Aug 14, 2013

Creed, Man2oushe and a Schizophrenic

What's happening this moment is just stunning to me, riding the bus back to Tripoli is officially the only me time there ever was recently.

Bus ride back home, Beirut towards Tripoli

I once criticized a friend/manager I worked with in the past for being himself and having some personal time only on the airplane, all while traveling to another busy destination with the same hectic schedule as ever. I never thought, at this age at least, that I would turn the same, exactly the same. It's come to a point where my friend recently jokingly called me schizophrenic, for failing to remember an appointment we had in a couple days and having spoken about it the day before. Little did she know that I totally lost it: the ability to concentrate in details is having a picnic, far away from where I am.

Taken at Istanbul airport
What makes it worse is the fact that my character forces me to be somewhat passive, which automatically drives me to avoid activeness as much as possible and trying to be secluded for as long as possible, all while noticing the smallest details and surfing through the thoughts of others and collecting the tiniest events that happen daily, like the amount of times I rub my eyes or the way I brush my teeth has changed over the years. I actually enjoy this, unlike the always-busy mode I find myself at.

It's pretty usual to me to be asking myself about the reason behind getting so busy, letting go of family for a moment, dropping my dearest hobbies and forgetting about my closest friends. What is it that I'm getting busy for? Is it the money? Is it the reputation, the public relations, the benefit of knowing a lot of people? It's all bullshit to me, as my roommate used to express her feelings towards the free hugs, bullshit. But eventually it's definitely a no to all of the above.

Is it for the sake of self relief? It might be. Or might it be the fact that I was never used to having my days filled days ahead and relying on my blackberry calendar to know where I have the time to eat? All in all, this is not good.

I remember all the times I traveled lately, especially the last one for it was the hardest. I had to fly four different trips, spent more than 14 hours in airports and ended up falling asleep in the taxi most of the time, all for the sake of a silly meeting that didn't last more than 25 minutes.

This blog is the only space I got left to vent off and let it out, and I've been noticing lately that it's getting driven somewhere else. The blog was the window through which I tell people about the latest events with a twist, my own. But to be honest, this is only working for everybody else but me.

Iran from a plane's window
It's become a ritual lately, a habit, to pickup a man'oushe (traditional Lebanese snack) from that place on the corner in Dawra, where it sells for a striking 2.5$, but the taste is really incomparable, and eventually take a bus, a comfortable one, and enjoy my little warm snack resting on top of the bags laying around me, all while watching city lights flying by me. Call me insane, but that's seriously one of the reasons I don't think of leaving the country.

I mean, what's better than munching on that piece of dough for more than 40 minutes while watching passengers in cars right across my window? In fact, I just saw a bow hopping over to his father's side to sit in his lap, too quick for me to know what happened later on. Too many syrian car plates and a drowsy woman right on the edge of cursing her heart out is leaning on her window driving her car in the middle of slow traffic. Some broken neon lights here and there and the sound of cheesy music being played in the background emerging in between the "Creed" tracks my phone's playing. Isn't it fascinating how so many people with different aspirations, different mentalities, backgrounds, history and emotions are all driving the same route, heading the same direction most probably for the same goal, to hit back home and relax one's feet and neck. Isn't it absolutely dazzling how the city I always speak of being ugly and resentful to end up being the dearest to my heart?

My man'oushe is almost finished, my trigger to say goodbye and try to close my eyes for some moments by the tunes playing in my ears, I might end up getting some sleep and recuperate some of the energy I desperately need.

Aug 5, 2013

The Iftar of Light

It's the night I was able to stand in the Nour Roundabout so freely.
It's the night this place was car-free.
It's the night a prayer was held at the center of the Roundabout.
It's the night hundreds of people felt joy at this place rather than being anxious whether to cross the fire lit there or not.
It's the night a bunch of white-hearted Tripolitans took the initiative of throwing the first mass iftar at the center of my home town, Tripoli.

The mass iftar viewed from the 15th floor, at the center of Tripoli, Lebanon.

