CNEWA

Homage to Beirut

O Beirut!

O Beirut, the Mistress of the World

We confess before the one God:

That we were envious of you

And your beauty hurt us

We confess now:

That we were not fair to you, nor merciful

And we offered you a dagger instead of a rose

We confess before the just God:

We injured you and made you tired

We burned you and made you cry

We burdened you, Beirut, with our sins

We now know your roots are deep within us

We now know what our hands have committed

Rise… Rise… Rise

Rise from under the rubble

Like an almond blossom in spring

Rise from your sorrows… Rise

These beautiful words by Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, who loved and lived in Beirut, and chanted by the iconic Majida el Roumi, are the best description of the wonder of this city and the people living in it.

Three years after the horrific blast that destroyed the city, leaving half of its population without a safe roof over their heads and turning the vibrant downtown into a ghost town, the people have seen a real miracle.

Beirut has risen!

The heart of Beirut is beating again and breathing life into the whole body: The houses and buildings on the main streets have been repaired, the shops and restaurants have reopened. In the absence of a government and of any other local authority, Beirut has received more than 2 million tourists this summer, more than 70 percent of them are Lebanese living in the diaspora. They never believed that Beirut had died. They believed in the story of the phoenix that rises from the ashes in glory and beauty, and they returned to ensure that Beirut was not only alive but still the most vibrant and beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea.

The number of visitors this summer so far is almost half of the city’s population, and this has inspired great hope for a potential boost to our economy. Unfortunately, the absence of government, the vacant presidency, and the crippled political and financial systems make it impossible to distribute fairly the expected returns to those most in need.

In the same Beirut, very close to the vibrant streets where music from bars and restaurants are still heard at sunrise, hundreds of thousands of poor people continue to suffer in silence. Families cannot afford a generator for electricity and, thus, live in darkness for up to 18 hours a day, without food in their refrigerator, without money to pay for a propane cylinder to prepare a hot meal or to afford tuition for their children’s education, their medication or health care. These people also live in Beirut. These families are still affected today by the impact of the devastating explosion and its repercussions in their miserable lives.

Then, after more than 1,000 days since the Beirut port blast, the investigation into the explosion is back to square one, and uncovering the truth is becoming but a dream for the families of the victims and the people who lost everything in this catastrophe.

Listen to Majida el Roumi sing “Beirut Set el Dounia,” “Beirut the Mistress of the World”:

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