When AUB Students Mourn Their Homeless Ali Abdallah

Ali - AUB

R.I.P. Ali, 7aram Ali, di3anak ya Ali, I gave him a banana once – these are all things that I saw AUB students say now that their seemingly favorite homeless person passed away.

Ali Abdallah was supposedly an AUB Math professor. He’s also a diagnosed schizophrenic. All of the notions about Ali Abdallah’s life are irrelevant right now. What is sure, however, is that most AUB students mourning right now not only ignored Ali when they passed by him on Bliss Street, they were also disgusted by the fact that he was there: a mad man, always unshaven, always unclean, always there.

How death changes things, right? He’s no longer the figure they can’t wait to look down on as they pass Dunkin Donuts or Abu Naji. He’s “their Ali of Bliss Street” – their homeless mascot whose presence they had gotten accustomed to. Until their mascot was gone.

I will not mourn Ali Abdallah because I, like the absolute majority of AUB students in a state of depression now, never spoke to him, never bothered to know him and never considered him “our Ali of Bliss Street.” I feel sorry for the way he died – out there, alone in the cold, leaning against a cold Beiruti wall.

Some are citing natural causes for Ali’s death. Well, those natural causes are freezing to death in the midst of the worst storm of Lebanon’s recent history. How many of those mourning Ali ever thought about giving him a coat or money for a place to stay or ever tried to help him out? I highly doubt they are many.

For those of you who are touched by his death, there’s another homeless woman on Bliss Street that you’ve been ignoring for many years now. Perhaps it’s time to give her a second glance so you don’t feel sad when the homeless woman you ignored day in, day out ends up dead as well due to the freezing cold.

My thoughts go to all the people of my country who don’t have a roof over their heads in these though times, no one to care for them and no government to provide them with shelter.

23 thoughts on “When AUB Students Mourn Their Homeless Ali Abdallah

  1. Id like to see pictures of you helping “that” woman (Marie) as your next blog post, you seem like the kinda guy who would get of the internet,go out and and actually do something ;)

    Reply
      • so, you won’t mourn because you never did anything to help, and you won’t do anything to help, because you didn’t mourn. Remind us why we should be listening to you? You’re about as useful as…nothing. there’s nothing in this world as useless as your types. there’s nothing I despise more than armchair critics.

        Reply
        • I won’t mourn because like most of the students mourning, I willfully ignored Ali and went away from him when I encountered him on Bliss St.

          I won’t help because 1) I won’t advertise helping. And apparently 2) there are way too many people who are willing now. Good Samaritans everywhere!

          And you know what’s worse than your armchair critics? Facebook shitivists.

  2. i think people will miss him as a landmark…. There was always something romantic about seeing him there,.,,, you don’t have to live with him and give him bananas to miss him…

    Reply
  3. What’s sad, but not surprising, is that generations upon generations of ignorant passers-by have continued to exoticize this man. It is this fear of the “Other” that fueled their excitement at seeing him (for the most part). Our culture has a demeaning habit of “Othering” its own people, who in turn become an inevitable freak show for all to watch and stare. It’s this ingrained bourgeois mentality which produces these false compassions that everyone is so shamelessly displaying by “mourning” a character who used to decorate their perfectly mundane lives. Thank you for your post, at least someone is not bullshitting in this time of grief.
    P.S. Sorry for the rant, but it had to be said.

    Reply
  4. Well Written. It is sad how people only act after the damage is done. we should all unite and give as much as possible to stop this from happening. these are our people.

    Reply
    • Our government should make sure these people aren’t on the streets. I don’t see how hard it could be that they get their “security” forces which are on Bliss Street all the time to round these people up and take them to government-run homes, which should exist.

      Reply
  5. Ali never wanted a home even though he had one. He was homeless by choice. He never wanted to be trapped in walls and he never cared whether you liked or disliked him. He doesn’t seek pity nor sympathy. He was a special guy.
    I used to talk to him very often when i was still in AUB and he often asked me if i’d like to have coffee with him when he wanted me to buy him coffee. Funny guy! Then he’s go have his coffee alone.
    If you gave him money he never took it. Sometimes i used to see him buying sandwiches. I think there was a relative of his who used to give him money and sometimes pay restaurants to regularly give him food. Every now and then he would disappear and then reappear shaved and showered.
    He used Bank Audi as his shelter in winter, and he smoked and made jokes with himself and really needed nobody at all to be who he wanted to be.

    I’d like to remember him as a rebel rather than a poor homeless guy. He wanted to fuck the system his own way. We are just too used to the system to accept it.

    Ali was free from pity and duty and money and anything else. God bless his soul!

    Reply
    • Yes i think that’s true!!! I talked to Ali a lot while i was at AUB trying to figure him out. No matter how many times i asked ” Hey Ali how are you today, Can i offer you anything? He would ask for a coffee or cigarette maximum. He did not want anyone’s pity because his mind seemed like in constant fight with something that him alone can fix, and he was too busy with that he completely lost himself. I also asked him one time “Hey Ali do you have any family?” he said yes i have a wife and three daughters and he actually named the 3 girls, of course we can never tell if it’s true or not – whether they were real or invented – Ali knew he had a family and wasn’t alone. I remember one time seeing him doing some calculations containing lots of numbers and symbols that looked beyond my understanding, he was thinking out loud with a pen and paper inside a small parking lot, and when i asked him hey Ali what are you doing, he said something in the lines of (that was like 5 years ago),”i’m trying to see whether a tank would fit in here.” I did not understand much but that was the maximum he said. And I do feel terribly bad and very sad, I’ve always wanted to find out more about Ali because he was worth knowing, but i never knew him more than that and now he died :(

      Reply
  6. There’s no harm in remembering Ali. It’s with students who never gave a shit about him to suddenly feel like they’re gonna miss him just because he is a Bliss St. landmark.

    Well said Elie!

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Lebanon Has The World’s Oldest Living Olive Trees « A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  8. Pingback: Man’s Death Inspires Solidarity in Midst of Devastating Storm in Lebanon · Global Voices

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