One of the small things in my daily routine that always makes me happy is seeing the large tank full of fish that sits in the front window of the 38 Aquarium Store at Broome and Mott. The owners of the store leave the riot gates up until late in the evening, so if you're passing by you can enjoy the sight of the hundreds of red fish, swimming around in their brightly-illuminated tank.
Or at least you could, until today. This morning a fire broke out at 371 Broome. The fire department (including firefighters from the station just a couple of doors down) turned out in force, cut through the riot gates and smashed their way through the tank with their axes to get access to the store.
The fire was quickly contained, but there were no survivors among the fish.
House of War
"Vous prenez un taxi et vous descendez à Dammour." the hotel owner told us,
"Là, il y a des militaires, et vous pouvez leur demander la route pour Saida." M. made a face. The owner hastened to reassure her.
"Non, non, les militaires sont gentils", she insisted.
The soldiers of the Lebanese army may indeed be polite and well-behaved, but they are everywhere. Visiting the country as a tourist, it's hard not to be struck by the sheer extent of the military presence. The soldiers are unthreatening - for the Lebanese, they may even be reassuring - but it sometimes seems as if half the country is wearing camouflage, with a checkpoint at every corner and intersection. I have never visited another country where soldiers were present in quite such quantity.
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A small collection of photographs from the town of Sour (Tyre) in southern Lebanon.
A small collection of photographs from the town of Saida (Sidon) in southern Lebanon.
Deir al-Qamar, Lebanon -- 12 April 2011
A small collection of photographs from the village of Deir al-Qamar in the Chouf Mountains, Lebanon.
Beiteddine, Lebanon -- 12 April 2011
A small collection of photographs from the palace of Emir Bashir at Beiteddine, Lebanon.
Baalbek, Lebanon -- 11 April 2011
A small collection of photographs taken in Baalbek, Lebanon.
Qadisha Valley, Lebanon -- 10 April 2011
A small collection of photographs taken in the Qadisha Valley, Lebanon.
A small collection of photographs taken in Byblos (Jubayl), Lebanon.
Cairo for Beginners
Cairo may seem large and confusing, but it is easy enough to pick up the basics. Here are a few random things that I have learned.
Crossing the road in Cairo is straightforward for anyone who is reasonably expert at the videogame "Frogger". One noteworthy difference is that in "Frogger", when your pixelated frog is crushed by a fast-moving truck, you still have another two lives.
Every single street corner in Cairo has its own grubby, battered stray cat.
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Say you want a revolution
From a hill above the Valley of the Queens, I climbed down towards the tombs of the nobles. The hillside was carpeted with fist- and golf-ball-sized fragments of limestone, and entirely devoid of any sign of plant or animal life.
On the lower ground, the loose rock gave way to sand. Here and there I started to notice palm fronds and broken wooden laths, mingled with other debris - plastic bottles, a child's shoe. A section of blue-painted wall huddled against a low hill.
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Luxor West Bank
A small collection of photographs from sites on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor, Egypt.
A small collection of photographs from Karnak and Luxor Temple in Luxor, Egypt.
A small collection of photographs of the Egyptian pyramids at Dahshur, Saqqara and Giza.
A small collection of photographs taken in Cairo.
The oldest trick in the hotel tout's book is to tell you that the hotel you're going to is closed/burned out/infested by zombies, but they happen to know of a better one just nearby. As I wander around Midan Abdel Menem Riad, trying to relate the gray lines on the map to the tangle of roads and flyovers on the ground, I catch sight of a large building that appears to have been completely gutted by fire. The thought strikes me that it would make an excellent prop for any tout trying the
"your hotel burned down" ploy. A moment later it dawns on me that what I am looking at is the remains of the National Party HQ.
Continue reading 'Tahrir Square'