Guns, everywhere. Men carrying guns. Massive billboard ads for guns. Massive billboard ads featuring heavily made-up women carrying guns. Tanks in the streets. Sniper nests on the corners of buildings.
And children. Young boys shooting each other one the streets, not with popguns, but with very realistic heavy artillery. Machine guns. Automatic rifles. Sawn-off shotguns, grenades, and rocket launchers.
All fake, of course, in the case of the children - though the military police presence was quite, quite real.
The White Witch and I had read about the troubles in Tripoli, in the microbus on the way up the coast from Beirut. There are tensions that still simmer below the surface, and as recently as 2007 there was fighting in the streets. So I guess the police and army presence is understandable, but it was the kids with guns that really surprised us.
But then, I guess when you grow up in a volatile environment, and there are violent years of history even in your very recent past; then playing with guns is something that's culturally acceptable - encouraged, even.
|This was just lying on the street|
We'd gone to Tripoli to check out the souq, which is meant to be one of the best in the region. Unfortunately for us, it was closed on the day we were there, for the feast of Eid Al Adha.
So we visited the citadel on top of the hill instead, and got mobbed by small children in the square outside the Great Mosque, who all begged for photographs from my digital camera, and tried out some of our fledgling Arabic (Ismi Flickettysplits, sabah al khayr, keyfa haluki, askun fi Ustraylia) and ate mounds of baklava in the best cafe in town, which was absolutely fantastic.
But the guns .... it was the guns that left a lingering impression. And the children, mock-killing each other - over, and over, and over again.