[The Listserve] Beirut, I love you

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I was born in the wrong era.

I long for the pearl of the Mediterranean that was once Beirut. I miss her blinding lights, the warm summer nights, the immaculate architecture, and the endless conversations in Zokak el-Blat overseeing the glistening cerulean shores and Mount Sannin.

All were once upon a time the makings of a fairy tale city.

These days I dread going to Beirut, especially during the day. I hate having to face the heartbreakingly unorganized city that operates solely by the Darwinian theory of survival of the fittest.

Despite this, I try to make it a habit to seek out the old Beirut—my Beirut—whenever I can. My explorations lead me to a ""qahwa,"" with an apparent identity crisis. Technically, for the sake of full disclosure, it’s a rooftop cigar lounge that stands in the place of old and long gone traditional coastal coffee shops; places where the smell of coal, coffee, tea, and the sea mixed with loud small talk.

I frequent that place regularly with my friend at the wee small hours after it transforms back to its humble existence. Not quite a complete transformation, but it suffices.

There, the blinding lights I saw are no longer the shiny lure of Beirut; no, they are the bright headlights of depravity and sleazy straight pipes on wheels zooming down the streets, trying to impress unfortunate spectators who have to witness this pathetic spectacle.

As I sat at our table, trying to hold on to the golden memories of yesteryear and a cup of bitter black coffee, I began to wonder, both to myself and my friend:

“What happened to her cultural heritage, to her intellectual and artistic genius, to her simple yet beautiful visage? Who is the wrong-doer here? What caused this awful transformation, turning the mother of Europa of Tyr into an insecure, soulless harlot? It’s entirely our fault. We stood by and did nothing when our city was infested with all this corruption, turning her into an impassive concrete jungle—”

Suddenly, my monologue was rudely interrupted by a passing car playing loud, obnoxious music doing donuts in the middle of the street down below.

I turned back to my friend and said “welcome to Beirut.”

Beirut, Lebanon