It seems quite fitting that on the same day that I was given an unexpected tour of An-Nahar newspaper, Lebanon's largest Arabic daily, I end up reporting on a seminar all presented in pure, written-form Arabic (not the Lebanese dialect that I understand!). There's a reason I don't work for An-Nahar! I don't read or write Arabic, and I definitely don't understand when people speak this written, formal form of the language. But after seeing the newspaper's offices yesterday, it's clear that I'm missing out.
An-Nahar was started by Gebran Tueni in 1933. His son and grandson (also Gebran) were subsequent editors and publishers until Gebran Jnr was assassinated in a car bomb in December 2005 after being elected to parliament. He was a critic of Syria and its involvement in Lebanese affairs and had just returned from Paris, where he'd been living because of a fear of being assassinated!
This is the newspaper for which Samir Kassir worked until he too was assassinated in a car bomb in 2005. (Hmmm, maybe it's better that I stick to my English writing!) Samir Kassir is a popular name around the country, and a music and cultural festival was recently held in his honour. He was a well-known journalist and political activist. Born to a Palestinian father and Syrian mother, he fought for freedom for Palestinians, as well as for democracy in Lebanon and Syria, and was also strongly opposed to the Syrian presence in Lebanon.
(Syria occupied Lebanon from 1976, at the beginning of the civil war, to 2005, 15 years after the civil war ended. Its withdrawal came as a result of the Cedar Revolution on 26 April 2005 that was a reaction to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri earlier that year. Over a million people took part in this peaceful demonstration in Lebanon - that's a quarter of the country's population! I'd also leave if I were the Syrian army!)
Samir Kassir was also a professor of history, with a PhD in Modern History from the Sorbonne University in Paris. His murder has not been resolved.
Three floors of the An-Nahar building are dedicated to the daily Arabic newspaper of the same name. The views are spectacular - looking out to sea and down to old Roman ruins that are being excavated and re-established (well, they've been 'busy' with this for eight years now).