Saturday, August 12, 2006

Eighteen hours of electrical darkness left me as ignorant as Olmert's strategic military advisor. Yesterday was Friday and I felt like Robinson Crusoe's first day in his home town. My four minutes walk from my apartment to Cafe Younes gave mixed signals: More people on the streets, the faces lost partially their zombie-like colors, two women were talking about something like "a sabot with no heel and strass", a huge fight in a money exchange store with all kinds of possible words involving the mother and the sister (and some genitals), a few smiles from here and there...
It turned out that the war was coming to an end and my Saturday clients expressed themselves out loud.
  • An American reporter, reported her satisfaction about the UN resolution and the possible cease fire. "Although I blame the American government for helping Israel's attacks against your country, I am satisfied with their "role" in the cease fire", she told me, "And you know what, your coffee had something to do with it." "Huh???", I said. And she started explaining, in a fast forwarded speech (please read as fast as possible), how she went to the US embassy, met a friend who works there, asked if he wants anything since they are not allowed to leave the premises, him wanting coffee, her telling him that she knows the right place, her coming here to buy TWO pounds of the Ethiopian/Colombian mixture (She almost punched my face with her two fingers that I thought I was facing a Hezbollah fighter with the V sign), her receiving a surprising e-mail from the US ambassador (THE ambassador of the US of A, I am telling you man) telling her how pleased he was from the coffee... And she went on and on with information about her cat's diarrhea, her son's girlfriend's AA meetings and the lovely chocolate trip she made to Switzerland two years ago.
  • An Iranian old client came in for his latte shouting happily the only Arabic words he knows: "Shou? Khalas? El Hamdellah!"
  • "Mabrouk!", Saadeh said before ordering his espresso, "The whole block's coffee is on me."
  • At 10:00 AM, Cafe Younes witnessed a large and happy crowd. At one time, you could actually hear seven spoken languages: Arabic, French (Swiss and French), English (American, English and Scottish), Spanish (Colombian and Venezuelan), German, Armenian and a Greek on a mobile phone with her family. A New York Times reporter, sipping his espresso, was eaves dropping. Then he decided to interview me about my personal view regarding the war. I answered his questions and as he was looking for more candidates, I selfishly offered him to talk to Jamal since we both share the same opinions. Hopefully, a non edited version of these interviews will appear tomorrow in the New York Times.
  • At 1:00 PM, an Israeli military Napoleonian-Alexanderian-Hanibaalian-Cesarian-Nabuchodonosorian-Sun Tzeian-Spartacusian-Gengis Khanian-Joan of Arcian-Saladinian-Geronimoian-Zapataian-Shwarzeneggerian-Freudian-Olmertian offensive plan made the desired impact on the streets of Hamra: A plane dropped flyers offering to the amused eyes of the Lebanese an advice to avoid Nasrallah's influence and an info that the Hezbollah's leader will lead us to self destruction. All this in a poetic writing. With a colored cartoon drawing of a Lebanese cedar tree with what looks like Nasrallah's face coming out from behind the tree. Every passer by got one, it was Emily's first and she jealously kept it in her purse (a purse that she will lose anyway), it was my first too and I officially declare my flyer-virgin weeks over.
  • Mohamad, while drinking his iced cafe au lait (with no ice, of course) drew my attention on some writings made on one of the coffee shop's table: "Imagine that US and Israel do not exist in any world, how could it be." Followed by: "Israel must be drawn from our country Lebanon."
  • I was talking with a client about the fact that Olmert is being compared to Hitler. A British reporter over heard us and said: "You can't compare Hitler with Olmert. Hitler used to drive the prisoners to concentration camps and gas chambers while Olmert is better in client service; with the help of Tony, George and Condie, he brings death directly to his "clients" homes and beds at anytime of the day, even at dawn. A 24-hour service". I remember this guy, we had a little discussion four weeks ago and I recalled him arguing about Israel's right to defend itself.

PS: I forgot my digital camera in Cafe Younes. I took a lot of pictures of this day. I will publish a few on Monday.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


your writing takes me back to my best days in lebanon. Some of them in your cafe. A country you can't stop loving when you have lived there.

UN resolution is very good news right now, even if late. Yet I am sure Lebanese will take the best of life in any situation, I hope Lebanon will live in peace for good.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Hind said...

hi...i am a friend of a friend of a friend...i regret to this day not stopping by the cafe and hanging out with your wonderful clients..i was out of beirut when this war started and as miserable as i have been, i have been forced to stay outside till now...i read so many blogs every day and i wanted to say, thank you...thank you so much for your words everyday and the makes me feel connected and back in my beloved hamra and hope you continue to write...i feel really bad to not have taken the opportunity to come visit when i could in june but i swear this cafe is on my list of things to fo the first day i am allowed back in seem like an amazing person and i am very grateful for your blog and the very cute and funny and strange tales you tell us every night...keep it up and stay safe! meet you soon hopefully...

1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I've been reading your posts during the war. You really succeeded in reflecting the daily lives of the resilient lebanese people and the foreign reporters covering the war, through their brief conversations.

I lived in Lebanon for six years but never had the chance to pass by your cafe. Next time I visit Beirut, make sure to have enough coffee beans for my mochacino!


7:02 PM  
Anonymous fadi said...

good work amine.

i really miss your coffee


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