Almost all our parents tell us about the days when Lebanon was the golden country of the region. They tell us about the days when Beirut was called the Paris of the Middle East. They tell us about “Sahet Al Burj” (now Martyr’s Square in Downtown) and how lively it was.
We also heard stories about the train that used to run in Lebanon. I, for one, have a family member that worked as a train conductor back in the days.
But for all they are, these tales remain as they are – stories – of a long lost past that we try to make out pictures for in our mind.
How about a real-life video of Lebanon in the 1960’s? Well, there’s just the thing. And it’s a few minutes long, done by Harold Baim for the BBC. Bank Audi’s ad about the importance of the “lira” apparently took a scene straight out of this.
I, for one, had a sad smile as I watched this. It made me proud to know that my country was simply this awesome at one time. It also makes me really sad that it’ll be very difficult for us to get this back.
Women wore bikinis to the beach and didn’t care to be filmed. Jounieh’s bay actually has green spaces. Beirut’s skyline isn’t full of useless ugly high-rises. Perhaps the only place in the video that still looks pretty much the same is the gorgeous Lebanese North – mostly because it is one of the country’s most underdeveloped areas.
But who or what are we to blame? our go-to-for-blame sectarian political system? Absolutely not. We only have ourselves to blame: letting foreign armies into our land to govern us, not having any futuristic approach regarding civil planning, selling land to whoever and however, demolishing Beirut and turning into an identity-less concrete mess – even building inside cemeteries.
We may not be able to turn the clock. But at least you can stop the hurt before it runs deeper than it does today. Maybe it’s time to lessen the endless political bickering and focus on laws that help us preserve whatever identity we have left.
Former culture minister Salim Warde had a great initiative regarding this, one that got shoved into the depth of some bureaucratic drawer as his government toppled. This legislation is something we terribly need right now.
“Without roots and heritage there is no future,” Warde said. Perhaps by having tangible proof of ours, we can work towards saving our future.