As I count down my last few days in Beirut, I’m starting to realise that I’ve got it bad… I love this city. As happy as I am to be moving to Istanbul and E (more on this anon), something about Beirut has worked its way under my skin and I’m always going to carry a candle for this place.
Here are the five things I’m going to miss most:
- The people: an obvious one, but the biggest one. I’ve made a lot of amazing friends here, and leaving them is a wrench. From the very beginning, they’ve looked out for me, welcomed me, prevented me from making horrible social faux pas. I’m going to be LOST without them.
- The food: when I arrived here, I thought I liked Lebanese food. I had no idea. Since arriving, I’ve been in gastric heaven. Fattoush, kibbeh, falafel, fuul, baba ghanoush, humus etc etc etc. I could eat it all and more, ad nauseum.
- The drinking: I know I haven’t seen half of what this city has to offer by way of nightlife, but the watering holes of Makdisi Street and Gemmayzeh have been a delightful starting point.
- The sea: I’m sorry Bosphorous, but you have nothing on the Med. There’s nothing like being able to pop down to the sea front, to jog along it as the sun rises, to be able to lean out of the window of my office and see it glimmering at the end of the road.
- The atmosphere: this is a tricky one to explain to someone who’s never been here because it sounds so generic, but if you’ve been to Beirut, you’ll know what I’m talking about. There’s something about the buzz in the streets, the roar of the traffic, the raw life of this city that pulls you in. I realise this could be a description of New York or London or even Istanbul, but here in Beirut, it’s all of those things against the backdrop of what is almost but not quite chaos that makes it different. Despite the tough circumstances people here often face, they just get on and enjoy life anyway.
And here’s a few things I’m actually rather glad to be leaving behind:
- Always feeling like a slob: Lebanese women are, in general, incredibly beautiful, and, again, in general, immaculately careful of their appearances. I, alas, am neither of those things, so I am forever destined to feel like a sloppy mess in this city.
- All the bombs: despite the incredible resilience of people here in the face of a security situation that is just getting worse, it really takes its toll. I’ve been here a measly four months, and any loud sound is now automatically an explosion. The thought of moving somewhere safer is, I’m afraid to say, a relief.
- Always smelling of garlic: I’ve become an avid consumer of chewing gum these past few months, because everything I eat is loaded with garlic. As a price to pay for gastric heaven? I’ll take it.