The Hariri Myth?
So far this series has focused on the Maronite dynasties, who appeared to have started the civil war. /2014/11/24/impressions-of-lebanon-dynasties-r-us-its-more-than-a-family-affair-its-patronage/ Having said this the Sunni and Shia populations harbour a few of their own as was apparent during the 15 year struggle. The influential Rafiq Hariri became prime minister in 1992 and founded the Solidere Company, which was a joint government and private sector initiative.
The company built the infamous Beirut ”Souks” frequented by well to do families from all the communities, their servants and me, when I want to see a blockbusting film. My latest was ‘Fast and Furious 7’, where the young Lebanese audience flocked to pay their last respects to Paul Walker, one of the co stars, who died ironically in a car crash.
This may seem a frivolous pursuit for the writer of a serious historical blog but from what I can gather, the building of a retail complex, that replaced many traditional Arabic shopping outlets destroyed in the civil war opened a can of worms, which continue wriggling. Needless to say Solidere didn’t stop at the the death of Mr. Hariri or indeed with the ”souks” development but continues to tamper. Its coastline projects have caused controversy threatening people’s livelihoods, particularly those of the sardine fishermen. Many large unsightly and rarely used buildings blot the landscape and the public beach at Raouche is under threat. So how did Mr Hariri acquire his ”popularity” and wealth?
The death of Rafiq Hariri produced a general hue and cry in the western world, while in Lebanon the implications of his demise were enormous. I don’t intend to investigate the circumstances surrounding his violent death, suffice to say the government inquiry continues ten years on, and like all Lebanese assassination inquiries, is never likely to produce a satisfactory conclusion. The favourite culprit in the western media eye continues to be Syria, though there are many factors, which counter this allegation. Readers can now make their own enqiries into the controversy surrounding the assassination, which helped perpetuate the Hariri myth.
Warlords?, An open minded Saad Hariri
I was thinking of changing the term dynasty to that of war lord as Lebanon appears to have more of these, than Afghanistan. Since the Hariri family are not warlords as their supporters will proudly tell you, I’ll stick at dynasties for the moment. Of course guns are not the only weapons as western capitalism demonstrates. Money is a powerful tool and Rafiq Hariri, who escaped the civil war, knew how to wield this weapon, all too well.
It is well documented, that during the civil war Rafiq (comrade in English) Hariri spent time in Saudi Arabia accumulating wealth and that on his return to Lebanon he founded the Solidere company. Unfortunately the endeavour is not a raging success as opposition continues to many of the developments and because according to Philip Mansel in his book ‘Levant, Splendour and catastrophe in the Mediterranean’, excessive borrowing plunged the government into debt. Despite his reputation as a benefactor, the driving force behind Mr. Hariri and the Solidere company is profit.
Mr Mansel discusses the construction of the Mohammed al-Amine mosque, a joint venture between Mr Hariri and the Saudi prince Walid bin Talal. The site formerly was a Muslim prayer hall and in the opinion of Mr Mansel it is an assertion of Sunni power over that of the Christian population. This is no doubt true as it backs onto St George’s Cathedral and stands opposite to the gateway (not literal) into the Northern Christian sector, Ashrafieh. Just south of the mosque is parliament square and south of this is his mausaleum, where photography is barred. Because my insert more icon doesn’t work, I’m limiting the size of the entries and because I’ve posted some photos, I’ll continue the story in the next entry.
Sorry if some of these are a bit blurry but my camera is not good with street lighting. Anyway hope you can see what I mean about the proximity of the al-Amine mosque to St George’s cathedral. I have to say they do complement each other with organ music contrasting to the call of the muezzin. They were in perfect harmony on good Friday, as the Christian easter holiday coincided with the Muslim prayer day.