Guest post by Satoshi
Being a Japanese non-fiction writer living in London for many years, I’ve travelled many countries and I don’t even remember how many countries I’ve been. However, Beirut in Lebanon was my un-known territory, especially I don’t speak Arabic apart from saying a few greeting words.
I was on a mission to capture the real story amongst real people on the streets of Beirut for my Japanese readers. The place I have stayed in my writing mission was picked from AirBnB, a house near the famous Al Hamra. The house is called Beit Al Atlas, managed by a certain Mr. Bilal Ghalib.
All the nice people hang out in this magnificent yet friendly house for us all. This is where I have met Saleh.
With my true honesty, I am grateful to befriended with those two, Bilal the elder brother, and Saleh the younger brother. When I saw those two, I knew it would be a great long 2 weeks going through Christmas to New Years in Beirut.
I was fortunate enough to be well connected to lots of Lebanese people who guided me to various interesting places for my non-fiction writing, but if I have to pick one as the best guide, I’d pick Saleh.
One of many places I’ve been to in Beirut was Borj Al Brajineh. Young Saleh is from this small town, working his socks off to make his living and helping his family. Lots of people on the street of Borj Al Brajineh greeted him with smile, they were from old geezers who knows Saleh since he was a baby, to young boys who look up him as the great big brother. Peanuts are sold on the street, and the vibrant busy street has the real buzz of life.
The name of Borj Al Brajineh, has some meaning in today’s major media outlets. Immigrant area in south Beirut, tends to attract lots of un-necessary attention. Of course it’s Middle East, of course it’s Muslim, and of course there are Palestine immigrants. And of course for me, it’s a dangerous place….? No. Not with Saleh.
So that I have stepped into this this “apparently dangerous” Borj Al Brajineh. Was it intimidating? Did I feel like I was in that notorious Fatah stronghold which is an absolute no-go zone for foreign visitors who can’t speak Arabic?
The truth is, things are not as bad as you see on mainstream media and it seemed no more than just a busy town centre with vibrant shops creating usual buzz of day-to-day life of ordinary people.
All this was thanks to Saleh, my young brother, my best friend and a real man on the street. I will see you in Beirut by the time summer arrives. Salute!
Thanks for this great write-up Satoshi! One day I’d love to see some photos from that trip :)!
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