I Do Love Beirut

I’ve recently been to Beirut. Beirut is not one of those places I wanted to go to, but an opportunity presented itself, and I said “why not”. I really didn’t know what to expect, because you hear all these stories about the Middle East, but hey, it’s only an hour and a half by plane. So I went there, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s so amazing. The new Downtown district has been completely rebuilt, and looks as posh (or even posher) as any European city. The restaurants are top notch, the food is better than anything I’ve tasted. The nightlife is enough to satisfy anyone. The people are actually nice, as far from snobbery as can be. All of them speak English (and usually French, too) so communicating is never a problem. I would recommend it to anyone.

Since I have to go to a bookstore in each country I go to and browse every English title, it’s no surprise that I loaded up on books. I read in Time Out Beirut about this book called Beirut, I Love You: A Memoir by Zana El Khalil and I had to give it a read. I finished it yesterday, and I really can’t decide if I like it or not. The writer, Zana El Khalil, is an artist. She lived in Nigeria and USA. She moved to Beirut for college, after the war, as the city was just getting used to peace. It’s sex, party and rock’n roll for the people. How nightlife was a must for everyone, because that’s how people forgot. She talks about September 11, when she actually watched the towers go down in New York, and she actually had to move back after people began to give her the evil eye. She makes some good points, on how American TV series gives us the feeling that our lives are just not cool enough, how everyone has a better living experience in New York etc. How NYC gives people freedom, one that is difficult to find in the Middle East. She talks about the war, of course, and how people began to “get used to it”. It’s heartbreaking.

Since it’s a memoir, she mostly talks about the people in her life. Many, many men in her life, and how dysfunctional each one of them was. Her best friend, Maya, who helped her stick to Beirut in times of difficulty. But mostly, this is a love letter to Beirut. She identifies herself with Beirut on every level. When Beirut is drowning, so is she. She stays in Beirut through thick and thin, though she has a foreign passport, she just can’t bring herself to live.

She uses brilliant imagery, though sometimes it’s disturbing. Mostly it’s describing things. Short dialogues and strange events. But you really get a vivid picture of what’s going on, both in the author’s mind and in Beirut at that time. It helped me get a better insight into what’s happened, though that shouldn’t be the reason you read it, since it won’t be enough on that front. It’s just a different read, something fresh and original.

This is her artwork, and this was her blog during the last war in Beirut.

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1 Comment »

  1. Ghinwa said

    I love beirut its my heart lebanese people to live 🙂

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