Sunday, December 31, 2006

Holiday festivity levels … A la Libanaise

Festivity Level 1: You have invited twenty to thirty people from all walks of life you met in the last couple of years doing your work all over the country. They are a true representative sample of Lebanese society. You even went out of your way to insist on inviting the local Hezbollah representative you struck a friendship with doing work in that borderline southern village.
Your guests are chatting amiably with each other, admiring the Christmas tree, some of them have gathered around the oud and piano players and are humming along that western-eastern fusion tune of Jingle Bells. All are enjoying Parfait Amour liqueur, Baileys or Drambuie and of course a panoply of fruit juices and sodas for those who don’t consume alcohol. Hors D’oeuvres specially delivered from Noura(1) are having all the ravings of the ladies without the calorie accounting.
Conversations are very civil and little laughters and “Allah Ykhallik – Allah Yi7fazak” (2) can be heard emanating from around the room.

Festivity Level 2: You notice that the conversation pitch has distinctly heightened. Some guests are talking loudly to each other, some to no one in particular. The Hezbollah guy has moved next to the Baileys bottle. Others are gulping down Drambuie as if it was seltzer water. A group is wolfing down hors d’oeuvres like there is no tomorrow. The oud player has a Stolichanaya bottle hidden under his chair while the piano player has switched tunes and is playing an eerie version of the Pointers Sisters’ “I am so excited”. You can sense that the room has divided into “Aounisti”(3) versus “Moustaqabalista”(4) and the apartment feels warmer just by the heat of the conversation!A woman is rearranging your Christmas tree ornaments.

Festivity Level 3: The guests are arguing violently about which shade of color is better to rule the country. You notice the Hezbollah guy has finished half the bottle of Baileys, you whisper in his ear: “Ya Hajj, this is Irish cream and it has tons of alcohol in it!” and he springs on his feet and screams his lungs out: “Mitil Irish!!! (5) I love the feeling it is giving to my head and yummy yum it tastes greaaaaaaaaaat”.
All your alcohol beverages are out and you notice that no one touched the juices. The oud player has taken a chord out of his instrument to floss out pieces of salmon stuck in his teeth. Although you made it abundantly clear to the musicians that you want them to play that famous Christmas song by George Michael, “I want your sex” was not what you had in mind, at least not for this “holy” occasion. The political debate is reduced to loud blabber even though you see some of the “belligerents” are starting to take pieces of their clothes off.
Noura shows up in person at your doorstep, her hair is a mess, she’s holding a half empty Jack Daniels bottle and she is going on and on about who makes the meanest “Tarte aux poireaux”(6) in town.

Festivity Level 4: The piano player is placing hors d’oeuvres in the piano to try new sounds. The oud player has somehow managed to stick his head inside the oud and he is trying all kinds of sounds for echo.
The woman rearranging the Christmas tree ornaments is now hanging Hors D’oeuvres on the tree. She has set fire to the gifts underneath the tree because she wants you to taste the salmon “Flambé”.
Opposition and pro government debaters are smearing “Paté de Foie” over their naked upper bodies and starting a ritual war dance around the burning Christmas tree.
You dash out quickly to the balcony and find that the “Makhfar Hbeich”(7) patrol is circling around your building as you hear fire engine sirens getting closer.
The Hezbollah guy is making out with Noura in your kitchen after unloading all the items from the refrigerator!!!
You stand there and evaluate the situation for a second and realize that you don’t even remember why you held this party.

PS: If you ever decide to hold such a party, make sure you keep the festivity level at around three!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All of You.

(1) A famous Beirut caterer.
(2) “God bless you”.
(3) A leading opposition party.
(4) Pro-Government political entity.
(5) An Arabic expletive involving male genitalia.
(6) some kind of quiche with leeks and vegetables.
(7) The Vice Squad of Beirut.


shades9662 said...

Hilarious! Excellent post - made my day!

I spent New Year's at a friend's Lebanese restaurant here in London and by the end of it I had the same feeling.

It went through all the phases you described - I left before the fourth (if it was reached). The guy on the keyboards, by level 2 and after several arak shots, started mixing in Julia songs with Nancy and got us wondering whether New Year's marked a new drive for liberation of the south!

The restaurant management decided to hand out small (belated) Christmas packs each with balloons, blowouts/squawkers/horns, and party poppers (1). By the end of it (round about phase 3 verging on 4) the restaurant street windows were misty, the amplifier was malfunctioning, Julia's calls for resistance were mellowed out as a result and everybody was up dancing spastically to whatever lyrics they could make out (a Julia/Haifa/Dabke mixage akhou manyouki).

I was left wondering how the hell they all came together in the first place. I concluded that the crowd was forcibly enjoying itself (with the help of alcohol, cigars and shiny suits) when in reality there was nothing to be happy about (in 2006) and nothing to look forward to (in 2007).

These Lebanese immigrants are staying put for the near future.

(1) Refresh your memory here

laila said...

love this post :)
i would have loved to see levels 3 and 4!
was great meeting you btw

Maya@NYC said...

nice festivities :)... level 5: the guests close down the elevator, refuse to leave and go on strike!

Anonymous said...

w happy new year! (a la libanaise...)

Ana Min Beirut said...

@laila: The pleasure was all mine meeting u. too bad did not have enough time to pick your brains. Maybe next meeting ;-)

@Maya@NYC: Bi hal balad kil chi bi seer...and that's why I love living here.

@Gitanes Legeres: ahlaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnnnnn....
wlak wayn hal ghaybeh....Ichta2na...

Leafless Eve said...

LOOOL Level 4 and up is the only way to celebrate! ghair haik would be a waste

Anonymous said...

aaaaaakh i am laughing so much !! please promise me to publish this blog as a book one day soon, i m sure it would be sold out within a day :-P!!

Anonymous said...

abou hasan c pas a chatila, c a la fin de hamra, a karakass :) sahtein

Anonymous said...

weinak? shtaalenak...

Anonymous said...

i mean shtaanelak

Ana Min Beirut said...

Hi, sorry all for the unfrequent postings in English...but I am having myself a ball writing and "audio" blogging on my other blog in arabic. For those of you who speak and/or understand arabic check it out at Min Beirut bil Arabeh

For those of you who don;t speak it, hold your horses I will be back soon ... very very soon ;-)

Marianna said...

lol, your writings are amazing! im seriously loving your blog!!