Georgina Rizk, a model from Beirut, was crowned Miss Universe at a glitzy pageant in Miami Beach, Florida. According to Wikipedia, “She made a memorable fashion statement by wearing a very revealing top and hot-pants.”

Six years later Rizk, who was still a much-loved celebrity in her native Lebanon, visited the historic town of Baalbek. On hand to record the visit was a local photographer who snapped Rizk, resplendent in a stylish wide-brimmed hat, belted shirt and tailored trousers, as she mixed with dignitaries, army officers and star-struck locals.

Thirty-three years later, in 2010, a Polish artist named Ania Dabrowska was working as artist-in-residence in Arlington House, a hostel for the homeless in Camden, north London. One of her sitters for a photographic portrait project she called House of Homeless was Diab Alkarssifi, a white-haired man from the Middle East.

Despite his halting English, Diab managed to convey his interest in photography and, using a camera borrowed from Dabrowska, began shooting on the streets of Camden Town. The results were accomplished.

Through their shared interest, the two forged a tentative friendship and, slowly, she began to piece together his story: how he had fled Lebanon in 1993, arriving in London with the promise of a job and the address of a relative who had settled there.

The job did not materialise and, hampered by his lack of English and the subsequent break-up of his marriage, Diab found himself adrift on the unforgiving streets of capital.

One morning, Diab turned up at the artist’s studio with two carrier bags. Dabrowska later wrote of the moment: “Tenderly wrapped negatives and stacks of old prints tied into bundles were like a giant puzzle waiting to be re-ordered. Everything was covered with a patina of scratches, dust, fingerprints, stains, inscriptions and stamps. The wraps were torn from newspapers with no regard for the content of their pages. They were covered with notes of dates, names and places, promising a sense of historical orientation in time that was opening up. The studio filled with smells of faint cologne, musk, old paper and celluloid.

Some of the contents of the bags had come to London with Diab in 1993. The rest – around 5,000 photographs and negatives – had been brought back to Britain in a bulging suitcase by his wife, who had visited Lebanon just a few months earlier.

Among the prints Dabrowska spread out on her studio floor were photographs from Beirut of weddings, funerals, birthday parties, picnics, children attending school, men going on shooting trips into the mountains, women working at home and relaxing together in their walled gardens as well as dignitaries and celebrities who had visited the historic town of Baalbek to view its many Roman ruins.

The images comprised just a fraction of the estimated 27,000 photographs that Diab Alkarssifi, the man who had photographed Miss Universe in his hometown of Baalbek 30 years before, claimed to have in his collection. The rest, he told Dabrowska, were stored in a room in his parents’ house in Lebanon.

“As an artist, you hear stories about the discovery of lost archives, but you never think it will happen to you,” says Dabrowska, “Then, this huge trove of lost treasure just turns up at my studio and, even more surprising, it is brought there by the man who created it.

From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, Diab Alkarssifi was an obsessive visual chronicler of the everyday as well as a photojournalist for a Lebanese Communist newspaper. His photographs comprise a social history of ordinary life in Lebanon during that time. But his collection also contains family albums – his own and those given to him by friends and neighbours – as well as formal portraits taken by various commercial

photographic studios in Lebanon, passport photographs and anonymous snapshots. Some of the earliest images in his archive date back to 1898.

The local people, who knew me as the photographer, would give me their photographs to keep for them in case they went missing in the chaos of the civil war in Lebanon,” Diab explains, when I meet him in a café in Camden alongside Dabrowska and his daughter, Saleima, who translates when Diab’s faltering English suddenly swerves into Arabic.

“I was also taking photos all the time, wherever I go. It is a gift that was within me that was released when I first borrowed a camera from a local studio as a tiny little boy. Then, after a few years, my mother bought me a camera as a present and I started taking photographs of family, friends, neighbours, young people, old people, everything I see around me.”

Diab’s initial love for the camera was almost certainly connected to his childhood sense of difference; he had contracted polio which left him lame, so he found it hard to join in the games the local children played on the streets. The camera, an imported Russian model, gave him a freedom to roam and to make a reputation for himself. In early 1975, he travelled to Moscow for a course in media studies. “I was a poor man but, as a member of the local Communist Party, I was given a chance to study what I loved.” He returned after one and half years, worried about his family’s safety as the civil war escalated, and immediately began working as a photojournalist for An Nida, the newspaper of the Lebanese Communist Party.

“Wherever there was fighting, they sent me and wherever they sent me, I go,” he says proudly. “To the mountains, to the city of Beirut, into the countryside.” Now 63, Diab, with his sad eyes, wavy white hair and matching moustache, looks like a man who has seen some hard times.

He is wilfully vague about the circumstances that led to his stay in Arlington House, saying only: “I have some problem with my wife and then I am going to stay in Arlington. It is a good place.” When I ask him why he left Lebanon in 1993, though, he immediately becomes more effusive much to the amazement of Dabrowska, who, although she has known him for nearly four years now, has never heard this version of events before.

