Thursday, April 15, 2010

Painting the town Hamra

Today, I saw red. Not in the angry, I-want-to-hoot-at-someone way, but rather in the street-walking way. What I mean to say is that I took a stroll down Hamra's main street. Hamra means 'red' in Arabic. Make sense now?
When the older generation tell me stories about Hamra in the days before the civil war, they're tales filled with partying, bustling streets, noisy coffee shops, fun stores and the best all-night eating spots. The war took its toll on this part of Beirut, and whenever we used to visit Lebanon as children, teenagers and adults, we never frequented this side of town.
Today is a completely different story. The main street is humming loudly again with a vibey vibe, with jewellery stores, trendy clothing shops such as H&M and my favourite Vero Moda, and a constant flow of hooting taxis and curious tourists (easily discernible among the dark-haired nation!) - not to mention the cool eateries. I snapped a few to show you that Lebanon isn't only made up of streetside shawarma shacks! Look, even Nandos has made its way all the way up to the Middle East!

At this last stop, Laziz (100% Lebanese is the slogan), I had a 100% Lebanese drink: ahwe. Although it came in such a cute little one-cup rakwe (check out a previous post for explanations) it definitely kept me awake - right up to now, and it's nearly midnight!

Some of you may be wondering how I'm getting around without a car. Funny you should ask. So far, when family hasn't been driving me around, I've taken taxis and a service (a shared taxi). Today, to Hamra, I took my first autobus. While waiting on the side of the road for a service to pass, I saw bus number 2 arrive. I waved the driver down and asked if he was going that way, and lo and behold, he was going to be driving straight onto Hamra's main road! The ride took double the time it would have by car, but boy was it also double the amount of fun! The lady next to me told me a whole story about why she gives the little beggar boys (she seems to call them all Mohammed) food rather than money, while tearing pieces of bread and basically throwing them out of the window for the little ones to grab. Then there was the guy who jumped on and realised the bus wasn't going to exactly where he wanted to go so asked the driver to stop for him to jump off again - but nearly everyone on the bus started shouting after him, telling him various ways he could get to his destination from the bus' final stop. The characters were nothing compared to the state of the bus iteself: torn seats, hanging fluffy toys and of course the obligatory Lebanese flag. It's no wonder the ride only costs 1 000LL no matter how far you journey (that's the equivalent of R5!).

My autobus (note the torn seat, fluffy heart and Lebanese flag).

There you have it: I've been painted red and am no longer green.

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