motherland? is that you?

so i’m finally in lebanon for the second time in my life, first time in 12 years, but feels like the first time ever because let’s be honest, the only thing i remember about lebanon the first time i came was that my mom let me wear a shirt that showed my bellybutton. milestone, that was. the funny thing is that i’m having a similar milestone here — going from socially conservative egypt to socially pluralistic lebanon has been a big switch and it’s going to be difficult to go back to egypt because of it. one of the most beautiful things about this place, one of very many many beautiful and simultaneously effed up things is that even in the da7ye, you see a woman wearing hijab and shar3i clothing walking next to another woman in a spaghetti strap tank top with her bra strap showing and no one is jeering or commenting at either one of these women. of course there are people that 3akis or lattish but its nothing like egypt. the mu3akasat in egypt range from (sudrik 7elo [your chest is nice] to ma32oul el teez da tshukh khara? [is it possible that this [beautiful] ass could defacate?]) whereas in lebanon its usually just some stares, a w/ histle, a song, or a ya hala ya hala. anyways. i’m meeting family members for the second time, for the first time, but with everyone its just so easy, we are having great conversations, i’m learning a lot about them and a lot about myself and i see a lot of myself and my family back in the states in these family members i’m meeting here. because i don’t have much time, i’ll give some brief realizations:

1. war is so normal here. it’s not special it’s not new it just is lebanon. there’s a cupcake store called sugar daddy’s, their tshirts say: make cupcakes not war. there’s an indoor paintball place with a billboard that says: for once, war is just a game. it’s ok, you can laugh — we did, a lot. bas it’s normal. you can’t go anywhere in this country without someone mentioning war to you. without someone pointing down south and telling you that “they” did it — and that down south could refer to people within lebanon’s borders or just below the border. my amto fatme sat with us til 4:30 in the morning telling us stories about the war. 7arb tammouz is a reference point used in daily conversation – before the war or after it – during the war or because of it.

2. if i hear french one more time i’m gonna speak only in fus7a. people speak french here interchangeably with arabic. this is of course only in beirut – in the south it’s only arabic. i was so glad to be able to use shukran instead of merci. so glad to use assalamu 3alaykum or mar7aba instead of bonjour/bonjourein.

3. i love that lebanon/the levant has a secular greeting – mar7aba needs to be integrated into every other arab nation’s dialect. its not muslim nor christian nor jewish nor druze nor anything. it’s simply arab. مرحبين بكم – we welcome you. in egypt, some people refused to say assalamu 3alaykum to some of the americans bc they weren’t muslim. i hate that shit. coming to lebanon and experiencing the diversity of religion here has made me more intolerant of societies that impose religion upon others (i.e. egypt).

more later. time to tackle rawi hage’s cockroach (sursar) in arabic.

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