itinerary#27

pb_itin27_2

33.896423, 35.470738

33.882235, 35.531448

my father keeps a list of the items he and my mother brought with them when they left líbanon during the civil war. the list is neatly handwritten on a little notebook, and when i was young i was fascinated by it. it is a factual list, yet it was evocative of a past unknown to me. i now make my own lists, my own collections of words, numbers, people, things, observations. i wander around, take city walks like a modern-day flaneur, until the subjects of my lists appear to me as an evidence. i take my time. i look so i can see. anything that strikes me, i make note of. i keep walking, my eyes and mind unconsciously seeking the next addition.

the list is a way for me to understand the world, a way to make sense of it. the act of compiling is an attempt to comprehend. taken separately, each component of a list might not be of particular significance. when the components come together to form the list, they reveal veiled aspects of society, absurdities that our jaded eyes don’t notice anymore. some lists turn out more significant than others, exposing deep social or political issues while others remain on the lighter side. i consider them all of equal value, equal necessity, and part of the same project.

the list i am submitting today was compiled in beirut a few summers ago. i walked from the raoche through hamra, crossing into the east side of the city, through achrafie, and after many detours ending in mar miguel. the list is my own map of beirut, a continuous flow that tries to take note of each neighborhood’s particularities and idiosyncrasies. i propose this subjective, narrative mapping of beirut for your next issue and i hope it fits your editorial requirements (hand-written version available).

cats

waiting to be fed

an escalator leading to someone’s home

a crumbling pink mansion

a tiny lighthouse

an old school without any pupils

the headmaster still lives there

a butcher grilling meats

on the sidewalk

a teenage boy helping him

the smell of jasmine flowers

a large portrait of a dead politician with a moustache

a small portrait of a dead politician with a moustache

a girl with abundant dark curls

and skinny legs

a mosque

another mosque

a policeman ordering spinach pies

a policeman looking at him

two policeman eating spinach pies

a family eating merry cream

in a parked car

a maid walking a fancy dog

she smiles back

lots of cats

some have tears and cuts on their ears

a fight in front of a coffee shop

no one interferes

a restaurant with an african barmaid

a child selling gardenia necklaces

we high-five

a blocked street

another blocked street

two more

i walk quietly

slogans about the truth

the smell of fried falafel

a very large sandwich shop

a gas station employees call home

a daytime karaoke pub

lots of pretty girls, possibly filipinas

coconut fried rice

reminds me of home

a public garden

for some reason it has wifi

a dodgy bar where girls look bored

and men look sleazy

the house where an enlightened leader used to live

it is believed he has reincarnated

boiled beans from a food cart

sprinkled with lemon and cumin

an old mansion

the curtains are torn

piles of stinking garbage

and a very thin cat

a palm tree

standing between construction sites

posters from elections past

a coffee shop in a red van

an empty parking lot

a house with a garden

the smell of jasmine

i pick some delicate flowers

yellow flags brandishing a weapon

green flags with a neat circular logo

a spray painted fire truck

a cemetery with a view

narrow streets

old men playing cards

on a plastic table

they blend into the background

dusty buildings on the verge of collapse

young men killing time

smoking cigarettes on their scooters

two falafel shops with the same name

a fancy restaurant

the smell of sewers

a middle aged woman

dressed like a teenager

asian maids talking in an alley

a chaotic intersection

scarce pedestrians

doormen sitting quietly

a black car with tinted windows

and a vanity plate

a sumptuous villa

heavily guarded

arabic music

played live in a restaurant

the smell of roasted chicken

a few hungry cats

they must be related

old decorative tiles in the entrance of an apartment

a shop owner yelling at passersby

beggars

a chicken

a man wearing a hygienic face mask

selling chewing gum

painted stairs

a tourist taking a photo of the painted stairs

a large portrait of a handsome politician

he’s dead too

an electricity company

with a half-lit neon sign

an old bus depot

buses with flat tires

some firetrucks

dog caca

armenian shops

imported sparkling water

a church

a toothless woman sitting on the side walk

holding garbage bags

abandoned train tracks

with grass inside

bad street art

the smell of burnt rubber

functional traffic lights

a flea market

a depressed turtle in a cage

empty basketball courts

frangipanis trees

wide roadways

leading to an iron bridge

crossing over what used to be a river

a familiar face

she’s angry, i’m late

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