BY CARNIE ARMENIAN
It is the root of many of our diasporan stories, of my story.
It was our home when we could no longer be in our rightful lands.
It was our safe haven – for our religion, for our language, for our culture.
The varying landscapes, the architecture both old and with bullet holes or shining new, but most uniquely the mix of people.
The memories our families describe so vividly, it’s almost as if we grew up there ourselves.
They escaped the summer heat in the mountains, played with colourful chicks to welcome the spring.
They wandered the city freely with friends, visited neighbours unannounced but always welcomed.
They learned how to drive their first car on the autostrade which could’ve only inspired a video game.
Organized chaos can make sense only in Beirut.
They stood tall and protected their communities when the country was in war.
But when we ask them of these times, fear and fighting is never mentioned.
It’s always that they stuck together and found a way.
With a smile beaming from within they speak of Beirut.
Of the strolls along the maze of streets, their days spent on the rocky beach with a refreshing Cola and cheese-cucumber sandwich.
We hear of them fondly graduating from the Armenian schools, teachers and friends they still keep in touch with today, then walking through the arches to classes at AUB.
First steps, first memories, first dates.
These years shaped their entire identity, and in turn ours.
We are lucky to have the streets memorized, which to the outsider is purely confusion and chaos.
We are fortunate to know which corner has the best lahmajun, not just for the food but for the sidewalk we sit on, laughing as we drink our tahn.
Where to go to the seamstress on our way home from the agoump, not just for our clothes but that steaming cup of coffee while grandmother chats with her friend.
And where to grab the freshest jeleb by our parent’s office on a hot day, on any day.
We used to be able to revisit the places that hold the memories our families spoke so fondly of.
But now, even that has been taken.
Our families in Beirut witnessed the unimaginable.
Those who did not lose their lives, lost their heart.
A community ready to spring back and help strangers move forward, it speaks to the strength of a people to lose their homes, but not hope.
Again fueled with pain, we will rebuild the chaotic charm of Lebanon.
A charm nowhere else can compare to.
A charm that’s impossible to describe but so easy to love.