My love for Beirut-much like my love for everything in my life- has strange roots. It is a city that has been in my dreams for over a decade.
The year I started studying at a French speaking University.
The year I started studying Arabic.
The year the war broke out in Lebanon.
I remember the television on that day in July, in the University residence where I lived. I watched along with my Lebanese friend as the airport in Beirut was being bombed and destroyed. It was a surreal moment.
I had already decided previously that Beirut-the “Paris of the East”- was the perfect city for me. The famous arial photo of Beirut by Yann Arthus-Bertrand was the screen saver on my computer and no doubt a quote by the famous Lebanese writer and poet, Kahlil Gibran, was my MSN name. My love for Beirut was fuelled by stories from Lebanese and Arab speaking friends who had been there. I loved the Arabic language, I loved the food, I loved every single Lebanese person that I had met.
I remember clearly on that day in July coming to the realization that a Canadian could never understand what it feels like to grow up in a city like Beirut. A city where the future of the next 24 hours was never certain.
But it was the very circumstances of living in a city like this that gives the people their unique character.
I have never met a people so resigned to the disappointments of life.
I have never met a people so ready to party.
Time moved on
Every year was a year I could have went, but didn’t.
Wars broke out.
in Lebanon and surrounding areas.
And the city still stood.
Waiting for me to come.
There is a beautiful quote about Beirut by Lebanese-American writer Rabih Alameddine in his book “An Unnecessary Woman.” He writes:
“Beirut is the Elizabeth Taylor of cities: insane, beautiful, falling apart, aging, and forever drama laden. She’ll also marry any infatuated suitor who promises to make her life more comfortable, no matter how inappropriate he is.”
A city waiting to be saved.
What woman can’t relate?
I am happy I am here.
Walking through the streets, I feel everything I wanted to feel and more.
I love the new shiny skyscrapers standing tall beside the shaken rubble,
and the almost lost, yet still standing torn up apartment buildings.
The city is broken and beautiful and still standing so strong.
Much like me.
Oh and the Baklava.
The Baklava is delicious.