A letter to Beirut, from one who was born a refugee

Wednesday 1 May 201911:18 am

Good morning Beirut.

I know that you know me well, that you have memorized my face and my features, even if you pretend otherwise.

I decided to write to you, after I experienced being away for a short time. Those days were enough for me to miss your roads, which I painted with my steps and your sea that I have become accustomed to living alongside. I missed the congestion of your streets in the morning, and the daily power outages, and your moody weather which resembles my own turbulent moods.

I returned to you eagerly, almost as if I had forgotten what I had suffered in you. For you were the first to embrace me, I was born on your soil, and I grew up in you. I studied in your schools, I ate of your fruits, I scrawled my dreams on the wall of the UNRWA school that was built on your land, and I drank from your sweet waters. I fell in love for the first time with one of your sons, and my speech is colored with your words. I bore the scourge of wars in you, grew up with the July War and then with the successive bombings. I learned your history by heart, from the day of the creation of the state of Lebanon until this day.

I know a lot about you and I think you know everything about me. You know, Beirut, that I did not choose to be here of my own accord, and I did not choose my way of being. I was born here, with the label of refugee which I inherited from my parents who inherited them from their parents. All this was out of my hands.

I know a lot about you and I think you know everything about me, Beirut.

A week ago, the plane landed at Beirut International Airport, and my heart landed with it in your hands.

I held my blue passport as if it were all I had left in this life. Everyone thinks that I belong to you because I carry a blue passport with a Lebanese cedar on it. Everyone, but we, my dear, knows that we are from you and return to you. I stood confused at passport control, not knowing which direction to take: on my right are the shapely blonde women who do not speak a word of Arabic, and on my left, only your children.

I stood in the middle, not knowing in which direction to walk. I was hoping for a security officer to be standing in the middle, to help me and to introduce me to you and remind you of me. On the left is a paper sign that reads: "Lebanese only." Who are the Lebanese, Beirut? Are they your children who were created from your womb, and carried by sheer chance your identity papers, and introduce themselves to the world as the descendants of the Phoenicians? What about us?

A strong voice awakened me from my dream and pushed me to stand in the row of blondes. I stood in a row with those who visit you for the first time and do not know you.

To Beirut, this strange city that embraces everyone, I choose my words and write them here. I do not want to chastise her in any case. I think she knows a lot about me but cannot do anything. Beirut knows that I spent four years studying in its universities, only so I can graduate with a diploma that I hung on the wall, because I do not have the right to work here. Beirut knows that I live in rented a house because I do not have the right to own it. She also knows that by chance I was born in her land and became a refugee.

To not find a place to belong to is a difficult feeling. To find yourself suddenly deprived of a sense of security and stability, in a place where your life and future were built. To realize that you cannot dream in a country that is not your country.

In our greater Arab homeland, I need a visa to pass between two villages that are less than 20 kilometers apart. Not to mention visas, and the impossible conditions we impose on each other. Who divided the land between humans in this way? I always ask myself whether the soil of Acre is like that of Beirut, and the rest of the Levant, Amman, and all of our Arab countries. If the soil and dirt is the same, why should we divide ourselves with borders that do not exist?

Beirut, only you know my moments of weakness and defeat, only you were witness to my weeping when I lost my job because I did not have the nationality of your children. You were alone with me when my grandmother was buried under your soil.

A mother cannot deny her children, my dear, so why do you deny us?

Within you, I have my childhood, youth and the body of my grandmother.

Only you know that I love you, but that I love my country more. That I belong to you as I belong to my country, and more.

A mother cannot deny her children, my dear, so why do you deny us?

Show the comments
Website by WhiteBeard