Beirut, the city that never sleeps, has been hibernating for a few days, now that a vicious external force puts its people in danger. Beirut is officially under lockdown.
Known to be vibrant and ecstatic, the streets of Beirut have been making no sounds. Though the pink trees in downtown have blossomed and the cats of Beirut are up and about, the humans of Beirut remain in hiding.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken Lebanon by surprise, like many countries before us, making the people unable to comprehend their next steps. Do we fear the unknown danger? Do we protect our elderlies and younglings until we sail back to safety?
With 99 confirmed coronavirus cases in Lebanon; 3 of whom have died and one of whom has fully recovered, the people of Lebanon are not willing to take any risk, wisely so, and are leaving their towns to the ghosts, just until it, the fear, passes.
Lebanese photographer Nabil Ismail has captured the void this virus has left in the streets of Beirut as well as the closed and chained stores of the city.
Even Barbar, Hamra, the restaurant that refused to close during the 1975 civil war and would feed the fighters on a daily basis, has been defeated in this biological battle.
“Money is the most dangerous. Chauffeurs should be aware of this and always carry a hand gel.”
Taxi driver in Beirut, March 13, 2020.
“A mean disease, these days you cannot trust anyone,” a taxi driver says waving at his big bottle of hand gel, “You never know who has it [the virus] and who doesn’t.”
The taxi driver is even scared of his customers’ money; he sanitizes their money once given to him.
Beirut under lockdown: giving people enough reasons to stay at home.
Lebanon has launched the “Stay Home” campaign encouraging the people residing in Lebanon to stay home so the coronavirus (COVID-19) can cease spreading and hence be contained.
This can help people get their work and studies done from home, or even entertain themselves for an extra hour or two.
The electricity has also not being cut off as much as before. What once was a national pressing demand, is now being offered as a plea for people to halt the gatherings and enjoy their extra hours of the State’s “generous” electricity hours.
Ironically enough, the scary coronavirus has solved one of the people’s demands, even if partially, restoring some more electricity in their homes.
Still, the Lebanese people are impatient. Professional socialists during the day, and life of the party at night, procrastination is not as promising as it seems to many.
But joy still ignites through the darkest times, as proven by the people of Ashrafieh. Like Italy, the neighbors in Ashrafieh were spotted dancing and singing along the melodies of Fairouz, uplifting the general mood, and giving hope to those who might have lost it.
We are a nation of survivors, from natural disasters to wars, to years of revolutions, the Lebanese people do tend to believe to have seen it all. And they’re not so wrong.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) may have sparked fear, but it will pass, and we will survive; like our nation has always done.
The ghost town that is Beirut now, will slowly gain back its energetic people and vibrancy. A man who sat beside me on the bus one time said; “We are a nation of burning, drowning, and slowly dying.” Yet, we are the nation that always finds a reason to continue living!
Scroll down for more sadly beautiful pictures of Beirut under lockdown captured by the lense of Nabil Ismail.