I’ll take you with me

I’ll take you with me. To all the places you wanted to see, to all the streets you wanted to walk, sunsets you wanted to catch and salty air you wanted to breathe.
I’ll take you with me. 
No matter how short your life was cut, no matter how little time we had together, I’ll tuck you safely in the folds of my heart and carry you with me wherever I go. 
From the rocky shores of Sardinia to the throbbing bazaar of Istanbul, from the dusty corners of Jerusalem to the pristine beaches of remote islands, I’ll go and kiss each of these places for you, I’ll bow my head to their mighty suns. I’ll take you with me. 

When the enormity of all that has been lost hits me with the deadening weight of finality, when my lungs fill with the lead of grief, when I feel myself falling in a never ending pit of pure sadness, I’ll dust myself up and summon your light, the unextinguishible flicker you’ve left in me. 

For you see, to me you’ve never really left, you only shed a painful shroud that was binding you to this place, and are free as can be, free to come with me, to be with me in every drop of salty water and every corner of dusty buildings, free to kiss away that salty water running down my face, your radiant love warming me from inside. 

Bind me with that love. Just once more.

And I’ll take you with me. 

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Scattered yet Whole

New places, new faces. First, the relief of being done with travel. The excitement of living in a new place, with new surroundings, the promise of new beginnings. The absence of loved ones, made somewhat more painful by the proximity through technology. Lebanese nights enjoyed in the diesel jasmine smell of summer, forgetfulness achieved by dancing, we’re having the times of our lives.
The heart that breaks a little each time we’re coming and going, I feel like I’m leaving parts of me everywhere I go, scattering pieces of me on beloved lands, each of them promises of returns. Airport halls and connexions, incoming flight landing, few days spent half enjoying half missing what we have left behind, another flight another landing, coming back to what we’re learning to call home, half enjoying half missing what we have left behind.
A flicker of sadness fluttering on my face amidst a laughter, a silent tear within excitement, not fully belonging neither here nor there, the feeling by now so familiar it’s like another organ that painfully carved its way into me.
Picking up traces of beauty as I go, finding comfort and solace in the smile of a friend, the sun setting above the sea, the warmth and the energy of a city I’m too in love with to blame.
Looking for an anchor and finally realizing the it was there all along, that perfect mosaic of imperfect things, faces, places, dwellings and experiences, the anchor keeping me grounded, the umbilical cord linking me to the world.
A tenuous thread starting from my heart, plugged into this city, pomping energy from its never ending supply, pulsating as she moves, beating as she, and I, live on.

Moroccan Tales

For the Sams (SamSam and Petit)

Brace yourself for stories of mysterious medina gateways, ochre and royal blue clashes of colours and mountains of couscous: this is morocco were talking about. 

Err, no.

Not exactly. 

I did see Casablanca’s medina (or at least the entrance of it) and perhaps one tenth of the entrance of the royal palace in Rabat, but the truth is, as I went there for work, I now know tiny little streets adorned with orange trees ( after all, we ARE in Morocco) rather than beautiful touristy places. 

And in a way, I’m glad I do. 

Take that blue taxi with me on our Rabat journey, and I’ll show you kindness and hospitality. First of all, Moroccan taxi drivers don’t sleazily look at you in the rear mirror, trying to make eye contact that’ll prompt heaving noises emanating from you as you vomit, the way Lebanese drivers to. Well, none of the exactly 10 taxis rides in two days I took did, so I m just basing myself on that statistics. Second, they don’t insult you if you don’t have exactly their fare the way same Lebanese drivers do. Instead, they’re just kind and nice and polite. (For a more in depth look at how much of a nuisance Lebanese taxi drivers can be (most of them ex militiamen) please see here

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of rather chatty and love to start conversations, like with that Nigerian student we dropped on our way to les Orangers. He was amazing: he was the ultimate co pilot you’d want to have, showering Fuck you man! Right left and center to anyone who dared to come in front of us or was not respecting priorities, which kind of happened a lot. Pulling over at the Nigerian embassy, he just went: that’s my flag right there man! His good mood was contagious, so I just laughed and told him I had gone to Nigeria and loved it, which owed me a thanks man! And a high five. Then he properly looked at me and went: where are you from? 

Now this question is often tricky, as answering you’re Lebanese can have several effects, some of them unpleasant (as in: Lebanese huh? Sleazy disgusting stare, wink wink) (damn you Haifa Wehbe) (damn you patriarchy) but I took the plunge anyway and gave him my Cedarland origins. Aha! Lebanese huh? Can I have you number? As he wasn’t sleazy or invading my private space Or giving me horrid winks, I politely said no ( I’m married you see) ( gGod sometimes it really does serve me well) and he went his way, wishing us good luck and carrying on  his buoyant journey. He said he’d been in Morocco only for a few weeks: I couldn’t help wishing him well, and hoping he’ll still fire fuck yous to inconsiderate drivers. 

