Lbeika ya Libnein


October has always been my favorite month because it’s about change. The leaves, the costumes, the weather, the government.


Yes, the moment we’ve all been waiting for is here. I have been wanting to put this all in words since Day 2 but I haven’t been able to peel away from what’s happening. Even now, I sit with the TV streaming MTV Live, my twitter timeline refreshing on my iPad, and Instagram is scrolled periodically on my phone. I thought yesterday was Monday as I’ve been counting my days in days of the revolution, or thawra. Today is Day 7.

I’m addicted to the Square and the thawra I thought may never come. I don’t know how to focus on anything unrelated to our revolution and I’m literally in it – I can only imagine how the diaspora feel as their adopted cities continue with their days, as usual.

I feel like a representative for my friends who are not here. I have walked down to Martyrs’ Square alone one too many times because those who would be walking with me are in another time zone. I have heard, “this makes me proud of Lebanon” with conviction from those who had long since given up on her. Their encouragement to continue and their desire to be here has spurred a statement they rarely ever say: “Neyyelik inte bi Libnein hala2.” You’re so lucky you’re in Lebanon right now.

Yes, I am. We’re making history.

But I am weary. I am exhausted. I don’t know if we’re being naive in thinking that if we just hold on long enough, the ruling regime will fall. The corruption is in every vein of an intricate system; it would be foolish to think that they would walk away and the clouds would part to shine on a utopia. They are waiting for us to lose confidence like we have done in the past. It is all so fragile. Another chance that, if lost, could shatter even the staunchest believers after so many false starts.

I am drained but it’s not because of walking to downtown or navigating through crowds for days on end. It’s because of the feels. It’s difficult to describe how emotionally taxing it has been to see the people, or the sha3b, unite through anger, pain, and joy.


I have been choked up a few times a day, every day of the thawra. Before I go to sleep, I worry it won’t be there in the morning. I worry it’ll collapse before it forms. Like a mound of clay spinning on a potter’s wheel, a revolution being molded by the hands of the people. Are we just going in circles or are we forming something beautiful? Will these hands stay steady? Will they bring their hand together to create a vessel that can withstand the pressure?

But the power of the people is real.

I want to go back every day because of it. Not just to make sure it’s there but also because it’s addictive. When I feel my faith is wavering, I go back to the street for another hit and it’s restored.

The power of the people is palpable.

It fills your lungs. And that’s just it: people are breathing. Something has been unleashed. The sha3b is alive and so is the country because, as a protester said, na7na kil shi bi hal balad.

We had turned more and more inward as the ruling class, or sulta, left us to depend on ourselves alone. After the fires tore through the Shouf last week, after the Minister of Environment spoke down to us like a kindergarten teacher, after they wanted to steal from the most basic method of communicating with all our loved ones who were driven to emigrate, after thirty years of a broken system, we have learned that we aren’t even an afterthought in their agenda.

But just as the community came through for the wildfires, they have come through for the revolution. We have each other. We have strength that is not only figurative, but it is also corporal. It seeps out of our pores and rolls down our skin in beads of sweat. The sha3b is full of fury but united in their healing. The sha3b who not only shake signs and wave flags but who wake up early to sort through trash left by the protesters the night before. The sha3b who block the roads with their bodies to shut down normalcy. The sha3b of Tripoli who chant for Dahiyeh, the sha3b of Beirut who chant for Tyre. The sha3b who grab hands with strangers to dabke in the middle of a protest. The sha3b who lie on the Saifi grass, who tear down the barriers to their downtown, who bring their man2als and plastic chairs to sit on the sidewalk. The sha3b who have brought back the souks. The sha3b who are making the cities theirs again. Reclaiming their space, their central district, their rights. The sha3b who have been through so much and are finally smiling.

