The statue featured center is Martyr's Square, which is also the park in the lower left but from a distance. The top right is the financial district and house of Parliament, rebuilt almost exactly the same, minus the circle of trees.

Since arriving in Lebanon, I have looked for forms of stationary to communicate with people from home. Postcards are perhaps the most fun kind of correspondence because, well, they’re exotic. In my hunt for good postcards I have turned up some interesting finds.

While this postcard is actually old, it is a good example of the style that dominates Lebanese giftshops.

Sifting through the stacks of postcards in shops, I have come across mostly new books of cards, but there have been moments where I am struck by the numerous cards that predate the War. I found a lovely brand new booklet of pre-War postcards in a stationary shop at Rafik Hariri Airport, and the other day stumbled across some more in another place as I looked for a coffee set (for my sister, I assure you). They are easily recognized by their highly saturated colors and cartoon-like lines – fitting descriptions for how a many view the time before the War.

What surprises me is not that old booklets are still around, but that they are manufacturing them again. I would show you some that I purchased, but my camera is long gone – so I’ve included a few examples from the internet. I suppose that there is some value to be had in their retro quality today, but I think something deeper is at work. Things were simpler then (again, so people like to remember), the world had its boundaries. It’s a lot easier to show the city at a smaller, less crowded, more stately time than to show to the world today’s reality, a city with scarce public space and rampant, opportunistic construction. A card I saw not long ago shocked me because it showed a public garden with a statue at its center which I have never seen in today’s Beirut – because today it is little more than a glorified parking lot, and I have no memory of it being different, being a child of the Diaspora. Martyr’s Square (which is the park in question) is today one of the ugliest reminders of the city’s forgetfulness.

But its beauty still lives on in the old postcards expatriots send to far-flung relatives in Brazil, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

Taken December 2009, hardly anything has been done to rebuild after the damage sustained during the War. This is probably because there is little direct financial benefit - typical.