**WARNING, LOTS OF PICTURES**
Hello I have officially lived in Lebanon for one week.
What can I say about Beirut? It’s absolutely magnificent. It’s a little Miami, a little Colombia, a little Brooklyn, with a hint of East Village. There is a lot to see and to digest, after understanding what happened in the war, and how the city has come along in restoring its neighborhoods. There are many old buildings still standing, empty and abandoned, some are owned by people who want to preserve the buildings, and others are just being destroyed to make room for new ones. It’s an astonishing sight to see a building that looks renovated, next to an old one with plants coming out the windows. In an area like downtown Beirut, which was mostly destroyed by the war, has a fresh new look. However, the old buildings have a sense of character: window details, railings, colors, ceilings, etc. The “hipster” and more urban areas, like Gemmazye, have embraced the old look and turned all these buildings into art studios, creative spaces, restaurants or pubs. Gemmayze is one of the creative districts which houses lots of design galleries, independent movie screenings, and cultivates creativity. Mar Mikhael is similar, but fosters more nightlife with all of their pubs, along with their galleries and creative spaces as well. And of course, there are areas very commercialized and built up, but I pay attention to the more “urban” Beirut, because it appeals more to me.
Area: Raoucheh —-Famous Raouche rocks, these are always part of your basic Beirut postcard. They’re really beautiful, so I don’t blame them
Area: Downtown Beirut, near Beirut Souks
Area: Downtown—- Example #1: Old building not in use, next to the huge mall called Beirut Souks
Area: Gemmayze, street art
Area: Gemmayze, End of Hamra——Mohammad Al Amin Mosque in Beirut, seen walking towards Gemmayze
Example #2: Old building not in use, near Hamra
My Arabic typography class is hosted at the American University in Beirut, which is absolutely stunning [so many trees, clean areas, and lots of cats.] They are planning to make it into a smoke-free campus next year, which I find so interesting and a great initiative. Although, I am sure people will find a way to keep smoking regardless. But anyways, my class was easy to find on the first day. There are only 6 students in the class, including myself, which means there will be a lot of attention for the students from the teachers. I am the only American, and there is only one other student from outside of Lebanon, and he’s from UAE. Our first week we worked on handwriting old traditional Arabic scripts, that date back to when the first Qur’an was written. This script is called Kufic, and it takes a lot of patience, and is really difficult. There is a visiting Iranian calligrapher visiting hosting a week long workshop on how to write the letters, read them, and connect them in their letter forms in the Kufic Arabic script. The class is 6 hours long, with an added 2 hours break for lunch. So far, I’ve learned a lot and everything has been excellent.
There was an event at AUB campus that was alien themed, and they saved the props. Now there is an alien on campus. She was friendly because she let me hold her hand.
My attempts at the Kufic scripts. We don’t use a regular pen, it’s done with a bamboo calligraphy pen and ink. It’s difficult, involving changing the angle of your wrist as you write, the amount of ink you use, and being patient with each letter. We are learning all the letters of the Arabic alphabet, and we add on more information everyday (combinations of letters, attaching letters, etc.) We spend 6 hours daily doing this–and this is just the “easy” workshop for the first week. By the end of the course, we will have had to design our own typeface based on this traditional script, which is why we are learning the nuances of this beautiful calligraphy
Vahid Jazayeri, Iranian calligrapher who has researched and studied ancient Arabic scripts, dating back to the text found in old versions of the Qur’an. His research includes understanding the exact science of how to write each letter, the heights, relationships to the other letters, etc. He is a true expert. We are with him for a week understanding and gaining a foundation of the traditional Kufic Arabic script
cats everywhere at AUB, even inside the classrooms they will crawl on the tables and sit on everything
Café Em Nazih, really cute and huge cafe, with lots of trees and hipster vibes
Area: Gemmayze –pubs, restaurants…
These next set of pictures are specifically from the 4 hours I was out, on a hot summer day in Beirut lost for 3 hours. I did not put on sun screen (even though I brought a huge bottle with me), I did not bring enough money to even take a taxi back home, and I did not bring enough water. It’s always fun exploring by myself, but this day I was fried by the end of adventure.
Getting Lost #1: found some street art along the way…
Getting Lost #2: more art!
Getting Lost #3: cool logo and colors
Getting Lost #4: trees, oh my!
Getting Lost #6: I remember watching “Ed, Edd n Eddy” these cartoons as a kid
Getting Lost #7: Spotted these benches, as I walked around Beirut lost for about 3 hours. This is the area by sea called the corniche– I found these benches decorated with different colors
Getting Lost #8: Not sure if you can tell how red my face was, after getting lost, I found my final destination– Raouche rocks! In retrospect, it was only 15 minute walk from my apartment…
On Saturday, my roommate asked me to go with her to explore Byblos, in the Jbeil district of Lebanon. Byblos is an area towards the North of Lebanon, with ancient ruins and a beautiful waterfront. I’m looking forward to take pictures, and making my 6-week stay in Lebanon worthwhile by seeing as much as I can.
Next week, the Arabic course might get more intensive, but I enjoy it, so it’s okay. During lunch breaks, I go back to my apartment and cook lunch. It saves me money, and a healthier option than eating out all the time. In August, I will have a longer commute, so I might try to pack lunch. I’m trying to save as much money as I can, so I can do little weekend trips and not worry about overspending.
Well, that’s it for me. Thanks for checking in!
Peace from the Middle East!