The sweet minutes when I thought there was a florist around…

Our apartment is, as you probably know, in a Itani building. This building has a street, as you probably figured, in front of it.

The street had been closed for about 7 years when it was partially re-opened in February 2012. For on this very same street there is also an entrance to the palace of our ex-prime minister Rafic Hariri who passed away BEFORE blocking the road. On the same street also, there is the lower gate to the Lebanese American University where I teach. But this blog post is not about LAU or Rafic Hariri, nor about the palace.

This post is about the shops on this street, most of which had to shut down because of the blockade. They slowly closed, one after the other. Then the street became a haven for kids to play football in, in the midst of day – something miraculous in Ras Beirut. Some people in the neighborhood -not Itani’s- sit down and smoke sheesha on the side of the road in the mornings. Why not? It’s available and VERY secure. Truth is I have something to say about the security of people on this street, but some other time.

One of the shops on the street was a FLOWER shop. It is a sweet thing to have a flower shop close to you. In fact, this flower shop was not only on the same street. It was in the building right next to ours. How good is that? Anytime you feel like it, you can simply pick up a bouquet and go upstairs and present it to your mother, your father, your sister, yourself, or the neighbor.

And how beautiful would it be to head back from LAU last Wednesday and discover that the flower shop is open again? Cue music!  𝄞 𝄢♭𝄃 𝄑 𝄫♭𝄡 𝄢 ♮𝄞

Ok, I didn’t take a long look into the shop. I simply saw the “florist” standing outside. I recognize this guy because I see him around our street and Hamra in general. I wanted to give him a big smile (a psychological hug) but I only nodded and whispered “Salam”. I was very happy, that I now feel happy just thinking of the joy the thought of the flower shop re-opening under our apartment brought to my heart. I told myself, “I will blog about this beauty.”

And here I am, doing exactly that! I went upstairs, super excited, and broke the happy news to my Mom. She was sitting in the living room with Hasan, my brother-in-law, and my older sister May. And Hasan and Mommy directly woke me up to my senses:

– This guy is just pretending to have his shop open. The landlords filed a lawsuit to end his lease so he’s just here for show. Did you see any fresh flowers in his shop?

– Truth is I didn’t look into the shop well.

Cue sad music now 😦

I felt horrible. HORRIBLE. How can a florist, for me almost a sacred being who deals with flowers, these beautiful creatures, how can he be a liar? And it was then that I noted to myself; there is a big difference between a florist, and a guy who sells flowers.

So for whoever is doing any research related to this lawsuit, if you’re doing your homework right, you know the real story behind Lebanon Rose now. It withered a long time ago.

And I prayed with the Jews

I am forcing myself to blog. I’ve been trying to do it for two weeks now, and every time I quit. But this time I will post, whatever gets out of this heart I will let it be.

I returned from the United States on Tuesday. This is the first time I return from America to Beirut, not to Qatar – for residence. I still cannot call Beirut home. I detest it with all the love I have in my heart, I detest it. I have issues? Heck yeah.

I attended a Shabbat Service in the States. For those who are not sure, or who may be surprised; YES, this is what the Jews do to welcome the Shabbat. I had been in California for a week, praying alone at home, not hearing the call to prayer except from an iPhone. And then the Shabbat service happened. As much as I was excited to go, I ended up with a slap on the face. For I have been forgetful of what it means to attend a religious service. I went with pride, because I wanted to come home and BRAG. I attended a Shabbat service, didn’t I? I have the right to show off! I stepped on pre-conceptions and stereotypes and negative portrayal of the Jews in most media and social outlets in the Arab and Muslim world, and I voluntarily walked into a temple, in my hijab and full muslim attire and heartily repeated “Shabbat Shalom” over and over again.

But I ended with a slap on the face. Because I had unconsciously forgotten that -first and foremost- I was walking into a prayer. The prayer restored my senses and made me feel ashamed. For a short period of time, before the ceremony started, I felt like I am preparing for a performance to begin. And I was enthusiastic and I was looking around. And then, instead of a performance I found myself in the midst of a Du’aa. I suddenly became aware that I had missed this for a week, the collective prayers and the Adhan. And I prayed with the Jews. To the one God we believe in. For peace and love and prosperity. For health and well being and safety of all humankind. For this and that, which are everything everybody prays for. And I reached a spiritual high. The kind that I feel when I pray on a film set, or in the theater, or in a place where there is more beauty and sensitive souls than the average living room prayer. At Temple Sinai during Shabbat, I was at peace with myself, with those around me, and with the universe. I had been missing the whole point all over. It was a prayer.

The United States is a beautiful country. I feel better when I throw garbage there. Because the recycle bag is bigger than the trash bag, always. And it will all be used again – either to fertile some land or to make new items to be used. Here in Beirut you have to feel bad when you throw the garbage because even if you sort out your recycle bags, you can never tell if the next hand cares, or if it will be recycled at all. I don’t trust what people say here. I am optimistic and hope for the best and wish they always do say the truth but I simply don’t trust their word.

This time, I yet return to Beirut. I will always be returning here. Because I will always leave. No matter who lives here, I cannot belong. And I don’t want to. But depending on who lives here, I will always be returning inshallah. To see my mother’s face. To eat sahlab on the morning of Eid. To visit Ghazzeh and my childhood every now and then. And to thank Allah over and over for the blessings of peace, security, and prosperity (elsewhere!). And, oh, to tell the stories and make some films 🙂