Hezbollah's Wax Museum Theme Park
How are you gonna get back to fostering hate at the rate you've become accustomed to?
First you wage a revolutionary guerrilla war against Israel, then get trained up by Iranians and expand into a fully-fledged political group. You throw your weight around Lebanon with guns, invoke Allah a lot and end up with seats in Parliament. After having another fight with Israel, you tone down your revolutionary stance and decide to enter into a coalition with your enemies, but just when it seems like you've got it all, it turns out you watered down your message too much and the kids in Beirut are now more into skateboarding and Nando's than jihads and juntas. Typical. It's a tough situation – how are you gonna get back to fostering hate at the rate you've become accustomed to?
Well, congratulations to the head of Hezbollah's marketing department for making Shi'a Islam cool again: the Middle East's most loved terrorist wing have opened a waxwork museum!
While Disneyland sells itself as the 'The Happiest Place On Earth!' and Alton Towers goes with 'The Fun Never Stops!', Hezbollah's Resistance Park, up on a hill in Southern Lebanon, greets visitors with the promise that 'Israel Is Weaker Than A Spider's Web!'
Built on the remains of a former Israeli settlement, the centerpiece of the $4 million park is a large diorama constructed from bombed-out remains of Israeli tanks, flanked with mannequins of dead soldiers. You've got to give them props for their efficiency: the war ended in 2006, and four years later they're opening a museum to commemorate it.
When you arrive you're ushered into this theater where you watch a video of Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah pointing and shouting a lot in Arabic, predicting the imminent onset of World War III. There are no height restrictions on this activity and the kids love it.
Next, you take a walk through the real mountaintop forest 50km from the Israeli border where Hezbollah guerrillas waged their holy war. All the weaponry on display is real, so the painfully post-modern possibility of a real-life military coup taking place in a mock-up of a military coup could one day come to fruition. Strewn soldiers' helmets containing real human hair, worn-in soldiers' boots and burnt up clothing bearing Hebrew inscriptions litter the environment. Which is pretty harrowing.
One of the rides at the theme park is this little interactive prayer mat placed where assassinated Hezbollah co-founder Sayed Abbas Musawi once sat. Making a prayer here is the equivalent of getting your picture taken with Mickey Mouse in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
I'm certain that they don't know what this means. In fact, I think they'll be pretty pissed off once someone tells them.
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The park intends to expand over time to include a hotel, a swimming pool, a chairlift, and perhaps a 3D laser show that projects war stories in neon colors against the backdrop of the clouds while Hezbollah ground staff run around throwing confetti in the air.
It would probably be wiser, though, for them to spend any spare cash they have upgrading their House of Wax department. The 'Hall of Fame' section of Lebanon's Terror Tourism infrastructure features wax-a-kinda-likes of political favorites from around the world. After the tank battlefields and human remains, it's a little bit underwhelming.
Here's Egypt's Hosni Mubarak in better days, Saudi Arabia's Ibn Saud, and Palestinian homeboy Yasser Arafat – together at last. The lads look like they're all over at Ibn's place testing out his new home cinema system. Judging by his smile, Transformers 2 must look even better on a new plasma widescreen than even he could ever have imagined.
This is a waxwork of Saddam Hussein. It's so realistic that the only ways to tell it apart from the real Saddam is that the real Saddam is dead, and if he wasn't dead he'd have ordered both his arms chopped off already for displaying so much subversive camp abandon.
There were also a bunch of 'world famous figures' that I could not discern for love nor money. Anyone want to point out my ignorance by telling me who this angel-haired beauty is? I'd love to lure this pretty little miss down from her balcony.
Who's this now? Oh, it's you, you're holding that thing all wrong, Gorbachev!
Here's Madonna(?). You have to assume that the Kabbalah fan wouldn't be mega-hyped about appearing in a searingly anti-Jewish fun palace.
Bald Ben Stiller?
"Mr. Fawlty! Mr. Fawlty! The kitchen is on fire and the Netanyahus are coming over for dinner!" "Well for god's sakes don't mention the war!" "Que?!"
This model of former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed "Comical Ali" al-Sahhaf was pretty good—its impressive animatronics moved his arm up and down. I don't know what information he was trying to communicate to us, but I'm certain it was important.
Fidel Castro with an empty chessboard being watched from afar by the Pope. Sounds like it should be a metaphor for something, but actually it's what's known in the museum curator biz as a “Just shove it anywhere.”
The Hall of Fame's final salvo brought together the world's fattest man and the world's smallest lunatic in front of a drawing of the Eiffel Tower. The jaunty waltz of the Parisian cafe accordions that were being pumped in through an ailing PA system made for a nice reminder that even when you're waging a revolutionary holy war against your sworn biblical enemies, there's always time for a little fun. Even Nasrallah knows you gotta take time out now and then for some light entertainment. Hezbollah are pretty fun guys after all.
WORDS: ALEX HOBAN
PICTURES: BØRRE LUDVIGSEN & LEAH CALDWELL
If you’re doing something interesting in a place that isn’t Shoreditch that might make for a good Atlas Hoods story, send pictures and info to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch.
Previously in this series:
THE THIRD KOREA
BOTSWANA’S COWBOY METALHEADS
THE CROATIAN GRANDMA TATTOO CULT
TSUNAMI GROUND ZERO
VENEZUELA’S SKYSCRAPER SLUM
THE GANGSTER PREACHER
TRANSNISTRIA PART II: WEAPONS SMUGGLING AND YOUTH CULTS IN THE COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T EXIST
TRANSNISTRIA PART I: THE COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T EXIST