To Be Back in Beirut


Note:  All the events described in this post took place sometime between late December and very early January. Due to my delayed absence from the blogging world, I am just now remembering these stories must be shared before moving onto more exciting ventures in Europe. In fact, this picks up straight from this  post

To be  in Beirut is to open yourself up to a whole new world of adventure, where your understanding of everything is challenged and various interpretations abound. To be back in Beirut after four months in Europe is quite a shock if you haven’t fully gotten used to how the country (does not) works.

Downtown Beirut, on a typical evening

In the two weeks I was there, I had to remember things that normally I would not have given two thoughts about as they were fully integrated in my daily routine: things like the power going off for three hours a day, the incredibly slow internet speed, and taking the service again.

But it’s possibly the only downside that I could think of.

As I expected, the food was even better than I remembered it. There is only so much so you could learn to cook on your own, and even then it pales in comparison to the delights my grandmother and mother prepared. I could think of no better way to be welcomed back than with a whole pan of kibbeh waiting for me.

Eating out factored pretty well into my vacation plans as well. On my first full day back, which also happened to be Christmas Day, we went out for Lebanese food, me resisting the urge not to order all my favorites off the menu. Other restaurant choices included old favorites, giving me the opportunity to remember the many occasions on which they have been frequented.

Lebanese food! It was too delicious that I could only manage to snap a picture after we had eaten half of it

Being back in Beirut was being back to coffeehouse culture. While I was never one of those students who took up space in a coffee shop to study, I did visit them often, Caribou AUB being the one I remember and love the most.  So when I’d go out to meet up with old friends, it would almost always end up being in one of Hamra Street’s many, many choices.

Kinda, Dutch chocolates, and Starbucks


To be back at AUB, not having to worry about studying or exams.

Being back in Beirut meant returning to the place that had helped shape me for this great adventure I call Maastricht.  Going back to campus, sitting around and doing nothing, not having to worry about going to class, while very welcome, were also very strange feelings. Maybe it was the fact that it was finally sinking in that I was no longer a student there.

But at least I got to see the pretty lights brighten up College Hall and Assembly Hall. And say hello to the cats.

AUB + Christmas Spirit = Beautiful!

On the subject of AUB and friends, being back in Beirut was a great time to see where everyone had gone in the four months since we had graduated. Whether it was graduate school, work, or just getting things by, it seemed that we all had some growing up done since we last saw each other. And despite that, once the jokes and the events of the last three years were brought up, we were laughing and giggling like it had happened just yesterday. And something tells me we’ll continue to laugh and giggle at these even at our 50th year reunion.

This meeting, at the beloved ZwZ, wasn't even planned- just like the old days

Then there was New Year’s Eve- a chance to celebrate with old and new friends up in the mountains of Lebanon. While never the biggest fan of the night or the celebrations, it was an opportunity not to be missed. The story of how our host forgot his house keys in Beirut, then waiting for about half an hour till he got them, only to discover that the key would not turn in the lock, leading to having to break the door down is not a story I can easily forget.

Because it's pictures or it didn't happen

As cliche as it sounds, it was a night of reflecting on things that had past and setting the path for the new year, hoping it would be smoother than the one that had passed.

The world on January 1, 2012

And because it was the festive season when I found myself in Beirut, I got to see all the twinkling lights and how much the shopping malls had tried to outdo each other with the decorations.

The Christmas tree at Beirut Souks

It was, as always, very pretty, though you can’t help but wonder if they’re ever going to run out of ideas.

All made out of chocolate, at City Mall

The highlight of the break, however, came in the form of the Caracalla show I went to watch with my family. Apparently, you can never fully appreciate your folklore if you have never seen a show by the famous dance troupe, and after years of being promised I’d get to see one, it finally happened on my last night in Beirut. Though I wasn’t particularly impressed by the story of the star-crossed lovers and the village being divided, I liked how it took some hits at the current political situation. And I loved the choreography.  Especially at the show’s closing where the cast burst into the dabkeh.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

To me though, being back in Beirut ultimately meant coming back home, to the family I love, to the city I’ve grown up in, to the good and bad memories of the past few years. It meant that no matter how big my ambitions got or how much my adventures spread out, home would still be there, waiting for me anxiously.

To be back home again, with all my books!

In the words of Bon Jovi, who says you can’t go home?!

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