23 July 2014

How was Beirut?

Martyrs' Square Panorama

(In case you needed another) Disclaimer:

Every since I was young, I have been fascinated with stories.  Mostly, I consumed stories like I eat: passionately, too quickly (sometimes uncontrollably), and with an almost reckless abandon that can lead to losing connection with the "real" world.
Graffiti as advertisement

Because I have recently begun to be able to articulate my love for stories, I decided that I wanted to try to tell the story of Beirut in this blog.  In every effort to be transparent, you must know that this is my best attempt to show Beirut as I see it, and - as I mentioned before - it should not be taken as truth or fact - like any good pseudo-intellectual, I am unconvinced that facts actually exist in the way that the Enlightenment has taught us to see them - but merely as one enthusiasts' view of what happened to her during her time in a new city.

In coming back, a lot of people have already asked me (including my friends at the nail place, bless them!), "Oh, how was your vacation?" As with any trip, I am having the trouble finding words... how do you explain to someone in nice little American soundbites this wonderfully complex and fascinating city, let alone the whole country and its history and how it's so connected with the region?  No one has time to listen to me recount the past 4000 years, let alone the past 30...

I should just start carrying around an index card with this written on it:

Beirut is such a fantastic city--a place of such unbelievable possibilities. You can be sitting by the pool or listening to techno in a club one minute and having a wary conversation with Hezbollah ten minutes later. Its a very short ride. For all its problems ( all the problems and all the evils in the world in miniature, basically), it's an absolutely magical, gorgeous city. Impossible to not fall in love with. It's pheromonic. Some cities just smell good the second you land.

Near the Pigeons' Rocks
I'm not sure if stealing a quote from Anthony Bourdain is how I should be writing this blog, but it struck me as a great, rather concise way, to describe many of the things I did over these past two weeks.  To answer the question "How was Beirut?" might be essentializing the place too much, taking out the rich context and flavor of it

I think, however, my answer might be something along the lines of:

I loved being there, although I usually don't love big party cities. I wanted to explore every small alley and street for hidden gems, especially once I discovered brunch was a thing that Beirutis do. It was safe, but you could still see the scars from when it was not a safe place.  My feet were filthy every day, but my mind felt clearer.  People I met were more open or "modern" in ways than many of my Moroccan and Omani friends, but yet I was surprised at how sectarian strife seemed to make people less tolerant as well.

And thus I present the beginning of my answer, which I hope to finish more in depth throughout this blog series.  Drop by drop, the river rises.

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