Sunday, July 30, 2006

Achrafieh in Exile & the Siege within the Siege

Faqra is a sprawling gated resort community at the bottom of the Ferraya ski slopes, where many rich Lebanese [mostly Christians, but also Sunnis], including the richest of them all, the Hariri family, keep "chalets". “Chalet” apparently refers to anything from a condo to a castle.

Responding swiftly to the laws of supply and demand, many Beirut nightclubs and restaurants moved their operations to Ferraya. The place is usually most popular during the winter, but this is no time to be picky about your party location. The nightclubs Element and Cactus, Al Balad restaurant of downtown Beirut, and Crepaway have all sought refuge in the hills. Crystal, a bar frequented by rich teenagers on Monot street in Achrafieh imports champagne and a sense of normalcy. Not even a war can put an end to its famed ritual of wheeling out a $5000 bottle of Magnum champagne to the pubescent buyer who is temporarily engulfed in a spotlight, for all to see. Reservations in a restaurant are necessary a few days in advance, parking impossible. Children are free to roam around on their bikes with their Filipino nannies in stiffly-ironed uniforms chasing after them.

I did not hear any news; there were no TVs blasting Al-Manar or even Al Jazeera; not in homes, not in bars, not at the pool, not at the club. Up there, you cannot hear the bombs, you do not see the smoke. My only exposure to the outside world came from a Spanish girl baking in the sun at the side of the pool. She occasionally retrieved news summaries from her cellphone, careful not to spoil her freshly manicured nails, and read them out loud: Ooh, Isra-ayl wizdrooh fram Bint Jbeil...”
Followed by, “Ooh, I zink I got sahnbernt. Let's dreenk Vodka Toneec. It's foh o'clock. Heppi hour!"

The owner of the bar and nightclub Igloo was in a near panic when he spied my camera. He grabbed my arm: Don't take pictures of people; a man might be here with a woman other than his wife". His anxious wife hissed, "It's not a joke. People are dying in the streets", as two champagne bottles and a chocolate cake whisked by, amidst a spectacle of flare candles, whooping and clapping. I asked her politely if it is the documentation or the act itself that renders this grotesque. She scowled at me, while her husband-- a fat, bald man in a T-shirt that says "The man" with an arrow pointing upwards, "The Legend" with an arrow pointing towards the general vicinity of his crotch, carefully selected music appropriate for the occasion: one meaningful song, followed by a fun song, followed by a tearjerker. A techno remix of Elton John's "Don't Go Breaking My heart", comes on the heels of Madonna's "Don't Cry for me Argentina", followed by John Lennon's "Imagine", followed by everyone's favorite, "I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor.

They don’t want their clientele to feel guilty, someone explained to me. Do you really think it will effect their spending and consumption, though? Guilt might be lucrative; people will drink more, I suggested.

Another woman wearing blue contact lenses, nearly spilled a cocktail over her little red faux-diamond encrusted dress, which was miraculously strap free: "Why do you want to photograph us, to make us feel guilty for having a good time?" She agreed to have her photo taken only after I guess which celebrity she resembles. "Penelope Cruze", I estimated, trying to make out her facial features through the thicket of makeup and silicone. "Julia Roberts!", she replied, before posing for the camera with her girlfriends.

A girl at the private pool club, informed me that in Byblos, a majority Christian port town, "we have 12,000 Shia", some of whom hoisted a Hezbollah flag to the top of their apartment building. The police rushed in to remove it. "Shia women all carry guns", she says. How else has the war effected you? "We are all unemployed now; there's no work in marketing and promotion."


Anonymous said...

Stop posting stuff like this. You are destroying the myth of Lebanese invincibility.

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Guess you’ll always have desensitized fools waltzing carelessly next to a volcano…

On an equally pathetic note, just heard the IDF’s spokesman on Euro radio.

Interestingly, he called this martyred Lebanese village “Kfar Qana”.

“Kfar” is a highly racist Hebrew word which literally means “inferior peasant” or “gentile” (this original Jewish concept was later adapted and adopted by Islamic fundamentalists the world over in its Arabized form: “Al-Kâffer” which translates as “dirty Infidel”).

Made me want to puke.

Anonymous said...

great one!

linked to it on my site...

Anonymous said...

To dr victorino de la vega

It is interesting to note that many Israeli vilages/settlements are called "Kfar". Pls note, israeli calling their own vilages "kfar" (as checked in Wikipedia).
Could you please explain this puzzle?

bech said...

dear EDB your site is interesting (and I don't think you need me to tell you that..), and I wish you would ours and we exchange links:

or at least give us an email so that we can continue begging!

nadhel said...

Mind you though, and allow me to highlight:

Most of the partygoers in Faraya or Faqra are of a young age, a matter perhaps encouraged by parents, who want their children to at least enjoy their weekends.

