This book is not a history book. It is a walk through the geographical space that is my universe. A cry of love, a cry for help; sometimes I do not recognize my city. And sometimes at the corner of a street, in someone’s face, I stumble on it, Beirut, so generous and unique. Sweet and bitter Beirut.
Many of us entertain a love-hate relationship with this city. I love you, I hate you, I'm leaving, I’m coming back. There are so many things to be said about Beirut. But I’m tired of myths and clichés, tired of nodding agreeably when spoken to of the Phoenix, of the city that is reborn from its ashes. I want my city to be saved. I no longer wish for it to die and be reborn. I’m tired of labels.
Living in Beirut isn’t enough. You have to live Beirut, to walk its streets, travel its highways, speak to its inhabitants, remember its history, hold on to what is left of it in your arms and shed light on its monuments, bring out its soul.
In Arabic, the word for neighborhood is Hay, and Hay means alive. The neighborhoods of Beirut are indeed alive. Each is distinct, with its different moods, troubles and joys, with Others just a few paces away. These Others that hold a piece of us.
Traveling through my city’s 51 neighborhoods has left a strong mark on my Beiruti identity. I belong to no other city. Beirut isn’t an idea. It is not impossible. Beirut is a challenge. It exists. It wakes up every morning and hurries through the day.
It’s too often talked about in the past, with a tremor in the voice of those who are hanging on to bygone sterile times. It’s also spoken of in the future, with uncertainty. But in this book Beirut is spoken of in the present, a cry of love; all that I have to offer.
Bilingual: English, French.