The war's over but now it's a power struggle

Beirut Days

Spare a thought for Dr Levon Kardjian, the gentlest, most intelligent dentist in Beirut.

``You may know how to write," he muttered in my ear the other day, drill already whirring in his hand, "but you are a coward." Too true. Since the days when a Maidstone dentist worked away with 1940s equipment on the young Fisk molars, dentists have been high on my list of phobias, along with cluster bombs and flechette shells. In Beirut, however, you can be rescued by the EDL.

The EDL - Electricit du Liban - is the broken-down Lebanese generating company that still cannot supply us with 24 hours of power more than four years after the end of the civil war; 12-hours a day is the most we can hope for just now, the cut-off times supposedly scheduled in the press but often imposed haphazardly on vast areas of Beirut. And so it was, as Dr Kardjian prepared to cut away at an unhappy tooth, that the light flickered out and the chain-saw growl of the drill whispered to a stop. Somebody started a generator. The drill roared menacingly back to life. Then the power cut again. No sooner had it been restored when a man arrived to announce that authorities - still trying to clean up Beirut's civil war neglect - were about to cut down a tree outside the surgery.

The doctor and his staff rushed to the window to observe the offending tree while their timid patient remained in the chair, mouth filled goldfish- like with aspirators and cotton cloth. I never thought it would be like this when the war ended. But I never reckoned on the power - or lack thereof - of the EDL.

Back home an hour later, my landlord confided that within days the electricity supply was to be changed from 110 to 220 volts, that I would have to change my apartment's entire electrical system or buy a transformer to maintain the old voltage. All very complex - but not as confusing as the EDL which, as the people of the Ein el-Mreisse district found out the other day, decided not to warn them of the change to 220 volts: which is why every refrigerator, computer, bell, water heater and lamp socket in the area burnt out in three seconds.

But why bother to tell anyone about power changes when timetables are so hard to believe in. We were promised 24-hour electricity last year. Now we are promised 24-hour electricity by April, although an EDL estimate suggests the real date will be 1997. No matter, at least the war is over. Which is why thousands of Beirutis couldn't believe their ears when they heard bursts of rifle-fire in the west of the city last week, the first Beirut gun battle since the war ended. Even odder were the combatants; for it turned out that security guards for Nabih Berri, the Speaker of parliament, were shooting it out with security guards for Hussein Husseini, the former Speaker of parliament, who lives just across the road from Mr Berri's new home.

It seems that the shooting started after one of Mr Husseini's guards refused to move his car during a security sweep. The local police chief announced that one of Mr Husseini's sons had ordered his bodyguards to open fire, wounding a lieutenant in the head. Hassan Husseini, son of the ex-Speaker, claimed that Berri's bodyguards started the battle because Mr Husseini is a bitter critic of the present government (and, so it is said, still very angry at having lost his previous job). A count by the Independent showed 200 bullet holes in the Husseini residence, precious few in the Berri home. Husseini senior crouched in a back room as the bullets smashed through windows, missing the Persian carpets but hitting a photo of Husseini and the Pope.

"None of us," as one Beiruti announced afterwards, "deserve this". Which is true.

The elderly Mr Husseini should not have to cower in his living room and Mr Berri, a tough debater in one of the most democratic parliaments in the Arab world, should not be worrying about security. Beirutis should know when their lights will go out and when their refrigerators will burn out. And Dr Kardjian should be able to drill away in peace. I hope so - because I return to the dentist's chair on Thursday.

Suggested Topics
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice