When do you belong to a city?

When do you belong to a city?
When does a city belong to you?
Is it when you switch three languages in one sentence?
Is it when the small shop across the street still sports a hand-painted sign?
Is it when the shop next to that is owned by the sister of your husband’s cousin’s neighbor?
Is it when you check out how many walls protect you from the outside whenever you enter a new space?
Is it when you can still see the place in the wall that the shell pierced twenty years ago?
Is it when you still miss the pictures of your parents’ wedding that were destroyed in the fire after the shelling in 1989?
Is it when you can no longer see the sea from your mother’s balcony?
Is it when the new building blocks the trees from the Sursock palace?
Is it when you miss the street noises and traffic jams?
Is it when you learn the potholes in your street?
Is it when you learn the potholes in your sidewalk?
Is it when you learn to walk the city without sidewalks?
Is it when you forget that you can call the police station if your neighbors are still partying at 3 in the morning?
Is it when you miss the call to prayer from the minaret downtown?
Is it when you realize that you do not know your neighbor’s name in a new city?
Is it when your neighbors brought you bread every day so your father wouldn’t risk being kidnapped as a Christian in “predominantly muslim West Beirut”?
Is it when the jasmines entice you with their fragrance in the early evening?
Is it when the sea promises safe haven?
Is it when the lightning against the horizon is God’s own fireworks?
Is it when your balcony is bathed in sunlight like no other?
Is it when no other city can ever be home?

Habiter Beyrouth? Parcours d'Ecriture

Mishka Mojabber Mourani's picture

Mishka Mojabber Mourani (aka Marie-Christine Mogabert) was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of a Greek mother and Lebanese father. By the age of six she spoke several languages, including French, Greek, Arabic and Italian, but English was the one most used in her multicultural family. Her love of reading and of writing began at an early age. At the age of 10 she moved to Beirut with her family, and a few years later they emigrated to Sydney, Australia, where she finished high school and joined Sydney University. She returned to Beirut and completed a BA and MA in English Literature at the American University of Beirut. In 1989 she edited and co-authored a series of books on the teaching of English entitled Highlighting the English Language Program. In 1991 Mishka Mojabber Mourani published a poetry collection – Lest We Forget: Lebanon 1975-1990.

Last updated September 02, 2011