When I visited Beirut the civil war was done and the center of the city rebuilt. It was clean and shiny new. It was pedestrian friendly. I walked about and took in the sights. Mosque and Church could be seen side by side. Outwardly there is no war. Sunny days prevail. Beneath the surface lingers all the old animosities. The government is dysfunctional. Religion, politics, and ethnicity all lurk as intractable barriers. You can’t see it in the pictures. Some days I wish there really was a reset button.
It’s too dangerous to go there now? The road to the airport was blown up shortly after Farid (orthopedics) traveled on it. And the window in Rida’s (ophthalmology) place were blown out by a bomb nearby. Farid goes there all the time. His family spends their summers there.
Back in 2013 my good friend Farid invited me to Lebanon. There was a wedding. I had not been invited to the wedding. It seems that invitation was optional. One of our Jeddah OR nurses was getting married. It seems there was a sort of open invitation. Farid was just there on scheduled vacation. He invited me to go. Okay? Why not? The wedding is a couple posts later. Meanwhile I stayed in a couple places.
The downtown apartment house of his mother’s had seen war. Yup. Bullet holes. Those are in the wall next to the bathroom. I showered there. It’s not every day you have bullet holes with your shower. We ate at a local fish place. I’m not a big fish eater. But the dessert was fruit – strawberries, grapes, watermelon….and Arabic coffee. The server saw me with my camera. He posed and we got a picture. Thanks. That was a happy ending…
Here’s where I had a little scare. I was at lunch with Farid’s family, his cousin was seated to my left. I took a picture of the coffee guy. He mumbled something that even his cousin missed. She thought he was mad as he came around the table toward me. He wasn’t mad, he was being very accommodating to a tourist. The next thing you know, Farid is snapping a shot for me. By the way the watermelon is delicious and refreshing. I haven’t had a slice since leaving NY last summer.
I watched this unfold. Three floors but were they different apartments? A woman on the second floor came out to scold another on the third to stop getting dust on her blue striped whatever. I didn’t think anyone took out their rugs to beat them anymore. And why suddenly all together on the same day?
The family spoke about this outing for a few days before we went. I had been advised from Jeddah to be sure to pass by this club. You need a reservation many weeks in advance. What you cannot appreciate is the decibel level. I found my hearing impaired for hours after we left. Really!!! I couldn’t hear that it sounded like there was cotton in my ears. There’s entertainment, singing and dancing… that’s Farid and he’s not dancing with his wife… but in my story I leave out the part that she’s his cousin. The whole evening he had four alcoholic mixed drinks. I had two and was ‘feeling no pain.’ Then he tells me that he had the bar water down his drinks to pretty much fruit juice with a whiff of alcohol. That’s the last time we go ‘drinking.’
As it is in many places around the world, there is a statue high on the hills overlooking Beirut. Under construction is a very modern church. It has some complex curves so the scaffolding has been constructed without a straight line in sight. We came one afternoon to pray for Silva’s father who is very ill.
It’s the neighborhood where Farid’s parents live. I have to ask, but it looks like there are bullet holes in the walls. For sure those are bullet holes in the bathroom window at his mom’s apartment. The warring sides regularly shot back and forth with heavy weapons and bullets. No one has ever shot at me. It’s very sobering to see bullet holes right out the window where you are staying.
This statue sits next to the bombed and rebuilt section of the old city. And if you look closely there are bullet holes where the statues were shot. The martyrs were from another time, not this recent war. The violence is always just at the edge. There was a time, while Farid was in medical school here when another student was shot by a sniper. Farid stopped and took him directly to the hospital. I have been indeed lucky not to have been exposed to such violence and chaos.
Water pipe…it’s not good for you. The amount of nicotine is the equivalent of many more cigarettes than are safe (not that any are). Well, this is novel to me. You smoke through a wine and fruit mixture to add pleasure to your experience.
It’s modern, clean, and chic. Twelve years ago there was major carnage here. Every building was shot up and blown up. It’s all been rebuilt and you’d never know it until, I saw the pictures of the devastation side by side with the new buildings. Considering the earlier destruction, it was a tremendous job to rebuild in such a short time. Without the ‘before’ images, you wouldn’t believe how much has changed.