What Do Their Love Stories Look Like?

3 تشرين الثاني 2015 | 00:00

I Wake up long minutes before the alarm clock.

I think i am a bit nervous. Lately, I am always nervous when I have to participate in new activities. I have to fight the urge to go back to sleep. I really have enough responsibilities keeping me busy.

Why did I go and create a blog on top of all I have to do?

Why do some women have to constantly prove themselves? Why the urge to "Stretch"? To move past our "comfort zone?"

Questions, endless questions swim "naked" inside my sleepy mind on that Sunday morning as I try hard to talk myself out of going. I used to be good at that. At talking myself out of "stretching".

I kinda like those "IN" vocabulary terms used here and there and everywhere in the media, by the way. Decorative words urging me to stop fidgeting aimlessly until death visits. To do something worthwhile with my days. Before it all ends.

On that beautiful Sunday morning I set to participate in the "shoot as you walk" activity created by the "We love Tripoli" association.

OK. Let's have a quick visit to the distant past.

Six years ago a group of young men and women created this activity that thrives on hundreds of pictures taken spontaneously, once a month, in various areas in Tripoli, in order to portray the best image of their misunderstood city.

On that beautiful Sunday, it is not yet six and I have to drive from the capital of Beirut all the way to the north, and am wondering as the alarm starts to buzz if it is all worth it.

Why "stretch"?

Why take tens and tens of photographs of the city I once had a torrid love affair with? What is the purpose of moving past my "comfort zone"?

It is getting more and more difficult, this blog thing.

Beginnings are easier Than what has to happen later. They are lighter than the persevering part. The part where the body of work has to take place.

I shall drink a delicious espresso in the car as I head towards the north. That is how I encourage myself as I put on my jeans and get mentally ready to drive all the way to Tripoli instead of leisurely daydreaming whilst staring poetically at the corner of my room.

...And all that for the purpose of taking pics of one of my favorite cities in the world and then write a story about that visual adventure in my blog.

Blogs are meant to help you discover yourself. They stretch out their non-existing hand and guide you away from your comfort zone. In order for you to "stretch"!

That damn "Death".

This whole "stretching" thing struck me when I discovered death.

Ever since, I want to live a million lives. Each day.

Just in case I never come back.

I smile at the young boy taking my order at the "Kwiki" Drive-in in Sin-El-Fil area. His grin is wide as he says my usual order without me having to tell him. "One small espresso. No sugar. One cranberry juice. And one Perrier".

When exactly DID i discover "Death"?

The ride is smoother than i expect. People, it seems, are still sleeping. The streets are empty, so I can fill them with my thoughts. Is it already 8 A.M.? I virtually remove every thought that creeps to my mind, and hang it midst the air to keep me company.

...And there is Tripoli showing me its first glimpses. I can almost see its face midst the buildings, and tens and tens of faded colors. And with them, faded memories.

It's alive. The city is alive. It has risen early like me, it seems.

The start off is opposite the "Nawfal Castle" In the Tall square located midst the city. In that square all the taxi drivers and public buses are located. It is packed with people and the shops are open.

I so enjoyed the early morning ride midst the empty streets. What if this should be my entry? And suddenly struck by panic attack. It is a small attack. Barely noticeable. What if I don't find a parking space?

That's it.

That should be my sign. If I can't find space then I shall turn around and head to my village in Koura. It's only fifteen minutes away and I could spend a couple of hours in our huge gardens. My thoughts deserve an entry as well.

...And here is an empty parking space.

The large streets are bursting with life. I must force myself out of the house more often. Outside looks different now that I am...well, Outside!

This can't be Sunday. This scene I am witnessing has ran away from a Monday and it is making a cameo in this Sunday.

Restaurants are preparing their menu of the day, and in that takeaway restaurant located at the corner of the "Nawfal Castle", is the best Falafel sandwiches in town.

My cousin, Jouca, and I spent our summer days eating one falafel sandwich after the other. We were both 19 and we'd actually devour the sandwiches whilst leisurely strolling in the Tripolitan streets.

And in that shop located on the opposite side, I used to buy the "Abir" love stories. They are the equivalent of the Barbara cartland novels. The ones where the hero is always arrogant and aloof. And all the ladies want him.

