Lebanon, December 2016-January 2017


I travelled across Lebanon in December 2016 and January 2017 visiting different areas of the country: from the slum areas of Beirut, such as Sabra and Shatila, to the Syrian refugee camps, from the predominantly Kurdish to the Hezbollah quarters, up to the borders with Syria, beyond the Beqaa Valley. It was a period in which the Syrian refugees were pouring into the streets of Beirut, a fascinating city always trying to strike a balance between opposite interests of different religious, political and economic groups. From a quarter to another, this city showed stark contradictions: the businessmen and the mendicants, the Lebanese middle class and the Syrian refugees, the Palestinians and the Armenians, the Hezbollah guards and the Lebanese soldiers, the land speculation and the ruins of war. Here there are some of the most meaningful photos of that journey, which I have told on a reportage on Panorama.

On the rocks of Beirut

A couple of Lebanese people watches the sunset from the rocks of Beirut. The history of this city has always been very troubled. It was Phoenician and then it became a Roman colony. In 1110 it was conquered by the Crusaders and in 1516 by the Ottomans. Between 1975 and 1990, during the Lebanese war, it was heavily bombarded by the Israelis. The signs of the war are still visible and are at odds with the beauty of Beirut’s waterfront as well as its sunsets and skies (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

The alleys by the sea

The Mediterranean sea at the end of the alley. Many of the different cultural influences, which have made of Beirut a multifaceted city, have arrived from that sea. Sunni and Shia Muslins, Druze and Maronite Christians, Armenians of the Apostolic Church, Orthodox and Catholic Syrians, Protestants, Latine Rite Catholics and Chaldeans live together in uncertain equilibrium (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Mosque and cathedral

The architecture of Beirut expresses the religious contrasts within the Lebanese society: the mosque of Mohammed Al-Amin is located next to the Orthodox cathedral of St. George (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

In Sabra district

In the streets of Sabra district, in the Southern part of Beirut, in which the flags of Palestine Liberation Organization stand out. This street is not far away from the place in which, in 1982, Lebanese corps, with the complicity of Israel army , slaughtered 4 thousands of Palestinian civilians and Lebanese Shia Muslins (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

The shadow of Arafat

In this corner of Sabra district Palestinian fighters use to gather (two of them, who were armed, can be seen on the right side of the picture). On the wall there was a image of Yasser Arafat, who was the president of the Palestinian State (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

On the run from the war

A Syrian woman on the run from the war who had taken refuge in Sabra district. The Syrian refugees on Lebanese soil recorded by UNHCR were about one million and one hundred thousand in 2016. (Credits_ Luca Sciortino).

The many faces of Hezbollah

Hezbollah along with Amal is one of two major political parties in Lebanon that represent Shiite Muslims.[152] Unlike Amal, whose support is predominantly in the south of the country, Hezbollah maintains broad-based support in all three areas of Lebanon with a majority Shia Muslim population: in the south, in Beirut and its surrounding area, and in the northern Beqaa valley and Hirmil region. The (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

That corner of Shatila

A corner of Shatila, a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. I was struck by the quantity of electric cables all around. (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Eyes to heaven

For someone who lives inside the refugee camp of Shatila to look up at the sky from time to time must be a relief. In fact, this child was waiting for someone to bring down a basket from a balcony. I find it striking the contrast between the posters, which somehow tell the troubled history of Middle East, and the glance heavenward (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Child labour

A child who worked in the streets of Shatila. In the refugee camps the exploitation of child labour is not a rare phenomenon (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Children life in the refugee camps

These are the alleys in which the kids of the refugees grow up. Their parents or grandfathers left Palestine after 1948. Most of them were born in the villages in the north of Palestine (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Without wheelchair

In Shatila these disabled people were forced to crawl because they were to poor to buy a wheelchair. This is one of the many tragedies in these poor areas of Beirut (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Uncollected waste

The living standards in Sabra and Shatila were shocking, and not only because of overcrowding, crime and lack of infrastructure, but also for the garbage heaps piled up in the streets. Waste disposal became a problem as a consequence of the closure of the landfill of Naamah (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Hezbollah meeting point

This was one of the many meeting points of Hezbollah. Anyone could get a coffee and have a chat (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