This left me and my cabbie on our way to a teeny street tucked away in les orangers, taking on our way a Lalla going about her business in another part of Rabat. After circling the orangers for about ten minutes it became acutely clear that I didn’t know where I was going, that my cabbie didn’t know where I was going and that it was a bit of a problem. Automatically, Cabbie and Lalla made it their own private mission to drop me at the exact point I should be dropped if their life depended on it. Loubnanyah? Asked Lalla with a grin. Naam, said yours truly with an even bigger grin. Ahlan! You have to learn maghrebi! We’ll find where you need to go! And with that all other plans were put to a halt and the quest began. So here I was, sitting at the back, stuttering apologies for wasting people’s time ( I’ve lived in Geneva, city where if you’re not polite, you can be shunt out of Switzerland by Calvin  or something) Cabbie asking on his left, Lalla on her right, until we arrived, me still apologizing, them still shouting words of welcome. 

When I retold that story to my Moroccan best friend, she said they loved Lebanese, to which I just think that it’s not that they love the Lebanese, it’s just that they themselves were kind. Mind you, I often heard the ‘we love the Lebanese’ claim in Tunis, Egypt and now Morocco. If we loved ourselves as a people as much as other people love us, we would have gotten rid of our appalling so called politics a long, long time ago, but anyway, I digress. 

Talks of elections, constitution reviews, organic laws and 20th February movements, slut walks and Islamist political parties rolled during two days, and I found myself back on the plane to Beirut, my mouth full of cornes de gazelle and my mind and heart set on Moroccan tales. 

Road Trip

Travelled yesterday morning from Beirut to Aleppo in Syria. Willed with all my powers (yes, I do have super powers, I’m a woman) for my driver not to be a member of the We Like Talking gang, as my pre-coffee morning mood usually oscillates between simply murderous to Hitler meets Pol Pot on a bad day.

I like the road. Maybe not in a Jack Kerouac-y fashion, drunk, high and with barely shoes to walk in, but rather in a contemplative way. I love watching people passing by, seeing landscapes moving from one Lebanese city to another, to finally arrive in a kind of no man’s land by the sea, with only one or two cows peacefully eating away their day. Leaving the luxury shops on the “autostrade” (word used by the Lebanese for “highway”) for the unbelievable beauty of Jbeil, to finally reach the busy, poorer city of Tripoli, sporting in all their glory humongous sized posters of political figures of the region, I lost myself in thoughts (and in writing notes for the post I m currently writing. In the words of the immortal Pheboe from Friends “Isn’t it too spooky”?). I also love observing people on public transports in Geneva, but this is a whole other story, not to be told with my Middle Eastern tales (Is that why I never learnt to drive? Definitely something to be looking into, and way more romantic than the plain psychological explanation of “maybe i’m too scared”).

Finally reached Lebanese boarder of Arida. Laid back atmosphere, manoukches and Pepsis being passed from one soldier to another, quick, efficient passport checks, a hint of flirting. Am I coming back to Lebanon? Why didn’t I stay longer? Do I know Jbeil? Yes, I’m coming back, Promise I’ll stay longer, Yes i know Jbeil, Officer does my closed face doesn’t give you a clue that I did not have time to get my coffee this morning? Do you really want me to break down and cry right this minute?

And on to the Syrian side. Dozens and dozens of drivers drenched in their sweat, trying to get all their passengers the stamp that will enable them to carry on their journey. Tired fans moving hot damp air in a vain attempt at refreshing even more tired officers who seemed to be drowning in official documents. “Get OUT!” bellowed one of them at the small crowd that was happily gathering at his desk. On his desk. Around his desk. Two seconds more, and he probably would have to ask for oxygen just to be able to actually breathe properly. Speaking of breathing, the syrian authorities seem to take very seriously the health of their people. A non smoking sign at the border alerts you that smoking is forbidden, and to make matters clear, it is specified that you’re not allowed to smoke a) cigarettes, b)cigars, c) pipes and d) hookahs. Geddit? You. Are. Not. To. Smoke. Of course, haven’t seen anything like that in Lebanon.
The music of stamps being slapped on passports, the rows and rows of men trying to get through as fast their bakhchich would enable them, the blend of coffee and sweat and cologne, the odd tourist looking absolutely terrified in their shorts,pressing a Lonely Planet or Guide du Routard on Syria against him as if his life depended on it, I was back in Syria.

And when I saw the white city of Aleppo lazily basking in the glorious sun, quietly baking under the 44°C , I couldn’t help but smile. After all, who am I, if not another Lebanese having yet another love-hate relationship with the Land of Zanoubiyya?