Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Update from Beirut

There was a bomb explosion last week, which killed a politician in Eastern Beirut. It was on the same day I was at ABC Shopping Mall in East Beirut for shopping and movie. I didn't learn about it until the next day but Xinyi and I was wondering the entire time, why there were scarcely any people at the mall?

"It was probably a weekday." was what we thought.

Political assassinations seem to be common in Lebanon nowadays. Yet no one is taking the responsibility for the killings.

The anti-Syrian faction, the ones doing most of the dying, are blaming Syria for the assassinations as revenge on the anti-Syrian faction for plotting an end to the Syrian political domination in 2005. The pro-Syrian faction alleges that the anti-Syrian faction is fond of using Syria as a scapegoat when killing off opponents.

The Lebanese people had grown rather accustomed to these political killings. At the expectant rate of one politician killed every few months, and except for a few unfortunate souls, who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, the Lebanese seems to be unperturbed by any of the violence happening around at all.

Unaffected they may seem though, the Lebanese are probably fretting about the long term impact of this political turmoil. Life goes on as usual but life may not be as rosy as before. Today, the taxi drivers are not bargaining as hard as compared to last year. They figured out that it is at least better to be paid less than to lose a passenger. Peopl are also complaining about the climbing crime rates. Tourism, I think, must be in shambles as tourist are giving Lebanon the detour

The tourist trade in Lebanon, a mainstay of the economy, was given no respite after being disrupted by the Israel-Hezabollah war in late 2006 . Followed soon after by the Lebanese political protest, although a peaceful sit-in demonstration, impacted the economy negatively in several ways, including the closure of downtown Beirut as a vibrant business and dining venue .

Mounting political tensions continued to keep tourists away as two anti-Syrian MPs were assassinated in separate incidents between late 2006 and early 2007.

Then in May of 2007, a bloody insurgency broke out between Lebanese security forces and an outlawed Islamic organization, Fatah al Islam. Ending only in the beginning of this month, it was followed by the explosion that killed the politician two weeks later.

If these events don't scare the tourists away, I don't know what would. If I don't have to stick to my business travel objectives, I wouldn't want to visit Beirut. It is going to take a long time and tantamount efforts before Beirut could regain its reputation as the "Paris of the Middle East".

On a different note, Xinyi and I had a great outing last week at the movies (Ratatouile, in my opinion is an excellent movie) and ate good pasta at Napoletana in ABC Mall.

Italy in your city, the restaurant promises on its slogan

Xinyi's plate: Spaghetti alla Carbonara. It looked pretty good!

My plate: Fusili alla Sicilliani which literally translates as Sicilian twisted pasta. It was an excellent choix.

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