The tears in the fabric

One of my favourite bits of cities are the holes and gaps, where there is some glitch in the smooth surface of city and society. This is a huge vacant building in Damascus that has been unfinished for years. I met one French Algerian man who told me how he had once tried to climb it whilst incredibly drunk.

Beirut was especially interesting for ragged edges and gaps in the weave. So many things are missing from it – buildings, parts of buildings, and people. The exact number of people who disappeared during the time Lebanon was at war is unknown, but some put it at as many as 17000. Here is a bullet marked building in Achrafiye (or, as a Beiruti friend put it rather sweepingly, ‘where the fascists live’). Scars both physical and mental.

When I was in Cairo I spent some time watching the bank across the street from where I was staying. With one of those long and faintly comic Egyptian bank names, the ‘Commercial and Industrial Bank of Cairene Fishmongers’ or something like that, it was probably the least bustling hub of finance I have ever seen. Three men sat outside; no-one ever seemed to go in and out. The top floors of the bank were entirely unoccupied. Meanwhile, about three million families in Cairo are homeless. Again, the tears in the fabric, the gaps in the weave.

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