Neighbours and Neighborhoods
I spent a lovely evening at a little bookshop yesterday, literally a one-room bookshop on a side road off of Jeanne d'Arc street. The shop owner is an old friend of mine from college days, Adib Rahhal. He has made it a a warm painted yellow, mustard-coloured shelves and shades of ochre. It is a tiny place, but he still managed to include a coral coloured arm chair and a couple of wooden stools to sit and browse the wall-to-wall books. Music is always playing the background, some soft guitar or soulful vocalist.
People walk by. They might wave through the glass window or step in with a greeting. Often, they pick up a conversation from wherever it was last left off. Enquiries about some new publication or rare edition. If you happen to have time for a visit, he will make some hot tea.
People who stop by are quirky-looking and clearly passionate about something or other. Discussions about life, cinema, music, literature interweave. A Dance Mag, an experimental journal on movement that my friend Jana al-Obeidi created, for instance, is something that he's happy to stock. And the lovely illustrated stories by Luqoom created by my childhood buddy Racha Mourtada. And the beautiful poetry by one of my favorite painters, Afaf Zureik, published by Rimal Books. And so much more... jazz, poetry, psychology, politics, love.
Adib is like a chivalrous gentleman from the days of yore. He listens thoughtfully and generously. Sometimes, our mutual friend Mira Minkara, famous for her Tripoli tours and her love dramas, delights us with a visit. And my sister-from-another-mother Rayan Kahale .comes by as well, taking a break from work.
While the vast majority of his books are in English, he does make some exceptions for a few Arabic publications. For instance, the Ghassan Kanafani series. And independent publications, like the archival research on Arabic musical heritage by my friend Bassel Kassem.
Somehow, this little bookshop is a sanctuary of sorts, and a mosaic of beautiful things. I love coming here. It feels like the loud rush of chaos comes to settle. Chaos is fertile, but it can be exhausting. And so, Adib's little book shop in the middle of Hamra feels like arriving to a lake-side park bench. As I was leaving, I thought to myself, how lucky am I to be in Beirut and to have such friends.
A fellow human, tuning in.