Fabled City Beirut Episode Now Up

Amman- After being here in Jordan a good few days now I’ve finally gotten my first Lebanon episode up on my Fabled City channel. Had a number of tech snafus in recent days with my iPhone flying out the car window and promptly being run over on the way to the airport in Beirut. I then risked my neck to run to salvage it in rush hour traffic before it got run over more. I spent my whole first day here in the Jordanian capital trying to find spare phone parts rather than starting straight away on a Jordanian episode. The whole ordeal cost me an arm and a leg and after all the dinars I spent it turned out the phone still has to be replaced if I’m to continue this trip and it’s planned social media deluge.

The front camera doesn’t work and thus I won’t be able to do the Youtube #shorts and Instagram Reels I had planned onward from here without fully replacing it which could then shorten the planed length of this hoped-for massive journey. Then I’m having the issue with editing one of these long form videos filling up my hard drive and my external Lacie Rugged etc. So the above video took me three days to upload and I had to cut out some filler to make it exportable from my MacBook. But I got it done.

Why was I holding my phone out the car window on the way to the airport? There was a shot of the Mövenpick hotel on the corniche that I ran out of time to get for the next episode that I needed. It was where my driver Kamal and I picked up a very young New York Times photographer called Bryan Denton (whom I was splitting costs with that particular day) during the 2006 war. My GoPro was in my bag in the boot of the car and I was running late enough as it was to catch my flight to Amman. I wanted to do a quick standup outside the hotel as a detail of retelling the story of that day but there was no time. So I thought to just hold my phone out the window as we passed the hotel to get something and then just voice it over later explaining the meaning of the shot. There was still so much more I wanted to do in Beirut and Lebanon as a whole but I had to move on to Jordan partly so I could use a normal, healthy URL to pay my bills back home (I don’t have a VPN at the moment and lots of sites having anything to do with money back home are inaccessible if they detect a Lebanese URL) but much more so to be one step closer to Baghdad. Plus I want to revisit Petra after 25 years.

But it was super windy in Beirut that day and the wind yanked the mobile out of my hand and it flew in the air through traffic until another car smashed it. The Mövenpick stuck in my head as a detail because Bryan causally mentioned having drinks with the New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson there who’s books (and brother’s books) I was reading during that era. I was staying in was what essentially a suddenly defunct youth hostel on the other side of town owned by a friendly but unrepentant Phalangist for a few dollars a night in stark contrast. Working for the Times seemed wildly out of reach at the time (I was shooting photos for a bunch of French newspapers and magazines through an agency owned by an unapproachably gruff Greco-Egyptian back in NYC).

Taxi to the dark side. Downtown Beirut mostly just being illuminated by passing cars on some streets. This isn’t a blackout, this is the everyday in Lebanon. ©2023 Derek Henry Flood

It’s good to be back here in Jordan after almost exactly twenty years. The last time I was here I was waiting for the border to be crossable when it was being manned by American soldiers. Hard to believe that was two full decades ago. My personal reporting trajectory through the terror wars took me to other border crossings into Iraq and thus I was never compelled to return to Amman out of sheer necessity much as I actually love this town. Jordan is largely still now what it was then: a relative oasis of quiet stability amidst of desert of tragic chaos.