Beirut Noise

Posted on June 23, 2013


Beirut is loud these days. Very loud.

There’s the usual noise: the honking cabs, the whistling boys, the over enthusiastic greetings. There’s the construction, left and right, below ground and up in the air, building new homes, offices, shops, and restaurants that will remain empty.

We still have the whispers. “Look at what she’s wearing”, “I can’t believe he married someone like her”, “He should man up a bit”, “Why does she dress like a boy”, and so on. Those whispers seem to get louder and louder every day.

Then we have the beggars. Getting younger, more desperate, more heartbreaking. Each has a story that we can ignore by closing our windows and turning up the radio. Loud, louder, loudest.

Of course, we have the fireworks. Or is that a bomb? Gunshots? Midnight power cable explosions? No, no. It’s Skybar’s opening night. Let’s celebrate. Turn up the music, drown out the fighting.

Not to be outdone, our places of worship take the noise to new heights. My minaret is higher than your bell tower. Oh yeah? Well my church bells are louder than your call to prayer. As long as God can hear it all, it’s all good.

We have the constant roar of the generators that only serve to echo the corrupt promises of our minister, who promised to solve the electricity problem if we gave him a few billion dollars, literally.

We have the planes. The ones we like. They give us hope. There is an escape. For now. Some of them are flying in, with a few tourists in them. Very few. We dance below, looking up, pretending like all is well, all is good. Welcome to Lebanon. Visit our beaches and our crazy midnight parties.

Then we have the other planes. The terrifying ones. The Israeli ones. They fly over, but we can’t see them. We can hear them, with their threats. We can hear them roaring through our skies, violating our borders.

We have the speeches. The endless speeches by our political leaders, screaming into our living rooms, bickering like unruly children, destroying our country, destroying our hopes. Of course, you have the speeches of Hassan, when everything gets horrifyingly silent, until you hear the bursts of gunshots, timed perfectly with his closing words.

The political bickering is getting louder these days. It’s his fault. No it’s his fault. It’s the Syrians. It’s the Saudis. It’s the US. It’s Iran. But it’s never us. Never. When we say it loud enough, we believe it.

The most deafening sound though is creeping in through murmurs from the Bekaa, from Tripoli, from Saida. We can hear it loud and clear in Beirut, but we pretend like we don’t, because, really we don’t want yet another summer to be ruined. Lana Del Rey is coming, weddings are being organized, and we need to fix our tans. There is no war.

Yet there are tears, there is pain. There is sorrow for the dead, for the injured. There is sorrow for those leaving, for a year, maybe two, but more likely forever. The country is emptying out, and the silence that is left behind is deafening.

Beirut is loud these days. Very loud.

Tagged: , , ,