It’s hard to summarize Beirut. I keep trying to start an essay-like blog that begins, in varying forms, like this:
“I can’t sleep here because it’s too exciting. I go to bed late and wake up early, finding another place to go and another reason to stay awake. Yesterday, instead of staying in like we said we would, a bunch of us went to the five-year anniversary gathering of Rafic Hariri’s assassination. There were lots of people, lots of flags. On my walk over, along the Corniche, I passed by the bombed out buildings where he was killed. I can’t stop thinking about the massive amount of damage caused by one bomb. The downtown shopping area is just a five-minute walk away from this spot, and it looks just like Paris. The area, filled with stores like Marc Jacobs and Prada, was rebuilt after being completely leveled from violence.
Since downtown is new, it lacks character. Thankfully there is Hamra… where I live alongside a great mix of people from all over the world! It’s easy to get along here, there are many places to consume (both cheap and expensive) and play (coffeehouses, bars, art-houses). Everything is walking distance from my apartment: Café Younes, the university, the Mediterranean…! Most importantly the city is full of very energetic, intelligent and social people. It has been quite easy to make friends here, at every event there is always someone you know and someone else you are about to know. I’ve had no trouble at all enjoying myself here.”
Well, I can’t seem to get past this point and bring everything together into one coherent entry. But there’s so much! Here are a few more bits and pieces:
Salt water smell from the Mediterranean, car exhaust from aging taxis, shisha and cigarettes.
Mashrou’ Leila is stuck in my head.
Sunny warm days and cool nights.
On repeat: “Merci,” “Shokran,” “Thank you.”
Almost being clipped by a racing moped, daily.
The pickles they put in my chicken shawerma and manooshe.
My apartment is almost an escape from the slightly chaotic city, I still hear those sounds: honking, yelling, buzzing motors and loudspeakers selling God, gasoline and lemons.
Everyone has a balcony.
I’ve even got my own flowers to water.
Brand new luxury apartments, colorful bombed out homes and bullet holes.
Music, music, music, art, art, art… what will I make?
I visited Neswiya, the feminist collective.
That poetry reading. The professor specializing in vampire literature, the drunk man who fell off his chair during a poem and later exclaiming “Why are all these people in my apartment?!” Not his apartment, rush and get him some coffee. “That’s a new lamp.” Leonard Cohen and I want more of those chocolates sitting across the room. Ghiwa, Anna and I talk about feminism and men whistling “Pssspssspssss” to us along the Corniche.
There will be a march for secularism in Lebanon. Kinda (from eka3) is one of the organizers and I think that’s too cool. Went out to a club with her friends. Artists! Everywhere! Good music! Everywhere! Conversation! Cigarettes (“none for me”)! Dancing like a fool!
Bureaucracy at the American University of Beirut…I’m not the only angry one.
That little café downtown, standing in front of the glass pastry case thinking: Oh, Paris!
That Syrian cab driver that smelled like milk, not a bit of English, his monologue in Arabic, driving too slow for Beirut… I say, “Yalla, yalla! Mish a’arifa!”
Daily three-hour power cuts. I don’t want to take the elevator, for fear of getting stuck.
AUB is a resort overlooking the Mediterranean. And also, it’s a university.
Graffiti everywhere. Hubble-bubble rubble.
Hamra was empty, downtown was full. Hariri’s assassination, buses bringing people from across Lebanon. Guns, tanks and testosterone.
Café Younes. Everybody knows everybody. Who will be there tonight when I post this blog?
Candles in my apartment. Big windows and flower boxes overlooking the parking lot. Cloth hanging from the balconies across from mine.
At Café Younes now. Friend just informed me that the Lebanese army shot at two Israeli planes flying over Bekaa.
How many times have we said “cheers” and raised our drinks?