Given that my father comes from a family which was used to going to Lebanon and Syria ALL the time, I was raised up with the idea that Syria is as far away as Zarqa is from Amman (a city in Jordan which is an hour away from Amman) and that Lebanon is just another trip to Aqaba (another city which is around 3 hours away from Amman). We used to spend weekends in Syria or have our Friday lunch in Lebanon and leave at nighttime. Unfortunately, due to recent events and the consequences of war, the journey to Syria and Lebanon is closed and it is no longer safe nor possible to travel by car. Two of my closest friends live and study in Lebanon, and I have, for two continuous years begged my father to send me there for a week. After surrendering to my stubbornness, dad reluctantly agreed and to Beirut I was heading. The moment the plane landed, I was speechless. Everything was still the same. The mountains, the streets, the sea, the people, the shops, the cafes…were just beautifully lebanese. Of course, my bad luck had to kick in and we faced a couple of problems due to a worrying security problem which happened in the street we were staying at. On a Friday morning, I woke up, had breakfast and was planning how to spend the rest of the day. We decided to head south of Beirut and enjoy the beach on a sunny morning. I left the area I was in with nothing to worry about, but 2 hours later, it seemed that people suspected to be members of the ISIS (a militia) were staying in hotels nearby and security was tight. After half an hour, I get a phone call from my family wondering if I was fine. It seems that as we were enjoying the sun with lots of people around, just 10 minutes away were security issues regarding the people staying at these hotels, and a bomb explosion in an area called Dahr Al Beidar. Being the usual me, I panicked. How was I going to go back to the street I am staying in? am I actually safe now? are there going to be more bomb scares?. Then, I looked around. A couple were talking to a woman who was organising their wedding reception. A group of friends were laughing. A family was having lunch discussing school work with their little son playing in the sand. I looked at my friend and asked: HOW?! didn’t we just hear there are terrorists just 15 minutes away and the police announced an emergency statement? “بدنا نعيش” was the answer I got. I thought about this long and through, Lebanon is a country which suffered from a disastrous civil war that left the country and its people in ruins and is still a past that haunts Lebanon. Lebanon lived and is still living within the corners of war, of deaths, of bombs, of terrorism, of blood and of suffering. I continued my trip with the same attitude as the locals, but mine could only last for a couple of days. Imagine having to live with that attitude your whole life: hearing about nearby cities just minutes away from you being bombed, police forces dying to save your life, innocent lives being lost in the hands of extremism..It is devastating and definitely not a way to live, but they do it, with persistence and determination. As I was walking through a very old street in Beirut, still thinking about whether it is safe to even be here now or not, I went into a small grocery store to buy a bottle of water, and couldn’t help myself but to ask the man behind the counter about the current situation. He told me: “شو بدنا نعمل؟ بدنا نشتغل بدنا نعيش…توكلي على الله، ما عمرو بسير شي..هيدي بيروت”. ‘We want to live’ seems to be the motto all around Lebanon, and even though I will pray everyday that safety arrives soon to Lebanon, I will learn to live like them. Through hardships, through war times, through terrorism, the love to live triumphs it all.
Praying for you, Lebanon. You are truly a piece of Heaven on Earth.