From Palestine to Beirut

An old Palestinian man who settled down in Beirut at a young age, during the Lebanese war. The latter started in 1975 and lasted about 15 years. In 1975 the number of Palestinian refugees amounted to 300 thousands. Beirut also became a fefuge for the PLO terrorists (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Bullet wounds

These children were playing in an area near Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque where many buildings still have the marks of war on them. Behind the children, the holes which were left from the bullets ares till visible (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Uncollected waste

The living standards in Sabra and Shatila were shocking, and not only because of overcrowding, crime and lack of infrastructure, but also for the garbage heaps piled up in the streets. The problem of waste disposal was a problem in Beirut since when the landfill of Naamah was closed down (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Lebanese units

One of the many units of the Lebanese army in Hamra Street, the main commercial street in the center of Beirut (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

The girl from Raouché

This girl was walking with her mother and a friend in the commercial district of Raouché. She kindly accepted to be photographed (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

The refugees of the Beqaa valley

I shot this picture right at the entrance of one of the refugee camps put up by the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) in the Beqaa Valley, near the border with Syria. (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Nejmeh Square

A glimpse of the interior of Nejmeh Square, the main square of Beirut, patrolled by Lebanese units on a rainy night. In the background there are the minarets of Mohammad al-Amin (Credits: Luca Sciortino)


The area of Jounieh, in the north of Beirut, photographed from the sanctuary of Harissa, one of the places of worship of Maronite Christians. The coast of Lebanon is almost entirely covered by buildings, with no interruptions. (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

That Syrian family

A Syrian family on the run from the war photographed in the refugee camp of the Beqaa Valley. All of them have been very hospitable in spite of the difficult situation (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

The girl in the doorway

The face, hard to forget, of a Syrian girl leaning out from a tend of a refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Tend number five

DTwo Syrian children are entering the tend provided by UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) in a refugee camp in Beqaa Valley, Lebanon. Someone had traced on the fly the number five in order to identify the tend (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

In the streets for coins

Syrian children on the run from the war in the streets of Beqaa valley, in Lebanon (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Ottoman building

The Ottoman victory in the battle of Marj-Dabik, fought against the Mamluks, gave Ottoman armies control of the entire region of Syria and opened the door to the conquest of Egypt. The Ottoman empire lasted until the First World War. This building was built by the Ottomans near the Crusader castle. In this piece of land there are also remains of Phoenician and Roman buildings (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

L'albero di Byblos

In the rocks of Byblos there is a crusade castle in which Christians and Muslins have fiercely fought. Those who walk down to the path come across this solitary tree which grows by a marvelous blue-turquoise sea. And they stop, because are touched by the beauty of the scene. We have learned from Descartes, the Christian thinkers and Kant that all is outside us has no soul. This idea has led us to the destruction of trees, animals, rivers, lakes and forests. We have thought of them only in terms of their instrumental and economic value. Conversely, most of the cultures of the past have believed that the soul is not only inside us but also outside us. For a native American or an ancient Egyptian, the value of a tree transcends its material boundaries. We need to give the soul back to the world.(Credits: Luca Sciortino)

The sea and the hijab

On the front of Sidon a girl with the hijab is looking at the sea waves (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

The school bus

This school bus looked like it had got left by the sea; the wind was blowing through the palms (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Sunset in Sidon

A look at what’s outside of the Mosque Hajj Bahaeddin Hariri, in Sidon, when the sun was setting (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Muslin funeral

A Muslin funeral was being held in a coin of the Mosque Hajj Bahaeddin Hariri in Sidon. The older relatives of the departed were sitting in front of the audience and by the body. At the end of the ceremony many people kissed the hand of an elder who just sat waiting (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Inside the mosque

Muslins pray inside one of the most important mosque of Sidon, that of Hajj Bahaeddin Hariri (Credits: Luca Sciortino)

Mosque and cemetery

A mosque in Tyre and its cemetery (Credits: Luca Sciortino).

Dreaming of Europe

A Syrian family watches the sunset in the Lebanese coast near Tyre. That is a place in which many boats of emigrants leave home for good. Very likely this family was dreaming of a better life and I like thinking that by now they have found it (Credits: Luca Sciortino).