You need to see these same places crowded by the parents a month ago..

Today these same people do sit in their 'chalets' on weekends.

Ask me, I was at Igloo while my parents were watching the news in the 'chalet'.

If only you see...

For real.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog. I'm reading from Texas, and enjoying it (although "enjoy" doesn't seem like quite the right word, under the circumstances).

Sorry you have some trolls -- please keep posting. Best regards, Pat in Texas

EDB said...

My dear Nadine,

I don't doubt that there are some people who are watching the news in their chalets, nor do I strictly feel that its wrong to try to have a good time. The insularity, the besiegement, the divisions in the country were just so starkly apparent. Needless to say I find the excessive hedonism of that particular Lebanese class odd, in times of peace and war. It's just that much more disturbing when-- at the same time-- 57 people were killed in their sleep.
If you are the Nadine I think you are, then remember our conversation last night... the people partying in Farraya are the children of the people whose class, sect and generation did nothing for the Shia-- the actual neighbors of Israel-- before Hizbollah even existed. Now they are turning their backs again...
I know there's not much any individual can do, I still find it grotesque.

Anonymous said...

““Kfar” is a highly racist Hebrew word which literally means “inferior peasant” or “gentile” (this original Jewish concept was later adapted and adopted by Islamic fundamentalists the world over in its Arabized form: “Al-Kâffer” which translates as “dirty Infidel”).”

Look habibi, Kfar (var. Kafr, kufr) means village in Hebrew and Aramaic (also burrowed into Arabic). There is a village close to Nazareth called Kafr Kanna which is believed by some to be the biblical Qana of the Galilee, and this is probably why this guy had his slip of the tongue.

There is plenty of the Israeli bigotry on display so there is no need for you to invent shit, especially when it reeks of anti-Semitism. As it is, one gets accused of being an anti-Semite for merely opposing Israeli policies and remarks like yours make the charge all the more difficult to dispel.

My apologies to edb for the tirade. Great post and a lovely blog.

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Look habibi, Kfar (var. Kafr, kufr) means village in Hebrew and Aramaic (also burrowed into Arabic).[ …]
There is plenty of the Israeli bigotry on display so there is no need for you to invent shit, especially when it reeks of anti-Semitism.

I believe you’re wrong.

The Hebrew tribes who conquered the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua were haughty Bedouins: the Israelite invaders viewed themselves as “aristocratic nomads” and despised Canaanite “sedentary villagers” called “kphérim”…
Hence the word “kfâr”, a racist word which means “village” or the dwelling of “inferior peasants” and other “gentiles”.

As mentioned earlier, this original Jewish concept was later adapted and adopted by Islamic fundamentalists the world over in its Arabized form: “Al-Kâffer” which translates as “dirty Infidel”.

Your moralistic use of the worn-out concept of “anti-Semitism” is quite ridiculous…

FYI, I’m a complete agnostic of Christian upbringing.

I only believe in Athens’ humanist philosophy and ancient Roman’s rational-legal polity, which constitute the bedrock of our civilization.

I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for rightwing white supremacist ideologies, nor for radical Islamic fundamentalism, a sinister Middle-Eastern school of thought based mainly on the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. “The Torah”) and the bigoted Talmud of Babylon…

Anonymous said...

You are full of shit. Please spare us your Kamal Salibi-caliber philological acrobatics (actually he knows Arabic; that’s one Semitic language more than you know). As for your politics, the term anti-Semitic seems especially befitting since it sounds like you hate both Jews and Arabs. Put down Renan and read something that was written within the last century.

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

I (initially) refrained from insulting you…but I’m afraid your latest comments do require a more vigorous reply:

You’re just an illiterate moron.
You’re one of these “Al-Haqîqa” drones,
Who bowed before Rice and Bushmert,
Collaborators who begged Tex-Aviv to “intervene”
Before their masters finally crushed them like vermin…
Be careful what you wish for!!
To use A.A. Khalîl’s culinary metaphor,
You’re just another Levantine Philistine cook,
An Al-Nahar-reading, LBC-watching illiterate “Musaqqaf”
Arrogant, Ignorant, Vain, drenched in the hollowness of your hummus

Anonymous said...

I am in Beirut, I was told that partying is going on as usual in other parts of Lebanon, as you've mentioned in your post, but I could not believe it, or maybe I did not want to.
How does one interpret and justify such attitude.
The seeds of internal strife are being sown?!

Abu Lanjri Al Farrân said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Abu Lanjri Al Farrân said...

“The seeds of internal strife are being sown?!”.

Dear M.B.,

Hmm…Me thinks you’re kind of behind the (yield) curve on this one, as they say on Wall Street!

