So I was having dinner the other night at the home of J, a lovable Beiruti architect whose incredible tabbouleh depends on the secret ingredients of pomegranate molasses and sumac in its dressing.
Oops. Sorry J.
Anyway, the topic of conversation was Beirut’s recent annointment as one of forty-four must-visit destinations for 2009, by The New York Times. And where did Beirut fall on that list of uber-trendy locales? That’s right. Number one, baby. We remain hip, interesting, and newsworthy, may God be praised.
Amidst much self-congratulatory clinking of araq glasses, J sat back and said happily: “Well, I suppose this means that we will get at least one summer of stability.”
“What do you mean, J?”
“I mean, if The New York Times said it’s ok to visit Lebanon, then this means that the U.S. is not planning any more adventures, right?”
J continued, unaware of my befuddlement: “But the thing that bothers me about this is that they are sending mixed messages. I mean, why issue a travel advisory to Lebanon, and then say that you should Lebanon, at the same time?”
“Umm, J? The New York Times did not issue the travel advisory. The U.S. government did.”
“So… one thing is not connected with the other. The U.S. government does not coordinate its policies with the media. They are two separate things altogether.”
J looked at me as if I had suddenly started speaking in Swedish.
“But surely they talk to each other.”
“J, the job of newspapers is to interrogate and investigate the actions of government, not to justify and enable them.”
Actually, I didn’t say that. I started to, but then stopped. I’m still not sure why.
I looked at the NYT web site travel section and sure enough Beirut was the top to visit destination for 2009 in that survey. Made me very proud indeed as she is my place of birth and childhood. It is no small achievment by any measure indeed, given what she has gone through over the last 34 years.
Mabrouk ya Beirut, ya sit el dinyeh inte.
God bless you and your inhabitants. You’ve come a long way baby!!
If and when Israelis will be allowed in I’ll be there in a blink… Then I’ll be able to tell you about the personal linkages I have to Lebanon (ssshh… it’s a secret for now…)
Reading your views on peace here and at SC, You’re the type of person that promotes peace between us. I want to know that I respect that. Hats off.
Wish I was still in Beirut. I would take you around and show you the magical places of Ras Beirut and the mountains.
I just hope that this conflict is resolved to the acceptable satisfaction of all involved, especially for the Palestinian people (meaning that all have to be flexible, especially the Israelis). Then, I’m sure the Beirutis wouldn’t mind throwing a party for all to celebrate.
Wishfull thinking!! but who knows?
Maybe there could be a cooking contest between the Lebanese, Palestinians, Syrians & Israelis. My bet will be on the Lebanese to win the context hands down.
I think the Syrians would win, actually. : )
Our restaurants serve the best Levantine food in the world, no question. But the Syrian kitchen is the motherlode.
Let me echo your sentiments one-by-one. We could have a blast in Haifa’s German Colony… and we’ll get Shai too…
You know when I was a kid they used to take us to the Israeli side of Ras Nakura. There you can see the remnants of an old railway that used to go between Beirut and Haifa (and beyond…). The railway passes through one of the caves, which has been sealed with an ominous cement wall, where the border passes. And that’s my childhood memory: beautiful white rocks formations crashing into the glimmering sea, and a railways track running into the wall, side-by-side in perfect disharmony… Let’s shatter this goddamned wall and get the train going again!
And about the cooking context… I know some glorious holes-in-the-wall in Haifa and around that will be hard to beat…
I remember having a similar conversation during the first Danish cartoon fiasco. Many people I talked to couldn’t understand that the actions of the Danish government and those of a conservative newspaper were not identical.
As for the list, although I’m always happy to see Beirut get some good press, I’ve got some serious reservations about any list that puts Qatar in the top ten, ten spots ahead of Rome and Cuba, no less…
Um… Does “J” not read this blog?
No, he doesn’t. 🙂
For that matter, neither does anyone else.
I’ve just been looking over this blog & it’s full of Gems
I have virtually the exact same memory as Rumyal of the old train tracks running into a cement wall along beautiful rocky coastline.It is actually a very dramatic piece of coast.
As for the cooking competition, I’m in.