“Ah, this is a big, big story,” he begins, shaking his head. “I find out about these people who are stealing ancient artefacts to sell in Europe. They are criminals like the Mafia and, because there is big money to be made this way, the Syrian army is helping them. So, I write three or four reports and my newspaper prints them because every one of them is true. That is when I get a warning to stop writing, so I tell the truth instead on the radio station. Then even my best friend tells me: ‘Diab, you must leave now. It is best for you and for your family.’”

Diab Alkarssifi
‘I was taking photos all the time, wherever I go”: Diab Alkarssifi. Photograph: Ania Dabrowska

He shakes his head and lights up another cigarette, exhaling slowly. “I came here and I saw and learned certain things here and my mind opened up,” he says, “I know more now about my country than when I lived there.”

As Dabrowska puts it: “Diab’s story is a migrant’s story and his collection of images is a gateway into his life.”

Because he so obsessively chronicled the world around him, we are granted a unique glimpse into another Lebanon, one not just defined by conflict. “Diab was a rule breaker,” says Dabrowska.

“He photographed his mother’s funeral in great detail, when it was not allowed.” Dabrowska’s plan was to digitalise and then edit the thousands of pictures with a view to creating an artist’s book with Diab. An ongoing online project now exists, entitled Lebanese Archive of Diab Alkarssifi, in which the images are grouped under intriguing headings, like “Beirut Swimmers and Other Gentlemen of Sport (1940s-70s)”; and “May Day, May Day… Dancing, Eating, Shooting (1976)”.

Last October, Dabrowska accompanied Diab on a trip back to Lebanon to recover the rest of the photographs. She spent three days in Beirut, while he went on ahead to Baalbek. When he returned to collect her, he seemed uncharacteristically quiet, but together they set off on what turned out to be a protracted journey over the mountains, with Diab insisting they make several diversions to view historic sites. “It was so foggy and misty that I could have been in Croydon,” says Dabrowska ruefully.

In Baalbek, she met Diab’s family and friends, but he remained oddly reticent about showing her the archive. When he finally unlocked the door to the room in which he had left it in 1993, it was empty. “I was so expectant and had come so far that I was completely taken aback,” she says now, still looking pained at the memory. “There was one photograph on the floor,” says Dabrowska. “It was like I was in a Borges story: The Garden of Forking Paths.”

When I ask Diab what happened to the archive, he falls silent for a long moment and sighs. He begins speaking in Arabic, while his daughter translates. “He says that he found a few pictures and a few negatives, but nothing compared to what was there before.” she says. “Thousands have been lost as well as his historical book collection, which he loved.”

She explains that, after the family left Baalbek, her grandmother died and, as Diab puts it: “The house was not cared for as it used to be.” Does he think the archive was thrown out or stolen? He nods furiously. “Stolen. Yes, I think so.” By whom?

Another silence followed by a short burst of Arabic and a shake of the head. “He says that he has a suspect in mind,” says Saleima, “but that is just hearsay from the neighbours.” Does he hold out any hope of getting it back? “No. What is lost is lost. It is hard to bring back what is gone.”

Dabrowska has also come to accept that the bigger archive may well be lost for ever. “This is what happened to many archives in Lebanon. They were not valued until very recently.” For now, at least, the negatives and prints Diab brought to her studio are the raw material for the artist’s book that will be published next year by Book Works and The Arab Image Foundation, supported by a Kickstarter project that is currently live.

Even without the thousands of missing images, it is a richly evocative collection. “Diab came to my studio as the shadow of a man,” says Dabrowska, “with these battered prints and negatives wrapped up in old newspapers. They are evidence of his home, his exile, his family, his memories and his very complex relationship with his homeland.”

Their journey together has been and, to a degree, remains complex. One senses that it has been tricky to balance Dabrowska’s understanding of the archive as an artistic resource with Diab’s dependence on it as a lifeline to all that he has lost along the way: his hopes, dreams and ambitions as well as his home and identity. Revealingly, when Diab helped to digitally scan the images, he threw away all the newspapers and fabrics that they were wrapped in, much to Dabrowska’s dismay. For her, they were also an important part of the archive, its journey and its meaning.

Every image that has survived, though, contains the traces of a life story and, taken together, they add up to an untold story of a troubled country. Consider, for instance, the photographs that Diab took of Georgina Rizk, the Lebanese model and former Miss Universe in 1977.

A few months before she visited Baalbek she married Ali Hassan Salami, a prominent Palestinian politician. He would later be identified as a member of the Black September terrorist organisation that carried out the Munich Massacre at the Olympic Games of 1972 in which 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer died. Less than two years after Diab snapped Rizk, her husband was killed in Beirut by Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service.

Today, Diab lives in sheltered accommodation in Camden and continues to take photographs of the world around him. He would like to return to Lebanon one day but, in the meantime, has plans to publish another book of his writings and photographs about Baalbek from 1940 to 1997.

“My pictures are like my children,” he tells me, his sad eyes lighting up. Dabrowska shakes her head. “Diab is still unsure what to do with his images,” she says, sighing. “He wants recognition, but he does not want to lose them. Sometimes, it feels like he still wants to keep them under his bed.” Diab nods his head wearily. “Ania,” he says softly, “This is my life.”

To support the publication of this archive, visit

A Lebanese Archive at 723440909/a-lebanese-archive-by-ania-dabrowska




September 2014

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