Have you ever been in a city where bikini and full “hijab” meet on a daily basis? Where even Muslim families have their own Christmas tree, where people talk better french and english than arabic?
Beirut is a city of contrasts: of refugees and snobs, of extreme poverty beside flamboyant wealth, of liberal and bohemian lifestyles coexisting with fundamentalism.
For nearly a century, Lebanon has managed to mix people, religion and cultures. Many wars have damaged and reshaped the silhouette of Lebanon. People have fled and returned a thousand times. There is something that is difficult to define in one word but which makes us all mysteriously attached to this country. This something (Ce quelque chose) is felt and seen in every part of the city of Beirut.
Take for example a stroll in the streets of Beirut; walk through the newly rebuilt part of old Beirut, The Souks of Beirut, which used to be the oldest commercial part, where gold and spices mingled and sounds and smells flowed through the paved streets.
Today, the Souks remain a commercial district, but has totally lost its old charm. It is now sleek, modern, huge, spacy, airy and grand! It is full of international brands, that you can find in every city of the world. No more Al berke Antabli, where even my father remembers stopping by and having the traditional lemonade or jallab! No more spices filling the air with delicious colours and perfumes. Those times have long gone.
Instead, we have very modern cafes, where Lebanese people of all ages and foreigners sit and sip their cafe latte, lounging and gazing at the eternal fashion show that never stops in the streets of Beirut. We have ultra modern architecture (inspired by a certain spirit of the old souks), no cars, and only pedestrian strolling and shopping.
Time changes, and so do cities…