Tag Archives: Achrafieh

Devastation in Achrafieh

I was heartbroken to read the news of car bomb in Achrafieh this afternoon, killing eight and injuring far more.  The site of the bombing, Sassine Square, was home to a memorial for former President Bachir Gemayel, assassinated at that spot in 1982.  I cannot believe this community has yet another event to mourn.  Some sources are reporting that the intended target for the attack may have been Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence branch of the Internal Security Forces (ISF).  Mr. Hassan, killed in the blast, had recently aided in the arrest of Michael, a pro-Syrian politician and former information minister, who had been planning a bomb plot.  As of now, no party or organization has taken credit for the bombing today.

Achrafieh was our home in Beirut for my ten days there this summer, and the reverberations from the explosion in Sassine Square have rippled all the way to Blacksburg.  My first day in Beirut, we attended the Live Achrafieh Festival right in Sassine Square.  The mixture of Muslims and Christians, all enjoying a night of Lebanese music and culture, overjoyed me at the time.  It is devastating to think that some of those very people might be dead or injured today.

To give you some idea of how close our hotel was to Sassine Square, here’s a map:

“A” is my hotel. “B” is Sassine Square. We were 3/10ths of a mile away.

By even writing this entry, I’m sure many are going to respond by doing their “told ya so” dance and by reminding me why they think I shouldn’t have gone on my study visit in the first place.  I still maintain that traveling to Lebanon was completely worth it.  Beirut today is far different from the Beirut I visited in June and July, namely because of the escalation of events in Syria. Whatever the cause of today’s events, no one can argue that they are not tragic.  Many of us have been worried about the violence in Syria spilling over into Lebanon, and I truly hope that this event is isolated and not indicative of incidents to come for historically war-torn Lebanon.

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Day 1 (June 23) – Live Achrafieh Festival

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Stage at the Live Achrafieh Festival. Sorry the pics are so awful.

Last night, our hosts surprised us with a special outing, just up the street from our hotel. A square in Achrafieh (our suburb of Beirut) had been closed to traffic, and a full stage/sound system/jumbotron system was set up for the Live Achrafieh Festival.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Years ago, I attended the Jerash Music Festival in Amman, so I suppose I was expecting something along those lines–everyone in an amphitheatre, little to no dancing…

I was completely wrong. It was such a loud, noisy, joyous event. Free concert aside, people of all generations were in the streets singing, dancing, and waving Lebanese flags.

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I can’t think of a concert would get a cross-generational attendance together in the same way in the States. Our group immediately integrated into the crowd, with many of our members dancing and interacting with people. I’ve got a short video here that really doesn’t do anything justice, but will give you a feel of the sounds of the concert.

The square in Achrafieh that the event was at has a memorial in honor of Bachir Gemayal, former Prime Minister of Lebanon assassinated in 1982. And yet, at this place commemorating such a sorrowful event, there was so much joy last night.

This type of event is part of why we are here on this fellowship. I think some people picture any sort of crowd in the Middle East as something violent, unstable, and unsafe. Throw flags into the mix, and you’ve got a horrible situation. And yet last night couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I’m sure I had a ridiculous grin on my face the entire night, just watching these people be so happy and joyous, enjoying their country’s music and showing pride in their home.