I am fascinated by ‘public transport’ in Beirut. My first year here I was a big fan of ‘service’ taxis but now that I’ve had my baby, who isn’t a big fan (possibly because of all the taxis I took when I was pregnant!) my new passion is buses.
Last week a friend and I took number 15 home from the souks for the first time. As we made our way down to the Corniche to catch it a passing taxi hooted us, meaning do you want a lift? This is something that used to happen all the time. In the beginning in Beirut it was almost impossible to walk more than a metre without someone beeping or calling out taxi taxi. I remember that once I even considered having a t-shirt made with ‘No, I don’t want a taxi, I actually want to walk!’ printed on the front and back in Arabic, English and French- all of Lebanon’s three languages, just to be sure.
But now it happens a lot less and I wonder why.
My friend jokes that perhaps it’s because we get our our hair and nails done more regularly now and somehow we seem more Lebanese and less likely to be in need of a taxi.
I laugh, but there is definitely some truth in what she says and later on that day I put my finger on it. While searching on the internet for more new bus routes to try out I come across a wonderful piece of advice on the bottom of the Zawarib map (http://zawarib.org/):
Buses will stop for you at any point on route…Just make yourself elegantly noticeable.
I smile and realise that we have done the opposite. After a year and a bit in Beirut, we’ve lost our tourist look and become elegantly unnoticeable.