Beirut Series

Jack Morgan / TPR Arts

I spent five days in Beirut in late March and I wonder if I’ll ever feel the same about the Middle East. I went to Beirut after researching its past, its government, its city-by-the-sea status, but going there I realized there’s a lot for which I was unprepared.

I wasn’t prepared for the armed checkpoints, which seemed scary at first, but I came to realize were Beirutis trying to protect their neighborhoods from the worst. They’ve seen the worst many, many times.

Jack Morgan / TPR Arts

I was in Beirut, Lebanon, for an arts and culture symposium recently. Hungry for stories, I hit the streets looking. What I found was a city full of interesting people. Everyone with whom I spoke had either lived though a war or they had fled for their safety.

“As the war started in Lebanon in 1976 we left to Canada," said Hanibal Srouji, a slender, soft-spoken 57-year-old Beirut artist.

Jack Morgan / TPR Arts

I was in Beirut  for a convention six days in late March. I then set out to find arts and culture stories there, but they all seemed to link back to the country’s civil war. It makes sense if you think about it, the war lasted for the 15 years between 1975 and 1990 and is a huge landscape in the Lebanese collective memory.

"It was war in my early years. Until I was in 18 I was in war and it was a difficult time because school years were interrupted all the time," said artist Annie Kurkdjian, who lived in Beirut throughout the war.

Greg Zaragoza for Texas Public Radio

  Once considered the Paris of the Middle East due to its tourist and cultural offerings, Beirut, Lebanon was ravaged by civil war in the 70s and 80s. Though the civil war ended in 1990, the country has had a contentious relationship with its neighbors Israel and Syria, doing battle with both in the past 10 years. 

Jack Morgan

I spent six days in Beirut, Lebanon, recently, the first two to speak at a conference of arts and culture reporters. After the conference I went out to find stories from people in Beirut. What I found, well, was much more than I was looking for.

I set out to interview artistically-inclined Beirutis, and happenstance put me in front of Nadine Begdache. She runs a west end Beirut art gallery called Gallerie Janine Rubeiz.