Once the Pope – following a well received visit – had departed via Vatican Force One, or the Popecopter, or whatver, it seemed that at last ‘#MuslimRage’ at the ‘US film’, later to be joined by the ‘French Cartoon’, had finally arrived in Lebanon in earnest.

The day before, the Northern Lebanese city of Tripoli had seen a KFC being burned down, with people who were there saying that approximately 300 Salafists were responsible. As well as being a real eye sore and a big slice of Uncle Sam in the midst of one of the country’s more charming and old fashioned looking municipalities, it was apparently known as particularly bad franchise in terms of quality. Whether this, rather than US foreign policy in the region was more important factor is up to the reader to decide.

Tripoli KFC, a franchise managed and staffed by local Muslims

Of course, I don’t want to make too much light of what is potentially very dangerous situation. In some parts of the country, vitriolic anti-Americanism certainly exists, and often for quite understandable reasons (namely the US providing military aid to Israel, whose cluster bombs still kill and maim in the country today, billions of dollars in aid to regional dictators, and of course spectacularly arrogant military interventions). This is at times – wrongly – taken out on innocent American visitors and businesses. However, more often than not, Lebanese people who are personally against Western interference in the region are still capable of warmly greeting westerners in the street and enjoying friendships with them. In the same way, most people who were offended by the pathetic film were able to forget about it and get on with their lives.

I can’t help thinking, whilst being wary of heading into sweeping orientalist statement territory, that much of the local protests were more to do with the identity politics of a country still so defined by the differences between its various religions and sects. A Salafi protest in Beirut’s exorbitantly priced downtown area included women whose dress seemed to indicate that their lifestyles were clearly not inline with the strict interpretation of Islam their leaders promoted. Hezbollah, the guerilla network-cum-political party whose very raison d’etre risks becoming obsolete without a Zioninst or imperialist enemy that is directly threatening the Lebanese people, was bound to organise large scale protests with typically impressive efficiency and PR nous.

‘Only in Beirut’ Courtesy of @mahmoudR_21

Even as my first classes were beginning – including fun arabic colloquial ‘3amiyye’ that evoked year 7 language classes – bureaucracy continued to impinge. We’ve all been stuck in some kind of Kafkaesque feedback loop involving Student ID, residence permits, fee payments, local bank accounts, medical forms, and several other things I don’t yet know about.

My antics with the medical form had however put in me in pole position to meet the ambitious tuition payment deadline, and I was well on my way to opening a local bank account. The missing piece in this regard was some type of specious form that I would confirm that I had a flat in the area. There is an office just for this purpose. The lady in this office kindly waived my fee, and was extremely helpful.

Her enormous puppy of a cat jumped onto the desk begging for attention, so, whilst it sat purring, she regaled me with how much it hates the vet. Incredibly, the vet then walked in, and the cat suddenly sprung into action, hissing and baring its teeth at the man – lest he put his thermometer back up its ass again. Luckily, thats about the only ‘#MuslimRage’ I have experienced thus far, nushkur allah.

A Highlight: Playing backgammon until 5am in one of the cafes that inexplicably never closes

A Lowlight: Realising just how much I miss fried chicken

Beautiful Lebanese Girl Forecast: Protest Chic

Sweeping Orientalist Statements: I made enough in the article as it is today


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