It was noon when I first passed by the place and saw couple of my friends there getting all busy preparing for the big event, 6 hours earlier. I arrived there exactly 6:30, the place was already packed. The sight of the roundabout being closed from afar reminded me of the time I had to avoid the burning tires and the raging thugs that have taken it as a habit to come and close the square preventing people from going home and forcing shops to close. But this time it was different, the roundabout was closed for a good cause.

I learned from my friend that the organizers hadn't slept the last three days, something few people do when organizing an event, an indication of the ultimate passion they had towards making this iftar happen eventually. Initially there was an estimation of more than 700 attendees, of which there were most importantly a huge number of orphans, poor families, individuals, the Lavajet staff, etc.. It wasn't much till the roundabout was fully booked, a scene I would never forget up from that rooftop, especially with the unique table arrangement there was.

Few pictures showing the preparations, the attendees and the sukleen staff.

The idea had seen the light only 2 weeks ago, to have been turned to reality in the last 10 days only, such a remarkable effort that is compared to the given time. The organizers made sure to avoid labeling the event all along the preparations and even during the actual event. Several of them sprinkled some of the sense of humour a couple days before the event started, made it feel less serious and more welcoming for sure.

The humorist propaganda days before the mass iftar
Numbers were estimated at first for over 700 attendees, which was roughly the same number at the beginning of the event, right before the little incident that happened moments prior the exact iftar time. An estimated 100 left, apparently got all anxious and worried, and therefore thought it was better to leave, fearing the situation to get worse. The iftar kept going with the remaining 600 that filled the roundabout, more about the incident shortly.

The orphans table
Spent a few minutes up on that rooftop trying to take a couple panoramic shots of the roundabout an hour before the adhan time, where Muslim people are supposed to break their fast and begin their iftar. The view from up there was simply soothing, I wished I had the chance to spend more time up there, the internal security personnel were as helpful and kind as possible to do their duty fully and accompany each photographer individually for a couple minutes before they asked them to go down back again.

Shifting to the other building to shoot from another angle, a couple ISF personnel followed me, as always, to the rooftop to assist me while taking the pictures. It was merely minutes before the adhan, sun was lazily setting and inciting the fasting Muslims to get ready for breaking the fast. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, a handful of bearded thugs invaded the roundabout from the north side all while shouting and screaming and spreading chaos among everybody down there. I couldn't resist but shooting a video footage of what was happening, all while worried about everybody down there. They were all either friends, family, or acquaintances. Things got serious when the organizers and some of the older men attending the iftar stood in their way while rambling and flipping tables off. ISF individuals tried to calm things down by reaching out to the unknown bearded guys, all while confronted with shoutings and sometimes physical attacks. It was time to leave that roof and head down again, to find the army chasing those thugs around till they vanished in the tight alleys of Tripoli. You can watch the video here.

Group Prayer at the center of the roundabout. The young Imam declared after prayer "we forgive those who buldged in, we're all muslim, and they're more than welcome to join us for iftar"
Eventually, the organizers thought it was best to remain calm, and ask everybody to get back to their tables. A request that was fast fulfilled by the people there, and what caught my eye was actually the moment I visited each table right after the incident and was asking the people whether they're staying or leaving. An unbeated anonymity on the decision to stay was a joy to my heart. Nobody except for those who ran away at first had left afterwards, making the iftar an incomparable success.

The roundabout in HDR, the photo that went viral on Facebook
Several pictures from the few moments that followed the iftar.
All in all, I feel proud I belong to a city whose citizens were able to host such an event. Little did I see any media coverage, for that was never the purpose to begin with. There were no thank yous, no mentions, no VIP tables and no labelling whatsoever. I praise each of Najwa, Omar, Nazih, Medhat, Fawaz, Ahmad, Mahmoud, Mu'taz, Rym, Rabih, Mohammad, Omar, Samer, and everybody that I failed to remember this moment. Till next year, #Sa7awHana.