Adonis Diaries

On “The Corniche” of West Beirut (Cliff road, sea road)

Posted on: January 15, 2012

On “The Corniche” of West Beirut

The Corniche or paseo of West Beirut is known as “Corniche el bahar (sea)”, “Corniche el manara (Phare)”, “El Raoucheh (rock)”.  It used to be called during the French mandate (1920-43) the “French Avenue“, and it is equivalent to the strolling boulevard of the British in Nice.

Muriel Rozelier wrote in her “A life of a Pintade in Beirut“:

“I am walking The Corniche.  It is 5 pm, and my female friends are out of their work offices and meeting me at the Corniche, at Hajj Daoud shop for a cocktail on the pontoon to dip our feet. To get to this cliff road, I have to walk amid heavy traffic and loud honking: Silence is a rare commodity in Beirut.

I cross the district of Ouet-Ouet, mostly of Shias and old houses, and traverse the district of the Joumblatt, and joins the superb alleys of Ain Mreisseh before reaching this 2-mile stretch of walkway from Hajj Daoud and McDonald to the outdated Luna Park.

The sun is hesitating to dip into the sea. The crowd is already loud and dressed in all kinds of cloths and colors. Many are nibbling on “termos” and sunflower seeds, drinking coffee as they criss-cross amid bicycles and roller riders.

Many are slumped on folding chairs, smoking the narguilleh, listening to old songs of the 50’s, or the latest of George Wassouf (the equivalent of the French singer Serge Gainsbourg)…

The women of West Beirut are here: wearing miniskirt, hijab, gelbab, sponge short, transparent waxed water proof coat (to sweat profusely),…

The women are gathered in clusters, walking briskly, leisurely, or jogging singly and in two, listening to their MP3, Louis Vuiton cap on the head, Louis Vuiton veils, Dolce and Gabbana jogging shoes

You think these ladies are here for the daily exercise,  but mostly they are “mazaher” for show-off.  A lady from the Gulf Emirate exclaims, arms wide open: “Oh my God. This is real civilization“.  And I am wondering what in this Corniche is bluffing her.

The rule: Make sure you look busy and focused on your walk.  You have to look that you don’t care about the males solicitations, otherwise, this favorite location will lose its sense of permissiveness..

After 10 pm, the couples of lovers converge to the Corniche, and these 4*4 tainted window passing slowly… Ambulatory merchants are increasing in number, selling pistachios, termos, Coffee Express, orange juice, cigarette, chocolate bars, “foul” or fava beans, and gardenia necklaces…

During the long civil war (1975-1989), the Corniche was the place to find supplies in all kinds of drugs, whores, and young gays…

Currently, the lovely old houses have been torn down, to making room for new tall buildings, no less than 25 floors, blocking the sight to the sea: You have to pay to have a view to the sea.  These buildings are owned by Saudi and Gulf Emirate citizens and Lebanese expatriates, and they are almost totally empty! (Read note 3 on Solidere chartered company)

Women of Beirut have a dignified style, a showing off humor, a resistance to improbable events in life.  Women of Beirut hold in their palm the destiny of Lebanon, this “pseudo-State”, giving Lebanon life and flesh.

If you believe Lebanon is an exquisite location to spend your vacation, it is mainly due to the women who draw daily the geography of intimacy…

Note 1:  I recall that 4 years ago, I used occasionally to go with one of my nieces to the Corniche. We parked the car at the entrance of BIEL, rent bicycles and ride about 4 miles back and forth, to end up turning round and round in the open space in front of the McDonald and the bust of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

It appears that the crowd is not here for open spaces and visualizing the vast horizon of the “open sea”, but to congregate in the narrower locations in order to mingle and enjoy a crowd bath…

I had more difficulty than my niece enjoying these difficult rides among the babies and delinquent adolescents…

Note 2:  You may read a previous post

Note 3: On the reconstruction of Beirut city-center

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January 2012

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