By Mohammed Zaatari - Daily Star Staff
SIDON: The life of late former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri began as a student at the Faisal School in Sidon, and as a determined worker in every task he tackled, according to those who knew him at the time.
"Abu Anis" Halaby, a Sidon resident, knew Hariri when the former premier was a student and employed the young Rafik in his snack shop in Nejmeh Square in the late 1950s.
Halaby said that in 1959, Hariri's late father, Bahaeddine Hariri, brought his son to the small shop and asked Abu Anis to employ him.
Halaby also knew Hariri when he was a student at the Faisal School in Sidon, where he used to teach Arabic language and grammar.
"I recall Hariri as a student in the fourth grade," he said. "He was a perseverant and clever student, always attentive to the teacher's explanations and active in class."
According to Halaby, Hariri was able to successfully manage both his studies and his work, and was a loyal employee.
"He used to perform all the work in the shop," he said. "He used to prepare sandwiches, squeeze fruits and deal with the clients."
"At the same time, the book was his dear friend as his first objective was to achieve his studies," he added.
With tears in his eyes, Halaby said that the young Rafik used to receive a salary of LL45 per month, or one lira-and-a-half per day.
Hariri's father was always proud of his son, the elderly shop owner said.
"He always came to the shop and asked me about his son. He was proud of him as if he knew that one day he would become an important person," he said.
Hariri's sister Bahia also used to visit her brother at the shop to ask him if he needed anything.
"They were a lovely family from the beginning," the shop owner said.
Hariri's former school teacher never had the opportunity to meet with him after he returned to Lebanon and presided over the government. However, he always followed news of his career and was very proud of the late self-made man.
A picture of the late Rafik Hariri now hangs on the wall of the tiny snack shop where the man who became a national symbol once worked as a boy.
According to Halaby, Hariri's death was a great loss for the entire country, as he was a unique person in his perseverance and his intelligence.