Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon, the Middle Eastern country. Beirut during the day is a busy crowded city; from the early hours of the morning the streets fill up with people, rushing to schools, offices and wherever they might be going. Throughout the day it is always hard to get to an appointment on time; unless you leave before at least an hour from the scheduled time. Beirut after midnight though is a whole different world with all its contradictions and magic in some way.
The clock announces midnight, through the windows you can see lights turning off; one after the other, people are hasting to bed after a long working day. Few lights are flashing out from a student’s room that is staying up late to study; some are just up finishing a movie on T.V, or just laying in bed finishing a book. Out it is all quiet, the neighborhood’s streets are empty except for flashing road lights and few homeless kittens and dogs out there.
In the parallel street laughter have risen above the silence of the night, the voices direct you into a small humble coffee shop. There a bunch of jobless guys gather every night, playing cards, smoking “Hookah”, laughing over a desperate wasted life. Those were not lucky enough to find jobs and opportunities they aspire. For a second, they are distracted from their game to salute their neighbor, the taxi driver, who works all night long till the early hours of the morning, as many others in this city.
He drives away from the suburbs neighborhoods’ of Beirut with its simple life; its citizens whom are struggling to live a regular life and fulfill their dreams. He drives along the streets reaching Cola intersection. A point where during the day is crowded with people, taxis, and buses; it is the starting point towards almost all the different regions in Lebanon. Now it is almost quiet except for few cars, there the first passenger for tonight hops in. The taxi drives away reaching the cornice.
The passenger gets out meeting his friends. There upon the sound of the striking waves under the moonlight, on the scattered benches all along the sidewalk sat youth having late coffee. Spilling all their secrets and pain to the striking waves that would take it away to the deep of the ocean, others just wrapping up the day’s events and planning for a better tomorrow. The deep conversations and flying dreams are cutoff by a small boy, with his innocent features, and dreamy sad eyes looking up at them, “Flower” he says as he lifts a flower in their direction, “ No, go away” they dismiss him and carry on with their conversation. Rarely any of the guys buy flowers; he walks away in disappointment when a man from across the street waves at him to come. He is an older man selling flowers as well at the traffic light, the small kid is by his side now, “the business is slow tonight, go try another street and we’ll meet here later” , the older man says as the kid walks away in the opposite direction.
The little kid carries his flowers as he walks through the dark passages all the way reaching Hamra Street. The stores on both sides of the street are already closed, the little kid walks under the sparkling street lights, stopping every now and then to offer his flowers to the passengers in the passing cars. He follows the sound of music coming from the nearest pub, he reaches the front door. The little boy stands there in front of the entrance, near the smokers, gazing at people inside drinking, dancing, laughing joyfully and singing along with the songs, their faces filling with happiness and their eyes sparkling with pleasure. He stands their imaging his future as one of those people drinking and singing freely and happily, he can hear his stomach roars from huger as he gazes at the food on the table inside. “Give me all the flowers” a voice comes from a couple standing just beside him, he moves his gaze from the food to their faces smiling at him as they look tenderly at his pale face, he hands them the flowers as they give him the money when suddenly his stomach roars again loudly, “Are you hungry?” they ask as he raises his head and nods quietly; “Come with us, we’ll get you something to eat”.
The three of them walk away from the music into the empty streets being interrupted by music along the way coming from different scattered pubs in Hamra. In a parallel street, they reach one of the 24/24 restaurants “Barbar”, the little boy stood aside as they adhered to order sandwiches. He stood there trying to guess the names of food placed behind the glass in front of him. “The delivery order is done” the employee shouts from behind as immediately a young man steps and grabs the bags from him. He takes it and walks toward his motorcycle, places them carefully in the bag behind him and takes off.
He drives his motorcycle all the way to the city’s downtown exactly to Beirut Souks. He hands the delivery to a security guard and takes off. The security guard, a young man in his twenties holds the bags and sits on one of the stairs, he takes his sandwich and coke out of the bag, he eats silently as he stares around at the fancy buildings surrounding him, and he thinks about all the branded stores in this place that he cannot afford, he cannot even buy a silly sock from it. He finishes his food and searches his pockets till he finds a piece of paper, he holds it up, and moves on walking around the alleys of the Souks. The paper has few notes for his exam later today; he reads it while he walks around stopping every few minutes to talk to other guards.
