Two men sit on wooden stools in a coffee shop in Sidon (Saida). The men appear deep in conversation as they smoke the traditional water-pipe (tanbak shisha). One of the men is wearing the ethnic head-piece of our ancestors, the tarboosh.
A farmer crouches down to pick low-hanging oranges in an orchard. Blessed with naturally fertile land, Lebanon has been a farming nation for centuries. Citrus fruits, in particular, are a favorite among our people and occupy the first rank in Lebanese exports.
A mother peels potatoes as her daughter observes the rubble of the scene below their balcony. Beirut suffered extensive shelling in the 80s, driving many to seek refuge elsewhere. Having nowhere else to go, many others remained in the war-ravaged city. On a happy note, according to a resident of the area, the building – as well as the people in the photo- are still very much well and standing in Beirut’s Tariq Jdeedeh.
Here’s one for the youngins. A lot of us post-war kids don’t know the extent of Beirut’s farming capacity. Before massive urbanization and rigorous construction, the capital was covered with green fields and lush pastures. Some noted that this one, wedged between Beshara el Khoury (right) and Tariq el Sham (left) on the infamous demarcation line, seems to have cannabis plants.
Another one for the children. Students in a classroom follow on their books the passages being read by two of their classmates. The dewy-blue uniform, the simplistic desks, and the cartoon poster on shabby walls give a nostalgic portrayal of a time gone.
The reflection of a barber shaving a man’s beard across a bullet-ridden mirror. Never ones to cramp their fashion style, Lebanese people put a lot of effort into their hygiene and looks. This translates into fathers walking their sons to monthly (if not weekly) visits to the local barber who is often on first-name-basis with everyone in the neighborhood.
Two men wearing traditional hatta and a’gal smoke shisha in a courtyard in Baalback. Most probably a remnant of the Ottoman days, shisha smoking became a popular pastime and a staple of old Lebanese life.
Last but not least, a woman holds a child in front of the doors of a shelter. When bombing commenced, usually at night, families would gather their valuables and head down to the bunkers, only to emerge the next morning and resume their daily lives… That gives you a taste of just how resilient our folks were.
Steve McCurry is an award-winning photographer, freelancer, and photojournalist. His most famous photo is of the young “Afghan Girl” with piercing green eyes that periodically appears on the cover of National Geographic.