Beirut. The city that kicks you in the guts every day and scuffles you to the grounds, keeps you warm at night and wakes you up in the morning.
You may have lived in Beirut your whole life, and you still can’t pinpoint why you love this extravagant city so much.
You might fret and fume on your drive back home after a bad day of Beiruti-ing, and you would still seek it excitingly for a coffee with a friend in a crowded street.
And these times you get lost in a niche at night, only to find out that you are in a neighborhood you know so well but could not allocate because of the power outage.
I have only traveled to four different cities and even though I have loved them all, they all missed something. They did not miss any beauty, they just missed the feeling that only Beirut makes us feel.
This is not an opinion of someone who has only traveled to four cities, this is the opinion of many travel-enthusiasts who have said exactly the same thing; Beirut does not only have a scenery, it has a feeling.
It is easy to feel proud and supreme when reading travelers’ blogs about how amazing Beirut is. It’s not that Beirut isn’t the most outstanding place you could ever be in, it’s just that I don’t agree with tourists’ perception of Beirut.
Yes, Beirut is beautiful, it is painfully beautiful. It is beautiful because it carries so much dead underneath and it shelters so many souls troubled by the past and the unforeseen future.
It is beautiful because no matter what, the damp streets of Beirut will always lead you home, wherever that might be to you.
It is one thing to visit a country where you don’t have to think about its overpriced living and its power shortage, and it is another thing to live in it.
Living in Lebanon means you’ll have to make time for things you never thought of, like waiting for hot water and getting stuck in unbelievable traffic.
Visiting Beirut is fascinating, but living in Beirut is an adventure. You cannot live in a social city if you do not expect to be sociable; you can expect sleepless nights of little to no social boundaries and lots of social endeavors.
You will need to make face in social events, attend art galleries that you do not understand, spend the night away at Em Nazih’s, stroll through the streets of Hamra, and get lost in Beirut’s dazzling city lights, or Beirut’s lightless streets (on most nights).
While visiting Beirut, there are few places that you will always be advised to explore: Raouche Rock, Downtown Beirut, Gemmayze, Hamra Street, and Mar Mikhael or Badaro if you like to party.
However, living in Beirut, you get to see the cracks, the little simplicities of Beirut that keep you tangled so close.
You get to see the exotic Armenian neighborhoods of Mar Mikhael, the burlesque balconies in Makhoul and Makdessi Streets, the heavily populated suburbs with folks dying to show off their vintage shops, the flower girl at the Corniche, and the white-bearded old men selling Lotto in every corner.
It is not that Beirut has an exotic identity, it is that it has an existential identity. The city is one thing to my eyes and another to your eyes, it is what you want to see, what you expect of Beirut.
It is old and rich in heritage, and it is modern and full of life. It is expensive and full of superficiality, and it is cheap and full of neighborly smiles.
It is warzones and debris, and it is vibrant and enigmatic. It is everything you like and everything you choose to ignore. Beirut shows you the colors that you want to see, but never what it really is.
But what really is Beirut?
It’s everything, really. Everyone wanted a part of Beirut to look like another city. It tried to be Dubai, Paris, Syria, Turkey, but it failed. It remained Beirut, the city that was destroyed seven times and rebuilt as many in its 5000-years history.
The city that homes so many ethnicities, races, religions, and sects, still cannot be identified as one color. It is the color of every passerby, of every lick of every persona that lived in it. It is the uncanny stories of those who remain most loyal to it.
Beirut loves everyone, yet can never identify one lover. It vibrates communism, yet speaks American-English. It relishes on tabbouleh and hummus, yet devours on sushi and wine.
It takes pride in its old stone houses, yet admires skyscrapers. It breathes its street art and graffiti, yet repaints over them political posters.
We fall in love with Beirut because we can’t understand it. It leaves us aching to find the missing pieces of its puzzles.
It leaves us wondering how all its children love it so much yet dream of the day they abandon it. How, even though it stands shining in the sun, our leaders choose to neglect it.
Beirut thrives from our addiction to it, from our long strolls in its neighborhoods, and our long nights in its cafes and bars, trying to drink our confusion away, trying to fathom what Beirut is, and why it remains ever so alluring.
We love Beirut because we cannot understand it, and as humans, we love the excitement and we love seeking the unknown. It keeps us awake at night, and don’t we love a sleepless enigmatic night!