A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Baramkeh Garage: gateway to Beirut.

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 8, 2006

A Lebanese friend of mine is currently working on an Islamic bank launch in Damascus, traveling back and forth between Damascus and Beirut. I wrote out a list of not-to-miss restaurants for the la riba IT team to enjoy in between programming bouts, and the exercise made me acutely homesick, or perhaps home-away-from-home-sick, since neither place is truly my home.

Before my friend A introduced me to the pleasures of crossing the border with a private driver, I used to go from Baramkeh, in a banana-boat service. The trip has nothing to recommend it: big old smelly cars, lots of waiting time before, during, and after the trip, and (for the petite among us) traveling smushed in the front seat between an often generously proportioned driver and an equally robust passenger.

But for me Baramkeh, like O’Hare, is a sweet memory. I loved being in the middle front seat, listening to the driver recount his memories of the civil war, or the passengers argue over developments in Iraq, and loved that no one seemed to mind when I joined in. Most of all, I loved going to Beirut for the weekend to visit friends, and I loved coming ‘home’ at the end. once over the border at Masnaa the hills always sang to me: you are almost there, and my heart thrilled to hear them.

After the fallout from Hariri’s assassination, many of the drivers repainted the signs on their cars. Instead of Beirut, they wrote Chtaura, the town just over the border in the Beqaa. The yellow bananas were too distinctive to take into a city of people so incensed with Syria. The new signs made me sad – visible proof of the ground level consequences of decisions made at the national or international level. But many banana services do still go all the way to Beirut – like the ones below, one of which I took back with a friend on my first reverse trip – a weekend in Damascus and a return to my home in Beirut – last spring.

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