Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Whose Rock is it anyway...

I spent last ten years of my life calling Beirut home. 
They were very eventful years and the archive of this blog can attest to that. While it is a personal blog, my person was mostly just present in the point of view.

But let me share something very personal. Of course, I will use it to get to a public issue, but of course I would do just that.

One of the most amazing experiences in my Beiruti decadent decade was one morning when I decided to go swim through the Rawshe rock. It was nothing like I imagined it though. 

Here's how I imagined it would go: 

I would walk down to the Daliyeh, where Beirutis have swam for generations. Park my towel, shirt and flipflops on the smooth rock shelfs that mark the border between Beirut and the Mediterranean sea. Dive gracefully over that border. Showcase my flawless butterfly stroke as I glide over the water towards The Beautiful Rock. Stop right in the middle of the hole in the rock, lie on my back and take in this majestic setting in a state of aquatic nirvana. An hour later, I would glide back triumphantly. Nod at the daliyeh divers with that smirk of accomplishment. Jog back up the hill and re-enter the concrete jungle atmosphere that is Beirut having cheated on its man-made cityness with its most natural landmark.

Here's how it actually went: 

I walked down to the Daliyeh, where Beiruti men have swam for generations. I parked my towel, shirt and flipflops on the ragged and slippery rock shelfs that mark the border between Beirut and the Mediterranean. I slipped and fell painfully on my butt ripping my swimming trunks in the process. I got up and pretended I'm fine, held on to a rope and used a makeshift ladder to slowly immerse myself in the waters of one of the most polluted bodies of water on earth. I showcased my flawless butterfly stroke as I glided over the water for about 5 meters then switched over to whatever stroke would move me forward in the choppy sea. A wave threw me against The Beautiful Rock, which –as rocks tend to be– is full of pointy and sharp edges. I climbed onto a little shelf on the side of the rock and assess the damage my skin and flesh has suffered. I held on for dear life as waves try to knock me around. A few minutes later I decided to make a run for it. I huffed and puffed my way back against the current as blood streamed from my arms and legs, and I guess my back too judging by the burning feeling I had there. I didn't even see the daliyeh divers as my eyesight was getting blurry by the time I reached them. My flip flops broke as I struggled back up the hill.  I was so grateful the city had taxis that would drive a shoeless, muddied, and bloodied person home. 

Would I do it again…. abso-fucking-lutely!  Except, I wouldn't be able to. 

The Daliyeh – waterfront public property since life on earth started – is now a property of the Hariris. The fishermen and their families who lived there for generations were evicted and land will be "developed" into an exclusive resort. 

The people at Mashaa have done a great job documenting how Lebanese mafiosos have stolen the "Phoenician" sea...if you care to know more.

*Photo of demolished homes by Marwan Bou Haidar. 

1 comment:

Mary said...

hahahaha! I was always tempted to try to swim when I visited Beirut. I think I'll just consider reading your post as my vicarious swim.