Monday, April 23, 2012

Days Of Rage In South Beirut

The following story was written by international man of mystery, Julio Pardo.  Days of Rage In South Beirut recounts his recent trip to Beirut, the military presence, a close call with Hezbollah secret agents and a few flight attendants.  Julio does a blog called Girls Got Limits where you can find more stories and photos of his life's journey.

Days of Rage In South Beirut by Julio Pardo.

When I was in Damascus, I heard that Hezbollah got to bring down the government of Lebanon so they will stop the investigations of Rafik Hariri’s death.  Beirut was already on my to do list and to be honest, I never thought it will be a big deal.  This is not the first time Lebanon was run with out a government and I didn’t think people would go nuts and rage around.

Well, I was wrong.  I got there a day and a half before the riots, Days Of Rage as they like to call them, and everything looked like a dream land.  Shit was mad expensive, rich ladies walking around in skirts, hot weather and I was kinda feeling the glamorous vibe of Beirut.

I was tired so I decided to chill for the night.  The next morning, I decided to walk to Hamra, the 5th Ave of Beirut, make it to the port and see the pigeon rocks, then take this cable car that takes all the way up on the mountain so you can have a sick view of Beirut.  It's around 10 am, I already had my breakfast and I’m trying to make it to Hamra.  There are a few more armed man than usual, but “hey this is Lebanon” is what I tell myself.  Then, while I’m walking between what appears to be some government buildings five military men walk toward me and hold the hand I had on my camera up to my chest and say “where are you going?”.  I’m like “well Hamra, am I on the wrong path?”, he looks down at me (the guy can play in the NBA no problem) and says “no, go straight and no pictures, hand out of the camera”.  I walk out of their way and didn’t really understand if I can't take pictures at all or if it was just the block.  Since they are the ones with the ak-47’s, I decided to not take any pictures until I reached a more populated area.  I eventually found Hamra, got to visit the caves and the pigeon rocks and did the mountain thing.

The day was quite dope and I made it back to the hostel around 7ish.  I took a shower and got to nap for a bit.  Around 10, I walk to the chill area to check my email.  I ran into four hot eastern flight attendants and a Jordanian pilot.  They were drinking Vodka and one thing lead to another, so I showed them my “I <3 kurwy” tattoo (I love bitches in Polish).  Somehow it worked and we all went out to feel the so called “Beirut night life”.  The adventure turned out to be a total fail.  The streets were taken by the military and every single pub, club and bar were closed.  We drove for over two hours till we finally found an Irish pub 20 minutes outside of Beirut.  We were the only people there other than an old man with a hooker in her 50’s.  The night ended up alright and we got back to the hostel around 4am.

I slept for a bit and since everybody told me about the riots, I cancelled my trip to the ruins and decided to go South Beirut to see the protest.  Shit was hell on earth, but everyone was quite friendly with foreigners.  There were tons of people taking pictures, but at some point these two men in black coats grab me and ask me to walk with them.  They show me their guns and I’m like “ok, sure you win”.  They take me to a corner and sat me down on a bench.  They asked me why I was taking pictures and what was I doing in Beirut.  At that point, I realized they were not police or military, but Hezbollah secret agents.  I played as smooth as I could, I showed them my passport and all my stamps.  I told them I travel and take pictures, nothing more, no newspapers, no nothing.  One of them got down to look me in the eyes and goes “listen, if you are Mossad you better tell me now, before its too late”.  I’m like “no man, I’m Spanish, I like football, sleeping and eating, that’s about it”.  They say they need to take my film which included the rolls from yesterday, the one of the protest and even the one that was not even used.  I tried to convince them to give them back so I could have them developed tomorrow and bring them somewhere and they can keep my passport until I show them the pictures.  They said if I want them, I have to go with them for questioning.  I have heard about those “Hezbollah questionings” and how you could be detained for up to two weeks with no civil rights.  I gave them the film and walked out of there.  It took me forever to get back to the hostel because there were tires on fire on every street.

Around 3pm, I’m back, changed cameras and film and decided to walk to the National Museum.  I already checked online to make sure they were open.  It's was about a 20 minute walk, so it felt like a doable plan.  When I’m about three blocks away from the square I saw that it was surrounded by military and they stop me.  I’m like “really? Again?”, the man goes “go to hotel now, this dangerous.”  I’m like “look I just wanna go the museum which is right behind you.”  He tells me "it’s closed, go back home".  I know he is bullshiting me, so I try to go around it.  Five minutes later, a military truck stops in front of me and to my surprise it is the same man again and he says “hotel now!”.  I’m like “my hotel is that way man.”  He ask me the name of my hotel and I’m like “touch√© asshole”, you win I’m out.  Everything was closed and at night the same thing.  Luckily I was leaving next day to Amman and decided to be positive about the adventure.  I’m alive and well and this just means I’ll have to come back to Beirut again which isn’t a bad thing at all.

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