I wonder if I am writing less these days because I am too busy or because Beirut is becoming “what is usual”. I spend sometimes days thinking about what I am going to write about and then it hits me!
I was running on Sunday on the “Corniche”, this promenade along the Mediterranean Sea, where everyone and their mother spends countless hours wondering around. I couldn’t help but thinking of the “Alameda” a long street in Mexico City’ s downtown, where everyone goes to hangout on Sundays aswell.
The “Corniche” is Beirut’s traditional waterfront. You have beautiful hotels, the American University of Beirut, Starbucks and Mc Donalds side by side with decaying buildings, coffee shops and little stores.
On the Corniche, vagabonds are strolling around next to highly make-uped and jeweled ladies wearing Chanel (how else would you go jogging, hello?), little kids on their tricycles, next to big kids on their mopeds (yes, on the sidewalk), miniskirts next to veils, bikes and rollerblades and even fishermen next to runners.
On a Saturday or Sunday night, cars are parked along the sidewalk, blasting some Arabic songs, and people sometimes are even dancing too. Others bring their Arguileh -or water pipe- and suck on it merrily while people-watching. A man can approach you to sell you some knock-your-socks-off coffee (to “wake your veins up” according to him. I just get massive jitters), bread, or cigarrettes.
But don’t be fooled: the Corniche is vibrant and fully alive every day of the week, and dare I say, at every hour. Sometimes when I go for a run at 7am, it is already full of joggers, ladies on their cell-phones or fishermen. During the day, you can see some people jumping off the Corniche to swim (no girls allowed though). And on weekends families come to walk around, the Corniche being one of the only pedestrian areas in Beirut.
I personally just love the Ferris wheel, lit up with neon lights at night or the fact that you can see off "Raouche" the Pigeon rock at a distance.
But what I like the most about the Corniche is that everybody goes. Young and old. Families and young couples. Men and women. Muslim and Christian. Locals and tourists. These days I feel there are fewer and fewer places like this. Hence the importance of public spaces.
So if you are in Beirut, do not miss an afternoon walk along the Corniche. You will see all of Lebanon there, walking.
Photos from Wikipedia