Beirut in the Rain

Okay. It's finally time I admit it.

Beirut is almost a world class city.

Beirut is no New York, Paris, London, Istanbul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, or Moscow. But it beats Rome, Singapore, Dubai, Houston, and so many others.

Beirut in the rain is gorgeous; with tinges of Rio de Janeiro on the Mediterranean.

The restaurant scene is getting significantly better incredibly quickly with the arrival of Lutecia in Saifi Village and L'O in Gemmayze. Those stand next to that grand Armenian establishment Mayrig in Gemmayze.

We've got classical architecture, 60s architecture, Soviet-style architecture, and now some of the best modern architects in the world building on our soil.

Our city is vivacious. I love the bustle of West Beirut: the men carrying large objects through the streets, the cars parked on the sidewalk, all the little shops selling manaqeesh and meghli. I love the staid grandeur of Sassine and Tayouni.

The bustle can be a bit too loud at times, but a trip to the mountains always restores inner peace. When the sense of boredom becomes too fierce, there's always a pub awaiting your arrival. Worst comes to worse, Marrouche is open all night long, and there's always people hanging around there.

So, I definitely have to say, I (heart) Beirut. But I'm not sure how much I (heart) Lebanon. It's really hard to (heart) my village in the same way someone (hearts) New York.

Lebanon fills me with anger as much as it makes me happy. Happiness comes with a return to Rafiq Hariri Airport and a trip into the city. Happiness is swinging by a friend's beautiful place in Rabieh. Happiness is found in watching the sociological experiment that is the Lebanese beach. Happiness is found on a plate at Le Chef.

But Lebanon? Hmmm... I'll have to think about it.


At Monday, November 21, 2005 6:01:00 PM, Blogger Fouad said...

How can you dissociate Lebanon from Beirut, LP? Your view sounds utterly utilitarian. The way you're describing Beirut, you might as well have been a tourist in any city any place in the world. Is that how you feel? You cannot heart your day3a like you heart NY yet you take a trip to the mountain to restore your inner peace...I don't know you but, do you feel you have have roots in Lebanon? Do you believe in roots at all?

I'm sorry I am reacting the way I am, but to me, if you have to think about whether you heart Lebanon, then I suggest you save yourself the trouble, and enjoy the busy streets of NY instead.

At Monday, November 21, 2005 6:59:00 PM, Blogger Eve said...

Ana kamein I don't get the distinction between loving Beirut and Lebanon. Maybe because you're so much into politics that the idea of Lebanon triggers images about conflicting parties and confessionalism? but then, so is Beirut... ma ba3ref, they are closely interrelated to me.

At Monday, November 21, 2005 8:27:00 PM, Blogger Charles Malik said...

Yeah, it's confusing, but that was my initial reaction.

I have trouble loving Lebanon because Lebanon is a painful concept. Lebanon is and is not a nation/country/entity/historical artifact/creation, what not...

I don't think it's impossible to segregate a part of Lebanon from the whole. If one believes Lebanon is an illusion, one could very easily love one's family, sect, clan, etc. without loving the country.

I lived abroad, so it obviously meant a lot to me to return. But what did I return to? Lebanon? Or, my family, my people, my sect, my city, my society, my roots?

What are Lebanese roots? Half my family claims to be Syrian and claims that we are more Ottoman than Lebanese. I disagree with that in the modern sense, but they are not on unstable rhetorical ground. There is room for their argument.

Treblous means as much to me as Tartus; Sur the same as Haifa. I can only love them as places. They have no meaning to me historically, through family, through personal experience. I've been to Sur and Treblous, but I don't feel anything particularly similar to what they have there.

Lebanon, for me, is Bekaa, Jbeil, Kesruwan, Chouf, Beirut, Choueifat, Damour, Saida, Jezzine, Nabatieh, Hasbaye, Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun. Akkar, Hermel, Treblous, Dinnieh, Bcherre, Koura, and Sur mean absolutely nothing. That's not my Lebanon. I feel like a foreigner when I am there.

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 3:44:00 AM, Blogger Fouad said...

Well, LP, when you say
"Lebanon is and is not a nation/country/entity/historical artifact/creation" and "If one believes Lebanon is an illusion.."
we clearly have a problem and its immediate resolution. You are not Lebanese my friend. The nation/group one belongs to is both a sentiment and a choice. In you, the sentiment is clearly lacking, and so is the choice as you don't even believe in Lebanon as a distinct historical, geographical and cultural entity. As I strongly disagree with you on these matters, I will nevertheless say that you're absolutely free to have whichever set of believes you may very well choose. HOWEVER, you cannot and should not claim to have a lebanese identity/nationality, and you should also realize that Lebanon will not thrive thanks to people who question its very existence.
You know, there are more regions in Lebanon that I haven't visited than ones that I have, yet I feel like every last one of them is a part of me and vice versa. If that weren't the case then to me, Lebanon would be a series of postcards, and anywhere I could sit down to eat, and lie down to sleep would be home. And believe me, that's no home at all.

