Club 43, Gemayze, Beirut
The essence of this city cannot be expressed in words. The rush of culture and the beauty of this land has enveloped me since I arrived here a week ago. Despite the political instability surrounding the fate of Lebanon, you would never guess it. Sitting in cafe's, listening to Fairuz, and witnessing what many before me have witnessed before I even made my entry into this world... made me think of nothing else.... but Iraq.
If Iraq had not been swallowed up whole by the powers that be and the Power that was, maybe it would have continued to act as one of the major cultural centers of the Arab world. Maybe the books about Iraqi art that I find in the dusty second hand book shops wouldn't be old relics from the fifties and sixties, but contemporary publications from yesteryear. Maybe the old, crusty tourism guide to Iraq that I found in a Beirut bookstore wouldn't be an old relic from the past. Maybe I could see them myself for the first tragic time in 24 years. Maybe a non-Iraqi could be interested to visit the cradle of civilization and see where it all started in Uruk or Ur.
Maybe, just maybe, Iraqi's here wouldn't be flocking to cities like Amman, Damascus, Beirut and Cairo as refugees but as ambassadors of art and culture, to join the flow of Arab art and culture.
But Iraqi's have much bigger problems to deal with today than the intellectualization of our post-modern aesthetics. They have much bigger problems to deal with than interpreting post-war imagery because we are still AT war. With ourselves. With our neighbors. With our farthest counterparts in the West. With our histories. With our forgetful memories. With our traumatized childhoods. With our misled ideologies.
If Beirut was able to resuscitate itself from crumbling into the abyss of a 15 year long civil war and emerge thirsty for life... maybe Iraq will have its chance to shine again.