If I were a foreigner and I had the opportunity to go around the world and explore the grounds of another country, to learn another culture, to eat their food, to live their lifestyle, and to dance their dance. If I were a foreigner with an exceptional love affair with that which is broken, messy, and absolutely imperfect; if I were from a far away place… if wars had no meaning to me, if corruption was an alien word to me, if contradiction had very little interference with my life, if opportunity was always available to me, and if I knew nothing about ka’k, tabbouleh, rkakat bi jibneh, and the alleys in Hamra. If I were that person, and that is what I often wish, I would arrive here and fall in mad love. I would come to Lebanon, to Beirut, to Hamra and be in complete awe. I would choose to rent a place, in one of the remaining old buildings in Hamra (with the really high ceiling and hopefully old furniture) in a very small alley with a few trees and maybe a little garden.
I would fall in love with the honking of taxi drivers. I would find the old and barely holding Mercedes Benz mesmerizing. I would walk around with my camera all day inspired by the trash on the street, the motorcycles, the abandoned children, the clash of the people, the lavishly rich and the inhumanely poor, the vegetable stands and the manoushe smell, the sounds of construction sites and the sound of the oud, the young and restless and the old and tired, the writings on the walls, the posters, the restaurants, the alleys, the traffic, the chaos, the buildings, the day, the night, the corners, the pollution, and everything I see, or smell, or touch.
I would walk around the streets at night, discover the place, enjoy the place, watch the people, listen to their language, and feel a certain satisfaction.
I would go to the beach, embrace the view, eat fish, get a tan, swim in salty water, drink beer and feel like its been one of my greatest days.
I would go on road trips to the south, and to the north, to the Bekaa, and to the wineries, and feel enriched by every inch, every plant, and every face I’ve seen.
I would want to learn the dabkkeh and pretend to say words in Arabic and know that any Lebanese I meet or know would cheer me on if they saw me dance or heard me speak.
I would go to those underground parties dance until my feet hurt, kiss a stranger or two, drink until I lose my memory, and wake up with the worst and the sweetest hangover. And as soon as I can get myself out of bed, I would leave the house for a walk in Hamra, and maybe even go for a little drink since by that time its happy hour. And the pubs would ultimately become my cure for hangovers, and my reason for many.
I would spend my lazy Sundays in Café Younes recovering from the night before, reading my favorite book, or writing about how fascinating it is to be in this country.
I would love meeting people from the many sects and many religions and see how they do come together somehow; when you see that group of friends who love each other to death, who drink to their differences, who smoke up to their similarities, who couldn’t care less about the wars outside, who just want to dance and listen to music, who just want to sing, design, create, film, dream, and write together, who just want to be as one, together, regardless…
I would breathe, write, and take joy in the madness of this country
I would be amazed by how beautiful the people are.
I would never stop discovering it.
I would kiss strangers and take them home with me.
I would have a romantic love story.
I would be charmed by their culture.
I would be captivated by their stories.
I would maybe someday write a book about this place.
I would sing a lullaby every night before I sleep.
I would write a song about this beautiful malady.
I would have so much passion for life.
I would take photographs and videos so I can always carry it with me.
If I were a foreigner with an exceptional love affair with that which is broken, messy, and absolutely imperfect; if I were from a far away place… Lebanon, Beirut, Hamra would be my poem… the place where I found meaning…
But I am from here.
Lebanon, Beirut, Hamra, you are not strange to me. I am you. I am your corruption. I have fought your wars.
When people look at you. They see me, and everyone around me.
One can look at someone's wound and see courage and maybe even grace, but once its your blood coming out of that wound, it hurts, and it remains a scar on you.
I often wish I were that foreigner; I often wish you were my love story.