Christoph Peters: what Beirut is all about…

Christoph Peters

Christoph Peters

I still have no idea what Beirut is all about, even after twenty hours walking these city streets, passing from quarter to quarter, my feet aching and the sunburn on my forehead growing bright. Posters of Hassan Nasrallah and assassinated Rafik Hariri peer from walls between half-naked models in Louboutin high heels, displaying Gucci bags or Prada purses. Waiting on the traffic lights, I watch long, black beards drop to men’s chests while across the street enhanced breasts spill from low-cut blouses. Beggars and bankers stand cheek to cheek in front of the same facade adorned with bullethole ornaments, signed by Mr. Kalashnikow himself. To my left, the former bazaar is now a mall built of marble and high-grade steel, but no one seems to buy anything. A silver Ferrari races between an old mosque and a new church (or the other way around). There are no more donkeys. This is how a thousand and one years of European Oriental dreams end. I know behind the mountains there is a war, a war that by next summer or winter might will destroy this whole rebuilt city. Perhaps they’ll wait till spring — that would be a better time for the return of the donkeys. Or all the ancient certainties of true love and true hate, one God or three persons, sinners and saints, will be transformed into real riches and real poverty by a new generation of shimmering Jinn living in silver bottles handmade by the best Bangladeshi craftsmen for the Lebanese branch of Hermés… Again: I have no idea what Beirut is all about, but it’s clear that there will be a kind of future, even if we aren’t entirely sure we want it to come.