The Farewell Chronicles

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The new Arab home as a political tool

The setting was casual, and our table at the reopening of a leftist bar in Beirut was a miniature scene from a contemporary Arab home that seems to be developing. On my left was a Syrian-Palestinian émigré who is trying to reconstruct the void in her self-respect after being forced to leave her home, Damascus, through writing and hands-on activism. On my right was another that seems to just be staring into the void in space. In front of me was a Palestinian-Jordanian artist whose art is a constant discussion of the possibility/impossibility of building without a land. Her fiancé’s sister who sat next to her is a brilliant Tarab singer in her twenties, whose Tarab bothers the young man on her right, a thirty-something-year-old Syrian man who fled from Syria after being in prison for three years. He thinks techno music is more suitable for our violent, rapid times. As the DJ plays Oum Kolthoum, we all cheer to a voice that remains our common denominator and unanimously disagree with the fleeting techno theory.

Substituting the Arab world’s international placenta with internal arteries

The idea of the “international” has become a parody of its own self. This is not a recently unearthed fact; just one that comes to my attention every time we wait for verdicts of the international community, apply our massacres to international courts or when international solidarity becomes applause-worthy. A tens-of-thousands-of-people protest in London in support of the Palestinian cause is hailed as something significant. It is so because that means that the general public is somehow against war. It is shameful that this is considered significant. It is disgraceful that we don’t expect human solidarity from the general public, international or otherwise, as something natural.

A conversation with a musician building Beirut

I’m hesitant to shave my beard at home. The electricity isn’t sticking to its usual rationing schedule, and we’re having sudden cuts throughout the day. This means I may be coerced into a fashion statement of asymmetrical facial grooming that I am not interested in.

Defying the art of being passive enough for murder to sound normal

A man threw a bomb at four people having their morning coffee in Tripoli last week because he thought God might like it. In the name of the subjective glee of the almighty, four people are injured and a city continues to die while its authorities are allowing extremists to set new vicious rules for the city. All our Arab cities are dying because we have been conditioned to become helpless throughout a history filled with inevitable defeat. We will continue to die because the people killing us have been conditioned that we’re okay with it, and we are yet to prove them otherwise.

The republic’s new prince

The Lebanese people don’t have a president yet but, for a few moments, we thought we had a prince. Until the faulty report was retracted, we briefly lived in a country where a terrorist organization threatening state sovereignty was visibly more efficient than our parliament in choosing its leadership.

Long Beach: little Beirut

Last Sunday’s weather summoned us to the beach. As we walked towards the Mediterranean, we hit a wall of concrete blocks followed by a ticket office with endearing signage that, like everything except this venue’s glamour, hasn’t changed since the 1960s. Behind the crumbling Luna Park in Beirut is a crumbling resort, the “Long Beach” that charges a $ 20 entrance fee per person.

The road not taken: Beirut-Ramallah

I ate an Israeli yesterday. It tasted good, and came in a box with five others that I kept for later. I will eat the rest of them in the coming week. Then I will eat more until there are no Israelis left on the face of the planet. Halfway through my first, I thought, “Would it be considered treason for a Lebanese man to enjoy the taste of an Israeli while eating them?” My voice of reason reassured, “But of course not! If anything, I would be hailed a ‘mouqawem’ – a brave resistance/freedom fighter – and all should be well.”

Curiosity [not Culture] is a basic need

A few days ago, I attended a press conference organized by AFAC, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, held at the abandoned Holiday Inn building right above the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut. They were announcing ten new grantees in their Arab Documentary Photography Program in partnership with the Magnum Foundation and the Prince Claus Fund. As commendable as their work may be, the only reason I attended was the chance to go inside the Holiday Inn building again.

A decent proposal to the Municipality of Tripoli

Dear esteemed President and Members of the Municipality of Tripoli,

I am writing to ask you for a special favor. I would like to be granted total control over the city of Tripoli for one year. In a week’s time, I will be turning twenty-eight and in the past ten years, I have left Tripoli twice. Once for a proper education and another for a proper life. I have developed a certain hatred for my hometown over the years and sought refuge in the relative freedom, anonymity and invigoration of Beirut.

Fayrouz should have been a public space

I truly believe that our molested citizenship and crippled national identity will only be able to heal in public spaces, in real time and real place. It’s less conceptual, less ideological, less rhetorical and more tangible. This blog post might sound similar to another I wrote about public spaces, but it is a follow up to last week’s after a friend of mine that was physically molested in Daliyeh asked me why I didn’t mention all the crime that happens there at night.

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