We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

One night in Beirut



There’s nothing funnier than an electronic billboard showing a Windows error message, so obviously I stop to take a photo.

A man comes up behind me. It is a solider in fatigues with a gun. “No photo”. This is a little tiresome. I attempt to point out that I am attempting to take a photo of a billboard, and what possible security risk could this be, but (as always) this is futile. Also, do you have any idea how easy it would be for me to take a photo of *anything* with modern technology without you realising it? But I know the rules, and they are rules. I accede and walk on. There are various security barriers and roadblocks nearby, so there is sensitive stuff nearby – government buildings, I think.

I block further, there are more security barriers, a guard post, and a soldier on duty. I am unsure I am allowed to walk down the road. I point down the road and beckon to the soldier, politely. “It’s okay to walk down there?”.

“Oh, sur.. Where are you from?”


“O wow”. (Excitement). “I love Australia. Where Australia?”


“Oh, great!!!!. I was in Granville”.

(Fairly nondescript westerly but not extreme westerly suburb of Sydney, probably best known to me as the location of Australia’s worst rail disaster in the 1970. Perfectly pleasant place).

“Yeah, man. Granville”

“Where are you going?”. He now wants to give me directions. I wasn’t asking for directions – just wanting to know if he would stop me if I tried to walk down the street. However, if he wants to give me directions, I’ll let him give me directions. “Monot street”.

“Oh, about 200 metres that way. Have a great time”.

“You too. Come to Australia again some time”.

“Yeah. But I’m in the army. Fuck man!!!!”.

(He holds up his palm. I give him a high five). “Yeah. You’re in the army. Fuck man”. Explaining that I am completely opposed to compulsory military service as a matter of high principle and I therefore completely support his feelings would probably be excessive.

I go on my way, hoping that the safety was firmly in place on his rifle throughout all this.

13 comments to One night in Beirut

  • Yup, this is such a Michael Jennings kind of moment 😀

    You should have offered to fix their screen, I am sure you could have.

  • That would have required me to use Windows. I prefer not to.

    The evening ended by stumbling int an expat pub in Monot Street and winning a pub quiz, so all is now well.

  • Mr Ed

    In olden days, a friend of mine used to cadge cigarettes off people in London by putting in a fake Australian accent, it always worked for him until he gave up after trying it on an Aussie…

  • Paul Marks

    Lebanon – the site of future Shia v Sunni warfare.

    As for the Christian Lebanese – they should leave (whilst they still can).

  • Kevin B

    Paul, everywhere is the site of future Sunni v Shia warfare. Once they’ve dealt with the local infidels that is. Especially the Christians.

    Slightly more on topic, I was in the cafe at my local Tesco’s* this morning buying my full English breakfast. No armed soldiers today, but a couple of faulty Windows billboards.

    *Yes, I still use Tesco’s, at least for one of my bi-weekly shops.

  • NickM

    I disagree. Retreat is the wrong option. Because, well, it’s retreat and surely there are enough Christians, Druze and others to stand their ground. But then I say that maybe because I’m a stubborn bugger with no kids. That and Kevin is right. Sunni v Shia thing could kick-off anywhere. I mean it is already in places like Iraq.

  • Antony Aoun

    As for the Christian Lebanese – they should leave (whilst they still can).

    I don’t think so. We’re quite capable of holding our lands and defending our Christian and Phoenician identities against the the followers of the goat fucker.

  • Laird

    “against the the followers of the goat fucker.”

    Whoa. I was aware that Mohammad was a pedophile, mass murderer, and all-around piece of scum, but a goat fucker, too? Is that in the historical record?

  • For where I am sitting now – Byblos, north of Beirut – the Christian Lebanese do not appear to be giving up and leaving, honestly. It feels like a nice rather Western country, mostly, other than that the electricity is horribly unreliable.

  • Mr Ed

    It feels like a nice rather Western country, mostly, other than that the electricity is horribly unreliable.

    Coming our way soon. I suspect that windfarms are thin on the ground there though. Mind you in the mid-1980s Portugal had ropey electrics, I turned up the volume on a tape player on mains, and the tape slowed down.

    I feel emboldened to buy the odd bottle of Lebanese wine in support of those guys, unless they start spouting ‘Papist economics’. I have been led to believe that the Christian Lebanese have a ‘merchant class’ diaspora, particularly in West Africa. Was or is this the case?

  • @Mr Ed,

    Yes, Lagos is full of Lebanese: they’re the only “locals” (many are second generation) capable of getting anything done. As such, they clean up, particularly on construction projects.

  • That’s the spirit, Antony – more power to you.

  • Michael Jennings

    Australia is full of Lebanese, too. They are a classic “heads down and get things done” sort of minority.

    My Mum has always been quite adventurous food-wise, and when I was a kid she would shop in little ethnic shops for interesting food items. Thus much of my childhood involved eating “Lebanese bread” (ie pita bread). Spread with Vegemite, obviously.