There have been complaints that the revolution shouldn’t be a party. That we should stay focused or we’ll let this all slip away. This fear is valid and true. However, in the early stages, for this is a marathon, we must draw numbers. We must make the sha3b feel safe, empowered, and understood so they keep coming back. Meetings are being organized, demands from the sha3b on the ground are being noted, WhatsApp groups are being formed. And there are technocrats and activists that have been shouting from the sidelines before this (in)formal uprising began. They will be anything but still in this movement. Even the amenities in the Square have improved with each day – bathrooms, medical, food. It is not wrong for people to come together through happiness, harmony, and hope. We need this boost so we have staying power.

Join the party in the way that you want and do the work that you feel is needed. Help clean-up the streets in the morning, ask people what they want from this or what they’ve been through, change the chants you don’t like. Fear of this revolution being ruined is what, in actuality, will ruin it. It will cripple you. It will keep you at home. For once, the streets are yours. Take them.

And it is a marathon. When you train for one, a key to making it to the finish line is to set a pace. You can’t go full speed as soon as they blow the whistle. You can’t let the excitement gauge your energy in the first few kilometers or you’ll be spent before the quarter mark. In the thawra, you must also be careful to pace your participation. Egypt’s revolution was 17 days, Earth’s revolution is 365, ours will not be complete in a week. This will need time so take shifts, take breaks, take breathers. Take friends or family down with you so their mere existence reminds you what you’re fighting for. We need to stay fierce. We need to keep the issues at the forefront so we don’t forget what brought us here. We cannot go back to sleep. We cannot go back.

“The most important thing now is that we gain a victory in terms of people believing in themselves and the hope of people imposing change through taking action because this is what has been missing for so long.”

– Nizar Hassan, The Lebanese Politics Podcast

The unknown ahead is frightening but think of the last 3 decades. It will get worse before it gets better so we must sacrifice in the present to ensure the future. The power of the people is real and now we know it. Now let’s use it.

And since I’ve paid attention to the date, today will mark Teta‘s one-year memorial. I wish she could’ve been here to see my new Lebanon.

Maghawir el Leil(a)

Leave it to Lebanon’s growing pains to get me writing again. I’ve been so wrapped up in other media and projects that my fingertips haven’t been still long enough to weave a coherent paragraph of word strings.

Last night, I went to the stars. I needed to be off the grid to get back on it, to reposition myself, to be aware that my time on this third rock from the sun is finite and, ultimately, negligible. Marcus Aurelius said, “what we do now echoes in eternity” and getting lost in a snapshot of the universe will remind you that you are a blip on the timeline of this planet, the planet that is slowly dying because no one feels like their choices have any impact. We want fewer motorcycles on the road but we want shawarma delivered to our doorstep at midnight. We want freedom of speech but we want to silence music or mask art that are reflections on and of our societal structures.

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“Remember when music used to sway us?” – Lyrics from Comrades by Mashrou Leila

Khalil Azar, the cognoscenti of the astroadventurer group, BeirutVersus, mapped out where we were in relation to our geolocation and the summer season. A concept that stuck with me from his intro was that of Jupiter and its 3 moons. Gravitationally bound to one another, the system stabilizes as they resonate in space. In the sea of the Milky Way that flows out of the teapot asterism across the sky of Kfardebian, that glimmer of cosmic kinship was solacing.

The thought of entities orbiting harmoniously in vast darkness is the way we keep spinning and allowing for life to persist. We each have our own moons keeping us stabilized in a world that is geared to always veer into chaos. The second law of thermodynamics roughly dictates that we are not supposed to stabilize, that there is a constant loss of energy available to do work, that entropy will only increase as we continue to exist. No wonder the loss of a moon can throw you into a tailspin.

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Last night’s universe by Anthony Ballouz



As Khalil continued to break down the stars with Arabic names, including the three that make up the Summer Triangle star formation, we quickly saw how influential our part of the world was in celestial documentation. Vega, one of the vertices of this triangle, is a loose transliteration of wāqi which means “falling” or “landing.”

A fellow stargazer then said, Wein kinna w wein sirna.” *
“We’re still here, I said.

