Thursday, November 2, 2017

What is Lebanon?

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Photo: Patrick Mouzawak

What is Lebanon? A country, a nation, a republic? 10452 km2? Eighteen sects, fifteen rivers, three big lakes, two mountain ranges and many forests? A tiny land stuck between two hungry neighbors eager to devour it?

What is it? A tragic story? Happy and sad memories? A lie? A truth? The dream of some; the nightmare of all? Wars and crises? Garbage everywhere; water and electricity nowhere? Problems with no solutions and solutions with endless problems? Crowded pubs and empty restaurants? Parties, cigars, raw liver and Arak for breakfast? Hummus, Tabbouleh and Knefe’s cheese pull? Honey, incense, mosques and churches? Spadrines and Loubies?

What is it? Who is it? A Maronite president, a Sunni Prime Minister, a Shiite Head of Parliament and a long line of sectarian fans and followers? Four and a half million selfish, shallow and arrogant people? A million and a half men, women and children with no food and medication? Two million refugees not longing to return home?

Who is it? Saints and sinners? Fake bodies and minds? Corrupt politicians and shady businesses? Peacocks that stutter and woodcocks that chatter?

What is Lebanon? Flashy cars and inflated egos? Broken streets, polluted mountains and a filthy seashore? Rich brats parading their wealth in front of starving kids? The only place in the world where one can ski and swim on the same day?

Lebanon is probably all of that. But it’s also so much more.

It’s the mountain autumn breeze and the icy wind of the Beqaa. It’s the scent of pine trees after the rain, and the smell of grilled lamb on a Sunday family lunch.

It’s generosity that knows no limits. It’s people who have nothing but give you everything. It’s a wee place with a love for life that's too big to contain. It’s an exhilarating roller coaster. A miniature world, a melting pot of every human contradiction there is.

It's an undying source of inspiration. A muse that could take the most unlikely shapes. It’s a cause. The most formidable I’ve ever had to fight for.

Above all, Lebanon is a future. A future we need to build together, slowly, patiently, as one would raise a child. But do we still know how to raise children?

© Claude El Khal, 2017

Adapted from French by Rania Merchak & yours truly