Wednesday, 21 July 2010
At the races
Beirut's horse racing track or the 'Hippodrome du Parc de Beyrouth', to use its official title, is an oasis of history in a city that is barely recognisable from 10 years ago. To walk from the busy highway through it's grand gates for the first time is akin to discovering some ancient paradise - pseudo roman ruins, bushes and towering pine trees float in a lake of trimmed grass, ringed by the dark sandy track. Ascot it ain't, but the concrete stands and formica chairs still waft a hint of the French colonialism which built the place back in 1918. The same old dudes sit in the same old chairs every weekend, unless, that is, they're standing up screaming at their horse.
There's seemingly no visible sign to divide between the 'cheap seats' on the left and the exclusive smoking lounge tucked away in rarified air-conditioned exclusivity, but the unspoken class segregation takes place with impeccable efficiency. Slinging a camera or two around your neck means you get to see the show from everyone's seat, should you chose to, and the race track presents an interesting microcosm of the country's social strata. This place is a goldmine for pictures, so there might be a few more of these to come.