Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘This Life my Sweetheart

Tales of Twin Cities: Beirut and Haifa (April 1, 2009)

 

By the year 1933, the city of Haifa was the main magnet for the Levantines and Iraqis.  A railroad linked it to Egypt, Damascus and to the Hijjaz (Mecca) in the Arabic Peninsula.  A pipeline was exporting half of Iraq’s production toward Europe.  A modern port was the main export location of Syria’s wheat and grain to Europe. A new oil refinery was installed. Haifa was the most prosperous and promising destination for the Lebanese. 

Many streets were named after Lebanese towns and cities.  Anywhere you walked the stores had common Lebanese family names.  The Maronite Selim Khoury from Bkaseen (by Jezzine) was considered the richest in Palestine; he instituted a modern silk factory and many laborers from Lebanon flocked there. 

The families of Bustros, Sursok, and Tuweiny owned half the fertile plains in Galilee about (180 square kilometers). Suleiman Nassif had exclusivity on thermal pools. The CAT Company, a building contractor, erected series of houses outside Acre’s walls.

Lebanese educators and intellectuals taught there.  The famous lawyer, Wadi3 Bustani was the special counselor to the British Governor Colonel Stanton.  Dailies were created.  Haiffa was like Qatar and Dubai today for the Lebanese emigrants; they were welcomed and needed to absorb the fast pace economic explosion.

Then, in 1948, the infamous Zionist State was created by a majority of a single vote in the UN.  The administrations of the USA, France, and Britain wanted to get rid of the Jews in their midst.  The monster Stalin stupidly believed that Israel would be the first communist State in the Middle East.

The tide turned and the Palestinians flocked to Lebanon; the prosperous and educated Palestinian refugees headed to Beirut.  What the English and USA governments could not do in Lebanon was done by the Palestinians:  the English language spread and prospered. The American University in Beirut got a new lease on life; most of the Arabs in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq studied in Beirut.

The port of Beirut was modernized and expanded and replaced Haifa; oil pipelines and refineries were installed in Lebanon, most of the land transit passed through the port of Beirut.

South Lebanon was transformed into a vast garden of orange and apple orchards thanks to the expertise of the cultivators of Jaffa.  The financial institutions in Beirut flourished.  The insurance businesses got foothold; even today, most of the insurance executives are of Palestinian origins. Folk dancing, songs, theaters were initiated by Palestinian artists.

The rich Palestinian Christians were offered the Lebanese citizenship. The poor Palestinian Christian refugees were installed in camps in Christian districts such as the camps of Jisr Pasha, Dbaiyeh, and Mar Elias.  The Palestinian Moslems were distributed in camps all over Lebanon.  

These inexpensive Palestinian workmen were the main backbone for the emerging small and medium industries and in agriculture; until the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) disturbed the entire structure when it installed its headquarters in Beirut in 1969.  During the civil war that started in 1975, all the Christian Palestinian camps were overturned by the Lebanese Christian militias and the surviving refugees expelled from the Christian regions or cantons.

The PLO was forced to vacate Lebanon in 1982 and the Palestinian workforce was replaced by Syrians and the Palestinian refugees were confined to their camps; they experienced renewed constraints on work permits and selective jobs and restraining labor licenses.

Since time immemorial, the southern Lebanese seaport of Tyr was the administrative center for the entire region extending to beyond Haifa, Mount Carmel, and including upper Galilee. Under normal circumstances, the coastal zone from Tyr to Haifa could have been the largest Megapolis on the Mediterranean Sea.

The newly created apartheid Zionist State disrupted all kinds of major development in the region.

Note 1: I am reading the interesting Arabic/Lebanese book “This Life, my Sweetheart” (Ya Dunia, ya Gharamy) by Ussama El Aref.  One of its chapters inspired the theme of this article.

Note 2: After the Second World War, Germany welcomed the Kurdish workforce, arriving by train with fanfare and official bands, because it needed badly to reconstruct the country.  Germany thinks that it finished reconstruction and has no idea how to repatriate the Kurds of Turkey. 

Germany is offering to finance private enterprises in the Kurdish region for any Kurdish family willing to return.  The catch is: would anyone not feeling secure and safe in his homeland return?  Would Germany re-welcome any Kurds if political conditions deteriorate?

Beirut: Crazy Demographics (April 3, 2009)

 

Beirut counted five thousand inhabitants in 1821.  Tripoli and Sidon (Saida) were far more populous and more prosperous. 

When the Egyptian General Ibrahim Pasha defeated the Ottoman armies in Lebanon and Syria and ruled the Near East region (from 1830 to 1840), many Egyptian soldiers married and settled in Beirut. Beirut experienced the highest expansion and wealth for centuries.

The European consulates, mainly France, Britain, Tuscany, and Sardinia, selected Saida for headquarters but the Ottoman governor Ahmad Pasha restricted their commerce.  The foreign traders moved out to Beirut, followed by their respective consulates.

