25 October 2007

Lebanese Shops Looted Following Killing of Sierra Leone Girl

Scores of Sierra Leonean youths rampaged across the capital Freetown ransacking over a dozen shops owned by Lebanese traders from early Thursday, police said.

The riots in the war-scarred and desperately impoverished west African country were sparked by the death of a local teenage girl allegedly at the hands of a Lebanese gems dealer in the eastern diamond-rich town of Kenema.

Police assistant inspector general Elizabeth Turay said the 18-year-old Alima Kamara died in a "suspected murder" case on Monday in Kenema, some 300 kilometres (190 miles) east of Freetown.

Lebanese diamond dealer Mohamed Basma, 40, and a friend of the dead girl, Victoria Jarret, were being questioned by police in Freetown, police officials said.

Police moved in to restore order and protect the shops based in downtown Freetown, where scores of youths rioted and looted electric power generators, mobile phones and an array of household goods.

"It is a great shock, what has been done to Lebanese shops," head of the 10,000-strong Lebanese community in Sierra Leone, Sani Hassaniyeh told AFP, adding all Lebanese outfits including schools had been closed as a result.

Sierra Leone has had a large Lebanese business community over the past four decades, since many settled there after independence from Britain in 1961.(AFP)

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Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.