During the great famine in Lebanon and Syria – whose lamentable 100th anniversary we mark these current months, though few bother to commemorate (or even remember) it – the hungry and poor of Beirut would gather at Mar Mikhael railway station in the east of the city, in the desperate hope that the once-a-week steam locos coming down from the mountains would have vegetables, even meat, in their grimy freight wagons.
Some of these people had lived on stinging nettles, like the Irish of the 19th-century Great Famine, and many of their children and elderly had died of starvation. The bodies of children lay in the streets. So the trains were a symbol of both hope and despair.
But just up the road lived a Lebanese banker, Salim Habib al-Boustani, who would regularly walk down to the station to hand out food and cooking oil, and money to the dying proletariat of Beirut. They indeed deserved a revolution.