And yet, with the youth being shipped out in droves, their bags being packed by their own parents who shove them out the door, the collective attention being sidetracked because of a meme or a lyric while the country is Vega, falling further into decay – are we still here at all? The sky is the most basic record of the past and it could be that we’ve all but vanished to the eyes of beings across the galaxy. All this light is seen from a distance even though we’re long gone. It feels like this place is a sky full of ghosts.


*A phrase that means, where we were versus where we are now

Time on a Balcony


Leaving Beirut, George Maktabi

It’s finally warm enough to sit on the balcony like a real Beiruti. It will only be a few weeks of this before the humidity has us locked indoors until October. I find myself wanting a cigarette just because I have a place to smoke it. A place to watch the smoke dance away from my neighbor’s drying laundry above.

Beirut is so layered, not just in its being but in its literal appearance. Electric cobwebs, satellite dishes, the red air-traffic lights. It’s modpodged like a paper mache landscape of concrete and rooftops. During take-off, as the aircraft would climb into the sky, I used to look down at the cars and be fascinated by the number of people below that would breathe in a day that was removed from mine. I feel that in my own city when I look at a spread of buildings stitched together like a quilt. Who’s in there? What are they worried about tonight? What have they seen? Who are they thinking about? What song is on repeat until they hate it?

Like Greyworm’s other track, loving Beirut’s a bloodsport. I won’t proselytize on that; I’m tired of taking you along on my personal peregrination when it comes to this love/hate thing. I frequently find myself caught between wanting to leave the noise for some time in a tree OR wanting to wander in its streets for a dose of abandoned secrets.

I digress, let’s talk about wine.

I’ve started another side hustle that involves Lebanese vino. You can learn more about it here. During the research process, I once again saw a parallel in enology and viticulture that can be applied to life’s grand design. What can I say, I’m an acolyte of the vine.

I’ve been ruminating about timing.

So much of making wine is dependent on timing. When to prune the vines, when to pick the grapes, when to bottle the blend, when to uncork the bottle. Pick the grapes too soon and they’ll be underripe and just shy of the desired sugar level. Wait too long, and they’ll be plump with diluted flavor. Open the bottle on a Thursday solo and you’ve just sentenced a Syrah to death-by-cooking the following week because you didn’t plan on finishing it off alone. Much like the orbiting objects on our mobile of life, there is no strict formula that will tell you when things should happen. There’s a rough suggested timeframe but, in the end, you go with your gut and sometimes your gut lies because it wants to get to the goods, the end, the wine.

You can see that patch of grass on AUB’s Green Oval calling out to you and you kill 30 minutes lying there listening to your WORKOUT playlist. But you can miss the poppy blooms in the South because you kept delaying the drive. You can meet the one when you’re a zero and it won’t match up because human romance isn’t a binary code. You can see that gig winking at you from across the ocean but you’re knee-deep in the soil, roots wrapped around your ankles like sea anchors. You can want the timing to be right but it’s just not. There’s more to do, it’s not the right time, says your gut. Timing laughs and you’re thinking, I’m trying to navigate here, asshole. Timing can be such a Moby Dick.

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But then there’s that chilled rosé you pulled from the fridge, that frosty glass on your balcony at 6pm on a Sunday, that lingering sunshine that just hugs your skin with a tenderness that sweat beads are afraid of.

In the rush of it all, that’s a single drop of perfect timing.

It’s a Love/Hate Thing

“It’s a love/hate thing” is what I’ve been replying to the “what’s Beirut like?” question. To the Lebanese transplants and Lebanese-Americans, all respond in varying levels of comprehension of that phrase. The younger the company, the higher the understanding. I’d chalk that up to the youth needing to be hopeful that there is something to go back to, that there is something worth saving, that we’re still too naive to realize how much our country won’t do for us as we age.