Morning lights start to appear the security guard sleepily walks down the street, over there at the corner of the street stands a young beautiful girl. She is in her twenties as well; she works as a receptionist in one of the hotels around. They attend the same university, she looks glad to see him. He stands there by her side smiling at her when another young man interrupts them. He is the bartender in a pub around, just finished his shift as well; he is the guard’s friend and neighbor.
The fellows walk together to catch the bus, while the late pub and nightclubs attendees pass by them in their cars. The attendees are heading to have an early breakfast before going home to sleep the whole day before the next party. As these three barely get time to rest before getting to their universities while others are just waking up to start a new fresh working day.
The bus arrives and they get in and slide beside a young woman. She smiles at their sight, she is a nurse they met in the bus a while ago, and they ran into her whenever she is on night-shift. “Good morning” she says to them in an attempt to sound normal, but she looks very tired, must have been a really rough night.“What’s wrong?”They ask and she answers as pain appears in her eyes: “I just hate night shifts, awful things happen!” she shocks “last night a very sweet old man passed away, he was so nice and none of his family was by his side the moment he died” ,she stops looks at them, she wipes an escaping tear going down her cheek, “ I’m sorry, I ruined your morning , but he has been in the hospital for months now, I guess I just got used to have him around”. “It’s okay, you don’t have to apologize”, said the girl.
For the rest of the ride, they sat silently; they were too tired to talk. First, the nurse got out, and then the girl, as the guard gawked at her all the way until she was out of sight. “Just tell her you love her already!” snaps the bartender, he raise his eyebrows at him “No, too soon”.
“What are you waiting for, Till she falls for someone else?”The boy said as the two of them step at the corner street down their neighborhood.
“Till I have something to offer for her” says walking ahead of his friend.
“You have your love to offer!” he snaps back.
“Not enough, end of story” the guard says as his face turns serious now.
A car passes by them slows a bit and a young man strikes his head out the window “Bye Guys, I will miss you, take care okay”. They look up at him shouting back at him, that’s their neighbor, he is on his way to the airport, he is travelling away to chase after his dreams and ambitions. The driver shouts at him to get his head in as the car moves further from the boys.
The ambitious boy gets back straight in his seat and rolls the window up. They- the boy and his parents- drive towards the airport; the place of the city that never sleeps. All around the day and night, people moving around crying for the departure of a person, and smiling at the arrival of the other accompanied with some tears of joy. Airplanes going forth and back, teams changing but the lights are never off. The car drives into the parking lot, the boy looks around and out of the sudden he is overwhelmed by all this.
He steps out of the car with his parents by his side. They step towards the entrance as he drags his bag by his side this is it, this is goodbye. As they walk out the parking lot he notices people gathering around to place the luggage in the car, laughing with tears of joy in their eyes. While his mom grabs into his arm with teary eyes that express all her pain for letting him go away.
It is time for goodbye for real now; he waves for his parents from behind the glass, and disappears behind the doors. Within minutes, he boards in; he finds his seat besides the window. He thinks to himself this should be the happiest day of my life, it is everything I have ever wanted, I am flying away, I am leaving this city, but actually he is unease. The only thing he could think of is Beirut, the beautiful Beirut, the nights he spent in it with his friends from the drinks they had in a cozy pub, the crazy nights they spent dancing till the morning, the nights they spent on the cornice aspiring and dreaming, dreaming of this moment in specific, the moment they’d leave, but now it is all mixed up and he can’t comprehend it.
It’s around 8:30 a.m. when the plane takes off, flying above the city as it fully recovered from the darkness of the night. The streets are crowded with hurrying people, workers and students. It is Beirut this magical city that enchants you into loving it in everything in it. It is the city of extreme contradictions, Beirut with its beauty and ugliness. It makes you laugh and cry at the same time. You can’t run away from its love, even the ugliness and brutality of it you love. It takes away your dreams and gives you much space of an imagination to escape from it and aspire freely away from its interference.
Life in Beirut is an everyday adventure, it is an everyday story, it is the crushing of a dream by day and the reborn of another after midnight under the moon light and twinkling stars of Beirut. It is the reborn of a dream upon the sound of the waves, upon the clinking of the cups, under the sparkling of the traffic light, and over the ticking clock announcing the end of a shift.
This is Beirut and you can’t but love it as it is….