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Charles Malik said...

Thanks, Fouad, for defining what I am.

I guess I assumed we were having an honest discussion, not one based in propaganda. I assumed a certain candor withmy interlocutors. My mistake.

When's the last time you were in Lebanon? Or, is it a dream for you of a far away land overgrown with cedars where the beach is warm enough in the winter for you to go swimming the same day you ski?

Keep dreaming, buddy, and watch Lebanon rip itself apart. Honesty and accountability are the only ways in which we will build a unified nation, that is, if you want to build a unified nation. But you seem more interested in defining other people out of your distorted dream.

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 1:12:00 PM, Blogger Eve said...

I have two questions LP..
how do you place these in order: "I'm Lebanese; I'm Christian/Muslim; I'm Bayrouti/Keserweni/Jnoubi/Traboulsi (at least we know traboulsi isn't true for sure, but anyway..)"

Consequently, do you always answer this question by saying: I'm the Lebanese from "Bekaa, Jbeil, Kesruwan, Chouf, Beirut, Choueifat, Damour, Saida, Jezzine, Nabatieh, Hasbaye, Bint Jbeil, and Marjayoun" but not the one from "Akkar, Hermel, Treblous, Dinnieh, Bcherre, Koura, and Sur"?

too complicated, don't you think?

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 1:21:00 PM, Blogger Eve said...

oh yeah, I forgot to say Happy Este2leil :p

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 1:30:00 PM, Blogger Rampurple said...

I understand the confusement but i believe lp's error was in labelling (if u dont mind me saying so lp)

I understood what you meant about being attached to the little things. Lebanon has so many little things that attaches a person to it... such as the beach, sitting there.. the trips to the mountains, or even simply driving around in lebanon. all the above make me so serene in lebanon and i cannot find anywhere else i travel or live.

BUT it's not beirut... it is lebanon. lebanon as a whole... the same lebanon the frustrates us at times. the same lebanon whose politics suffocate us at times. BUT this is our lebanon, the lebanon we love... in all its wonders and in all its corruption.

It is true, that i miss certain things in lebanon... i miss jbeil... my love jbeil.. jbeil which is a part of lebanon... jbeil a city i lived in for 5 years that i fell in love with every single piece of stone, rock, pebble, etc. I miss watching the sunset every afternoon, i miss looking out at the cloud formations over the sea which the sun rays trying to force their way through. i miss the hectic combusted life of beirut that i always ran away from, i miss the smell of fresh air in the mountains, and the smell of trees when it would stop raining. i even miss the muddy streets when it did rain...

lebanon... i miss u... and i love u dearly.

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 3:15:00 PM, Blogger arch.memory said...

I think I understand where lebanon.profile is coming from. Or at least, I feel similarly about the distinction between Beirut and Lebanon. Let me put it this way: it's not that I love Lebanon any less; it's that I love Beirut more. Beirut does have that magical hold, that inexplicable charm. And yes, espcially in the rain. Even I, who loved Beirut so much I had to run away from it, cannot resist a title like "Beirut in the Rain"...

At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 4:18:00 PM, Blogger Assaad said...

I will start my comment by introducing myself. I am Lebanese (Proud of that ;) ). I left Lebanon in 1991 and i have been living abroad for more than 14 years. I work and live in Paris and i get used to go to Lebanon once per year at least. What you posted LP is interesting but very surprising at the same time. It is very nice to read what you’ve said about Beirut, restaurants, Architecture, etc.... So i also (Heart) Beirut where i was born and where i lived for 20 years.... It is a nice city....
Every time i go to Lebanon, i try to visit at least one city that i couldn't visit before (because of the War).... And every time i discover or rediscover cities, i definitely (Heart) them.... It means that i (Heart) Lebanon because for me, i can't dissociate any small part of “Akkar” (I’ve never been to) from my beloved country.

I live in Paris which is one of the most beautiful cities in the World. I already visited Brussels, London, Dubaï, Charam el Cheikh, etc.... I saw so many beautiful things in these cities... but i can't say that i (Heart) them as well as i (Heart) every part of Lebanon.
When i go to Lebanon, i try to enjoy my time going out to party, to restaurants, going to the beach, to the mountain (Barouk, Nabee l Safa,, Chouf, Bekaa, Saïda, Sour, Nabatieh, Beirut, Achrafie, Jounie, Jeita, Trablos, etc)…. And believe me, I always say that “kel 7abbit ramel men lebnein bteswa kel l denye!”….!

