You Were Filthy But Fine.

“You were filthy but fine” sang James Murphy in that LCD Soundsystem jewel that is New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and I, for once, think that it could very well fit to Beirut. Spotless, it certainly ain’t. Manicured, only in a handful of places. Organised, fuggedaboudit. Yet, she’s got something. One of these somethings, one layer of this sumptuous cake that makes the noise pollution traffic rubbish bearable, is street art. Middle-Eastern slapdash meets French nonchalant disregard for rules: hateful if you’re OCD, utterly enjoyable for everyone else. Perhaps it’s again the French influence tinging the whole thing political, but this isn’t your hipster guerrilla marketing designed to look independent. This is the real thing, political, and it smells so.
Click on any photo to start the slideshow. 
Sometimes, instead, there’s more refinement in the political message. It’s not by accident if this murale has been painted by the Corniche, within spitting distance from chrome-painted-Lambos and expensive condos. An ironic retake on the cedar flag that adorn the blast-walls eroded around all the palaces of power, with added side of burning tyres. Come think of it, it’s been only what – one year, or perhaps two? – since the You Stink! protests.
Beirut is a sophisticated city, making up in style what it lacks in order or organisation. Peppered here and there are reminders of how deeply true this is. A photography show of this country, so used to be on the edge that it felt almost a fashion statement; a seemingly permanent display of antiques – most of them raided from somebody grandpa’s garage – that no one seemed bothered to be selling; a dusty shopfront window, abandoned as both ends of the street it stands on have been closed to car traffic. A message scribbled on the bullet-proof concrete watch-post near the Grand Serail, saying God (or those speaking Arabic) only knows what. 
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Armenia Street, named so after a Caucasian community by now fully assimilated in the colourful ensemble of Beirut, is perhaps the hipster heart of the city. Beards might be the longest – not even the photos of Hassan Nasrallah and his cronies, garnished with Hezbollah flags, dared reaching such extremes of facial hair – MacBooks the newest and lattes the most ubiquitous. Flair, elegance and a certain dose of machismo are in the air; the walls, here are the most colourful, sometimes confusingly so.
Click on any photo to start the slideshow. 
It’s perhaps easy to think that this is nothing but a Hackney with guaranteed sunshine and where Almaza beers have suddenly replace all pint cans of Red Stripe, but I guess that would be wrong. This is a place with deep troubles, used to them I guess, but nonetheless unafraid of asking why things keep on happening here.
Click on any photo to start the slideshow. 
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12 Responses to You Were Filthy But Fine.

  1. Uuuu, wicked. The two on evolution are killing me. Did you have anybody with you who could translate from Arabic? Also, I might have realised the difference between France and Italy. No… it’s gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dee says:

    I asked a friend and the graffiti says “third intervention troupe” or “posse”.. it definitely has militaristic undertones, but as to what exactly it refers to I have no idea 😀

    Great post, and a wonderful look at such a complex and vibrant city.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Hi Dee,
      Thanks to you and your friend for the translation services! Who knows, perhaps it’s a military slang written by a bored squaddie, or some local gangsta rapper… I guess we’ll never know, and that’s cool! Thanks for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lexklein says:

    Ravaged beauty always attracts me … perhaps a function of my age 🙂 but I think I’ve always been drawn to the decrepit, the decaying, and the dilapidated layered onto an original splendor. Beirut certainly is that ticket!

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Make us two. I love some ruin wandering (I’m a big aficionado of those Russian fora where urban explorers show their findings, if only I could read them), but Beirut is so much more… it’s really alive.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. J.D. Riso says:

    This totally looks like it’s the place for me. I love chaos and grunge and defiance in a city.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      You’d give it a go, Julie. Good weather, nice people, defiance by the bucketful and, I hear, great wines as well. Hummus is just amazing, kicks Israel’s any day.


  5. Dave Ply says:

    Some interesting art there, but somehow the one with the Cedar of Lebanon with burning tires underneath says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

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