What is Lebanon all about? Why has this tiny, fertile Mediterranean country become a byword for violence and chaos in the minds of much of the world? In "Spirit of the Phoenix" veteran broadcast journalist Tim Llewellyn wanders the streets of Beirut - the city he once lived in during the civil war - in search of answers to these questions. On every wall there is a poster, in every cafe a dish, on every building a feature, which suggests the history of one of the many peoples that make up this extraordinarily diverse and volatile country. In this lyrical journey of political and historical discovery, Llewellyn traces the signs, and tells the stories of the Druze, the Maronites and the Shia, The Sunnis, the Armenians and the Alawites. Interviewing footsoldiers and priests, refugees, warlords and gangsters, he evokes the cacophony of competing narratives, cultures and memories with which the city resounds. He also celebrates the qualities which unite the Lebanese, from the Hezbollah heartlands to the Gucci superstore: resilience, resourcefulness and spirit.
As Lebanon stands once more at the brink of crisis, "Spirit of the Phoenix" offers an introduction to the country's fractious politics and an unforgettable portrait of a people that continue to rise again and again from the ashes.
Tim Llewellyn was the BBC's Middle East Correspondent for ten years, during which time he covered the Lebanese civil war, the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, the First Gulf War and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since leaving the BBC staff in 1992, he has been a regular broadcast and print commentator on Middle East politics.