The Farewell Chronicles

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Hakuna Matata: It means ‘Eat Falafel’

To be fair, ‘Hakuna Matata’ is Swahili for ‘There are no worries,’ which is Lebanese for the feeling you get while eating Falafel. It’s an amazingly crunchy vegan, gluten-free sensation that is usually prepared by a very funny man behind a colorful counter of vegetables, pickles and tacky ornamentation. The walls of a falafel shop are exhibition spaces for faded pictures of different types of faded glory. You see the funny man’s serious father framed next to downtown Beirut when it was an actual downtown. In equally flashy frames, you see the funny man pictured next to a fat, happy politician and subsequent headlines in local newspapers in others.

From Beirut to Beirut: How relocation could help fix this city

This is going to sound like a self-help post, and it could somehow qualify as such. It’s a call for a buildup of self-helps for Beirut. People and cities shape each other on a daily basis, and this relationship could be used to create a better city with happier people. Last week I moved from Beirut to Beirut. I moved for many reasons, most tangibly the building being built in front of my balcony was killing every last drop of my empathy towards this city. After having lived in the Mar Mikhael area, north of Gemmayzé, for around four years, I can say that I sadly witnessed its fast decay from a cozy, interesting neighborhood to a trendy hotspot. With the exponentially increasing attention to Mar Mikhael, investments left the corpse of Gemmayzé to its northern extension: eating, digesting and eventually spitting it out as waste.

Is renovation a good step towards a better old city center in Tripoli?

Last Sunday was my first trip to the souks of Tripoli after the city’s most recent war. I had heard they were damaged, and part of me couldn’t stand the sight of more harm done to this place. I had postponed my visit long enough, and throughout it, I often found myself humoring the situation with little games to cope with the decision to actually embark upon this journey of catching up. I spent my time comparing bullet holes on the buildings with those in my memory, mapping the changes between then and now, pretending it’s minimal. I walked through the alleys, hoping everything was intact, and was happy that at least at the level of its inhabitants, life is somehow continuing.

The Lebanese lack of narrative demonstrated via ‘Google Doodle’

Last Saturday, on November 22, every Lebanese that has a device with Internet access rejoiced with a rare sense of pride, “Google has celebrated our independence!” Every day, the electronic deity adorns its search engine’s homepage with ‘Google Doodles,’ illustrating and animating the Google logo to pay tribute to country-specific and thematic subjects. Last Saturday, Google doodled three men and three women wearing traditional, provincial Lebanese costumes, holding hands and dancing a Levantine Arab folk circle dance, known as the Dabké.

Let’s dream of forbidden questions

As I was filming a dirty toddler wobble around her mother begging for money from passersby next to a signage pole on one of the corners of Hamra Street in Beirut, something attacked my camera with “Click. Stop. Now!” a baseless command I complied with in fear for my lens. “Everything could be solved with a conversation,” I repeated to myself until I looked up to find out it was an unhappy policeman that thought I was filming him: big trouble. Conversations sometimes don’t solve things with policemen.

Thoughts on defeat and catastrophe via Hamra

I have left the hustle and bustle of Hamra to live in a quieter patch on the periphery of Beirut around three years ago. Hamra had won. Catastrophically, it had kicked me out. Like many others, I was kicked out because I refused to tolerate what that part of Beirut was transforming into. Not known for her tenderness, Beirut constantly kicks people out. It has either become too violent, too noisy or too expensive. It’s a humiliating defeat for each and every one of us.

Living in a constant state of ‘pre-war’

As a pre-war native of Lebanon, one knows their place at the bottom of the global and local food chains. We dress well, speak eloquently, remain ‘aware’ of a wide panorama of happenings to camouflage who we really are, and it works most of the time. We’re chic. Within our lowlife chicness, we climb over each other to make sure we’re at least above someone else. It makes for a great moral boost, trust me. Stepping on you elevates me a bit, knowing a foot is inevitably looking for my head. It’s a temporary reach we seem to need to accept, an improvised dance of our everyday lives, a social dabké of some sort that makes us feel normal. Don’t be afraid. We’re all in this together.

What’s next for Tripoli?

I do not know what is going on in Tripoli. I do not read the news, listen to, or watch it. I have somewhat taught myself not to. The fact that ‘news’ is never real ‘news’ is something that everyone is quite familiar with right now. Deep inside the bowels of this age of propaganda, words, images and their combinations don’t necessarily mean anything. Like many others, I am quietly invited to pick from an array of opinions I can align myself with and call them my news. As my newsfeeds dive into the past immediately, with the present moving faster than I can grasp, I stare at video after video of mobile phone footage pretending it’s less ‘manufactured,’ hence more credible, but I still don’t know what is happening in Tripoli.

There’s someone happy in Lebanon

A glance at the title of this text is sure to take you on a wild trip aboard surreal setups that we wish actually existed. Yes, I am as confused as you are. There’s someone happy to be living in Lebanon. He is a taxi driver that once tried to open up his own taxi company but failed. Nevertheless, he remains happy. I got to know all of this as his car reeked of joy last Saturday night while he and I were deciding which route would bless us with the least traffic on that godforsaken night of the week.

Beirut’s ‘Wishing Fountain’ asks, what if money was a public resource?

A trained speculator is not needed to realize that this country’s mess will birth more mess, if left to take its own course. Lebanon is meticulously designed to erupt at very low boiling points, so turmoil remains the name of our game. Read any article, watch any televised broadcast and sadly listen to any of our radio stations to easily conclude this omnipresent mess we’re in. But look closer, as cluttered, dense and oversaturated the ingredients of our current situation seem to be, they’re not really the roots of all our evil. They’re byproducts of a single seed.

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