Destination: Lebanon

BHL Goes to Israel

Sunday’s New York Times Magazine article by Bernard-Henri LÚvy (recently featured in a World Hum interview about his American travels) caught my eye. The French writer’s latest journey, in mid-July, took him to Israel, a country he has visited on many occasions. This time it’s the war in Lebanon that he ponders.

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Anthony Bourdain’s Beirut Show to Air

We’ve written about Anthony Bourdain’s recent experience in Beirut— the globe-trotting chef was there taping an episode of his show No Reservations when fighting broke out. (He was safely evacuated.) At the time, he wasn’t sure whether the episode would ever air. Now comes word that it will indeed be broadcast on the Travel Channel Monday, Aug. 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Remarked the Travel Channel’s Pat Younge, “This special is not about a celebrity chef in peril, but an opportunity to show unique footage of the Beirut that existed before the hostilities broke out—an unfinished portrait of the Beirut that Anthony wanted to show the world.”

Time Out Beirut: “Beirut’s Favourite Entertainment and Listings Magazine is Now Suspended”

The publisher of Time Out Beirut writes on the magazine’s Web site: “They are killing our city, but will not kill our way of life. Over the last three months Time Out Beirut has provided the Lebanese and tourists with an nightlife and entertainment scene that rivals any western city. We will be back and we will carry on our mission for reporting the real side of Lebanon and Beirut. We are hoping for a fast recovery and rest assured we will come back, stronger and bolder than ever. It is in our Lebanese character to do so. July, our latest issue, is a testimony to life in Beirut just before this man-made catastrophe, please have a look and read our magazine to find out what the world missed—This issue has become a collectors item as a testament to what Beirut has become.”  (Via the New York Times.)

Bourdain in Salon: “Watching Beirut Die”

On Wednesday, Anthony Bourdain fielded questions at the Washington Post about his recent experience in Lebanon—he was filming his Travel Channel show “No Reservations” when the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah began. Friday, he wrote a terrific essay about it for Salon. “It’s not what I saw happen in Beirut that I feel like talking about, though that’s what I’m doing, isn’t it?” he writes. “It’s not about what happened to me that remains an unfinished show, a not fully fleshed out story, or even a particularly interesting one. It feels shameful even writing this. It’s the story I didn’t get to tell. The Beirut I saw for two short days. The possibilities. The hope. Now only a dream.” Bourdain’s story has stimulated a flood of letters from Salon readers.

Bourdain: “I’m Feeling a Little Pessimistic About the World These Days”

Globe-trotting, show-hosting chef Anthony Bourdain, back safely from Lebanon (where he was filming a Travel Channel show when the conflict began) fielded questions online this morning from Washington Post readers. Asked if a No Reservations episode was in the works based on the trip, he replied: “We’re trying to figure some way to show how beautiful and hopeful Beirut was before the bombing, how terrible a thing it is that happened, what we’ve lost, the pride and hopefulness and optimism that was smashed…It will not be a regular episode of No Reservations.”

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Anthony Bourdain Evacuated from Beirut

Whew. Reuters caught up with the host of the Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on a U.S. Navy ship, where he was reclining on an army cot among hundreds of other evacuees. As we noted earlier this week, the globe-trotting chef was in Beirut with a crew to shoot an episode of his show when the violence began. Bourdain left a very different city than the one he found when he arrived just days ago. “It was paradise, sort of the western dream of the way we’d all like the Middle East to be—enlightened, progressive, multi-cultural, and multi-religious,” he told Reuters. No longer. “I was in love for two days,” he said, “and had my heart broken on the third.” He added: “I feel this awful sense of regret that we were never able to show Beirut as it was. To see everyone’s hopes die and watch the country dismantled piece by piece was very painful. I’m very angry and very frustrated.”

Anthony Bourdain in Beirut*

As we mentioned the other day, Anthony Bourdain and the crew of his Travel Channel show No Reservations were caught in Beirut when the violence between Hezbollah and Israel began. He told the New York Post, among other things, that he just wanted to have a drink at the bar. “The mojitos here are great,” he said. His comments rubbed some people the wrong way and inspired a lot of posts at the eGullet and No Reservations message boards. In response, Bourdain has apparently posted his further thoughts on the situation. He writes at eGullet: “I’m very aware of how flip my response to the Post was (made last Wednesday, very early in the crisis)as I sought to reassure family and friends that we were safe and okayand in good cheer. . It was—at the time—very representative of the (outward) attitude of Beirutis themselves, who pride themselves on their resilience and their determination to ‘keep the party going.’”

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Israel and Lebanon: The Traveler’s Perspective

We often say that we travel and read travel writing to discover more about the world. So this week, we turn our attention to Israel and Lebanon, where a violent conflict shows no sign of letting up. To get a different perspective, we thought we’d link to some of the best travel stories we’ve seen from Israel and Lebanon in recent years. Slate, for instance, had a great Talking Tour of Beirut Well-Traveled feature last year, a five-part series by Lee Smith. Slate also published a story by Negar Akhavi a few years ago about “Hezbollahland,” a place “where Islamic fundamentalism meets Dollywood.” Here at World Hum, we posted Lynn Cohen’s reflective story, Blooming in Jerusalem, and Jenni Kolsky’s excellent photo essay taken on a beach outside of Tel Aviv. She writes: “Here it felt safe, in the moments when life is about the pursuit of pleasure, in the moments when you can forget that you are in the midst of war.”

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No. 26: “Baghdad Without a Map” by Tony Horwitz

To mark our five-year anniversary, we’re counting down the top 30 travel books of all time, adding a new title each day this month.
Published: 1991
Territory covered: The Middle East
The Middle East is a region that is constantly in the news, though amidst all the headlines and analysis coming from the area, it is rare that we ever learn about the lives of the people who dwell there. Published shortly after the beginning (and rapid end) of the first Gulf War, Baghdad Without a Map collects Horwitz’s dispatches from places like Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Sudan to paint a multi-faceted human face on a region that is too often obscured by crisis-driven news stories. Indeed, the reader can’t help but consider the contradictions of the Middle East when Horwitz chats with an Iranian protester who—in-between chants of “Death to America!”—claims that his dream has always been to visit Disneyland and “take my children on the tea-cup ride.”  Serious, funny and empathetic at the same time, Horwitz uses simple tales (shopping for a popular stimulant in Yemen, for instance, or attending a belly-dancing gig in Egypt) to introduce us to hospitable people whose lives are being shaped by old social forces (religion, politics, poverty) as well as new ones (modernity, media, globalization).

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“Even Flirting is Political in Beirut”

Slate is running another “Well-Traveled” series this week, and it’s a good one. Lee Smith journeyed to Beirut, Lebanon, for a month beginning in late December. He was searching for “the talk.” He writes: “This last year or so, New York has reminded me of a Cairo shopping mall I used to frequent where the soundtrack was always playing a recitation of the Quran. It was disturbing not because I think there should be separation between the sacred and consumer items, but because a society that keeps re-circulating the same sound to confirm and consolidate what it already believes about itself is a troubled one. By convincing themselves that the rest of their country was tragically, dangerously stupid, my New York neighbors effectively isolated themselves from the rest of the country. At any rate, I wanted to be somewhere where you can hear the talk over the soundtrack, and Lebanon seems right.” Smith weaves his experience with a look at the complex political landscape, which, considering the headlines coming out of the region this week, makes for an excellent read. The five-part series began Monday and continues all week.