Tag Archives: Beirut

Man of the Orchard

Update: Since I wrote this piece in February, Sukoon, an Arab literary magazine, kindly republished it here. I was also asked to turn the tribute into the below podcast for Black River Press. With thanks to both Rewa and Themba. 

I  first met jeddo (grandpa) in August 1987. I was just three years old, but I have this distinct memory of him hurriedly running down the driveway of his humble orchard-home in Zahrani, barefoot, in the pouring rain, to embrace my mother. He hadn’t seen her since just before the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1982; they’d barely communicated in the interim. Tears were streaming down his face as he held her.

Osman “Abu Nasser” Antar was born to Zahra and Mahmoud in Sidon in 1929. He was the fifth of eight other siblings — one sister, and seven brothers. His father was a trader and a landowner who worked between Palestine and South Lebanon; he managed his finances poorly.

When jeddo was barely 11, my great-grandfather unexpectedly passed away, leaving the family of ten with very little to survive on. My grandpa was consequently forced to leave school to provide for himself, his younger siblings, and his mother. Continue reading

Mashrou’ Leila Brings Beirut to the Barbican


Take a look at the third world,” Mashrou’ Leila front-man Hamed Sinno said to a crowd of Londoners intoxicated on his talent. “Look at those Arabs, ISISing.”

Sinno was, of course, being his cheeky and brilliant self. (I fully intend to use the word ISISing in the future).

Pointing to a live projection from the streets of Mar Mikhael in Beirut and footage of young Lebanese being, well, young and Lebanese, the bearded, dreamy singer said his band was bringing the Levantine city to London.

That was, perhaps, the theme of the group’s inaugural Barbican gig: Sinno’s presence was so infectious, so intense, so darn sexy, that the posh London concert hall ascended into an Arab rave about fifteen minutes in. Continue reading

On Paris, Beirut and ISIS

*Filed under Letters to Florence*

Some unique takes on the Paris attacks from Aida Alami, a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times and Foreign Policy, and Bashir Saade, a professor of politics at the University of Edinburgh. (Note from Nov. 24: I’ve also added a third account from journalist and PhD candidate Sobhiya Najjar.)

While Alami offers a personal account of reporting from the scene in Paris — and the thoughts that crossed her mind at the time — Saade takes a step back to make some sense of the political implications of the attacks in both France and Lebanon.

Najjar’s piece centres on the cognitive dissonance she felt as her concern wavered from Paris to Beirut and from Beirut to Paris.

With many thanks to all three contributors. Continue reading

The Graffiti and Lexicon of #YouStink Lebanon

The mountains of rubbish left out on the streets of Lebanon for days on end in the sweltering August heat emanate a grotesquely unique stench. It’s impossible to escape and it seeps into your brain. You’re sick of it. It’s enough to drive you crazy. It’s even enough to trigger a revolution, you think.

Fed up and furious, you* start the hashtag #YouStink, round up the crowds and take to the polished streets of Downtown Beirut.

There, the Lebanese security forces meet you with teargas.

Continue reading