A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

Eid eve delights: dinner w friends and graffiti reading :)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 12, 2007

Last night I had a very delightful dinner with K and three of K’s friends (including Michelle Woodward of Photo Beirut) at Spaghetteria, the old-school Ayn El Mreisseh restaurant next door to the posh (and paying-for-the-atmosphere pricey) Casablanca.


The food was good, and the service sweetly attentive – and the view over the Corniche was unbeatable (even by Casablanca, where the scene on the Corniche interests patrons nowhere near as much as the scene inside the restaurant!).

But as the logo (which looks nothing like the restaurant’s sign or menus) suggests, Spaghetteri’s heart lies with the spaghetti joints of the 1950s. The entrance features a set of slightly sagging blue vinyl banquette seats, and to enter the main dining room you pass the manager/cashier (seated at a little desk) and a very vintage revolving dessert display case, which last night was taking three lonely creme brulees on an endless carousel ride.

I think my great-uncle comes here, I whispered to K as we walked in.

Your great-uncle comes HERE? K asked, no doubt wondering why I had never before mentioned having local relatives.

Well not here here, I said. But if he did live in Beirut, he would definitely come here. Spaghetteria has that kind of feel to it – memories of swinging nights of cocktails, “macaroni” and bouffant hair-dos.

Our bouffant-free table stayed there for nearly three hours, talking and laughing and enjoying the promise of a Friday off. G called twice – once just past the two hour mark, and once just before we left. You’re still there? he asked the first time. You’re still there? he asked the second.

After we left, we wound our way back up towards Hamra via two sets of “secret” staircases that K knew (I guess they’re not secret to people who live here, K said while pulling out a flashlight so the stair-challenged among us – i.e., me – could make our – i.e., my – way without falling.).

Michelle has taken a number of photographs of Beirut’s graffiti and has made an effort to get in touch with local graffiti artists, so when we came across a wall rich in images, we stopped to take a look.

Some were familiar, like the head-in-the-sand ostrich that is all over the part of Hamra just south of AUB. We spent some time pondering what double-entendre “2arnabeet” could be, since it was graffiti’ed in the same block print font as the less ambiguous “fist me” and since the artist hadn’t stenciled any other vegetable names on the wall.

Finally, we came upon one with two lines of text, repeated at intervals on both sides of the street.

What do you think this means? M asked. We all stepped back in hopes of making the blurred dots and letters clearer.

The bottom line says: Ain El Mreisseh – behind the mosque, I said, but I can’t figure out the top. We puzzled over it for a few more minutes, coming up with translations for each of the top line’s three words, but unable to make sense of them as an ensemble.

Mmmmm, K said sagely. How about: steps of identity for rent?

It fit, kind of – we had just come up a staircase, and presumably there was a mosque somewhere nearby.

This morning, woken by the 7:00 Eid prayers, I looked the words up in my favorite dictionary. Not quite as rich in symbolic meaning as K’s suggestion, but perhaps more useful for people in need of cheap wheels:


means: Antenna Motorcycle Leasing.


9 Responses to “Eid eve delights: dinner w friends and graffiti reading :)”

  1. Aha! Thanks for figuring that out. I hope someone clarifies the double meaning of cauliflower…or maybe I don’t want to know. I enjoyed your description of Spaghetteria and, of course, getting to finally meet you.
    enjoy the holiday,

  2. You know M, I remembered something vaguely political about 2arnabeet – and googled it. “Thawret al-2arnabeet” comes up several times on the Tayyar (FPM) discussion boards, as a critical term for the 2005 intifada/”cedar revolution”. (Actually, the Ouwwet boards use it once or twice as well, but obviously with less positive connotations.) I see that Abu Kais (Beirut to the Beltway) attributes the term to Sulaiman Franjieh: http://www.beirutbeltway.com/beirutbeltway/2007/08/aoun-gets-help-.html, second paragraph.

    So maybe the meaning is political, not sexual 🙂

    It was great to meet you and W too!

  3. Moussa said

    Franjieh did call it thawret al-2arnabeet in an interview i watched (i think, if my memory serves me, with M Ghanem). 2arnabeet is a derogatory name given to the cedar especially if the name caller is addressing an ultra-nationalist-lebanese who exalts the cedar.

    about the ‘darrajat el hawa2iyyeh’ the ‘el hawa2iyyeh’ here does not refer to antenna. hawa2iyyeh is an adjective derived from hawa2 meaning air. this adjective is used for bicycle since they do not use fuel like motorcycle. it is like saying: they run on air 🙂

  4. Oh Moussa, thank you! I wondered about the air vs. antenna and actually spent quite some time googling “air motorcycles” and “antenna motorcyles” as well as the Arabic term. I went with antenna because there ARE such things as antenna motorcycles – single and dual. I suppose if I were a motorcycle rider myself I would have been quicker to realize.

    As for the 2arnabeet/arz connection, FASCINATING. So if I want to take someone who goes on and on about the cedars of Lebanon down a peg, I call them cauliflowers. I could see the same for the bald eagle – saying to someone who goes on about US symbols of patriotism that ‘oh, you’re making such a fuss over a big old bird’. good to know :)!

  5. Moussa said

    yes, for the cauliflowers 🙂

    and i forgot to mention that antennas are called hawa2iyyat because their are raised up in the air (u know what i mean) 🙂

  6. Jam said

    I have to admit, I am fairly amused by the analysis of the possible meanings of the stencils 🙂
    “Ta2jir ad-darrajat al-hawa2iyya” simply means “Bike Rental”, and below it is the adress of the bike rental place in Ain el Mraisseh. It’s basically a stencilled ad 😀
    And about ‘2arnabeet’, it might as well be just a random word with no particular double-entendre.
    What do you think?

  7. Bill said

    I kinda agree with Jam. These words are not as clear cut as some other works like. Ones like the man wearing a tarboush is pretty straightforward in showing the boredom of listen to politicians. The people pulling the plug on the news in Achrafieh shows a similar sign as well. 2arnabeet however, may be a political statement or it may be nothing more than a funny word. (It really is one of the funnier arabic words) Either way they are cool pieces that give Beirut the character it has, show a side of Lebanese culture, and are always conversation starters.

  8. Roger said

    I think its political 🙂 This generation in Lebanon is very educated and the artist is probably deeper than just a normal tagging. BUT!! There are some pieces, like the stencils of leaves on the stairs in that area, that arent as deep. These stencils are obviously just the marks left by a bored sexually frustrated youth.

  9. Phoenix said

    Not everything has to be political. It might be randomness for the sake of randomness. Does anybody know if there are any other sites or blogs about the graffitti in Beirut?

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