But he wants the heroine. She has a way of defying him.

Ah! here is everyone. Waiting patiently for everyone else. In order to start the morning walk.

Shooting pics of moments that capture us. Capturing scenes that shoot our inner stars.

The founder of "We Love Tripoli", Taha Naji, greets me warmly. He says in his quiet manner that this morning stroll will take us to Daher-Al-Mohor neighborhood, the poorest part of Tripoli.

It is said to be filled with drug addicts and poverty-related violent acts.

At least, that's what the media claims.

There is the sign I have been waiting for to head back to Beirut and write an entry about how the "Abir" novels have destroyed me!

I stand with Taha and three young men. I look around. Two veiled girls, beautifully dressed are happily chatting the waiting time away. They have their backs turned to us. They are looking towards a huge garden I hadn't noticed before. Kids are playing. Mothers are making use of the short me-time allowed for them.

Inside the huge garden there is a small cafe and some men are drinking coffee.

I take my first picture.

Using my old cell. Everybody else has beautiful technically advanced cameras.

It doesn't matter. I have no ambition in becoming a professional photographer.

I am simply "stretching" myself. Moving out of my comfort zone.

The walk starts. It lasts two hours. I spend them blissfully walking next to Taha who recounts some historical tales about the Souks, The Abou-ALi river and the neglected Daher-Al-Mohor neighborhood filled with small streets and hundreds of stories waiting to be told.

I capture moments and stolen scenes from lives so different from mine...and I don't feel the minutes pass. I don't want this walk to end.

This middle-aged man is selling fresh Orange juice from a small cart with two wheels. Old men smoking their Hookah in different flavors in this old cafe. Clothes of all shapes and colors are displayed not only inside the shops, but also outside.

"Alternative" Detergents made especially for those who are unable to pay for the original ones are displayed in this window. They are Made in Lebanon. So we might as well encourage our industry.

Shops that restore old furniture. And others that specialize in Copper.

The Old Souks and their tiny, very tiny streets, have a feel of wet humidity to them.

We find everything under the sun in these old Souks...from Gold bracelets to the lebanese equivalent of men Gel, or "Brill Creme", as they call it.

Merchants display their clothes in funny ways. They use old electrical worn out wires.

This pink bra is rather attractively daring, sir. The way it hangs from the wire is cute. Dramatically cute, I must add.

Children play in the streets.They happily eat their "Mankoucheh" not caring about the strange smells and the garbage surrounding them.

It is a world on its own. These hidden streets are gold mines of stories.

There are old tailors and the architecture is a tale on its own.

Young men greet us hesitantly. When we smile, they warm up.

Click. Click. Click.

We all click the moments away.

Two hours pass and I live every second in awe.

I become a tourist in my own country.

These people live differently than you and me.

They seem to be forgotten.

Just imagine how beautiful all these neglected buildings and streets could become if the government treated them as though they were on life's map!

We reach the famous "Abou-Ali" river which flooded in 1955 taking away lives and homes. Disrupting stories.

It is now filled with garbage.

The noise has a feel of its own here. The garbage is a natural extension to this forgotten place.

We climb endless stairs.

I forget the bad smells.

What happens to these people when it rains? Does the water make way inside their dilapidated houses?

Old women sit on the outside porches of their homes making full use of the sunny November morning.

The stray cats look well-fed. They probably feast on rats and mice.

Some walls are beautifully painted. Someone is trying to sow beauty midst the frightening poverty and dirt. I hardly notice the brutally frightening sights of deprivation.

These neighborhoods are our very own Santorini and Mykonos.

Why this neglect? This unacceptable indifference towards these people living on the fringe of life?

How many stories have yet to unfold behind these fallen walls?

The women here all have one thing in common: they all display their laundry on wires outside their homes.

I hardly notice the group I am walking with, but I quietly stay next to Taha, clicking the time away.

It is hard to say Goodbye to everybody and harder still to leave these "realistic" neighborhoods.

I drive back to my "Normal" life in Beirut and i don't notice anyone around me.

The one question that hovers in my mind all the way back is scary for a romantic dreamer like myself:

People who don't have anything...What do their love stories look like?

اليسا في "النهار": تكشف اسراراً وتبوح

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