After moving into my own apartment in Beirut, I planted my roots deeper within the city. I chose to try Beirut in full capacity and it’s given me so much mental stability but I know that this is only relative to my current state as a single, unattached person working for the family. Providing kibbles for my cat on the daily does not sway me to change coasts but it may be different if I were thinking about my kid’s access to a backyard or my parents’ retirement. The love/hate thing may not have enough love to balance out in the long-run.


I’m 3 civilizations deep into my ageless city but will I ever stop asking this question?
Will Lebanon ever stop being followed by a question mark?

Beirut has given me my temperament. I am passive or aggressive but never both. It is either worth the confrontation or not worth the acknowledgment. In California, there are sources of calm. GMO-free sunshine that doesn’t make you sweat. The blooms from the heavy rainfall have wrapped the hills in green. It’s all rigged in a way. Less hassle, less pressure points, less weight on your chest. Fewer acupuncture needles poking at you in the form of a basic need not being met, one that you’ve paid for twice. Not just because of the Apple stores of weed or the proximity to waves but is anyone ever angry here? Could I create without the discomfort that Beirut provides? Is that a necessary ingredient for creation or am I just convincing myself that it is?

LA is this place that reminds me of my younger self when my worries were getting home before curfew or enduring another Thursday morning class about plants. Even the yearly catch-up sesh with airport security feels like a moment to review what’s changed since I last got randomly selected. Some know how to show what feels like genuine interest when essentially interrogating you. After talking to Rick,* the US customs agent from New York, for a half hour before boarding my LA-bound flight in Paris, he says, “you’re a strange bird.” That and his encouragement to open a doughnut shop in Beirut makes me think we could’ve been friends if we were talking in the terminal’s Starbucks line, if we weren’t meeting like this, if he wasn’t being paid to inspect my existence. He even tells me that he likes to just have a conversation with flagged passengers because you catch more flies with honey, right?

LA is this mirror that asks, “shu?” with a twist of the wrist, the same way my uncle does when he asks what kind of grilled meat I want. I’m removed enough from Beirut to take a look at the reflection. To realize I might’ve missed parts of LA but buried the memories that resurface with every uprooting. That darker, slimmer version of you with miles of highways and swaying trees. LA is that ex-boyfriend you thought you forgot. The one you thought you didn’t miss until you felt his heat under your fingertips. That one that felt familiar but existed only in simulation, only under perfect circumstances, only on the set of a Hollywood movie. That one that teases you with whole coffee beans and painted lady butterflies. It’s not real and it doesn’t know you anymore.

Or does it?

LA, as my home away from home, serves the purpose of reminding me what I should not be complacent about back in Beirut. From the most nuclear (eating habits, writing frequency, trading in road-trip curiosity for mornings with a laundry basket) to the most communal (recycling, inconsistent utilities, lack of green space, customers who’ve lived in America so they know better than you, expensive Brussel sprouts, the amount of gas left in my dull-first-dates tank). It’s not taunting me so much as it’s saying, “remember when you wanted this?”

It’s not about looking for it here but attaining it from where I am now, for now: my bubble in Beirut.


*name changed

Thank You for Stopping By

Every February marks the anniversary of the blog (7 years!) and my birth. It also is the anniversary of the passing of my friend, Raja. I didn’t know him as well as I would’ve liked but he was one of the first people to read this blog. Throughout high school, Raja was the child prodigy who published a book at 15. He encouraged me to write and he encouraged others to read what I wrote. In the days when I was attempting to be anonymous, I knew that at least Raja was reading my public words. Part of me hopes he still is somehow.

Truth is, we were never that close and that’s what I’ve been mulling over this week. During the days that lead up to Valentine’s, a day which makes you evaluate the level of love you’ve chosen to allow into your perimeter, I thought about the guest stars in your personal series. Those that could potentially become a permanent cast member but end up being written off too soon, and not necessarily through death. They play a role, possibly very minor versus the headliners, and exit stage left after they’ve read their lines. You may not even learn their name. The impact of the interaction or just a statement they say can be something that stays with you longer than their own physical presence.

