Beirut: C’est Beyrouth?

It’s 10:30am when I pick up my phone, Valentina is on the end of the line asking if I’ve reached Beirut Her voice tone indicates that something is wrong. Luckily I’m still in Sour riding in a cab towards the bus station that was supposed to take me to the capital. The news of a double suicide bombing in front of the Iranian embassy spreads and not 10 minutes after the phone call I see tv’s turning on and I gather bribes of conversations talking about the explosions. Later in the day the Abdullah Azzam Brigades a group linked to Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks warning Iran for its collaboration with Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war. Blocked another day In the south I take the day off and follow distantly security updates on internet while preparing my trip the next day. After an pleasant drive, the following morning, we reach the outskirts of the town and hoot our way through to the Christian area of Furn el Chebbak where I have rented a room. During two weeks I will walk throughout the buzzing streets with May my fixer trying to picture the metropolis.

Once known for its mixture of French colonial and Ottoman architecture, the city has after the civil war rapidly muted into a mix between high rise buildings and the surviving rest of traditional houses. The skyline is composed of modern constructions added next to older edifices dotted with cranes and unfinished structures resulting into tumult of concrete. Below cars seem to incidentally find their way, sidewalks are often cluttered by vehicles and streets are jammed by a continuous stream of automobiles challenging any pedestrian who walk across the roads obeying to their own will since hardly any traffic code is observed. The past conflict and recent tensions have made neighborhoods that once where a mix of cultures and religions more segregated. A Muslim friend told me his difficulties to find an apartment in Christian areas since a lot of landlords after hearing his name refused to rent him their property.

The French say: “c’est Beyrouth” a probable reference to the war days describing a chaotic disorder. Maintaining the expression would be unfair since the Lebanese capital is now rebuilt and that peace is restored. Fortunately calm is sometimes found in smaller streets or in the multitude of staircases that cross or link the localities. Walking in the center and on the cornish is pleasant. Party capital of the Arab world once the day is ended with a booming nightlife and plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs the city is known to be one of the best places to travel. However, each time I’m glad to leave and breath some fresh air, regaining the calm of the sea or the mountains. I wonder how the town will look once the polluted air will have stained the brand new buildings and that all the old houses and parks will have been replaced by luxurious residences.

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