Arab Politics, Lebanon, Syria

Leaving Beirut

beirut.port.lebanon.antique.1841That’s right, friends. QN is leaving the old country and returning to the New World where a dissertation and several sections of over-ambitious undergraduates await. I hope to keep the blog up so keep stopping by, won’t ya?

What a difference nine months make. Back when we set up shop, the media was full of news about Syria’s emergence as the go-to power for regional influence-mongering. Today, Saudi Arabia is thumping its chest again. And yet… things don’t seem all that different.

Later this week, I hope to be back to regular posting, but for now I leave you with a conversation between me and the doorman of my building, about my impending departure.

Kamal: We’re going to miss you Mr. Elias.

QN: I’m going to miss you too, Kamal. Are you planning on staying in Lebanon for long?

K: Nope. I’m going to try and smuggle myself into Greece.

QN: Interesting. Sounds dangerous.

K: Yup.

QN: Why take the chance?

K: The economy’s terrible here. I only make $300 a month.

QN: Where’s your family?

K: Deir az-Zor [eastern Syria].

QN: Near the secret nuclear plant that the Israelis bombed?

K: I wouldn’t know anything about that, Mr. Elias.

QN: Why not just go back to Syria?

K: Ha ha ha. You’re joking right? As bad as Lebanon is, it’s 100 times better than Syria.

QN: Really? In what way?

K: Look, our foreign policy is good, but everything else is terrible. The economy is bad, the infrastructure, the jobs, education… everything.

QN: That’s too bad.

K: Plus, the worst thing… the censorship. It’s just awful.

QN: You mean, journalists? Intellectuals?

K: Well sure, that too, but I mean the internet. What are the three most important sites on the internet?

QN: Umm, I don’t know. Google? Ummm…

K: (with a pained expression) No! No, no no no… The three most important sites are: Facebook, YouTube, and Hotmail.

QN: Oh yes, those too.

K: Facebook, YouTube, and Hotmail. Those are the three most important sites on the internet, and they are ALL banned in Syria. (Shooting me an incredulous look). I mean, can you believe that?

QN: Must be rough.

K: I mean seriously. Think about it. If I go back to Syria… how am I supposed to check my email?
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27 thoughts on “Leaving Beirut

  1. We, in the old country, cannot but Nabki your departure.
    Although your nine months is much short period in a life of country as old as Lebanon, your presence did make a difference and we long for your return to your father’s land.

    PS I thought your last posting from Beirut would be a conversation with Abbas.

    Posted by i.e. Lubnan | June 15, 2009, 10:45 pm
  2. QN you are a rock offer to handle your PR still stands 🙂

    Posted by Vuvathon | June 15, 2009, 11:16 pm
  3. Good luck 🙂
    Hope you get back soon!

    Posted by Rami | June 16, 2009, 12:05 am
  4. Poor Kamal, he doesnt see what a great gift our government is giving Syrian citizens. While he sees censorship I see one being pushed to excel in new skills, such as hacking and how to download V-tunnel etc. to access these sites.

    See my dear Kamal, its just too easy to just “check” your email the way the rest of the world does. in your beloved Syria such simple acts are turned to fun brain excercises and puzzles to keep life interesting 😀

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | June 16, 2009, 12:13 am
  5. Safe trip. Be well, and do continue to blog. And if you are ever in the great white north, let us know!

    Posted by Samalibnan | June 16, 2009, 12:17 am
  6. booo… will you be coming back post-dissertation? or is this it (for now)?

    Posted by c | June 16, 2009, 1:22 am
  7. Haha that Kamal is quite the character it seems. Have a safe trip QN.

    Posted by JRK | June 16, 2009, 2:34 am
  8. Elias,

    Have a great trip. Will look forward to your next post.

    Kamal is right. These days having access to instant worldwide info is gratifying to any person, just to fulfill our curiosity as human beings.

    At least, he’s got his priotities in order. No Internet, No Deal, LOL.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | June 16, 2009, 5:23 am
  9. QN ,
    It is day time again in the US , you must be the star coming from the East,

    Posted by norman | June 16, 2009, 5:27 am
  10. Wishing you all the best. Try not to stay away from posting too much 🙂

    Posted by Jester theFool | June 16, 2009, 8:31 am
  11. I guess Abbas and Kamal won’t be around for a while…pakistani and afgan drivers to take the place of beiruti ones? Will be nice to enlarge the scope of the conversation…without completely leaving the region!
    Keep safe and happy.

