Stories from Afar & Up Close

Back in Beirut

The biggest drawback of living in a city is the lack of privacy. From my shared apartment to the Corniche (the entertainment-value of which I have described before), there are people everywhere, so there is no space where I can sing along with the music on my mp3-player without getting some funny looks, or requests to stop the noise. Except today. I came back to Lebanon yesterday and I noticed that the city wasn’t as bustling and noisy as I remembered it. Apparently, Beirutis are afraid of the cold (it is –cough– a chilling twelve degrees celcius.) So tonight, when I went to the Corniche for a run, I took my chance: it was dark, the seaside boulevard was almost deserted, and the few people there I could see from far ahead. The cars parked next to the sidewalk with people watching an empty sidewalk all had their windows closed, so I cranked up the volume on my player and burst out in an ABBA-song. Keeping an eye on the kissing couple against the railing and the lonely jogger I came across to lower my voice on time not to scare anyone, I thought I had the situation completely under control.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten about that one little feature that is part and parcel of life in Beirut: an armed soldier on every streetcorner. Not that the Corniche has any corners, but it does have trees. And right when I took a deep breath to scream out ‘SOS! When you’re gone, how can I even try to go on’ I heard loud laughter behind me – and I turned around just in time to see the tip of a machine gun disappear behind a palmtree.