“Colors of a Modern Beirut” traces the history of this once-mythic city through the colors and sounds of its people, buildings, architecture, and everyday life. The book traces the evolution of the UFA between Roman times and modern times, traveling from town to town as the contours of the landscape and the history of this once-powerful ancient capital unfold before one’s eyes. In every chapter, a short vignette describes the colorful history of this unique desert city. The sound of the people’s voices is alive throughout “Colors of a Modern Beirut.” In particular, there are two stories told in each chapter, one historical and one of the everyday people living their lives in this once-dazzling metropolis.
“Colors of a Modern Beirut” traces the history of this once-mythic city through the colors of its people, the buildings, the architecture, the everyday life, and the legendary sights it has captured on film. In each chapter, a short vignette describes the colorful history of this unique desert city. The sound of the people’s voices is alive throughout “Colors of a Modern Beirut.” In particular, there are two stories told in each chapter, one historical and one of the everyday individuals living their days in this once-dazzling metropolis. Both are told through the beautiful voice of Randa Jarrar, an accomplished writer known for her cultural fiction collections.
“Colors of a Modern Beirut” describes the life of a colorful group of characters, most of whom are former residents of UFA, now middle-aged citizens who find themselves suddenly immersed in modern life in this beautiful, vibrant city. Chapter one describes the social and cultural milieu in UFA, as well as how the government attempts to maintain order amid growing communal tensions. Among the colorful residents of UFA are Yusef Islam, a gay man who has been forced out of his homeland; Majid el Khayyam, a cab driver who travels to UFA every day to deliver goods; Samir el Helaoui, a shopkeeper; and Kamal el Shimma, a prominent journalist. All these men share a common bond of friendship and pride for their native nations, as well as an appreciation of the differences among countries.
The story of the second chapter, “Shattered Dreams,” focuses on the daily life in UFA, including the conflicts that erupt when neighbors fail to respect one another’s cultural norms. One such clash is between the Fatah and Hezbollah factions in neighboring Syria, which have been deemed enemies by both Moscow and Washington due to their ongoing war against one another. This war has left much destruction in its path, including the bombing of a Hezbollah military headquarters near Beirut. Majid el Helaoui relates the events that led to this unfortunate event, which helped to define the character of the second stage of the conflict in Syria.
A third episode, “Memories of UFA,” takes place in Moscow, where it is revealed that a Hezbollah commander was arrested after attempting to enter the Russian capital on a humanitarian mission. As proof of this, photographs purporting to show Majid el Helaoui and other officials at the sham wedding ceremony were found inside a hard drive seized by the FSB. The events surrounding the arrest and subsequent confession prove that Hezbollah does not hesitate to kill officials that oppose its rule, and these images serve as a reminder that those who support the group are willing to sacrifice others.
The most recent episode in the long history of UFA takes place in the remote mountainous towns of Bashkortostan of the republic of Bashkortostan. Many residents of these towns, in both the UFA Administrations and the Russian Federation, remain suspicious of the involvement of international terrorists amongst the Chechen rebels and also within the forces of the FSA. Although residents may be wrong about Hezbollah’s participation in the battles in Syria, it is clear that both the FSA and the Russian army are engaged in combating Islamic State in Syria, and therefore the Chechens may have been deployed in order to provide cover for the Russians. On the other hand, the US State Department called on the Russian Federation to put the Chechens under international sanctions, and the US is also considering doing the same. Both Hezbollah and the Russian army are fighting against each other in Syria, so the Chechens in the FSA may be useful instruments in between, especially if they receive advanced weapons from either side. This is why the FSA must find a way to get rid of the Chechens and release its Arab political prisoners.