A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Hanging in a moment

When I was a child, I went to a Lebanese school in Riyadh, which meant that I was the only kid in class that “ah”-ed instead of “eh”-ed (for the none Arabs, “ah” is Jordanian for yes while “eh” is Lebanese for yes). Other than that, I didn’t really feel like there was much of a difference between me and my Lebanese classmates until the around the end of 4th grade, when a classmate gave me a card that read “I hope you have a nice summer in Lebanon and I’m glad that you won’t die from the war because it’s over now.”

I rememeber looking at her words with horror, “Die? War?” That day, my father told me that a terrible civil war in Lebanon has just finished and things are still unstable.

I know it’s ironic as I have always lived in the Middle East and because I’m of Palestinian origin, but I have never experienced a war in my life. Well, that is unless you count the short period we spent in Riyadh during the Gulf War, but my parents shipped us off to Amman almost immediately so my only memories are of a red screen popping up while watching cartoons.


My first memories of Lebanese TV are from around ’95- and the TV image of Lebanon is that it is a happy, liberal, creative, and slightly shallow country full of belles and too much French for me to understand. As I grew older, my image of Lebanon changed to become that of “Lebanon, the center of culture in the Arab world” (and this time not from TV because I stopped watching TV around ’99, but rather, from the books that were all published in Lebanon and the university brochures) .

This image of Lebanon created by popular culture had pushed my only memory related to the Lebanese civil war way back into my subconscious so that I almost didn’t remember that it ever existed.

I boarded a flight to Beirut expecting to see beautiful Levantine architecture and a lot of the famous cultural activities going on around town such as bazaars, bookfairs, festivals, and events. Beirut is famous for being beautiful, and how many times have I heard people sigh and utter “Oheboki ya Lobnan”?


But I saw war.

It was a shock because I was not prepared to see war. I was not prepared to see bombed out and derelict buildings standing tall and straight as a depressing reminder of a gruesome and near past. I was not prepared to see the still-inhabited houses decorated with a horrifying amount of bulletholes. I was not prepared to see a city ripped apart by hate.

Of course I’ve read about the war before, but I never fully comprehended what I read because the image Lebanon markets itself with is too polished and shiny, so the first thing I did when I got back home was do some research. The history I read made my heart ache, the pictures I found horrified me.



How sad are these pictures?


Ahh, Beirut. People asked me why I wrote that Beirut broke my heart. I have never met a visitor to Beirut who did not praise the sahar, the nightlife, the shopping, the beauty.

Is it just me? Why does Beirut haunt me so? I do not consider myself much of a sensitive person, so why is it that when I close my eyes I only remember the destruction?


لبيروت من قلبي سلامٌ لبيروت و قُبلٌ للبحر و البيوت لصخرةٍ كأنها وجه بحارٍ قديمِ
هي من روحِ الشعب خمرٌ هي من عرقِهِ خبزٌ و ياسمين فكيف صار طعمها طعم نارٍ و دخانِ
لبيروت مجدٌ من رمادٍ لبيروت من دمٍ لولدٍ حُملَ فوق يدها أطفأت مدينتي قنديلها
أغلقت بابها أصبحت في السماء وحدها … وحدها و ليلُ
أنتِ لي أنتِ لي أه عانقيني أنتِ لي رايتي و حجرُ الغدِ و موج سفرٍ
أزهرت جراح شعبي أزهرت .. دمعة الأمهات .. أنتِ بيروت لي أنتِ لي أه عانقي

Fayrouz. I love Fayrouz. She is a treasure.


It took me a while to get myself to write this post.



That aside, Lebanon is surely beautiful. I love the mountains, they practically fall into the sea! I absolutely hate the matchbox apartment architecture of Beirut, what happened to stone? Sayda, or Sidon if you prefer, is underrated, what a beautiful city! The old town reminded me of Nablus and Damascus. I thought that Byblos is way overrated. The sun is particularly hard in Lebanon, my freckles doubled.

Here are some pictures I snapped during the trip. Like usual, clicking on each will take you to a bigger version of the image and a little caption about each.

