Journal - Napló

(Nigerian Yam Festival in) Beirut (Lebanon 4.)

Posted on July 28, 2011 at 5:35 AM


Beirut, the city of calm after the storm




   As opposed to the Islamic Tripoli, the capitol is more divided religion-wise. On the part that was struck most by the civil war lasting for 15 years and that is the dividing line between the city’s Christian and Islamic parts and is being rebuilt, now mosques and temples stand right next to each other. New, sand-coloured buildings reminding of blocks of flats are being constructed, together with coffee houses, apartments, offices, at the part free of cars.


   Everywhere in the city one can encounter the marks of not only the Izraeli attack 3 years ago but also those of the civil wars that ended in the 90s. One of the downtown’s tallest buildings, the exclusive hotel inaugurated in 1975 is now reaching toward the sky deformed. The war started on the day of its opening and during a couple of hours it got totally ruined. A sniper was hiding in the building for months and was decimating the Islamic population from there until troops found him and threw him out.

   A huge concrete balloon functioning as a cinema, was able to receive guests for only 6 months. Since then, wind has been blowing through this ’perforated’, dark ruin.


   Still, just like in Tripoli, the level of public security is enviable in the capitol. Even during the attacks, when dozens of shops got destroyed and were left there for months with smacked windows and broken doors, nothing got stolen, there was no looting.

’If you cried for help, everyone would rush to your aid. If you shouted „thief”, the entire city would go seek the guilty. Here there’s no crime. But when the bombs come…, run!’


   Our host in Beirut, Nasser of Irani birth has been living in Lebanon with his wife and little son for years now. He works for an international magazine, his job involves a lot of traveling, still, for his permanent place of living, he chose this little middle-eastern country. Although he’s got his own flat and car, his son goes to school, he stays here with a tourist visa and no one has ever asked him what he was doing in Lebanon or if he pays the taxes…

   …When he was in Yemen, a man accompanying them turned to him to ask if he thinks the state would give them a bulldozer in exchange of a friend of his. They wouldn’t hurt his friend, they are just in need of a bulldozer…



Day 82.  Nigerian Yam festival in Beirut


   Jane of Nigerian descent who we got to know through Daniel, invited us to their annual gathering, the Yam Festival organized by the Nigerian Embassy.

   In a ground-floor building in one of Beirut’s outer districts, merriment and high jinks were present that day. As we entered, a gentleman wearing traditional clothes greeted us nicely and offered us seats. We were given beer and soft drinks. Next to us, there was this gentleman, David, from one of the islands of the Caribbean-sea, representant of the UN. Next to him, there sat an English lady working for a Swedish company, Kelly, who, when she introduced herself to us, said that she –and her company dealing with special packaging- feeds 40 million hungry children all over the world… she showed us photos of thin but smiling children on her cell phone.


   In the chamber, the rythmical music was played constantly, people were talking loudly round the tables – in English, as in Nigeria, there are many dialects that differ from each other significantly. At the middle part that was left free –although there was a brief dance performance-, a fairly old lady turned up again and again and was dancing, smiling, with her eyes closed most of the time.

   They served the yam (looking much like a huge potatoe) cooked, seasoned with a plant similar to parsley. We got it over with.


   Many were dressed in traditional clothes. A wide selection of colours and motives were flickering in front of us, until towards evening the mass started to lessen. Kelly invited us to a nearby restaurant but we rather chose to join a little team heading for the downtown. The ’destination bar’ was closed and the company diminished. We followed Nelly.

   Nelly lives alone with her little daughter. Her (ex) husband of Lebanese birth with whom she met back in Nigeria now lives in Sweden. Mother would like to send her 17-year-old daughter to England as soon as she turns 18, and then she would go after her daughter as soon as possible. She was saving for opening a little restaurant but it all got spent when a few months earlier she had to go to a hospital.

translated by Agoston Galambos

Categories: English, Lebanon, by Peter

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