James Nader Photo Diary


Alternative Lebanon by James Nader, Archive Story Newsletter #03-2020 A few years back, I was traversing the eastern European country of Lebanon as part of a commercial mission. While on the fact-finding mission, I asked to be taken to the largest temple of Baalbek in the southern part of the country. This area was dangerous as it was close to the border and where all of the politically driven hid out. Access to the temple would lead us through one area in particular, where normal news broadcasts are always filmed to get over a political message.

A suggestion by the media so that we see that the country is in a worse condition than it really was. Most areas were pretty modern and I for one was in total amazement at the beauty of Centreville ( City Centre) after the 15-year war that I grew up knowing about by BBC or ITV News. This was not a photographic trip, of course but I did borrow a small camera and pictures were taken with a small Nikon Coolpix 3.5MB but it was all we had at the time, an opportunity to scout out possibilities of new production in this part of the world. Film and TV studios, production houses and photoshoot agencies

Propaganda is evident in most news reports and has been for many years. It’s about selling the concept of war and mortality. If we can dramatise something a little more, then, of course, it stands out as a bigger news story. I was told that after the 15-year war, most news stories about Lebanon would mostly come from the south in the less wealthy areas to enhance the effect.

People are unawares, going about their daily business, not interested in any pictures, just survival. Fruit and vegetables are the same the world over. Some eat more greens and others more fruit. Vegetables make the world go around if you are fortunate to have some!

Southern parts of Lebanon, southern suburbs of Beirut defined as: south of the sports stadium and the Adnan Al Hakim road which heads west from the stadium to the Beirut-Saida (Sidon) road – down to the airport. Including the neighbourhoods of Bir Hassan, Ghobeiry, Chuya, Haret Hraik, Burj Al Brajne, Mraije, Er Rouais and Laylake. All no-go areas now not just because of war or religion but due to the COVID-19 Virus.

Always a great thing to do is play with your feet when selling food. It appears, however, that not much is on for the day. I love how the camera, when used appropriately, can do what it was intended for: capture moments and hold them in time to inspect and evaluate a moment passed.

Flying past on the famous road to Baalbeck, The complex of temples at Baalbek is located at the foot of the southwest slope of Anti-Lebanon, bordering the fertile plain of the Bekaa at an altitude of 1150 m.  The city of Baalbek reached its apogee during Roman times.  Its colossal constructions, built over a period of more than two centuries, make it one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Roman world and a model of Imperial Roman architecture.

This was a war-torn area for many years and Southern Lebanon was known for a little unrest in the area of Baalbeck near to the Roman temple. It’s clear to see that pot shots and target practice have happened! So Glad that I was not around at the time.

I think it’s always sad to think of buildings past their sell-by date. In their heyday in the mid-1960s all of the buildings were of importance, especially these, servicing the supercars of the day when this part near to the Corniche in the image below was so famous to film stars. Switzerland of the Middle East was the cry of all.

Some of the old hotels from the film days and when all of the jet-set would land and populate this country especially in an area called the Corniche, A little like Beverley Hills at the time.

The Corniche looks out across the water from the famous temple of the Crusaders and Sidon, just outside the suburbs of Beirut. The water appears clear but once flowing with the blood of people from the war, Most of the old, war-torn Beirut was bulldozed into the ocean.

Beautiful hotels are now being resurrected everywhere to satisfy those who are brave enough to come and look for new opportunities. I am here looking at production for a few companies and being driven by my guide.

Who would know that there had been a 15-year war? Death and destruction, are now gone. Relaxation and recreation are nowhere. Are All the people gone and forgotten?