Al Hamra, BeirutSouq in SaydaBuilding in Al-Hamra Street, BeirutBasilicaSouq in Sayda
VirginByblosByblosDestruction in the Solidaire, BeirutView of an area in Lebanon
Basilica from InsideSouq in SaydaSoap Making in SaydaView of LebanonByblos
Souq in SaydaByblos HouseByblosByblosByblos
ByblosByblosView of LebanonButterfly

Cheers to Lebanese readers.




Keywords: Busy, Stress


  1. Nice,
    A bit wordy though, in the world of George Bush, anything that can’t be explained in a 30 seconds must be a Viagra commercial on TV
    The pictures on the otherhand are really nice.
    Do you mind if I ask you, what kind of camera do you use? (model, lenses ..etc?)

  2. Anonymous

    The pictures you posted of Byblos were haunting. Thank you for sharing.

  3. beautiful post Roba

  4. Roba, your post reminded me of the unexpected emotional reaction I had when I visited Lebanon in 1997.

    I was very aware of the history of the Lebanese civil war, as I’m addicted to politics and Middle-Eastern modern history. But what struck me was the amazing natural beauty of the country. I suddenly felt myself holding back tears and filled with a storm of sorrow mixed with rage. Something inside me screamed: “was there a shortage of desert-filled Arab countries out there, that they had to have a devastating civil war in this paradise!!”

    I know that that’s a terrible thing to say, think, or feel. But that was my gut reaction at the time!

  5. Excellent post Roba!
    and as Fairouz says: “Beirut l madineh li ma btmoot”

  6. good post Roba… and lovely photos… I loved the basilica and the one picture with foggy mountain tops…

  7. Anonymous

    Nice post Roba

    I thank God that I never grew up in the Gulf countries. It seems to me that Palestinian, Jordanian, Lebanese kids that grow up in the Gulf countries learn nothing about the history of their region of the world. What a shame. I hope I can have my kids grow up in a decent place to learn something

  8. I really enjoy your recent post.
    keep posting Roba! I actually didn’t know the differnece between Jordanian and lebanese “Yes”!

  9. حبيت انوه ان قصيدة “لبيروت” هي من اشعار نزار قباني
    Inspired by some of your pictures I decided to to go back to photography. It’s been a while since I last snapped a few shots. And therefore, I thank you
    check this one in particular

  10. In American universitites, “Beirut” is often used as a fancy name for beer-pong. This is both funny and said. I think it’s a reference to bombing.

    The very word “Beirut” haunts me, and I’ve never been.

  11. I might agree that it’s a magical city, and it truly inspired! I got like loads of images rushing in my brain…It’s amazing.

    I have like two questions, one is relevant the other is not!

    01- Why did you do like 5 posts about Beirut/Lebanon. Are you really THAT crazed about it?

    02- Since you’re an Art student, why you don’t share your art projects and creations with us? Like having a gallery or something on flickr?

  12. Beautiful heart-wrenching post rouba..
    thank you for the memories, even the sad ones.

  13. Vas

    wow, inspiring memory-work, great initiation… And thank god you are an artist.
    At long last, i found a young citizen of my beloved jordan that can see behind (actually next) the clubs and the newly-remake “oldies” of the restored city promenade. The same sense i have in Athens, whenever i visit the area (Kaisariani) where the bullets of the civil war of the late ’40s still pierce the walls and the hearts of those for whom this story had a personal dimension. But they “restore” them one by one, hoping that oblivion is the elixir (of what?).

  14. I could never explain my reaction to seeing Beirut for the first time in 1999 as well as you did!Great post.

  15. It’s weird,
    The thing is, even during the war, that I remember the very last days of it, I remember still moments, but those moments I remember vividly.

    Beirut was always a source of hope, for a better future, it’s hard to explain… but for a Syrian, beirut was always the place of freedom, the place where our writers write freely, the place where we hear the calls for freedom in Damascus. the place that was a shelter for my own father fom the regime here…

    It’s a shame what happened there, and it’s a shame what’s still happening there.

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