    Posted by mj | June 16, 2009, 9:09 am
  12. Oh, so you’re close to wrapping up your dissertation. Let us know when you’ll defend your thesis (am assuming it’s an open public event at Harvard).



    Posted by PN | June 16, 2009, 10:16 am
  13. Kamal is from Deir Azzor, no wonder he thinks Syria is a hole. Have you ever been to that place? Aside the meandering Euphrates, the rest recalls only the sand filled spit of a grumpy camel. Infrastructure, education, jobs patently are non-existent. But then that is like judging your ‘New World’ by visiting the rusting suburban Detroit.

    Thanks for the writing it has been great. We wont stop reading, I promise.


    Posted by Zaytouni | June 16, 2009, 11:50 am
  14. So, bye to Beirut drivers, welcome to pakistanis and afghans? What about checking Chavez’s credit among latin americans? It’d expand the scope of the conversation, while you’re away…
    Keep safe and happy.

    Posted by mj | June 16, 2009, 12:03 pm
  15. Best wishes on your new chapter in life, in the hope that upon your next return, things would have changed here for the better.

    Posted by Marillionlb | June 16, 2009, 12:03 pm
  16. Too bad I only caught your blog when you were leaving!

    It is just so sad not being able to check your mail! But he can always use proxy websites! (in case you see Kamal again, do tell him 7aram :P)

    Good Luck

    Posted by Liliane | June 16, 2009, 12:24 pm
  17. Good luck.

    Don’t forget to keep posting.

    Posted by Idit | June 16, 2009, 1:51 pm
  18. Facebook, YouTube, and Hotmail. Those are the three most important sites on the internet, and they are ALL banned in Syria. (Shooting me an incredulous look). I mean, can you believe that?

    Freedom and the internet certainly isn’t helping the theocracy in Iran.

    But we all knew that. Right?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 16, 2009, 2:14 pm
  19. Qifa, my man, I can’t believe your leaving already! I’m in the Middle of my gonzo surf trip from Tel Aviv to Beirut. I even quoted you as an authoritative source as a a “Beiruti based surf watcher.” Haha, jk. But anyway, I’m going to be in Beirut in about a week to do some surfing–and write about it for The Surfers Journal. Bummer I’m going to miss you. I was always curious to meet the man behind the blog. Oh, well.

    If you want, you can send your “over-ambitious undergraduates” to:

    for the most bitchin’ Middle Eastern surf trip/summer in Lebanon ever!

    From Casbah in Haifa, Israel,
    Abu Guerrilla

    Posted by Abu Guerrilla | June 16, 2009, 2:26 pm
  20. Happy trails, QN.

    If you are ever in the seat of Empire, drop me a line … d

    Posted by dadavidovich | June 16, 2009, 2:44 pm
  21. You made this whole thing up didn’t you? Surely Kamal would know it’s all about Twitter now. 🙂

    Good luck as always, looking forward to more great observations wherever you are.

    Posted by Rime | June 16, 2009, 4:03 pm
  22. Belsalameh, and good luck with your dissertation. Go and kick ass.

    Posted by offended | June 16, 2009, 4:56 pm
  23. As a newcomer to your blog I enjoyed the civil and articulate observation and counterpoints of most people.
    Please keep it up as there are a few venues left (for lebanese) where people can exchange ideas and develope respect and understanding of each other….

    Posted by danny | June 16, 2009, 7:03 pm
  24. QN, may the Gods and angles be with you and your family. You sure did make a difference in your informative blog. Very interesting and informative observations from you and your fans kept us curious, to read what next.
    We hope to read more of your political articles from Boston because as all know that the politics in the US reflects on little Lebanon in big way. It would be nice to see it from that perspective too… safe trip to your destination keep in mind your father’s land…

    Posted by kt | June 17, 2009, 2:29 am
  25. The conversation with Kamal made me LOL

    Posted by Leila Abu-Saba | June 16, 2009, 11:05 pm
  26. Please tell Kamal that access to a free internet does not seem to have been of great benefit to the Lebanese. They are still as tribal as any 16th century society could hope to be and even sectarian to boot:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | June 17, 2009, 6:30 pm
  27. Go forth and pun fruitfully. Might consider passing through for the guild meetings, if so hope to see you.

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | June 18, 2009, 9:16 am

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