Monday, November 18, 2013

Love letter to Beirut

Beirut's iconic Pigeon Rocks
Yes, it’s past mid-November and you are expecting me. But regrettably, I won’t make it this year!
It’s for a good reason though. I might tell you about it a little later, when I feel I can.
But for now, I will miss the annual pilgrimage I have been making for the past few years and the two weeks I count up to for 350 days of the year.
You might wonder why I love you, after letting you down for 20 years. You might also wonder why, as a non-Lebanese, I still call you home and wish to return to you when so many natives are yearning to leave.
Maybe it’s because I gave you the most precious 15 years of my life during the civil war. Maybe it’s because of the lessons learned and the pains endured during those years. Maybe it’s the people – their resilience, their creativity, their sense of humor and their joie de vivre.
Be that as it may, I will miss you and start counting the days till we meet again
I will be looking forward to the eagerness of heading your way, the awe of flying over the Beirut shoreline with Mount Sannine in the background and the excitement of spotting my favorite beach, the Sporting Club, from the sky.
The clapping on touchdown that most people say is annoying. I find it welcoming. You had to live the civil war to understand the significance of having a plane land at Beirut airport after months, or sometimes years, of closure.
You also had to live the civil war years to appreciate the feeling of being affectionately hugged on entering the airport terminal and then getting the better of the taxi drivers’ asking fare for the journey to town.
Getting home to a place I have known all my life and being met by my sister Asma (who usually arrives before me), my cousins Lillian and Dalal and my friend Zepure is perfect bliss. We then spend two weeks like teenagers at a summer camp.
Walking everywhere in Beirut, and discovering so many new places, cafés, restaurants, galleries… that sprung up in the past 11 months is exhilarating. It’s also fun being recognized in the street by my online avatars.
Sitting at a favorite café trottoir to sip a cappuccino and watch the world go by is soothing. I will meet at least half a dozen friends and make half a dozen more new ones while there.
Always a good time to meet the friends... Here in 2011
Seeing the friends again, catching up with their news and thanking them for their generosity on taking you on trips all around Lebanon are fulfilling.
There is also my annual hug from HMA Tom Fletcher… Where else can you go for tea with a British ambassador without being someone important?
Nothing beats a kaaki with Picon cheese and summak
And where else can you enjoy delicious food everywhere -- even when picking a kaaki from a street cart or a manoucheh from a small bakery.
I could go on and on.
I miss you Beirut and my family and friends there. But I’m already looking forward to planning a visit in the New Year. See you soon...    
Related posts:
Love is blind... -- January 28, 2011
Hello! -- October 12, 2010