 By 1841, Beirut counted 30,000 inhabitants.  Still, the European insisted on modernizing the port of Saida instead of Beirut.  The problem was that the people in Saida would not hear of it on the ground that the European mariners would ultimately destroy the conservative moral character of the city.

Thus, the Europeans reluctantly were forced to modernize the port of Beirut in 1887.  

In 1859, a road was built to link Beirut to Damascus and then followed by a railroad linking Beirut to Damascus and Houran. 

In 1877, the US Protestant clergy established a university in Rass Beirut and the French Jesuits followed suit by relocating their college from Ghazir to Beirut. It is worth noting that the US Protestants initially contemplated their university to be located in Homs (Syria) because it had many more Christians to convert. Thus, most employees and educators of the American University were from Homs in origins such as the families of El Khal, Refka, Yaziji, and Barakat.

By 1887, the Ottoman Empire decided to concentrate its administrative headquarters in Beirut from where it managed the other provinces (sonjouk) such as Acre, Tripoli and Lataquieh.

Author Ussama Al Aref in his “This Life, my Sweetheart” said that his wife was frustrated for marrying a resident of Beirut.  She was from Beirut but her family was of Crete in origin. Ussama was from Beirut but his family was Turcoman from the neighboring city of Dyar Bakr in Turkey. The family had relocated to the northern borders with Syria of the town of Zara. They had no relatives outside Beirut to flee to during Lebanon civil war (1975-1991).  They were stuck in Beirut and had to dance the dance from street to street.

Not a single resident of Beirut is of Beirut in origin.

Ussama’s friends from Beirut have various origins; Kamal is of Orfeh in Turkey, Jalal from Mardine (Turkey/Syria), the Armenian Gerar from Adana (Turkey), and Jamal an Albanian.  Most of the famous families in Beirut that produced Prime Ministers and political leaders are not of Beirut and most of them not of Lebanese descendents.

The Moslem families such as Hariri, Seniora, and Solh are from Saida and south Lebanon; the families of Itani, Hoss, Biham, and Idriss are from Morocco; the Chatila from Wadi Taym, the Tuweiny and Fara3un from Houran (Syria), the Majdalani from Rashaya, the Sehnawy and the Kassatly from Damascus; and the Bustross from Cyprus.

The Christian families of Tutunji, Obaji, and Kneider are new comers from Aleppo and they considered the Lebanese Maronites as peasants compared to their bourgeois ranking. 

In fact, each of the families of Solh, Salam, Bustross, Tuweiny, and Sursok owned a dozen towns and villages in south Lebanon and north Palestine; they sold most of their vast real estates to Zionist organizations and removed to Beirut to purchase political power.

Beirut prospered with the influx of foreign and Arab oil money. With each military coup in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt (and they were many and frequent), more political and “financial” refugees flocked to Beirut.  Beirut became the hotbed of various political parties and a center for freedom of opinion, dailies, and publishing.

As the Palestinians were organized under the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), they moved its headquarters to Beirut along with the millions of dollars in contribution and support from Arab States.

The cost of living in Beirut skyrocketed by the 70’s. Beirut was invaded by all foreign mafiosos who transformed it into an international bordello and a Carrefour for flesh and slave trading The original residents of Beirut vacated it to the suburbs such as Aramoun, Burj Barajina, Ghobeiry and Dahiya: they could no longer afford its high cost of living. 

Every Prime Minister or politician who claimed that Beirut is the heart of Lebanon was not worth a penny of charity in his heart; they never contributed a dime from their own money. Those residents that vaunt Beirut the loudest are the strangest in it. They are the ones staunchly resisting social and political reforms.  They oppose administrative decentralization. They oppose equitable distribution of funds to all the districts in Lebanon. They oppose equitable distribution of electricity; they want to enjoy power 24 hours while the rest of Lebanon has to be satisfied with only six hours.  

Beirut has lost its popular souks and business versatility around Martyrs’ Square where dozens of movie theaters showed movies of every nationality; it lost its cosmopolitan character around the triangle of the American University, Hamra Street, and Rass Beirut.  Foreigners of all nations lived in that triangle and didn’t feel strangers and out of touch with their home states.

Beirut was a cultural center of the Arab World and there were more dailies than Arab States. Beirut is currently the depot of mounds of detritus and its seashore welcomed thousands of massacred civilians during the civil war. Beirut is a carcass of tall modern buildings built by investors lacking the Levantine soul and spirit and trying hard to submit us with illusions of modernity that no one sees or can afford to taste and experience.

Beirut is not for the Lebanese anymore. Ask any former middle class citizen if he can afford to buy any items in Beirut.  Ask any former bourgeois if he can rent a studio in Beirut. 

Beirut has suffered many earthquakes that destroyed it through the ages.  It has not been spared wars and plagues.

Beirut has never been a port until recently. Beirut has lost its character and its spirit.

As far as I am concerned, Beirut is a cursed city.  Anyone who wishes to own a piece in it he can have it all; stock and lock.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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