Precarious Lebanon

For decades, this tiny Mediterranean nation of four million has segued between two identities

Beirut, from an apartment damaged by Hezbollah shelling. As sectarian tensions flared this past May, hostilities escalated. The renewal of violence dashed hopes that Lebanon could soon become -- once again -- "a freewheeling place where everybody could live his own life.” (Kate Brooks / Getty Images)
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Back at the Massaya Winery, Ramzi Ghosn takes another sip of arak and marvels at Lebanon's ability to embrace the good life during the darkest of days. "Even if you're a Sunni or a Shia in Lebanon, you always knew that your neighbor might be a Christian and would be consuming wine," he says. "We're not so good at producing airplanes or tanks, but in terms of food and drink, we surpass everyone in the world."

Writer Joshua Hammer is based in Berlin.
Photographer Kate Brooks has lived in Beirut for three years.

About Joshua Hammer
Joshua Hammer

Joshua Hammer is a foreign freelance correspondent and frequent contributor to Smithsonian magazine.

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