"The sharp knife of a short life

I've had just enough time..."

- "If I Die Young" The Band Perry

I see Beauty in many things. And like the ghosts that only speak to you if you notice them, they tell me wondrous tales. With my camera and my thoughts, I captured these as faithfully as I can to share with you. And by doing so, they gave me the reasons. And though the thousand reasons may not all be sweet and some indeed bitter; they are still reasons to live. Come to think about it, that is Life, isn't it?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Part 1 – The Friendliest City In The World – War Torn Beirut?

I've had just enough time to...   take a walk down busy Beirut.

The broken down bench in Beirut where I ate my lunch.

If I were to ask you, your personal experience of the friendliest city in the world; each of you may give me a different reply. Some answers may seem obvious as top contenders. Some you may be mildly surprised at, others you may disagree as you may have a bad experience there. But would you have expected someone to say present day Beirut? Of all the cities I have visited from US to Europe to Asia, in my personal experience Beirut top the list. It is all based on a single day, alone with nothing to do; to pre-empt you from arguing against my choice. :D

The delicious Hawa chicken and pickled vegetable that was my lunch.

It was a Friday. I had a late afternoon flight and I’m not going to sit in my room reading a book or to watch TV until it is time to go. Immediately after breakfast, I put on the day’s essentials in my backpack and went for a long walk. Nowhere in particular, just to walk the street as far as I could go and back in time for my flight. Along the way, to my delight I came across a small nondescript Lebanese bakery.

I stood outside and snapped a few shots when the matronly proprietress with a smile as wide as her arms agitatedly waved me inside to do my shooting. That is in “Part 2 – The Man From Syria”. Would not blame you if you think my impression of Beirut’s hospitality is from that pleasant feeling as warm as the oven’s fire. But that was not all. After the coffee as thick and black as night, and succulent oven fresh bread with the aroma of cheese and thyme, I continued my walk as far as I could go before I think I should double back.

The warm receptions from the drivers on the road.

I bought a box of their local fast food – Hawa Fried Chicken that is served together with thick potato slices, cheese dips and pickled vegetable with sign language and walked back to the hotel on the other side of the road. I came across a broken metal bench under the shade of a giant tree and thought that would be a good place to rest my weary feet and eat my chicken. There I was, a Chinese gentleman sitting cross-legs on a broken bench without support, happily biting into the drumstick looking at the snared traffic, taking in the novelty of the situation. 

They were joking with me in a language I could not understand.

But I did not expect the reactions. A car honk jolted me; the driver shouted in a strange language I could not understand. But I understood the smile and the wave and I waved back. I thought that must be an isolated incident. But then at almost regular intervals, drivers noticed me and some of them greeted me loudly with smiles or waves or thumb ups. Some took the trouble to wind down the window. A father and son in a truck offered me a lift. Some was joking with me though they know I could not understand a single word they said and played hide and seek with my camera.  In nowhere in the world had I ever triggered anything as remotely close as this type of reaction. I did not do much that morning in Beirut but it was one of the most memorable days of my life.

And offered to take me along with them...

When I returned to the hotel, I looked at all those things I’ve bought or brought along with me which I did not want to bring back home. When the cleaning lady came, I gave them all to her. I hate throwing things away and was happy to have less to carry. There was a ring on the door. The cleaning lady came and gave me something of her own. I protested but she tried to tell me it is nothing and I will make her happy to accept it. And she gave me a hug. And we took a photo off the reflection from the mirror. I don’t know about your experiences, but for me, no other city even come close to Beirut as the friendliest city I ever encountered.


  1. A 1000 Reasons
    These guys in the car must have found me very funny, though I did nothing! Maybe it is the first time they saw a Chinese gentleman sitting cross-leg on a broken bench in the city of Beirut munching at a drumstick. Whatever they were joking with me in a language I could not understand a single word of. They were having a lot of fun and I could not help laughing at them too. But when I tried to take their pictures, they will go to length to avoid and frustrate me. But they did not know I’m a fast shooter and I still got them in the end and it is a picture I really like for it managed to capture the essence of the moment. I did know my attraction that day but many drivers waved and warmly greeted me. It was kind of puzzling, but nice kind of puzzling.

    The one big difference is that none of those well dressed men and women in fancy cars like big Mercedes and such greeted me. Even when they noticed me, I was not interesting to them. Kind of amusing, isn’t it how difference the reactions of “classes” are.

  2. I remember this story! So heartwarming :)


  3. "Chuck"
    You surely are a fast shooter my friend. Your words regarding their viewpoint of a crosslegged man eating a drumstick made me think of this quote from the Dalai Lama. I think it was you that praticed the teaching to perfection.
    All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
    Dalai Lama

    ★娜 娜☂Nana_Slowly catching up added this photo to her favorites.
    Wow ... I thought your blog was very informative!
    You have been very amazing journey!
    Have A Blessed Day... (:

    great candid

    henrhyde (gill)
    Beautiful words.
    Great images.
    Gives the important message --to help others and always smile at them.

    الله أكبر * " ALLAH HU AKBAR! "

  4. ho.ge
    an amazing action shot!
    a true friendly smile........... :))

    Great moment wonderfully captured!

    ★kyeniz added this photo to their favorites.
    great emotions captured :D

    ★ineedathis added this photo to his favorites.
    Well my experience with Beirut was a great one but that was many years ago,
    Some times is not how you look, these people saw you as a human not as a Chines or any other nationality, money and cars does not make a person,
    I am glad you exchange some smiles with them, thats always good for melting the ice:-)
    Thank you for sharing this story my friend made me happy,

    ★Nikita_70 added this photo to her favorites.
    In fact, I've also heard that Beirut is one of the friendliest cities in the world, and from what I know, people in Beirut love to party regardless of all the tanks rolling around, one of which is behind these funny gentlemen I believe. It sounds like a fascinating experience and I suppose they realize, better than we do, that life can be short and that one is better off smiling.

    ♥♥Ever-Green Veronica♥♥ MOSTLY OFF
    The friendly City ???????? well here it is... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Elizabeth
    maybe because I lived there for many years !!!!!!!!!! LOL LOL LOL
    just joking

    ♥♥Ever-Green Veronica♥♥ MOSTLY OFF
    Hello Dear Thou.....
    I have been reading your wonderful experience in your blogspot.....This set of photos is really great and interesting....Thank youuuu..... I was not aware of the friendliness of the Beirut people..... but I do remember a long time ago.....we had a customer who was so friendly with us and a great good person..... then we lost contacts during the war in Lebanon.... but as soon as he had the possibility he wrote a long telex and explained all his troubles.... he had lost his store.. and had changed his work... but even in trouble he took some of his time to write to us...
    I am pleased you had this great experience..... and I wish you all the best..
    Take care my friend.... ☺☺☺

    This beautiful chapter has been seen in WRITTEN PAGES.

    ★sold as is and i_still_believe_in_u added this photo to their favorites.

    This beautiful chapter has been seen in WRITTEN PAGES.

    ★Onasill ~ 275 added this photo to his favorites.
    This is fantastic Thou-san. Beside two smiling guys your post script is astounding to read.
    Thank you for the enjoyment and have nice weekend.

    ★brdonovan added this photo to his favorites.

    娜 娜☂Nana_Slowly catching up
    Have A Happy Weekend... My Dear friend ◕‿◕


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