My parents throw out quotes of strangers they met on planes like they’re reciting proverbs, wise words of an art collector they met one summer before El Nino wiped out beach houses, a family lesson from a nameless neighbor who watched me grow up. I see these visitors being logged into my own narrative too. They need to be transcribed somewhere as a thank you for a sentence or a push that pulled you out of a gray day or energy that charged you for free. A brief moment where you got tangled in their light stream, unraveled, and kept moving into infinity.

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Uber drivers, that high-heeled mom who help me haul a shelving unit into the trunk in the Costco parking lot, that customer service hotline rep who laughed at the ON HOLD music with me, the carpenter on the corner who told me about his days in a German publishing house, the lady winemaker of the North who teases me for rejecting her olive oil because I’m obviously from the South. I cherish these pockets of humanity and the bits of unsolicited advice you catalog and retrieve on command.

This Valentine, and every once in a while, pop open the caisson and sift through the memories of those who left a smidgen of a mark on you. Love doesn’t always have to be grand. For a few, it can be just love and that still counts.

Lost Time is Never Found Again

My sister has been sending me memes on Instagram that hit the nail on the head each time given what’s going on with me in parallel. The below was a few weeks before the launch of my podcast:
In the same week as reading this article about millennials being the burnout generation, mapping out a trip in June, and tweaking a business plan, she hit me with this one:
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Even decisions feel like accomplishments in the age of endless options and bullet points we voluntarily add to to-do lists. January is that month that gets you thinking about time and where you’re throwing it away. My resolution every year, without fail (or with?), has been to learn how to allocate my energy efficiently. To learn how to do more by doing less. Being selective with where you invest a finite resource (time) is a practice that needs to be consciously put into action when it comes to social, personal, and communal intersections. This is in all avenues, not just professional. That’s not to say that you only invest in the permanent or forever but to choose what’s worth it at all.

A friend of mine shared a Facebook status about his change of heart toward activism and choosing different battles. From long-haul fights like the political change in a young, dysfunctional country to even the most fatuous like having that third beer on Sunday night. It’s about trading the time for the fuel rather than the fire that will surely go out.

You’re swimming in multicolored post-its that will shape tributaries that you’re supposed to wade through to write a book that no one but your mother will read. You’re hopping through your own Bandersnatch without a back button. Is this where you want to pour your perspiration? Is there a campsite on the way to that summit? Is there a summit? Is there a pause?

A pause to let it yistéwe (Arabic for letting a stew cook through). A slow boil on low heat so the meat drips off the bone and the tender decision is soft and succulent. It’s not rushed and chewy, it’s cooked in fat juice and breaks down at the touch of a tongue. It’s fulfilling and digestible. It’s spreading the butter effectively so it soaks into the grain, it coats the bread and begs for rosemary & sea salt. Man, I’m going to miss the carbs of 2018.

I’m caught between wanting to write more but happy that what I do write is worth every peck at the keyboard. But I want to fill folios and I want to create. Fewer tabs, more pages. Fewer pixels, more paper. Less ephemeral nothingness, more tangibility. I want to become a creative machine in terms of production and expression but not in terms of pumping out identical cups of tasteless flan. Give me creme brulee or give me death. How much is too much? How much is not enough?

I want to write. I want to write. I want to write. I want to paint my life. Earthy, deep vermillion from wine and the soil that squeezes it tight, green from grape and olive leaves, and milky gold from sandy stones with wrought iron detailing. I want to paint my life with the palette this country gives me and the stories it hides under every fallen veranda.
But in order to make, you need to make time and found time is never lost.

I Don’t Want to Write about Death

IMG_7105But it seems to keep happening. Death, I mean. Not the writing about it part although it tends to stir up pestilential thoughts that end up here.

It’s inescapable.

