I take the seaside road as often as I can.
There’s something about it at sunset. The way the sea shimmers under the slowly fading sunlight, looking like it would be boiling to the touch. The way everything is awash with the subdued yellows and pinks of another day come to a close. The way it becomes so easy to forget the disappointments of the city when it offers so much beauty every evening. And when you reach the bend in the road, the way the mountains appear before you… there’s something about a Beirut sunset.
So I drive, and as my foot unconsciously works the pedals, I think. Will I miss this? Will it miss me? Will I come back one day to find it completely changed, and will it accept the new me who will also have definitely changed? Do I have the right to claim this place as mine when I’ve wanted to leave for so long?
Something about my nostalgia feels… fake. Leaving feels like too much of a dream come true for me to be sad. Yet I am, and I wonder, is leaving always so bittersweet? So many people of my generation find themselves at a crossroads between two identities, two cultures, two nationalities, a struggle that leaves us feeling stranded, not knowing where we belong. Is it the outside we crave, or the inside we despise? Is it a combination of both? It somehow feels like I am incapable of belonging fully to my Beirut, as much as I would like to. Such is the fate of someone who has always lived between two cultures. Even by way of language, I write this in English, not Arabic. The double standard is therefore clear: how could I pretend to fully belong to this tiny Arab country overlooking the Mediterranean? Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan said it best, “I’m not sure I know what it’s like to belong to one place.” I have reached the twilight of my stay in Beirut. It must not be shocking to realize I am falling in love with it… after all, the sun’s dying rays always did paint a beautiful picture.
In the end, I can wonder all I want, dragging you along with me on this ride to which there is no end in sight. I have asked all these questions and have offered no answers – if you have any, I’d be glad to hear them. But if I do know one thing, it is that I believe home is not a place. Home is a feeling.
So I take the seaside road while I still can.