Sunday 10 March 2019

The Lebanon beckons me

I hugely like Matthew Parris, up there with Rod Liddle and Charles Moore, but have avoided reading him since the referendum, as he is the loudest and most insistent moaner among all the Remoaners. Just after cancelling my subscription to The Times I read his amusing article about his long weekend in the Lebanon.

I must go back to Beirut. Tarom flies there in early hours twice a week. Like Matthew Parris listening to the cry of the muezzin, I too feel sad for Islam in its doomed battle against modernity. 

He writes:

'"I am off to the Lebanon for a long weekend,” I told the Times colleague who looks after these pages, “so when next you hear from me I may be chained to a radiator in Beirut like Terry Waite. It should make a good notebook item.”
“I hear the city is so decadent these days,” he replied, “that you may be able to find a club where that can be arranged.” But I never did.' 
(To get that joke you probably need to know that Mr. Parris is homosexual.)

When I took the bus for $1 from Palmyra to Damascus a BBC action programme was playing. Like the 39 Steps except Richard Hannay was black. The white civil servant turned out to be the baddie which is true to Buchan but also very BBC. It made me pity Al Qaeda. They had, I saw, no chance. 

But this was long before Donald Trump. Now a secular, politically correct feminist future no longer looks quite so absolutely certain.

I was last in Beirut in October 2015 - time flies - and had a couple of interesting conversations. I asked the driver of the first taxi I took about the refugees from Syria. They cause no problems, he said, "but we are a poor country". Then he mentioned the migrants in Europe and without stating mine I asked his opinion."It's very bad. I lived in Italy for ten years and know what they're like. They're thieves and bad people." I asked him his religion, to check for anti Muslim bias. 

"I'm half and half. My father's Muslim, my mother's Christian".

He also said:

"Don't come to Beirut for the monuments. Come, instead, for the restaurants, bars, if you like bars, and clubs if you like clubs."

The other was with a nice Syrian who insisted on standing me a drink and told me Russia's intervention in Syria might be positive. 

Had he met Assad? 

"Yes many times in small meetings and he is useless, completely useless, a really poor quality person."

Mrs. Assad

"a complete bitch, a horrible person, is much smarter".

Read my account of my last trip here and my first visit here.

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