Gemmayzeh: No Man’s Land

Gemmayzeh is where you get offered a drink and somehow end up paying for it. It’s where you go to be seen but not to be heard. Background music jumped to the foreground: People of Lebanon, I dare you to communicate! Maybe it’s for the best, for when they do try to communicate, they end up outside the door of the pub, talking about getting into a fight, gathering up the “troupes”, making not-so-subtle political allusions and suddenly the police is there and a night out is never a night out: it’s political.It’s men trying to mark their territory, drinking and pissing, rinse (most often not) and repeat.

Both men and women are hypocrites. Their main victim? Themselves.

“Let’s dress up and go to Gemmayzeh, I’m sure we’ll meet THE guy!” said the women.

“Let’s dress up and go to Gemmayzeh, if we act like we care and offer them enough drinks, maybe we’ll get a bit of lovin’ tonight” said the men.

You see them going into the pub, with a hopeful face, a smile, some money, good, well-applied (most often not) make-up or just good cologne for men, and… a plan.

You cannot go without a plan!

“You sit on one side and casually look around on your left, I’ll do the same on my right. If you find a man I might fancy on your side, we’ll subtly (most often not) exchange seats and vice versa.” said the women.

“Buy beer (or for the fancy men: Vodka) and wait” said the men.

The military strategies are out! Head to the trenches! Fun?! Who has time for that?

Then you see this one guy. This guy who is dancing and  singing along to The Doors’ “Light my Fire”. He has this certain je-ne-sais-quoi, he has a T-shirt that boldly states with an arrow pointing upwards towards his head “THE MAN”, while the other points downwards towards his precious family jewels “THE LEGEND”. You think: Maybe he reads Albert Camus in his spare time, or maybe he is well-versed in post-colonial theory. So you twist, turn, do all sorts of acrobatic movements to subtly (most often not) get closer. Adrenaline rush, prepare the smile, the little dance moves and the proper “See?-I-know-this-song” lip-synching. Then you hear him say: “ya zalameh, ktir 2aweya The Doors”. So you walk away, a man who knows his music would not simply describe The Doors as “ktir 2aweya”. You sigh: it could’ve been the start of something good.

And the women are dying for a little attention but if given some, they retreat and go into defensive mode: “shou?! He thinks I’m easy?!” But they crave the drama because it serves as excellent material for their next Facebook statuses and the next day’s gossip.

Then they leave. The make-up makes the women look like members of ” Kiss”; it has deteriorated and retreated to the very side of their eyes, between the small wrinkles. All hope is gone from their faces. They are tired, filled with self-doubt and confidence issues.

“Men just want the easy women, mish ma32ool, Lebanon has no decent men!” said the women.

“Yalla man, ghayra bi ghayra.” said the men.

“Gemmayzeh mantaka sakaniyya. Gemmayzeh is a residential area” said the posters.

“We didn’t get the chance to catch up” said I.

Because in Gemmayzeh, you do not communicate, you pay for your own drinks, you do not have fun, you are seen but never heard.

Dima M.

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About dimamatta

There is not much to tell... but everything to discover. *says I with a total lack of seriousness* I am a 22 year old English Literature BA holder, teaching English in Lebanon, at the Louaizeh Evangelical School. I mainly spend my time reading, writing, watching and acting in plays. View all posts by dimamatta

6 responses to “Gemmayzeh: No Man’s Land

  • Alberto Echegaray Guevara

    What you see in Beirut is a Global nightlife pattern. You ll find the same attitudes and behaviours in Rua Freire in Sao Paulo, in Recoleta or Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires, or in Roppongi in Tokio not to mention New York or Madrid.
    Anyways I will go to Beirut soon and have a good time at the Sky Bar.I read Albert Camus and I hope to meet you one day . During one night in Washington DC I met the sweetest lebanese girl and she has your last name.
    I love your articles
    All the best
    Alberto

    • dimamatta

      I totally agree with you. The pattern is there. And as I said to a friend of mine who also commented on this, I meant for this post to highlight the existentialist crisis we are going through, we’re witnessing generations that are lost. Jean Paul Sartre said: “We are thrown here on this earth”. It makes us realize how absurd some things can be because the same “nightlife ritual” is being repeated every weekend in every city. And I find it absolutely yet sadly fascinating.
      DC is a great city, I was there a couple of summers ago on a program in Georgetown.
      I hope you enjoy Beirut and do let me know when you’re here 🙂

  • Sergej Schellen

    Well this was funly interesting to read. But what has been keeping you from writing more regularly? Don’t worry you don’t need to answer that, I know all the possible answers you could give. I don’t know why but after reading this the color blue has been floating in my mind.. Sunday blues? Blue room? Oh all the possibilities! Yes.. So I dedicate this comment to the color blue and declare it officially the color that reminds me of you! At least for now.. Anyway hope you get inspired soon enough to find time to write something else. Maybe a topic I can relate to a little more.. In turn meaning that my comment would also be more closely related to your article.

    • dimamatta

      How fitting for me to be associated with the color blue!
      You definitely know the reasons why I haven’t been writing more often, hopefully I’ll be more inspired once we finish our play 🙂
      I know you may not relate to this post, but as a German that has been to quite a few European countries, I’m sure you’ve witnessed it elsewhere as well. Forget that it’s Gemmayzeh, the bottom line here is that in our day and age, communication is breaking down, and we can notice the futility of life in its little cracks. It’s about the anxiety of a youth that is lost. I’m sure you can relate to that Sergej 😉

  • Lucien

    wow.. when i think about gemmayzeh i get this odd “not sure what to feel” feeling.. should i remember the good old days when there was only two pubs there and where we used to go to escape the “no men’t land” that monnot had become back then.. or remember special moments spent in places like Central 😉 , torino, or dragonfly.. or what has become of it now..
    is it now just like what monnot used to be when trendsetters started moving towards Gemmayzeh.. now they are in Mar Michael soon it will be yet another “no man’s land”..
    great article though.. very insightful.. and YES it is very hard to communicate with 1000W speakers bouncing your ears off.. among other things 😉

    • dimamatta

      we sure do get mixed feelings about such places, it’s a very love/hate relationship. memories definitely make us feel nostalgic and we may go back there just to be able to remember. it’s just sad to see how areas are dying one at a time. people rush in for a taste of culture until there’s no culture left to speak of. but for artists, it’ll always be a great place for inspiration, right? 😉

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