Last month was zeitoun season, when those of us whose families have olive groves start to argue over how many tankeit zeit you get from the pressed share. Of all the years I’ve lived here, and although the trees only carry enough fruit to warrant harvest and oil production every other year, I never went to see the olive-picking occur on my grandparents’ land. It seemed strange that I’d developed such a love for vines but hadn’t taken advantage of the access to our own crop of the green elixir that goes on everything. Wine may be a passion but olive oil is in my blood. I almost missed the harvest this season too as my weekends were wrapped up in incoming boxes of wine or the trivial tasks that, at the moment, seem more important than witnessing nature do her thing.

Because you always have more time, right?

But then something happened that made us put life matters on hold: death. My teta fell asleep forever in her home of the South surrounded by the olive trees. It was a Tuesday that brought us to her before the zeitoun were all picked and gone that weekend. The cigarettes, the stacked plastic chairs, the Advil and Panadol flowing like sugar cubes, the tissues and bottles of water, those ugly, coral coffee cups. Coral. What a perfidiously fantastic adjective for such a dull funerary necessity. Teta let me see the olives and the most wonderful palette of color in a sea of black and coral.

Death has this way of slapping you with so much truth. Anthony Bourdain. Gavin Ford. The media gives you this false sense of knowing. You’ve lost a travel buddy, whether he was showing you the feijoada of Brazil or helping you open your eyes before a dreaded 8AM T/R Plant Physiology elective that you foolishly registered for. Like how Bourdain had deep pain, as we all do, even if he was being paid to explore the world with his stomach. Like how Gavin, our morning companion, was murdered and violated posthumously by the audience that loved him. Like how his British passport may bring him faster justice but evokes more shame because this is how we treated our adopted patriot. Like how I feel I knew them better than my own grandmother.

Before her heart affected her memories, she used to use her kibbeh bil saniyyeh or djeij bil forn to entice me to visit. My dad says she lived for everyone else and I feel like I missed the chance to find out about the parts when she didn’t. Because I know they exist. All children forget that their mothers have lives beyond them. When she met my maternal grandmother in California, they knew how to communicate although neither spoke the other’s language. Even though she’d ask my female cousins about romance, she’d ask me about work. She knew how to read people more than words. I think my sister has her hands. We weren’t that close but it’s been almost 40 days and every olive I see reminds me of her.

There are glimmers of life that arise from death. Like the trees that sprout out of the rooftop of the dilapidated Holiday Inn. Like the birds returning to their nests in the bullet hole scars of my war-time building. Like the thought that teta maybe, just maybe, has been reunited with my jiddo after three decades apart, half of which he was still alive for.

But that’s another death for another day.

For now, a star was put out and the world lost some of its light. Mornings will be a tad grayer. As a nation, it’s a good thing we’re used to being in the dark.

I Fell in Love Once

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I was sitting at Gordon’s Cafe across from the Nahar Building in Downtown Beirut, having another lunch break with my boss, who also happens to be my dad. I said, “I think I should write a book.” He agreed but asked about what.

“Who’s story would you tell?”

He paused and said, “but who wants to read about your life?” I have to thank dad for keeping me grounded in my own insignificance up against the Malalas of the world. I am not special, I am not more than what I am. I do not love more than I do. But my story is the only one I know, the only one only I can tell.

I fell in love once.

Like the Common joint that addressed hip-hop like it was a woman, I wrote about Lebanon like she was the boy I fell for in my early twenties. When I wrote about her, it felt like I was writing about him too but my love was hers, he was just the gateway drug that would keep me coming back to her for another hit. And I kept coming back to her. For a while, I confused the two. They were one, his memory so intertwined in the memory of a lost city I never inhabited. Like the nostalgia that overtakes a fallen nation’s countrymen, remembering only the highlights of what once was, he became my Beirut in the 60s. It was after he was gone, only after I let him go, that I saw her. And with time, I saw myself letting go of her too.

And even then, when I chose to leave knowing that sunflowers and sunshine were on the other side, the day I left for LA, she made me cry.

