Hotel Rooms

June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here are some photos that I gathered from Flickr of travelers’ hotel rooms in the Middle East. My personal favorites are from Bahrain and Saudi.












Photo Sources (in order): Syria: Slurff, Marginilo, RovingGastronome; Morocco: jeanclaudeparisio, Holly Hayes, DorteF; Yemen: s1ingshot, ben.ragsdale; Kuwait: LeMeridienHotels, jeremyhaynes1974; Saudi Arabia: Jackson Lee, iamnatatonia, lost_in_sky; Bahrain: ulanowski, Ramadan; Egypt: kenmoo, jcravens, grapejuiceGTA, ignasi.capdevilla, jfkavinoky, minchelle, shinycity; Algeria: Amberinsea, Justin E. Tilton; Oman: stepnout; Sudan: fiorucci; Jordan: Isalum, suedebicycle


The trash and the dirt and the misery

June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Trash, dirt, and misery is how one of the proprietors of the Charles Helou transportation hub in Beirut describes it now. The site of Charles Helou became an informal transportation hub during the civil war, but in 1994,  it became official, with goals of consolidating several taxi and bus companies. Since the 1990s, its original sheen has faded.

All this and more is discussed in Nora Niasari’s short documentary “Under the Bridge.”

Beirut has a damaged transportation infrastructure to say the least and the documentary touches on a few aspects of it. From the hundreds of broke-down Czech buses now in bus graveyards to the chaotic bus stations underneath bridges, we observe how Beirut transportation also bears the marks of conflict and economic struggle.

The documentary provides the images, along with Lebanese narrations, that coincide with a more complex history. The history is fleshed out in the text accompanying the documentary, with a focus on the Dawrah, Charles Helou, and Cola stations.

Abandoned buses and tramways can be seen as tombs from a distance in ‘Bus Cemeteries’ located at the central stations of ‘Mar Mikhael’ and ‘Sahet Al Abed,’ with one or two caretakers watching over 500 buses on a daily basis. Cola and Dora still remain as central transport hubs, however, their socio-political fabric has changed significantly. In Cola, political forces including Hezbollah, The Amal Movement, and the Lebanese Army govern an overlapping area of Shiite and Sunni Muslims in South-West Beirut, where rising tensions and clashes are ever-present under the bridge. Independent bus and taxi drivers are suffering due to the extreme monopolization of bus depots by private companies, creating chaos and a feeling of constant fear in their daily activities.

Top photo of Charles Helou from Nora Niasari.

Syrian Media and A Gay Girl in Damascus

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

As many predicted, the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax fits perfectly with the Syrian regime’s narrative of foreign-led instigation of protests in Syria. The hoax has been covered in several Arabic-language news outlets, but the coverage is not yet as widespread or significant as it appears to be in English-language outlets. In coming days, I’m sure there will be more extensive coverage from outlets like al-Akhbar, but until now, here is how some Syrian outlets are talking about Tom MacMaster.

SANA includes a link to the story on their homepage with reports in English and Arabic. The Arabic version reports that “American participates in campaign of deception by fabricating a Syrian woman’s blog [who claims] to be kidnapped in Syria.”  That pretty much sums it up. SANA cites The Guardian as its main source of information, but does not mention sexual orientation until the second to last paragraph. The main thrust of the article is the fact that an American promoted “lies and allegations against Syria,” which turned out to be entirely false.

The Syrian online news site Syria News reports the incident as a hoax and clearly mentions that MacMaster impersonated an Arab-American lesbian. Again, the sexuality aspect takes a back seat to the whole “lies and deception” aspect. The article also highlights the Western media’s role in passing off fiction as fact, citing the Reuters photo incident as further proof.

Al-Watan Online, a Syrian site connected with the print version of al-Watan (owned by Rami Makhlouf), gives the standard interpretation of the hoax as read above. Al-Watan states that the gay identity of the blogger was what “helped attract interest of the media and people in the West.”

My guess is that we haven’t seen the last of MacMaster in the Arab press.


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