But then what do you do when your heart is a place that’s just a bit too expensive? That’s a question I’ve had to deal with after coming to Beirut. It’s always hard moving to a new city and having to look for a place to stay, when you have absolutely no idea about where in the city you would like to live. In my case I’m not sure if it was a good or bad thing that so many people I know seemed to have an opinion about what neighborhoods are the nicest and what reasonable rent is.
Beirut is split into two parts; the mainly Christian East Beirut and the more Muslim West Beirut. Thereby not saying that either area is very religious or that you can’t live in one place if you belong to the other religion. Without traffic it takes maybe ten minutes to go from one end to the next by car. But with Beirut traffic 30 minutes to an hour isn’t unlikely.
Most nightclubs are located in the Eastern half. But the Western half has its fair share of cool restaurants and bars. In the East you hear a lot of French, whereas the West is more English. And while the East is often described as a playground for Lebanon’s young elite, the West is influenced by the big universities here and the many foreign correspondents,that were based here during and after the civil war.
While in Denmark I tried to be quite open about where to look for apartments. Seeing that my memories of Lebanon mainly consist of sounds, smells and tastes I wasn’t really biased one way or the other. My childhood home is in West Beirut, so naturally my mother couldn’t imagine me living any other place. But I’d spoken to a few Danes who’d all lived in the East and where very happy with that.
Once here I again tried to keep an open mind. My priority was finding somewhere cheap and with an extra bedroom for visitors. And part of me was really hoping that I would take to East Beirut and find a nice apartment there (by the way – despite being the playground of the rich, East Beirut is also a tad cheaper to live in… Go figure). I guess I thought I would somehow seem more independent and grown up if I preferred a different area than the one my whole family and plenty of friends used to live in.
But I didn’t. After having been here for almost two weeks and spending time in both areas I simply have to admit that my heart is in West Beirut. And that should be where my home is.