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Friday, February 18, 2011

Oud and Tawlet zaher (big bellied guitar and backgammon) on Makhoul Street

So I made it to Makhoul Street (Mak7oul) in Ras Beirut, my street.  Now I understand why older people tend to have that sparkle in their eyes on occasion, a hesitant tear is the sparkle and yet, often, even the tear is smiling.  The sight, the smell and the sounds awaken memories, among other things,  of one's youth, past so many moons and suns.  I guess I had my share of those and found myself at the edge of a sparkle as I entered Makhoul Street.

The Mokhtar's office where I found Abou Faddoul's photo.
Looking at my little street without reconciling between what is and what was is impossible.  In my mind I see and superimpose pictures of the way I knew how things were.  Much of the street's structures and old buildings are gone, some have changed and very little remains the same.

Abou Faddoul and his shop (a pet store in 2010).
The fruit and vegetable vendor still comes pushing a 3 wheel cart using an old style scale.  I talked a bit to the vendor.  Over my stay in Beirut I got to see him set up at different locations.  Once I mentioned to him this old sound that I remember, sounded by another vendor like him:  "sabi3 el bubbu ya 5iar"!  his immediate reaction was: " Allah yir7amak ya .. ".  Apparently not just any vendor would go around calling on his cucumbers the same way and comparing them to the fingers of babies as if the call for the little cucumbers was unique to this man, as if it were a signature call that he, the vendor I was talking to,  associated with someone he knew and had passed on.."May God have mercy on you.. " was his reaction of his friend.

A different look, miss the "jarassiyeh" and the big bell
At the end of the street, Makhoul street and Abdul Aziz street, at that corner a seasonal 3 wheel carter would set up.  Corn on the cob, chestnuts, sour plums (janerik) and salt, green almonds and salt, shaved ice and summer drinks; but the smells that went up the street were those of the corn and chestnuts.  No, no such vendor anymore, not on this corner.

Abou Faddoul had red hair a Oud and a backgammon table, a general store and a bunch of friends, plus a unique air conditioning system..  I lived across the street from Abou Faddoul and looking down through the window I could see him and hear him play the oud often.  On a hot  lazy summer afternoon, the sun would be directly shining on his store but on the opposite side of the street, the sidewalk is shaded by a long wall that fenced in a building used as a public school.  Even though it's shady, it remains very hot from the noon sun pounding on the street's asphalt.  Abou Faddoul would bring a jug of water and with a right to left, left to right motion would sprinkle water on the hot blacktop.  The result is a cooling evaporating effect.  Now, there on the sidewalk, in the shade and the Abou Faddoul air conditioning system, Abou Faddoul and friends sit around a backgammon table.. yalla  habbel yek.

The Mokhtar's office sat at the corner of Makhoul and Jeanne D'Arc streets and recently closed down since the passing of Kamal Girgi Rubeiz.  This is one of the old buildings that remain on the street and there is talk of turning it into a museum of sorts.  The church was modernized and now has air conditionning, The Jarassiyeh is gone and so is the big bell.  The small bell remains for show.  The yellow stone columns were removed, two of them are used behind the church for decoration..

What I miss the most on Makhoul Street is my grandmother's jasmine tree.

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all content ©  Simon Sakkab
Abou Faddoul's photo photog. is uknown. taken with permission.