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19/01 – Mleeta to Beirut – Hezbollah museum and back to Beirut

March 4, 2011

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‘Arthur’ resumes his good cop bad cop persona in the morning by bringing us breakfast and resuming the suspicious questioning. Its interesting to talk to the guys about the history of the place in such close proximity to the border and the UN peacekeeping zone and sad to hear of the family they have lost in the fighting and bombing that has happened within our lifetime. Packing up we are then escorted to the next village and told to take care of ourselves and pointed in the direction of the museum we’ve come to see. Its a bit of a hack up the hill and we all feel slightly on edge, feeling like we just want to see the museum and then back onto the main road to Beirut instead of our proposed and vetoed route up through the Beckaa valley.

We’re stopped a few times and explain our story yet again, phone calls are made and we’re given the all clear. Slogging up the hill we come out to what looks very much like a modern military base. We’re granted free access and try to find and English guide, there arent any, its pretty early in the morning, so we go and watch a vitriolic introductory video by Nasarallah (Head of Hezbollah). Back outside the main exhibition is a powerful display of defeat of the Israeli army with military equipment – Tanks, helmet, rounds, guns, clothes, backpacks everything organised into a huge sculpture. We walk around the tunnels which were occupied very recently and get an amazing sense of the environment that these guerrilla fighters existed in. All over the area information boards give us the history behind the conflicts, the detail is strongly slanted but its very interesting to learn more about the fresh scars that run so deep and affect so many people in the region. This place really makes you think and i highly recommend a visit if you ever go to Lebanon (maybe once the government has settled down..) we wander around one of the observation platforms which gives a clear view of the strongholds held by the Israelis and then claimed by Hezbollah and think about the invetiability of World War 3.

The museum is very new and we’re asked if they can take our photo for the catalogue at the front of the gates – we oblige. Heading back to the main road with a sense of urgency in our pace we need to get back to Beirut tonight so we can go on our ‘safer’ route to Syria. As we come into Beirut a huge UN convoy of white tanks and military vehicles stream the other way, its quite a sight and gives the impression something quite serious is going on.

The motorway in the dark is pretty hellish but we make it back into Beirut and back to our favourite place – the Saifi institute. Luckily Sally is willing to put us up for the night so we bundle our tired selves over there and relay our stories. What was interesting to find out was that “Arthur’ and that section of our night were not Hezbollah at all and thats why they had no way of verifying us, they belonged to another military faction associated with Hezbollah – Amal []

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