A Final Farewell to Beirut
I cannot believe that it's already time to bid the final goodbye to this wonderfully complicated and enthralling land of falafels and baklavas, Beirut! I had never imagined that I would stay for such a long time.
Well...8 months is quite a considerable amount of time in Lebanon. Things worked out, or not, in such a way that my stay got extended by four months, meaning I have no regrets at all! The extraordinary experiences I got here are incomparable to anything else and I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Be it living in the extremely hardcore, conservative Muslim or in equally liberal Christian neighbourhoods of Beirut, be it witnessing a social awakening event where I actually saw two girls getting almost killed by a crazy rash driver, be it living right above the 'parking' of the army tanks, be it laying on the pebble beach with the cleanest water (yani cleanest!) whilst enjoying the cool Mediterranean breeze or be it just walking on a road amongst the buildings adorning the destructive memories of the war... Each day here has been a different one, with new challenges and with even newer hopes.
Every time I meet a new Lebanese person, I am asked if I like their motherland.
Very frankly, in the beginning, I was not a big fan and rather quite fed up with its racist and stereotyped ideas about people from the South. But, now it has changed. I have learned to ignore the obviously racist remarks and instead have fallen in love with Beirut. It has its own charm and I can't get enough of it!
The city is full of contradictions. But I love this contradictory character of the city, irrespective of the fact that at times you can't stop wondering about how a city with so many inconsistencies still survives!
It has everything: happening bars, (very few) parks, sea, and the beach, calming streets of Achrafieh or Gemmayze, the madness of Hamra, churches, mosques, the best falafels, the best orange juice, antique boutiques, roadside shops, and also heartbreakingly expensive Beirut Souks.
The city has the amenities of a capital city, yet it lacks other basic things. The very 'regular' power-cuts, the 'mini-buses' (which by the way are much more reliable and safer than the taxis), their honking, the roaring show-offs of Porsches and similar high end cars, the frustrating traffic jams in spite of the big, multi-lane roads and flyovers and half-broken slimy two wheelers zigzagging and roaming the streets in all possible directions add to Beirut's charm.
Yet, another interesting fact about Beirut is that here you can be sure of your cultural enrichment.
Every road has a story to tell you. Every graffiti compels you to think about the social divide. The past and the present co-exist in the most beautiful manner here. I had never been to so many exhibitions, art films, concerts in any other city before.
Its people are its core strength. Very open (at times a bit too much), welcoming, driven by the politics and everything, in general, the Beirutis are very special people. Though not always consistent, people are quite interested in the different form of arts and I can say this thanks to the success of my Bollywood dance classes.
Their multilingual-ness is mind-blowing! It's quite refreshing to start a day with "Hi, kifik, ça va?" or "Bonjour - Bonjour-ein". Here, the conversations don't stop at a mere 'hi-hello'. They go on forever where people use all the possible 'formules de politesse' in one go. I find it very fascinating as it shows that people are genuinely interested in knowing how you are doing and that it's not just a formality!
The city, which, in the beginning, kind of made me want to leave immediately is now surprisingly making the departure equally difficult. With time, I have grown fond of it, its people and everything it offers.
The thrills of living in a war-torn city, which is again on the brinks of breaking into yet another bloody war, are inexpressible.
It breaks my heart to see such an amazing country getting forced into violent bombings and killings due to some headstrong and blind politicians or 'activists'. I sympathize with the city and its people and I am in awe of its spirit where 'life continues'.
Beirut has given me a lot... some life longs friendships, a very important tool of patience, a chance to understand what 'humanitarian action' is and how it can change the life of certain groups of the society for better or worse, a hardcore professional experience, one of the most delicious cuisines and much more. I feel I have become a part of this madness where now I also eat, party, crib, dress, and talk like its people with a few 'Akeeds, yanis and anjaads' in every sentence!
It's a shame that I won't be staying here any longer and my love affair with the city will be ending soon. Yet, I can say for sure that no other city can ever take the place of Beirut in my heart.
Inshallah (God Willing) I'll return soon... Inshallah, a true inshallah.