Well, we can all agree that the sea took 70 per cent of the blast!” a close Lebanese friend announced to me this week, with intriguing if doubtful science. I had asked him – because I knew the answer – which of Lebanon’s religious communities had suffered most grievously from the explosion that changed the nation. Or did not change the nation, as the case may be.

Like everything in Lebanon, his calculation may have been right. Because Beirut, like Tripoli – and Haifa, for that matter – is built on one of those ancient east Mediterranean promontories, like “the face of an old fisherman”…