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In the Shadow of Beirut

Beirut is often described as the Paris of the Middle East, a jewel of the Lebanese crown. Today, however, Lebanon is suffering its worst economic crisis of its history. Mired in acute sectarianism fuelled by the big superpowers, it is estimated that 80% of the population is living under the poverty line with no President since October 2022. Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in the capital city where rolling power cuts, spiralling food prices and a plummeting currency are just some of the problems, compounded by the global pandemic and a cataclysmic August 2020 port explosion. Comparisons with the renowned splendour of the French capital become almost impossible. For this is a city and a country in deep distress.


On the outskirts of Beirut, largely hidden from most peoples’ view in a natural depression lies the twin neighbourhoods of Sabra and Shatila, one an urban slum, the other an official Palestinian Gathering, where impoverished Lebanese and descendants of the original Palestinian refugees make up the bulk of the population. Sabra and Shatila was the scene of a bloody massacre during Lebanon’s civil war in September 1982 when an estimated 3,500 civilians were butchered by a right wing Christian militia helped by the Israeli Defence Forces. What started out as an Israeli sponsored effort to rid Sabra and Shatila of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation), turned into the large-scale murder of innocent men, women and children. Armed killers revenged the assassination of their leader and newly elected President of Lebanon, incorrectly assuming the PLO were behind the massive explosion the previous day that killed him. 


Today, these barely habitable concrete slums are home to people with little or no money, many without formal Lebanese citizenship limiting access to basic healthcare and education. For the average family, every day is a herculean struggle for basic survival.


Despite the inhumane conditions and enormous challenges, the areas’ inhabitants possess unfathomable reserves of resilience and even hope, as they go about their daily lives in the struggle to forge a brighter future for their families.

Thank you to the families.

Without the families who allowed cameras into their lives, In The Shadow of Beirut would not exist. Extended thanks to the following people:

Abu Ahmad & Abeed Family

Kujeyje Family

Daher Family

Aboodi Ziyani

Production Team

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