I can’t understand how you can dissociate some cities from Lebanon? How can you say that you have troubles loving Lebanon!
You said “Lebanon is and is not a nation/country/entity/historical artifact/creation”….
I can’t understand your reaction here ? One of the most beautiful thing of Lebanon is that it is Multi confessional nation. One of the biggest thing in the history is that Lebanon survived to the Civil War!. No no no, it is not an illusion. I don’t have any feeling to Tartous or Amman or Caïro or Dubaï because a part of my family lives their! And I can’t have the same feeling for any other city like what i have for every part of Lebanon.
The more i live abroad, the more I feel attached to my origins !
The less I visit Lebanon, the more I feel myself away from my racins !

I have all i want in France : A house, a work, a full healthy insurance, friends and a french citizenship but it never came to my mind to say that I prefer Paris more than Beirut or France more than Lebanon…. And I will pay my life to go back to Lebanon to live and work their even with less advantages…. It is a sentiment for my racins, my origins, my country, my cities, my parents and my friends, etc…

At the end, you are acting and saying like so many lebanese i've met during my 14 years life abroad : You don’t want to be “Lebanese” but you want to be what you like. You prefer to take a part and throw the rest!. Is that a new concept defined by lebanese citizens living abroad ? Just explain it to me please!


At Tuesday, November 22, 2005 6:06:00 PM, Blogger Fouad said...

Well LP, candor and transparency are indispensable elements in this blogging experiment/experience.
I do not pretend to define who anybody is, my friend. I sometimes have difficulty defining who I am, as it is.
I only used the words you uttered and quoted them. Prove me wrong, LP. Say you believe in Lebanon as a distinctly unique cultural, religious and geopolotical entity. All you have to do is say it, and I will immediately withdraw everything I said and apologize that I did say it.
Now, as to living my lebanese dream, I think you've visited my blog and you saw the pictures I took less than 2 months ago. This is the Lebanon I love, in all its shame and all its glory. And it's no more a dream than I, sitting right here behind my laptop typing these very words. The Lebanon you're alluding to is not the one I portray. I don't do postcards LP. I don't do ski resorts and golden beaches. My Lebanon, our lebanon, is flawed, scarred, ailed, weak, divided. But it's the most amazing piece of land and humanity I have ever seen. We have to love it unconditionally to save it. So many have put their own interests and agendas above Lebanon's interest, and this is what lead us to war and corruption and what not. The only remedy is to sacrifice some of our own comfort for the sake of this wonderful gift we were given. that is all I am saying, and I say it because I love my country, all of it, with every thread of existence I have, and it hurts me to see others doubting it, questioning its existence, and slowly throwing it into oblivion.

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 12:07:00 AM, Blogger carine said...

i had finally accepted my deferred invitation to the lebanese blogger forum in order to write my own post on this subject... it just seemed that, on independence day of all days, someone ought to post on why they DO "heart" lebanon.

but one line from this comments section, from fouad in fact, encapsulated everything i wanted to say so beautifully that i feel to post would now be redundant:

"we have to love it unconditionally to save it."

however, all LP has done is be honest, and it is wrong to attack and condemn him for this. after all, what's the point of posting (especially on this kind of topic) if you're not going to be transparent? as always, i respect and admire you, LP, for being so open. but i do still hope (and rather suspect) that you will someday find you "heart" lebanon in its entirety...

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 11:05:00 AM, Blogger Eve said...


In the end, both LP and Fouad have a point, which one might relate to or not. So, to make things clear, I trust no contributor or commentator will feel that he's being condemned or under attack if readers are reacting differently with what he's writing. If there is anything we've learned, it's that we all cannot think alike. Even when it comes to "hearting" Lebanon, each one does it in his own kind of way.

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 11:13:00 AM, Blogger zwixo said...

we need more flexible minds like eve's :)

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 12:28:00 PM, Blogger carine said...

eve, i agree that they both have completely valid points (or would perspectives be a better word?). sorry if that wasn't clear from my comment!! it was written in a hurry...

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 12:37:00 PM, Blogger carine said...

ugh as, apparently, was that one...

final point-- yes, we all need a thick skin around here. diversity of opinion is what makes our discussions interesting and fruitful. nonetheless, i felt some of the commentators who have different perspectives from LP's were getting awfully personal/petty in expressing their disagreement.

At Wednesday, November 23, 2005 2:56:00 PM, Blogger Assaad said...

"i felt some of the commentators who have different perspectives from LP's were getting awfully personal/petty in expressing their disagreement."

Is it possible that you give more details please ?


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