Lebanon rooftops bustle as coronavirus shifts life upstairs

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Yoga instructor Rabih El-Medawar practices Acroyoga with his wife Alona Aleksandrova on the roof of their apartment building in Beirut’s Ain El-Remmaneh district on April 27, 2020. (AFP)
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Lebanese tattoo artist Hady Baydoun works on a wooden sculpture on the rooftop of his building in Jal el-dib, north of Beirut on April 16, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 09 May 2020

Lebanon rooftops bustle as coronavirus shifts life upstairs

  • Several Lebanese citizens have ventured onto their roofs to escape the lockdown

BEIRUT: Usually the kingdom of water tanks and satellite dishes, Lebanon’s rooftops have recently been graced by unlikely scenes of locked-down residents fleeing their flats.
Deprived of rehearsal rooms or workshops by restrictions imposed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, or just needing some extra breathing space, many people have found solace without leaving their buildings.
Several have ventured onto their roofs to escape the lockdown after taking to the streets in recent months as part of nationwide protests against rulers deemed corrupt and inept.
AFP photographer Joseph Eid spent weeks scaling staircases to see how people have taken over underused rooftops, whose only visitors used to be caretakers, plumbers and electricians.
“When confinement started, I soon couldn’t take it anymore, and that’s when I thought of checking out the roof,” said Sherazade Mami, a Tunisian dancer who has been living in Beirut since 2016.
Every day, she walks up to the ninth floor of her building with her water, her mat and her music to stretch and practice.
Like others discovering their rooftops during the lockdown, Mami said her outlook on the city had changed.
“Once you’re up there, you realize — I have an amazing view on the whole of Beirut. It’s beautiful, the city is so quiet,” she said of the sprawling metropolis usually known for its noise and chaotic traffic.
“You can hear the birds singing, you’re under the sun, it’s heaven ... It’s better than rehearsing in the theater in some ways,” she added.
A bird’s eye view of Beirut around sunset since mid-March would show largely empty streets and shuttered shops at ground level, but unusual activity above.
On a hedgehopping flight over the city, maybe yoga instructors Rabih Al-Medawar and his wife Alona Aleksandrova could be spotted trying out new acrobatic moves on their roof.
Traveling north toward the seaside town of Byblos, Lebanese gymnast Karen Dib might appear, tumbling down the red mat she had laid out on the top of her building.
And in Tripoli, Lebanon’s main northern city, artist and activist Hayat Nazer might be glimpsed working on her latest canvas.
Others too have been heading upstairs to sunbathe, read or smoke a shisha water pipe.
Nazer said she hoped the weeks of lockdown would leave a positive mark on the way residents thought of their city.
“I really hope people will start planting and greening their roofs to help the environment,” she said.
“They have been underused. You can do sports there, organize barbecues, have parties.”
Mami, the dancer, said she would not forsake her roof when the lockdown ended and her theater reopened its doors.
“I have found a place where I feel free and I will continue to use it,” she said.


‘Tiger King’ star loses animal park to nemesis he tried to kill

Updated 02 June 2020

‘Tiger King’ star loses animal park to nemesis he tried to kill

  • Joe Exotic’s feud with Baskin captivated millions in a Netflix documentary that became a sensation during the early stages of the lockdown
  • A judge in Oklahoma ruled that the ownership of Exotic’s 16-acre land in the state must be transferred to Baskin after a protracted legal wrangle

NEW YORK: The star of hit Netflix series “Tiger King” will have to hand over the ownership of his famous zoo to the nemesis he tried to have murdered, a court has ruled.
Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is in jail after he was sentenced to 22 years in prison in January for the attempted murder of Carole Baskin.
His feud with Baskin, an animal sanctuary owner, captivated millions in the Netflix documentary that became a sensation when it was released in March as America went into coronavirus lockdown.
Baskin had for years accused Exotic of abusing the animals, including tigers, in his park.
Exotic said Baskin was trying to destroy his business, and their dispute ended up in a years-long legal battle.
On Monday, a judge in Oklahoma ruled that the ownership of Exotic’s 16-acre land in the state must be transferred to Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue in Florida.
The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park will have to vacate the premises, “including removal of all zoo animals,” Judge Scott Palk said in the decision.
In 2013, a Florida court ordered Exotic to pay Baskin $1 million because his company had used logos and images similar to those of Big Cat Rescue.
Exotic tried to get off from paying by shielding his assets, leading to this second lawsuit, with the judge ruling in Baskin’s favor.
“Tiger King,” a seven-part documentary, was one of Netflix’s most-watched shows.
The platform announced in late April that in one month, 64 million subscribers had seen all or part of the series.
Exotic, 57, has requested a pardon from President Donald Trump.