5 Smells of a Beiruti Summer

1. Eau de Pub

The pub crawl stench. This is not restricted to the summer season but tends to increase in intensity during vacation periods due to pubs’ desire to fill their venues to maximum capacity. That combined with humid weather and weak air conditioning/ventilation gives you the pub crawl stench that infests your skin and clothing on a night out. It is a combination of cigarette smoke, perfume, deodorant, and various body odors all mixing together thanks to the close proximity boundaries that don’t exist in the Bei. God help you if you come home and can’t shower. 

2. Vape

Pronounced as “VAP”, this is the anti-mosquito magic that most households use. It comes in different forms, but my new favorite is the “wheel” that you light and burn like incense – sorta smells like it too. In Arabic, they’re referred to as “douwaleeb”, or tires, so it goes right along with the newest trend of burning tires.

Vape douleb (singular for tire)

3. Masheweh & Fahim

This means “barbecue and coals.” As is tradition during the summer months – people take advantage of the sunny weather and decide to grill all organs and slabs of meat on a man’al, a rectangular shaped open grill with groves so skewers rest over the coals. It can be anything – chicken, beef, lamb – and of any nature – filet, lungs, wings, etc. It’s commonly known as “kebabs” to the outside world. The side-effect smells are charcoal, garlic and possibly onions if you eat too much fattoush salad.


4. Brakes

The smell of the car brakes after driving up and down mountain roads. The Lebanese version of a roadtrip is to drive up to a village or spot up in the mountains where it’s a bit cooler, sit around and have some masheweh and beer. Majority of the cars owned in this country are not made for off-roading since having smaller sedans is ideal for living in a city that ignores the idea of parallel parking or traffic laws. Therefore, these roadtrips (that actually consist of you driving for two hours tops since Lebanon is smaller than the state of Connecticut) destroy your brakes and “re7it freimet” (the brakes smell) accompanies you on your return down the mountain.


 5. Coconut/Carrot Cream or Johnson’s Baby Oil

Coconut/Carrot tubs of cream are these orangey/brown buckets of stuff that people use poolside. They’re popular but the staple here for becoming brown is Johnson’s Baby Oil, the tanner’s elixir of life. The suntanning folk here tend to swim in it first before swimming in actual water. When I used it once, I felt like a baking chicken that is asking to look like I fell into KFC batter by age 40. Nevertheless, many other people enjoy the deep brown color it seems to help create in the now. I admit that it is a nice hue (with moderation) but it’s not safe medically – I prefer SPF and not looking like Magda in There’s Something About Mary.

Johnson’s Baby Oil Shelf
Magda – Source

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