Not your ordinary Beirut

Bliss Street in the ‘80’s. Photo: Blog Baladi

The love for Beirut wasn’t by coincidence, but instead I grew accustomed to all its values, art, beauty and charm, not by merely looking at it, but by hearing its colorful stories from someone who lived in it and experienced all the hardships and delights that came with it.

A simple weekly Saturday ritual with my father was all it took to feel attached to such a small city with such enormous ambitions and aspirations.

He lived in Hamra in the midst of Lebanon’s tragedy, the civil war, but that didn’t stop him from having the best time of his life while attending AUB. With true pride, he not only shares his stories in Beirut but diffused the memory into my thoughts.

The most vivid image is that of Bliss, a street that has it all, food, stationery, games, hotels, and more, but what stood out in my eyes was the small house my father shared with his grandparents during his undergraduate years. Yes, it’s not the same, and yes, it’s hard to see it completely but I feel the vibe, I feel the charm.

Tears would rush from his eyes and he would grow completely vulnerable to the sight of the house, which is located next to Kababji and blocked by the Saint Mary’s Orthodox College. It’s character is indescribable because each stone has a different shape, color and story to share.

At first, Beirut meant nothing to me but a time where I get to enjoy a merry cream from Bliss House and walk around between the rush of students, who seemed like they were multicultural, happy and alive.

After a while of going on these Saturday trips, I finally cherished its beauty. One of my previous journalist professors, Ojvind Kyro, once told me that you need to spend just a few hours in a place to fit in and feel at ease, and that is exactly what happened in my case.

Each shop vendor can narrate his own tale about the extreme diverse passersby that walk around Hamra each day. It is funny to see such a simple environment transform into a world of culture, tradition, youth and energy.

I could compare the area to a blank canvas that paints a different picture everyday, with the shift of people, shops and fogs.

The picturesque area became my home and once I began my journey at AUB, I could finally understand everything my father used to tell me on Saturdays. I could understand the beauty of walking around in an area that could be bustling a minute and tranquil the next.

It takes spending time bar hopping, shopping, enjoying coffee and just passing time in the area to feel the spirit that cannot be missed.

After leaving the fast-paced Bliss Street, we would stroll down the campus to reach corniche. It was a stretch filled with people either in love, or sharing a conversation, or enjoying a jog or simply admiring the breezy view.

Whether a car, dog, cat, tree, adult or child, we all shared a same family, Beirut.

*Disclaimer: this is one of my few creative pieces