I was walking along the Manara Corniche, right across from the rickety Ferris wheel when I spotted graffiti of the word tabki (تبقي) on the wall. There are two letters in Arabic for the K sound – one that is more guttural, more back of the throat and then there is one that is softer, more delicate. Even their shapes reflect this personality. When used in words, like say in the word tabki, you get different translations. The heavy ka makes it translate to stay. The soft ka makes it translate to cry. The two words encompass what living in and leaving Beirut can feel like each time you pack a suitcase with a bag of pita bread and a jar of zaatar Halabi. When you stay you will cry for all the things she cannot do for you and all that you could do if you left. And when you leave, you will cry for all the things you cannot do for her and all that you can do without her. It seems tears accompany that question of when will you return? regardless of where you’re returning to.

Beirut is broken and beautiful. In your arrogance, you want to save her but she never needed rescuing for she is the survivor in this round of sudden death. She will outlive you just like she outlived all who loved her before you. Perhaps you’re the one who needs rescuing while you’re convinced you’re her savior. Perhaps it gives you purpose as she can keep breathing while you suffocate beneath her. She may be broken but that is all she knows. And it’s the only way you know her, the tragic her, but she’s not waiting for you to love her.

Her. Beirut is a woman. Her sounds under your skin and her songs in your head. Her smell inhaled and trapped in your chest, sticking to your insides like the black tar that lines the jagged roads to the airport. Seductive through her own endless destruction, pulling you into her and throwing you into the gutter of an unpaved side street draped in a web of cables, white undershirts, and mass graves of fiery garbage. She is intoxicating like a night filled with too much wine & laughter, an afternoon of diesel smoke and Fayrouz on repeat, a morning breeze with mustached fishermen that live in the throes of the Mediterranean waves.

She is your fantasy, your nightmare, your runaway dream that infects you, defines you, depletes you, defeats you, and deceives you.

Beirut is a woman because she gets up and leaves you.
Even if you can’t leave her.

So it’s true: I fell in love once. With her, with my Lebanon, over and over again.


Mistakes Made in Beirut


I’ve done one of the these for LA and NYC but it didn’t occur to me to make a list of mistakes made in my own city. There will probably be multiple parts to this as Beirut is a place where maneuvering to get the basics is an acquired skill.

  • Go to Mikey’s Tacos & Dancing solo three times in a row without a dance partner and leave right after Bachata each time. Never learn Merengue.
  • In an effort to spare yourself from Waterfront traffic and paying Waterfront parking fees, you order an Uber to Biel for your sister’s high school grad ceremony only to find that “Biel” is now somewhere by the Beirut River, not the Beirut Waterfront. You’re late and get to pay for two Ubers.
  • Agree to drinks on a Sunday night assuming it won’t end at Barbar.
  • Order chicken shawarma without extra toum after it does.
  • Wait until the morning to shower only to find there’s no electricity or hot water. Dry shampoo your way through Monday.
  • Get in the car at any time of the day between 8am and 7pm. Listen to a lot of Warda, Abdel Halim, and baby George Wassouf to avoid bitchslapping half your countrymen.
  • Shower and blow-dry your hair before heading to Meats & Bread for lunch. Smell like a spit for 3 days after diving head-first into a plate of ribs.
  • Go on dates with expats and wonder if there are any men left IN the country. Find out there are but stay home because of swiping burnout.
  • Bring said expats to the same bar because it has good music that is loud enough to accompany a conversation. Bartender winks at you because he thinks you’re a player. In reality, you’re just on the Bumble welcoming committee.
  • Adopt a stray kitten. Find out she loves Warda & cheese so you’ve obviously been reunited with your daughter from a previous life. Become one of those people who has an Instagram account for their pet.
  • Park up the street from Barbar to visit a friend nearby. Return after a few hours only to find a YELLOW 50-thou handwritten ticket that is reserved for no parking zones (that’s a thing here?) instead of the 10-thou unpaid surcharge tickets. Never return to Barbar again. That week.
  • Work at a supermarket that regularly has tortilla chips in stock. Sign up at a gym within walking distance but forget that it’s 34 degrees this season. Never walk to the gym.
  • Go to Habibi Club at Grand Factory after an almost-2-year hiatus from the former mattress party venue. Think that 30 is still young so work the next day should be easy. It probably won’t meet your expectations anyway. And then they played every Jnoub wedding song of your strange childhood. Brb, I need to get more Advil.

