Car bomb in Beirut, invisible map revealed

There was a huge car bomb explosion in Beirut today in the predominantly Christian area of Achrafieh near Sassine Square.  Actually, that’s a euphemism: that is is the hardcore center of Christian Beirut, with the fascist Phalange party headquarters nearby.  Here is the location of Sassine on a map — that strange white building is ABC Mall, a major landmark in the city.

Three years ago I sat in that square with the architect and thinker Tony Chakar, who explained something to me of how even Beirutis who are tired of thinking in sectarian terms have mentally mapped the city based on which sect a district — sometimes even block by block — belongs to and who will defend it in the event of another war.  I urge you to read that post to understand how this mapping works and why it is relevant in the days ahead as we wait for the reaction, if there is one, to today’s bombing.

Also, read this to see why Beirut in peacetime feels a lot like Santa Monica.  Or this, about how my journey to Beirut ended up on an art gallery wall.  Or here to see my photographs of Lebanon.

I took the photograph above, by the way, of the remains of Beirut’s most famous car bomb — and, really, only Beirut could have a most famous car bomb — which was the massive explosion that killed former prime minister Rafik Hariri in front of the St George’s Yacht Club on 14 February 2005.

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Update: OK, that’s more like the old Beirut we know and love.  The car bomb seemed too big just for random carnage and had to have a political target; now, reports come that a security chief, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, was killed in the attack and had, most recently, been involved in the arrest of a former (pro-Syrian) minister, Michael Samaha, for organizing a series of bombings at Assad’s behest designed to sow sectarian conflict.  Now, half of Beirut thinks this is just Assad up to his old tricks and, I’m sure, the other half is thinking, wait, maybe this bomb was set to make it look like Syria was behind it, but actually…

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