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 now live in Baalbak. 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. But Verdun is not just fancy malls, Verdun has Syyar el darak and it's close to 3aysha Bakkar. And in Achrafiye there's Sassine but also 7ay el syrian. There's Al Dente and Friends burger. There's le cemier and Crystal.
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 dares to dream in times of war?