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BACK TO BEIRUT – John McRae Photography & Studio


I first visited Lebanon in 2005. In spite of the fact that I had a brilliant time it took me 14 years to get back to Beirut for another Lebanese experience. It did not disappoint.

Whether it’s the delicious Middle Eastern food, the beautiful and changing landscapes, the ancient monuments or the most hospitable and warm inhabitants, a good time is assured. Here a few frames from my latest trip to the Jewel of the Levant.

Tia, shot at the Abroyan Factory, a disused clothing manufacturing warehouse in Burj Hammoud, Beirut. Interesting…since I shot it just prior to the popular uprising where millions of Lebanese took to the streets to signal their dissfatisaction with the present government’s management of the country. ©johnmcrae
Samer at the Abroyan Factory ©johnmcrae
Window view at the Abroyan Factory ©johnmcrae
Window view at the Abroyan Factory©johnmcrae
Abroyan Factory, Burj Hammoud, Beirut ©johnmcrae

South Border Gallery – Exhibition at the Abroyan Factoy, Beirut

The Abroyan Factory was transformed into a huge art installation to coincide with the opening of the Beirut Art Fair. It was a great event and an amazing experience to wander through the rooms and corridors of the old factory, lined with art from different corners of the world.

Study for Soap, by Emmanuel Tussore. Aleppo, Syria, is renowned for making some of the best soap in the world. This impressive work is made entirely out of soap. Each piece has been sculptured to resemble the destroyed buildings of the city, post civil war and stands as a potent comment on the Syrian destruction on all levels. ©johnmcrae

Beirut Art Fair

I had the good fortune to be in Beirut during the Beirut Art Fair. I checked it out.

Michel and Jean Claude at the South Border Gallery stand©johnmcrae
A selfie with the artwork? ©johnmcrae
Relax and discuss ©johnmcrae
Get your best girlfriend to get a selfie of you with the artwork ©johnmcrae

Baalbek, Beka Valley

Model of the original construction, portrayed as it would have looked before the centuries of invading destruction. ©johnmcrae

Baalbek is an ancient Phoenician city located in what is now modern day Lebanon, north of Beirut, in the Beqaa Valley.  Inhabited as early as 9000 BCE, Baalbek grew into an important pilgrimage site in the ancient world for the worship of the Phoenician sky-god Baal and his consort Astarte, the Queen of Heaven (the name `Baalbek’ means Lord Baal of the Beqaa Valley). The center of the city was a grand temple dedicated to Astarte and Baal and the ruins of this early temple remain today beneath the later  Temple of Jupiter Baal. Baalbek is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

These structures are magnificent and mysterious. They are still the subject of much debate in the academic community, particularly questions concerning the origins and nature of many of the enormous foundation stones in the structures, some of which are the largest in the known world.

Baalbek, Beka Valley, Lebanon ©johnmcrae
Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek. The columns, built by the Romans, are among the largest ever constructed by man. Of note is that these columns and in fact the whole temple constructions are much larger in scale than what we find even in the capital, Rome, which begs the question of why the Romans would work on a scale much larger than usual, in an outer Eastern extremity of their empire. ©johnmcrae


megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. The word megalithic describes structures made of such large stones without the use of mortar or concrete, representing periods of prehistory characterised by such constructions. For later periods, the word monolith, with an overlapping meaning, is more likely to be used.

A particular curiosity of Baalbek is this stone in a nearby quarry (nearby…it’s 800m uphill from the ruins). The stone has been carved from the limestone of the quarry and weighs close to 1,200 tons (a larger stone has recently been uncovered next to this one, even larger, 1650 tons) suggesting that similar stones found in the foundations of the temple of Jupiter all came from this quarry. The stone is the largest quarried stone in the world and, although in some dispute, they appear to pre-date the Greeks and the Romans. It is megalithic. The question remains how did they transport the megaliths and why was this one left, unfinished in the bedrock? ©johnmcrae
With the subjects in the foreground one gets an idea of the scale of this huge sculptural stone. Another interesting point is that these stoney carvings are so precisely cut as to baffle modern concepts of construction. These stones are laid end to end, in the Temple of Jupiter with an error of 1mm. It would appear that there was a civilisation, that pre-dates the Romans, with a more sophisticated technology. The Roman stonework is comprised of smaller blocks which are not quite as precisely hewn or placed. ©johnmcrae
Here one sees the obvious difference in scale between the Roman work and the older, larger megalithic stones at the base. ©johnmcrae

The Beach in Beirut

There’s nothing like a quiet chat with a mate, overlooking the Mediterranean, along the Corniche. ©johnmcrae
Walking, running, skipping….along the Corniche is a favourite pastime of the Lebanese.©johnmcrae
Some of the locals, pictured here, are dowsing themselves from a small well, washing off the salt water of the ocean. ©johnmcrae

The Streets…..

Young Syrian Refugee sells produce from car to car in the streets ©johnmcrae

Bullet holes ect, remnants of and eery reminders of the civil war

Tia pictured in Burj Hammoud. ©johnmcrae
I’m loving the aerial spaghetti, Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
There’s always time for a chat at the hairdressers ©johnmcrae
Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Row of apartments in Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Leaving Burj Hammoud for Ashrafieh ©johnmcrae
Housing estate on the fringes of Ashrafieh ©johnmcrae
The Shia festival, Ashoura, celebrates the matyrdom of Hussein (son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad).  He died in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD.  Many flags and banners are displayed around the city.  Above is "Ya Hussein", written in Arabic.  ©johnmcrae
The Shia festival, Ashoura, celebrates the matyrdom of Hussein (son of Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad). He died in the battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Many flags and banners are displayed around the city. Above is “Ya Hussein”, written in Arabic. ©johnmcrae
An example of the electrical spaghetti often found throughout the city of Beirut. ©johnmcrae

Beit El Baraka

Maya (founder) and Rita (Manager) pictured at the doorstep of Beit El Baraka in Beirut’s Ashrafieh district. ©johnmcrae

Beit El Baraka – Our Mission is to ensure a sense of dignity to hard-working citizens once they retire, by assisting them in their struggle with the increasing cost of living. In a spirit of respect and support, we aim to provide a tailor-made accurate and beneficial response to Lebanon’s economic and multi-dimensional challenges that are depriving many retired citizens of their most basic needs and rights. 

Coffee Culture in Beirut

Coffee culture is alive and well in Beirut. Bashar is pictured realaxing after a big day at work. ©johnmcrae
Friends on the terrasse, Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
Tia at the local coffee shop in Burj Hammoud ©johnmcrae
A soldier kicks back and relaxes after the days work of protecting Lebanon. ©johnmcrae
The family who manages the bar in Burj Hammoud. ©johnmcrae

Treasures of the Beirut Museum

Entrance of the museum, a monument to antiquity. ©johnmcrae
Amazingly beautiful Phoenician sarcophagi at the Natural Museum in Beirut. They are breathtaking in their mysterious beauty. ©johnmcrae
The famous rock formation, “Raouche”, off the coast of Beirut, seen clearly as you walk along the Corniche. ©johnmcrae