B City Streets
It’s not about the 15 minute drive that separates tanning on the seashore from skiing on a mountaintop, or the outstanding Lebanese cuisine, or the incredibly hospitable and generous citizens. Don’t get me wrong, these are only a few of the most beautiful characteristics of Beirut; but they’re Deja-Vu, aren’t they? These traits catch the eye of the foreign and the pride of the local. But what catches the eye of a local? It’s rather the neglected traffic rules, the abundance of chaotic motorcycles on the streets, and the double-parking that piss absolutely everyone off. It’s the salty Mediterranean breeze accentuated by the carbon dioxide that’s constantly emitted on the busy Raouche seaside street. The epitome of road rage lies on Lebanese streets. Hence the word
“rage”, it seems all locals ever do is complain about our unruly streets.
It took six consecutive months away from my city for a new perspective to flourish in me. A traditional routine I have on every first day back in Beirut is a long drive on the Raouche seaside street. I was eager to hop in the car and drive the whole street up and back down in loops until I saw the sun hide away from nighttime behind the sea. All I could do was take in every inch of the city I infinitely missed and laugh at my friends’ frustrated screams behind the wheel. We had to reverse-drive to make room for another car on a tight road, even though it was going “aaks el seir”. We had to swerve the wheel left and right in order to avoid the beloved “jouwar” and bumps on the roads. Four or five motorcycles scared us, pulling up from the right and the left so close to the car that they could’ve hit it. I smiled; it felt like home. My friend suddenly pressed on the brakes then switched lanes because the car in front of us pulled over to the ‘dekkene’, turning on his flashers. He had his windows down, leaned forward and waited for someone to see him; the typical call-for-assistance. An employee spots him and immediately runs to the car to fend to his needs. He then runs back inside the store to get him a box of cigarettes. I could imagine the scene where he’d drive away with his windows down to smoke his cigarette, pass by garbage tanks, and start muttering under his breath because of the horrid smell that invaded his car. Well, it would for a mere fifteen seconds before the wind carried it away. It felt like home. Then after the darkness settles and the streets empty up, us youngsters would speed up and down the roads screaming to music so loud people in nearby cars would start singing along. And then we’d jump from plan to plan, picking up friends from every corner of the city and own the highways, where it’s almost impossible not to see racing cars zigzag between lanes. Driving in Lebanon is labeled unruly, messy and chaotic. It is. But it’s also free; and we are known to be children of freedom. Can you imagine Lebanon without it