The Three E’s Sinking My Submarine

IMG_2549As a dual national, I am frequently asked why I’m still here or why I haven’t left yet. You have a second passport, work experience, and degrees – what’s keeping you here when you have a way out? Didn’t you leave? Are you back?

“I’m here until further notice” has been my automated reply.

I am trying to shy away from pouring out more words that hit high on the dazed & confused scale. When I had returned to Beirut in April of this year, after a couple rounds of Pong between here and SoCal, it felt as if I had unlocked the next level of young adulthood at the ripe age of 30.

Being in the USA was an eye-opener: I didn’t have a problem with Lebanon. I had a problem with my living circumstances in Lebanon. Having a separate living space in California allowed for mental somersaults and brain foam rolling. Why did I need to travel over 7000 miles for +20 hours to get it? Without feeling like settling or assuming the big fish, small pond title that accompanies residing in comfort zones, there must be a way to have that within your own city; the same city you’ve invested so much in, socially and professionally. The city you feel you can actually do something for?

I came back with the thought that moving out of my parents’ house was the last ingredient necessary to cook the cheesy casserole and build my fempire, using my own Tupperware and feeding my own cat.

Then the three E’s swooped in and were like oh, you’re figuring it all out?
Let’s fuck some shit up.

The three E’s being Environment, Elections, and Economy.

The country has been treated like a massive wasteland for a couple years now. According to Newsroom Nomad, there are hidden agendas behind all the beach propaganda but that doesn’t erase our trashbag rivers and lack of existence/respect for public spaces. I admit, I had become accustomed to Lebanon morphing into a cesspool and had allowed this to be swept under the tattered Ajami rug. Ultimately, it wasn’t a lost cause and there were plenty of groups with private projects attempting to reverse the damage. Could they turn back the clocks and stop the introduction of incinerators?

When Beirut Madinati lost, it was an inspiring failure. But then the parliamentary elections came. I knew the independents wouldn’t win but when public apathy has reached the stage where people are amused by your belief in the power of the vote, you feel defeated. You feel like the patina of patriotism is chipping off the walls as the mildew creeps through. You feel like you don’t belong here. You feel like you’re the minority and hope is a form of self-sabotage.


And finally, the economy on the brink of collapse, once again. Paying double for utilities can make for killer overhead for any business, particularly one that deals with temperature-sensitive merch (or depends on any form of electricity and/or water).  Salaries and cost of living are atrocious and the market is crippled. Property prices are outrageous and housing loans will rope you in for decades even though you can’t imagine where the next 12 months ahead are going. In between all the ghastly, ghostly towers, our ecru stones and cement tiles are being rolled away in wheelbarrows.

Downward-spiral aside, I have moments where so much love fills my lungs here. When I see grandmas on balconies, when I meet a family growing wine in the mountains, when I’m vegetating on giant pillows under the trees, when I share a meal with an Argentinian chef who’s here to rediscover her Lebanese roots, when I meet expats who are here for a quick dose of kibbeh and the Mediterranean, when I hike with a group of people older than my parents and they use my father’s village as my nickname, when I see Beirut through the eyes of a flabbergasted tourist, when I’m involved in creative work that ties into learning with and about my people, when I’m talking to strangers who instantly become wells of emotion. Lebanon can give and give and give.

But oh, how she can take too.

The short film above (Mounia Akl’s Submarine) resonated with me because, as much as I’ve tried not to, I do have a problem with Lebanon. That question of whether or not you will leave seems to have lost its polarity. For those trying to lead an adult life, leaving has become a question of when because, lately, it feels inevitable.