Beirut, beautiful, sophisticated, artsy, dirty, confused, decadent, mismanaged and always pulls on my every hidden emotion.
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I left my native Lebanon to New York City back in 1987. The war was still raging and the political and economic situations were highly unstable if not volatile. Today, almost 27 years later, the Lebanese struggle with rationed electricity, unstable economic and political situations, living on the brink of another war, receiving a flood of refugees from another neighbor and the only difference from then to now is how much thicker the pockets of our political leaders are getting. Corruption is their religion and money their God. How will the web of greed be ever dismantled?
We find ourselves on a planet of duality; where there is day, there is also night; we wake up only to then sleep; we feel happiness only to be followed by sadness; and where there is life, there most certainly will be death.
And we feel that life is sometimes unfair, unjust and we wonder why the timings are all wrong and the big question rises in us: “what if?”. We desperately try to reverse time, to wish we had taken one step differently, that we had made a different decision, and it leaves us wondering if destiny is pre-written. We turn to religion for answers, we question our creator, we get desperately angry, then we sink into a bottomless pit of sadness, only to surrender and then move on trying to lift our head high and catch the thread of life we tossed to the side when tragedy met us.
And looking back at my posts from the week before my beautiful young brother died in his tragic accident, there were most definitely subtle signs to prepare me for this. The titles and natures of my images spoke volumes to me before the event.
“It’s later than you think” whispered the ghost of tomorrows lost~
“our fragile strengths”
This post is in honor of George Kheir, my departed young brother, a wonderfully warm, humorous, bursting with life and generous man who left a kind and beautiful family behind. May his soul rest in peace and go to where it was destined to be.
Too small to be divided, too large to be swallowed, too beautiful to be ignored, too charming to be forgotten… and oh the way the sun kisses my Lebanon…
أحبك “I love you”
Reem is 9 years old. She is a Syrian refugee living in a camp in North Lebanon. I learned today that she lost both her parents in the recent conflicts. The only message written on her hand is : I love you
I am 2 days late in posting this because I am finding it so hard to leave my one month process with Lebanon, the most special place for me on this Earth. But life and this project must go on. On to the next journey in the next place which you will know about in the next post. It has been quite a journey the last month mentally traveling through my archives of photos, through my diaries and through the hieroglyphs of my mind. I hope you were able to get a small sense of how wonderful and extraordinary Lebanon was, is and can be. Thank you to all the wonderful people who have been following, commenting and encouraging along the way. Great thanks to the people at wordpress who added this blog to freshly pressed twice! And many thanks to those who have been nominating me for awards. I must admit, I have not figured out how the whole process works and what to do with them, but I will.
I am posting 2 self portraits from Lebanon, one with my beloved mountains and one gazing at the deep blue Mediterranean.
See you tomorrow elsewhere 🙂
When I started this project I wrongly assumed that a story such as mine with my Lebanon could be told with 29 photographs and 29 small writings. With every passing day I could see that life does not work like that. The stories that came to my mind and married with my photographs each day barely scratched the surface of the immensity that life in Lebanon was to me. Life engraves lines in us, each experience life changing, each event leaving its unique signature on our aging skin. No aging face is designed like any other, in the same way that no life is like another and no fingerprint is the same.
I met this lady in the street while in Beirut, her name is Aida, she could not tell me for sure how old she was and she sold cigarettes for a living. Her lines are evidence to a life that would take ages to tell. Nothing is more humbling than looking at a face like Aida’s.
Beirut, one of the oldest cities known to man, destroyed by earthquakes at least 7 times, has been known by names such as Colonia, Julia, Augusta, Felix and Berythus, and was home to the world’s first law school. The teachers of Beirut School of Law helped draft the famous Justinian Code. Beirut was then named ‘Mother of Legislation’.
Despite the various total destructions and the later occupations of Beirut by Arabs, Crusaders, Romans, Ottomans, French mandate, and most recently Israeli and Syrian presences, the beautiful and buzzing cosmopolitan city was and still is referred to as ‘Paris of the middle east’. I still remember being in total awe of how many different languages are spoken on the city streets and the impressively rich culture and panorama of arts adorning its galleries and museums.
To be in Beirut is to experience all that the past as well as the future has to offer and it is about finding yourself living the moment to the extreme with people who choose to love life as a first priority. Yes the Beirut feeling is contagious and it can leave you longing to go back with every single part of your being.
More than half of my life In Lebanon was spent by the beach. We used to not even wait till school was over before moving to our summer little home by the seaside. With life on the shores of the Mediterranean came certain traditions, like swimming one hour-long to reach a cargo ship and jump from its deck, take a knife and a lemon on a ‘haske’ (a flat wooden row-boat), and dive to some nearby rocks to loosen sea urchins from the rocks, open them, clean them with seawater and then finally garnish them with some lemon juice before scooping out the orange caviar and humming our enjoyment. I can say for certain that life by the beach was always the highlight of the whole year for us children. This past summer I wanted to relive another special excitement from my childhood, which was waking up at dawn and joining the fishermen for 5 or 6 hours to witness the process of their daily catch. There is no meditation as soothing as those early morning hours spent rocked by slight movement of the boat, warmed by the early rays of morning sun and serenaded by fishermen’s songs as they dive in and out of the water in search for their sea dwellers.