I remember when I first went to Ahwak ben Tafesh in late 2012. I was reluctant to visit. I figured the place was definitely over-hyped. Why would I want to visit the go-to place of Tripoli’s liberal crowd?
How wrong was I?
I remember being captivated by the restroom. It was filled with graffiti, the most surprising of which was a sentence scribbled at the top right corner saying: “your lack of scientific knowledge is not proof that god exists.” Someone later on scribbled out the word god. I guess blasphemy is somewhat haram even on bathroom tiles. But these exchanges are all kind of peaceful and refreshing.
I’m not a coffee person so I don’t visit Ahwak for the beverages which are, based on my modest experience, quite good. What they serve, however, and I find exquisite is their carrot cake. It’s homemade and all kinds of awesome. Simply put, it got my carrot cake-hating brother to become a fan. Now isn’t that saying something?
Soon enough, Ahwak became a regular stop in my increasing Tripoli visits. During my latest stop, I was greeted by the main worker there enthusiastically, asking me about my extended absence. I had become a customer. This visit in question was this past Saturday, post Iftar in Tripoli. The place was packed. Some were discussing religion, it was Ramadan after all. Others were discussing politics, which is of vital importance in Tripoli, a city torn apart by the military ramifications of these politics.
Across the street from Ahwak, religious people were exiting the Mosque after the Ramadan Tarawih were done. The women were wearing long flowing robes as they walked by the cafe goers, returning home. The men huddled together, possibly talking about fasting. It was a peaceful scene. It was a beautiful time.
But that didn’t last.
On Sunday July 14th, around 11:30PM, the cafe goers at Ahwak were surprised to see a bearded man who had been released from jail a few days ago storm the place with a few of his henchmen. They sacked the place searching for the presumed alcohol that Ahwak served, which is non-existent. They were disappointed not to find any. But they didn’t stop there. Before leaving, after having terrorized every single person in that cafe, they told the employee that the adan from the mosque off the street will ring higher and higher to drown out the infidels in this cafe across the street.
The thugs then rode their vehicles away. They had done their damage. They will never be caught or questioned.
We can voice our support however we want to the owners of the cafe at hand. But what good does it make when it’s their business that’s in danger, when some ignorant dimwits might – at any given moment – stop the place from existing because it doesn’t fit with their retarded view of how Tripoli ought to be?
What good does it make to say that this too has passed when this might repeat in a worse fashion, at another cafe or store, at Tripoli or any other city in this country? What good does it do to milk a silver lining out of this when the people causing such mayhems are protected by even bigger thugs who might be MPs, ministers, prime ministers or has-been politicians wanting to reclaim their glory days?
Till when should the overwhelming majority of the people of Tripoli, which finds these people to be disgusting and repulsive, suffer and have their reputation suffer just because someone decided that personal liberties contradict with his view of the world?
This isn’t about alcohol. This isn’t about Sharia. I’m sure most of the people in Tripoli will rise against Sharia implementation in their city or this country before any of us blog, tweet, Facebook or do anything about it. However, what protects cafe places like Akwak which, in them being different, give a better view of their city – a nicer view? What protects the people whose only weapon is a few coffee beans and some divine cake when they face men whose weapons are presumably protected by some divine entities? Till when should the people of Tripoli worry about going for a coffee or grabbing a burger or doing anything just because someone out there with means finds it unacceptable?
Ahwak, I am one of your infidels. And I’ll see you soon.