For something different today, I’ve decided to talk about my country – the little place called Lebanon located in the Middle East on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s pretty obscure, and more often than not, when I tell people I’m Lebanese they backtrack and say, “You’re a lesbian?”, upon which I have to pull out a map and show them where Lebanon is.
Travel brochures will tell you that Lebanon is the Paris of the Middle East, but I’m about to give you the nitty-gritty version, complete with our crazy drivers, famous foods and ridiculous expressions.
Lebanon is small, but it’s home to a diversity of people. The capital Beirut itself is divided into three sections in which the three major religious sects live. You can immediately tell when you’ve moved from one section to another – one is glamorous, the second is acceptable and the third is poorly. One thing all three areas have in common are the crazy cab drivers who will stop at nothing in order to get a passenger, such as stopping suddenly with no signal whatsoever and in the middle of the street. Another is the obsession of the Lebanese with their appearances; they will strive to look amazing, act in a sophisticated manner and live a life of luxury even if they cannot afford it.
Between each other, the first thing the Lebanese asks about when meeting a new person is their family or home village in order to deduce which religion they follow. Religious sects in Lebanon are civil to one another, but there will always be some underlying tension stemming from their worry about offending the other. Other things the Lebanese say include:
- To’bor albi or To’borni - literally translated as “bury my heart” and “bury me” respectively, but are actually expressions of love that can be used in place of “I love you”. It also expresses the wish of the person who does not want to survive their beloved because it would pain them to continue living after their death.
- Kol hawa – literally translated as “eat air”, but it is what people say when they want to tell someone to buzz off, haha.
- Ma titnammar a’laye – literally translated as “don’t tiger on me”, but it only means “do not bully me”.
- Hi, kifak, ca va? – This is a typical Lebanese greeting in which they show off their multilingual skills (yeah right) as it combines English, Arabic and French expressions. It is translated as such: “Hi, how are you, okay?”
- Kahraba walla ishtirak? – this is a bit of an inside joke that only the Lebanese would get. It basically means “Electricity or subscription?” Electricity goes off a LOT in Lebanon, so most people have to subscribe to personally-owned electricity generators to get power when the state electricity is down. It’s generally weaker, so people have to always check if the power they’re having is “electricity” or “subscription” before they use any appliances.
As much as they like to show off, the Lebanese also like to eat and are quite proud of their cuisine. One famous part of the Lebanese Cuisine is their mezze, which involves an array of small dishes that are served usually before the main course and include hummus, pickled vegetables, bread and baba ghanouj. It is also famous for the salads, such as tabbouleh and fattoush. We are also quite proud of our stuffed grape leaves, chawarma, falafel and manakish (my mouth is already watering!). Of course we have restaurants that serve fast food and foreign cuisine, if you’re so inclined.
The Lebanese people are loud and like to express themselves using fireworks and celebratory gunshots, which are so common nobody pays attention to them anymore. Whenever there’s an event (and this is entirely subjective, as an event can be a football match), you’ll be sure to hear some action down in the streets ranging from honking to maybe even drumming. But no worries – most of them are quite friendly and would probably love to sit and chat with you over a cup of Turkish coffee or while you share a hookah between the two of you (the Lebanese are big on hookahs!).
On its good days, Lebanon is a place with fantastic weather and many things to do, such as shopping, going to the beaches or mountains, visiting the old Roman ruins, etc. On its bad days, the electricity goes off several times an hour, you run out of tap water, politicians make offensive statements and people hold protests under all the strain.
Despite its flaws, it’s not a bad place to live. It takes some getting used to, but eventually it sorta grows on you.
This was written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge by WordPress. For this week, we were required to exercise our blogging muscles and write about something completely different from our usual posts. You can check out the challenge here.