I’m afraid the proverbial “seeds” were sown long time ago, when heartless Maronite Christian bourgeois types, their feudal Druze partners (“Al-Eqta3 al-Durzi” whose bon vivant Lords often indulged in the habit of raping of the daughters of their Shiite slave laborers…) and/or conservative Sunni Seljuk and Ottoman friends (who committed what must be called a systematic genocide against Lebanon’s Shiites throughout the Middle-Ages, forcing many amongst the survivors to convert to Christianity [see history books e.g. by Princeton’s P.K. Hitti and the AUB’s K. Salibi] for the “Jesus cult” was [is??] viewed as a lesser evil by most hardline Sunni thinkers) started using racist expressions (with no equivalent outside Lebanon, not even in uber-Wahhabi fundamentalist spots such as Riyadh or Karachi) such as “Klâb Matâwleh”, “Mushreqeen Râfidah”, or more colloquially “Shi-tiq-tiq wa Shii3a”…

Lebanon’s pathetic political elites (names such as Hariri fils, Herr Jumblatt, Mr. and Mrs. Gaga come to mind) can’t blame “Iran”, “Hezbollah” or orgone rays !

If they’re really looking for the root cause of what they call hypocritically the “situation in the South”, they need only to look in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

to vega

I am all for the Muqawmeh, but never for bigotry. We could do without the support of people like you. You insult the resistance by assuming that its supporters have got to be Jew-haters.

You are more detestable than most of the bidna el ha'e'a crowd.

Anonymous said...

Should everyone feel sorry and sad and stop living because a proxy war is once again being fought on our soil?

Should everyone feel sorry for the hundred of thousands of people who voted for Hezbollah and who are ready to die for the Sayyed?

The Sayyed who took all of Lebanon hostage for the sake of the "Umma" and Khamanei.

"Fadek Ya Sayyed," people who came back to see their destroyed homes in Dahye said.

Well these people in Faraya and Faqra are saying something else to the Sayyed in their own nonchalant ways.

And by the way you will find a lot of Shiites among them.

These guys in Faraya and Faqra are the ones who build and employ and they are the true resistance.

They are not lucky enough like many of us, (me included), who were evacuated.

Their love of life is Lebanon.

Not the fanatics who live to hate and die.

People from the South are as poor and miserable today as people in the North, West and East.

But they chose Hezbollah and they are paying the price. Actually we are all paying the price.

Fadek Ya Sayyed. (Dear Dr Victorino, Does Fadek have a different meaning in Hebrew, because I have my own interpretation to this word?)

Anonymous said...

Yo dr vega or whatever, thanx for the perspective. You give us all, north and south of the border, something to agree on - what you are and where you are coming from. Hey, maybe we can take it one step further on our own.

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Turning a man into a pliant “social” animal takes several years of “upbringing”: you have to remove all traces of humanity from him to produce a full-fledged Israeli sicari swordsman, a passionate Persian pasdaran or a fanatical fascist freak.

Then, and only then, can he join the great horde

For machine-men prefer to hunt in packs

Just like urban gangsters and wild beasts

And they always submit to the pack leader

Be he High Priest, Imam, POTUS or Fuhrer

J. said...

Fantastic piece.

Anonymous said...

Victorino you little piece of sh!t moron - "kfar" means village in hebrew, look it up in a dictionary. Not sure how your dillusional and retarded personality xame up with the baseless fabrication the "kfar" is a recist word. You sir are simply a scumbag anti-semite.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Karim. Is this supposed to make us feel bad if we wanna try to keep on living, if we don't feel like joining the Hezb and send rockets to Israel? What do we do? Stay home and weep all day, or shout "Death to America" on Al Manar TV?
Those people are probably hosting the refugees in some unused house they own, and paying to feed them. So stop making them look like uncaring snobs.

Anonymous said...

it's really not worth arguing over linguistics here. Whether it is kfar Qana or Qana, they knew what they were bombing: Civilians. Wouldn't have made any difference even if Kafar meant Chicken Wings inHebrew or "I want fish" in daulphins' morse language.

Anonymous said...

I am fed up with the reductive sociological description of Lebanon: Impoversihed Shiites vs. well off Christians/Druze/Sunni.

When did poverty and prosperity have a sect? Aren't the Sunnis and Christians of Akkar poor? The Christians of Hadath, Jbeil, Ain er Remmaneh, Shouf,....... are not well off, neither are the Sunnis of tripoli, Iklim el Kharroub, Bekaa, neither are many of the Druze in the Shouf. At the same time, most of posh buildings and shopping malls are owned and frequented by Shiites (among all others).

NB- Kfar Mishki, Kfar Matta, Kfar Jbe3, Kfar Quassem (as in the film by Burhan Alawiyyeh) are Lebanese villages. Many of them have a Kfar prefix.