Archive | April, 2011

Mashrou3 Leila – Fasateen (Marc Codsi Remix)

As I’ve written before, I love Mashrou3 Leila. And their fresh sound just got fresher, thanks to a collaboration with Marc Codsi. You might be familiar with Codsi’s work with another kick-ass Lebanese band, Lumi. Check out both their Facebook pages: Mashrou3 Leila / Lumi Oh, and check out the tune. Mashrou’ Leila Fasateen (Marc […]

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Last Tango in Beirut.

Before you get all excited, this isn’t some steamy Beiruti version of the seminal Bertolucci film. It is, however, a post about tango. If you’ve ever seen me on a dancefloor, you might be confused as to why I’m writing about anything involving dance. I usually shuffle around like a middle-aged man at a wedding, […]

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Pimm’s, Parks and Singing Beards.

I had promised myself this trip to London would be different. I had promised myself I wouldn’t do what I always did in London. That I would try new things, meet new people, go to new places. And it would seem I have failed miserably.

I didn’t venture out of Kensington and Chelsea once. I remained within the confines of the royal borough, that bastion of poshness and crassness in equal measure.

I saw them all.

I saw the Russians and the Kazakhs. Stepping out of Rolls Royces with tinted windows, looking like caricatures of themselves. Pencil-thin women decked out in the lifeless skin of every animal. Men with faces that seemed like the product of time and erosion rather than birth. You couldn’t tell the bodyguards from the oligarchs. I saw the Arabs, in their ill-fitting Armani outfits and outdated Ed Hardy caps. I saw them with the earphones to their mobiles wrapped around their face, calling their friends to meet them at Rouge by Harrods. I saw their Swarovski-encrusted matt black Lamborghni Overcompensatos.

I saw the statuesque Norwegian guys with blonde quiffs no one else could pull off. Decked out in outfits that would make the preppiest of New England croquet players hug their trust fund in fear. I actually saw one guy in blue suede loafers, green shorts, a pink polo and a salmon blazer and Wayfarers. And he actually looked cool. “Damn you Scandinavians!”, I thought to myself, as I shook my fist skywards. I could never wear that. I’d look like I’d fallen through the closet at a Ralph Lauren outlet store. And failed to get out.

I saw the Frenchies around South Ken station, which is undoubtedly the most French part of the world outside of Saint Germain. Each one of them impeccably dressed and carrying a scooter helmet under their arm. Their Gallic accents making everyone swoon. The picture ruined only by the fact that they’re all derivatives traders.

I saw the locals. The few remaining Brits who still populate the area…

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Act for the Disappeared.

Lebanon’s recent past has been consistently been characterized by a pervasive sense of joyful insouciance, a kind of permanent amnesia that allows us to convince ourselves the biggest decision in our day is what shirt we should wear or what bar we should head to tonight.

Given the ambient carefree attitude, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Bermuda or Andalusia, not in a country in a volatile country in political deadlock for years. There is something vaguely grotesque about how we go about on a daily basis, oblivious to the fact that so much in Lebanon remains unresolved.

Now, I know what you’re going to say. I can hear you shouting at your screen “But that’s the Lebanese way, we’re brave in the face of adversity, we’re famous around the world for our resilience in times of difficulty. We partied under the bombs”. That’s all well and good, and the Lebanese spirit of steadfastness is admirable beyond words. Everything somehow continues to function regardless of what state the country is in.

However, there is no denying that our inability to deal with our past is a considerable problem. I mean a country doesn’t go from a 20-year free-for-all of murder and destruction to a peaceful having of foreign investment overnight. Something is wrong with that process. The fact that the political discourse 20 years after the end of the war is so bitter is the most glaring illustration of how unhealthy our attitude to the past is. You only need to scratch the surface of any conversation/confrontation and you’ll find people digging up various vile episodes from our prolonged periods of civil strife….

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Anonymous Anonymous.

I’m writing this whilst sitting on the sun-soaked terrace of a Parisian café. What a f**king cliché, right? But I’m not inclined to mind, despite my deep-seeded hatred of the cliché. It feels great to be sitting here, playing the role of someone with weighty concerns on his mind, furiously jotting down ideas in a battered Moleskine notebook.

I wont lie to you, and you’ve probably noticed form some of the stuff I’ve written recently, Beirut and I have hit a bit of a rough patch over the last couple of months. I’ve been experiencing a sense of cabin fever. The constant maelstrom of political posturing, or to give it its Latin name Bullshittus Politicus, is getting exhausting to watch and is downright unavoidable. However much I want to live in my apolitical, semi-hipster bubble, there will always be a TV screen, a serveece driver or a neighbour, eager to dump upon me the minutiae of the day’s political meandering.

Then there’s the ubiquitous car horn. I really hope someone, some day writes a PhD thesis about the use of the car horn in Lebanese daily life. I’m sure there are a plethora of psychosexual explanations for its permanent use. Freud might have something to say about it. Maybe serveece drivers weren’t hugged enough by their mothers.

But what has been most difficult in recent months, has been seeing the same people day in, day out. Before all my friends unfriend me on Facebook, what I mean by that is I can’t take seeing the same strangers everyday. I’m lucky to have amazing friends, and I never tire of them (although their feelings towards me might not be as enthusiastic). But, even though Beirut is a teeming metropolis of around 2 million people, it feels like a Mediterranean village. Every face looks vaguely familiar. Everyone looks kind of the same. You’re bound to know everyone you come across through a friend of a friend. Man, for my first year in Lebanon everyone seemed to turn out to be a cousin (Note: the Lebanese definition of cousin is quite broad. It could include someone who invited your great uncle for coffee once in 1946).

Looking at any street scene in Beirut, you can make an educated guess about 80% of those around you. “Hmm, that guy looks like he studied Business at AUB, then went to some French business school and he now runs the family cement factory in Zimbabwe, but comes home every other weekend to see his fiancé and his mistress”. Even the expats are predictable “Hmm, I’m guess he works for some obscure UN agency with an acronym that the country manager is still trying to figure out the meaning of. He’s grown a beard to feel “authentic” and only eats at Le Chef in Gemmayze and drinks at Captain’s Cabin in Hamra”.

But as I sit here, being scoffed at by a Parisian waiter, I have absolutely no idea about anyone around me’s life. Everyone walking by is a true stranger. I have no idea who anyone is. And it’s beautiful…

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