The 'real Beirut' is not downtown

Downtown is a facade we present for the ekhwen el 3arab to maintain our economy. In downtown though, there's a club. A club where my cousin goes. My cousin lives in dahyeh and he's young and he's lost and he's depressed all the time. He gave up on his ambitions faced by the lack of opportunity that he had to inherit because of the mistakes of the ones who came before us.

In downtown, there's a club, where people dance hysterically so they can laugh and forget the worries of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. One is called Mohammad, he’s from taree’ li jdeede, or 7ayy elleja or msaytbeh or Nwayri or any other modest area in ‘real Beirut’. He was raised to nationalism. His dad knew abu 3ammar. He tutors kids in a Palestinian refugee camp, next to mar elias, a place in ‘real Beirut’.

In downtown, there’s a restaurant. The first that opened in downtown Beirut. A guy named Georges works there. He lives in Shiyye7 or 7adath. He grew up in Jnoub, in Bint Jbeil with his family. He knows the Qoran by heart. His family is modest. They had to relocate and live in a cabin next to the Roumiyeh prison. He has a rich uncle in Dubai and he was offered a job there. Georges doesn’t want to leave Lebanon.

In downtown Beirut, there’s a café, where Akram works. Akram is from 3alay. His father died in the civil war. He forgot the ‘old scars’. He’s a funny kid with blue eyes. He wants to live and to laugh. In downtown Beirut there’s a Palestinian guy, he says he’s Lebanese now. He loves this country with all his heart. He lives in a modest apartment with his mother and wife and children. He works as a driver for a rich Saudi family.

Beirut is a modest city. The people are modest people. They try to forget the pain yet they live it once again. Beirut is not just Verdun and Hamra and Achrafiyeh.

Beirut is a broken woman. A woman who accessorizes to make her living while she suffers in silence. Her father died and left her to the world.

Beirut cries Beirut. Beirut cries the South. Beirut lost the dreams.

All we have left is our patriotism. As exaggerated as it might feel or seem. I kept seeing a new divide in this war. I heard them use labels to describe our population. I heard bourgeoisie to describe the ‘real Beirut’. I have never lived a real Beirut and a fake Beirut. I have never seen bourgeoisie in my Beirut. They label us. They fail to recognize that we’re not just Akram and Ali and Omar and Paul. We are a not a mosaic, we are a kaleidoscope. An ever changing pattern of identities. The men in power might have us labeled but I refuse to think we are. The people who fall for it are, in my eyes, not true Lebanese. It is hard to ignore facts but I choose to marginalize it as error. Our writings were about memories. Our writings did not reflect our present reality. We wanted to escape for moments or simply dream of another reality. Our writings did not mourn the South. How can you write about the South without mourning. We wanted to bring happy memories and remind you why you should hang on and fight with all you've got. Our writings were like Beirut, shined up to please while bleeding on the inside. We wanted to please our soul and yours and of that we're guilty.

We all live in a ghetto. I live in an emotional ghetto in the US. If we didn’t believe in our unity, who will? It is not a balsam, it is a recipe for change.

But who can dream in times of war?

we wa''afouni 3ale7doud... al baddon haweyti
illtillon inna byafa... mkhibbayetha sitti...
Ana hay m3all'a 3layye :)


At Friday, August 25, 2006 1:59:00 AM, Blogger arch.memory said...

Mirvat, I do hope that your "you" is not directed at me, and that you are not really allowing yourself to even insinuate that I am "not true Lebanese". In any case, I refuse to engage in a contest of hollow meaningless patriotism. Like it or not, our "labels" are part of our reality, as inaccurate as they may be. For heaven's sake, they are even part of our lovely constitution! So no, we do not all live in a ghetto, and let's not pretend that our "emotional ghetto in the US" even remotely compares to those living in Lebanon; that is simply not fair to them. And even in Lebanon, not everyone is equally afflicted (and some might argue, deservingly). So, while I am not doubting the genuineness or necessity of unity--especially now--I think a unity based on honesty and true compassion, on transparency and open dialogue, is way more resilient than one based on old fragments of tattered song.

At Friday, August 25, 2006 2:33:00 AM, Blogger Mirvat said...

oh my God no!!!!
the you whenever i talk is 'us' against 'the government'. all governments in the US and ours as well. and by fall for it i mean the people who fall in the trap of the divide and perpetuate the hate. how could i say this about you?

it's not a contest of hollow pariotism, it's a challenge to people who don't want the best for this little piece of land we call home.

yes, it's part of the constitution and yes it's the reality as i said. i am one of those who dream of a change. when i speak, i speak of me and you and people like us. i speak about people who don't believe in serving our country or being the best we can based on sectarian loyalties. the reality is far from that, i know but i refuse to give in to the possibility that it'll be the end of us. and by leaving a portion of the population sink, this will be our end.

i'm not saying my emotional ghetto is comparable, how can i say that? i'm saying no we're not ignoring what happened and we will not.

your last sentence is exactly where i stand too. that's why early on in this war i said we need to define what being lebanese is so that we know what we want to defend. i've come accross so many different perspectives about lebanon that i was shocked. so i'm with you on that.

there was a fascinating documentary about fairuz during the civil war in lebanon called 'and we all loved each other'. i don't know if you've seen it. the film maker argues that fairuz songs bring people together. which is really not what he showed in the movie. he would have interviews with people who would cry out of patriotism to the song while still fighting 'the other lebanese'. so yes i agree with you that our love for lebanon will not necessarily bring us together on honest grounds because a lot of lebanese don't even share the same vision about lebanon anymore. this is shown in my first post in a positive light.
yes we need a common ground and it's difficult and the ideologies and growing in different directions. believe it or not, that's politics and the tension could resolve itself easily if the 'masters' allowed it to. but when it comes to us, the real people, we all love each very much. the people in the film, had arms, and cursed out without knowing why, they were brainwashed and poisoned with hate. we shouldn't let the people fall for that. that's as far as i worry about right now.

At Friday, August 25, 2006 2:48:00 AM, Blogger arch.memory said...

I apologize for being so defensive then; I completely misread you.

I haven't seen that documentary about Fairouz, but it sounds right on!

In hope that, one day, we can erase these labels from our hearts and our constitution, too...

At Friday, August 25, 2006 2:59:00 AM, Blogger Mirvat said...

when the war started, i started talking to a friend of mine whom i haven't talked to in a long time over a big fight we had. we saw each other and started crying together and all was forgotten. he's lebanese. also strangers that i've met in vgigils and protests and fundraisers, we cried together and understood each other. just because we're both lebanese, and we hurt the same way. then you never think about who they are and where they're from. and that's how i see patriotism, a start.

"In hope that, one day, we can erase these labels from our hearts and our constitution, too..."

i have to believe that we can, call me crazy :)

At Friday, August 25, 2006 3:26:00 AM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

The 'real Beirut' is not downtown

I agree, but it's not the southern suburbs either.

At Friday, August 25, 2006 5:35:00 PM, Blogger The Lebanese said...


I disagree on one part. Beirut is not a broken woman, and it never will be. Beirut has been buried under the rubble 7 times, and everytime it rises above the layers of time, stronger and more radiant. Every destruction only fuels its rebirth, and it builds upon its rich history buried deep underneath its earth.

Even achrafieh is not homogeneous, and we cannot put a tag on it. Hay el Serian is not like Sassine square. But without hay el Syrian, what is the meaning of Sassine?

This applies to beirut as a whole. It's a hetereogeneous mix, whether we like it or not. You cannot cry one part of it without crying it all.

But I understand your "emotional Ghetto". I live it everyday in the US too.


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