Patisserie door to patisserie door
In the words of Now Lebanon, a local news website, ‘Friday’s suicide bombing marks an end to a 12-week lull in such attacks in Lebanon’.
I had been well and truly lulled, as just yesterday I was considering that it might be OK to go back to the Bekaa Valley (where the bomb was) when my mum visits in July. As I’ve said before, living here for a while, you let yourself be lulled, but at the same time you know it won’t last. You let yourself be rocked to sleep by the rolls of thunder and fireworks in the distance, because you can’t keep your eyes open any longer, but you know you will wake up, sooner or later.
This time we were woken, on a sunny June afternoon, by the alarm bells of text messages telling of an explosion outside Beirut on the Damascus Highway, and raids and roadblocks closer to home (in the very next neighbourhood to ours). At the time, we were on the other side of town, sharing an almost midsummer’s day with lovely mama friends, story-swapping, cherry-popping, paddling pool splashing. My friend whose house we were at thanked us for coming and said she ‘felt at home‘, which may seem a strange thing for a host to say, but somehow in Beirut it makes sense.
My own sense of feeling at home came a few hours later, when I needed to take a taxi back across town.At this point the text messages were still coming but they were more like traffic updates than news headlines, warning of nightmarish jams and the city at a standstill. We called a local taxi company because my friend assured me they knew where her building was (near a patisserie) which is half the battle in Beirut, but it turned out it was the other half of the battle that mattered, as when I told them where I wanted to go (near another patisserie) they said ‘no taxi‘ and could give me no explanation. I started to feel a bit nervous, wandering how I would get home, imagining myself walking all the way as no one would drive me ‘to the other side of town’! But then I called ‘my’ taxi company who I use when my taxi driver friend is unavailable, like today. Miraculously they knew where I was (seems the patisserie is more famous than I thought!) and even better they knew exactly where I wanted to go:
Taxi: And where are you going?
Me: Ain Mreisseh
Taxi: You want to go home
Me: Yes!!! ( I could have hugged him through the phone!)
It turned out that I didn’t even have to tell the driver about my own landmark patisserie as when we approached my street, he already knew the name of my building! What may have seemed slightly disturbing (‘I know where you live….’) on another day, in another city, today in Beirut was infinitely comforting and made me feel so at home.