Tag Archives: Gemmayzeh

Art and Beauty in the Little Corners of Beirut

A lot of people complain about living in Beirut, being surrounded by concrete and construction, turmoil and traffic. We live and we expect beauty to come to us, but today, I found beauty and art in the little corners of Beirut.

We expect Beirut to give us grand gestures, we’re hopeless romantics who keep waiting for a big green field and sun-baked orange rooftops. We don’t take the time to realize that Beirut is a shy maiden, leaving little petals and short love notes for us to find.

I found beauty in walking in the rain, safe under my umbrella with my friend, whispering and laughing, clicking our heels in unison and forgetting how old life made us become.

I found beauty in a glass of white wine, warm pink cheeks and a dark wooden table in a small restaurant.

I found beauty in an old Lebanese house with a green door, a lantern and a red wall. In coffee, cupcakes and verses of poetry.

I found beauty in a hand-made lamp with spoons and little coffee cups hanging down, reminding me of the tea party in Alice in Wonderland.

I found beauty in a dimly-lit balcony, with one round paper lamp hung from a tall, arched, white Lebanese ceiling. All seen from a distance, like most beautiful things are.

My city has so much to offer, we just have to be willing to see.

In Gemmayzeh, “Gauche Caviar” Is on Your Right

If you are walking away from Downtown and towards the end of Gemmayzeh, you will find that the pub Gauche Caviar is on your right. You go in, you get a table, order your drink and sit. The music – if that’s what some choose to call it – is so loud that it makes you think that the people belong to mime theatre or to a German Expressionist movie. They cannot hear each other and shouting is just too tiring, so they perform, they exhibit quite a unique sign language not found elsewhere, their faces contort to make sure the emotions are well displayed and conveyed.

You look around and the movement is grotesque because not only do they want to “communicate”, they want to dance as well. The music is mostly techno/trance/house or whatever name they wish to give to the identical variations that are played in that pub. I can never tell one from the other and I have no wish to do so. Since talking is not an option, drinking is a must, people find themselves, glass in hand, probably a cigarette in the other, smiling at each other, sipping, blowing kisses, winking, sipping, BBMing, or combinations of sticking their tongue out and winking… then after a while, your face hurts and your facial creativity has run dry.

So you sit there, you try to dance but the music doesn’t really help and you end up doing a kind of interpretive dancing, where modern jazz and I-Had-Too-Much-To-Drink-And-Not-Enough-To-Say combine to create… art.

“Mamiiii et papiiiii got me the cutest caaaar!” exclaims the female linguist who has a knack for elongated vowels.

Leave it to Lebanese people to seek fun in a place with a name that seems to mock them. “Gauche Caviar”: you claim to support socialism but your lifestyle CLEARLY suggests otherwise. It basically means that you are not really sincere in your beliefs. INSULT! I don’t know if people who go there are socialists (I highly doubt it) but they definitely smell of caviar.

German Expressionism, also found at Gauche Caviar

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.