Tripoli with Wallid: Religion, Politics, Pigeons.

I am sitting on a bench in Tripoli, trying to orient myself, when a man approaches and begins talking to me. He’s interesting, speaks of politics, and his English is impeccable, but I can barely get a breath in, much less a word. Thirty minutes later, we finally introduce ourselves properly.

I spend the entire day with Wallid as he generously shows me around his hometown of Tripoli. The streets are cobbled and narrow, the remains from the Crusaders are interesting, the old mosques are lovely. Still, the most fascinating part of the day is the jumble of ideas that stream out of Wallid’s mouth. I get the distinct feeling that fact often blurs into fiction, so I take his pronouncements with a grain of salt; however, what he says is always opinionated, well thought out, and captivating. Here’s a taste.

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On politics:

“Hezbollah is scared now. Hezbollah is allied with Syria and Iran and if Syria and Iran fall, then Hezbollah cannot stand.”


Wallid: “We have a saying here. Arab is garbage.”

Me: “Really? That's a saying?”

Wallid: “Yes because look at the Arab countries—we have oil, resources, skills, climate. But what are we doing with our resources? We have terrible leaders and we kill each other.”

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On religion:

“It's all mythology. Why should we treat the Greek mythology any different than Islamic or Christian mythology. Apollo, yeah, Moses, Jupiter, Jesus. They're all the same.”

“Last Friday in this mosque, yeah, the Sheikh was talking about Libya, about how it was a shame to get help from Europe and the West because they just want our oil. We should only accept help from the Arabic countries. Isn't that stupid? He's an idiot. The Arabic countries are all having our own struggles.”


Wallid: “Christians hate Jehovah's Witnesses. Do you know why?”

Me: “I wasn't aware that they do. In the U.S. it seems...”

Wallid: “They hate Jehovah's Witnesses because they're not Christian. They deny the cross, yeah. How can you deny the cross and call yourself a Christian? They say the cross is a symbol of the death of Jesus, but that's not true. It wasn't Jesus on the cross; it was his likeness. And his likeness was on the cross to erase the sins of mankind. They deny the cross! How can they be Christian?”

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On politics:

“In Lebanon, we don't hate Israel. We understand that they were only going after Palestinians and Hezbollah. We hate Hezbollah.”

“The whole Arabic world is changing now. Waking up, yeah. I just wonder why it took so long and if it’s too late.”

On pigeons:

“In Tripoli we say, any man who owns pigeons is a liar. In fact in court, yeah, they won't listen to the testimony of someone who owns pigeons. Because the only way to get pigeons is to steal them.”

Beirut 065  On religion:

“The only religion in Lebanon is money. The sheikhs, the priests—they're all the same. They have villas in France and Italy. My friend is a sheikh and he hates America, but if he hates America why does he buy American cars? He says “Salaam aleikum” to the poor on the street, but only if there's someone watching him. He doesn't care about the poor; he has millions of dollars and only worships money.”

“They go to Saudi, yeah, they say they are so religious. They want to build a mosque, but they come back here to Lebanon and what do they build? A villa.”

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On religion:

[After seeing a dozens of soldiers walking the street] “Today is Sunday, yeah, so the soldiers are out just to make a statement. This is the day Christians go to Church and the army is making a statement. We protect the Christians. No one bothers them. Of course, no one ever bothers them. There's never a problem in Tripoli, never been a problem. But the army wants to make a statement anyways.”

On pigeons:

“One pair of pigeons is worth $100. That’s why people steal them.”

“I have a friend who quit his job, a good job, so he could watch after his pigeons.”

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