Walking through Hamra this morning, I stopped and gazed up at the mansion of Saad Hariri, the son of the late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. I was standing three blocks away from the bombastic heavily-guarded complex, with a view of the banner draped across the front, which depicts Hariri Sr. standing on an executive-looking lawn with a bed of roses in the background. While Saad Hariri hasn't set foot in Lebanon since the beginning of the current war, his security apparatus commands a cordoned-off 5 block radius of this residential- and commercial area. The word on the street is that Hariri opened his mansion to Saudi citizens seeking refuge when the bombing started, but not to Lebanese.
Glancing around to ensure the absence of security and army personnel, I took shelter in the doorway of a house and whipped out my camera to take a picture. As soon as I snapped the photo, the door to the house flew open and an elderly gent hissed, "Watch out! They will catch you. It's forbidden to take pictures in this area." Startled by his dramatic appearance, I asked, "What should I do? Should I erase the picture? Should I toss the camera?" "You should come in for coffee and stay until it's safe," he whispered, raising his bushy eyebrows conspiratorially.
I declined politely, but was still anxious about what would happen if I continued on my path towards the Internet cafe, which is only a block away from Haririville. "They're everywhere. They watch us all the time, constantly filming our every move. They've probably already captured you on surveillance camera. They know everything about you," the man said with disgust. "Sneak around the back," he suggested, "and keep a low profile."