A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

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

eyes on YOU

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 19, 2008

As H and I were heading off today on an afternoon adventure (more on that in the next post!), we started to feel a bit self-conscious. Like we were on display, maybe – or like we were being watched:

These eyes are incredibly popular with taxi drivers around the region – and to me they capture an essential part of Levantine culture: the staring.

When I first moved here, back in early 2006, I was invited to an elaborate dinner party given by an old friend from New York. I knew almost no one at my table, but ended up having a delightful conversation with a Saudi woman who married a Lebanese man and has lived here for several years. She told me one of the most useful insights about the country I have ever learned (although a bit less entertaining than my friend’s “helpful hint” that a real Lebanese man looks at a woman’s pedicure before asking her out on a date. Badly maintained toes are a no-go, at least in his social circle).

This is a staring culture, she told me over the main course. It was a real shock for me when I moved here – in Saudi Arabia staring is considered extremely rude. But here everyone stares, and no one bothers to hide it.

She was absolutely right – this is a staring culture. I don’t really like it, especially the egregious starers, who stop whatever they (and the they is almost always male) are doing so they can devote their full attention to watching me. But I do get a huge kick out of the decorative eyes.

We got a kick out of this car as well, although we couldn’t quite figure out its message:

“One eye is as good as two when its a TURBO”, perhaps 🙂 ?


3 Responses to “eyes on YOU”

  1. You are perfectly right, Diamond. Staring is definitely part of our culture. The is even a term commonly used in Lebanon: “saybit 3ayn” that means the eye curse of the jealous…

    Not only staring, talking loud, making signs with the hands and whistling in the street are also part of Lebanese culture. And in modern times came honking, and shooting in the air…It is an extrovert loud culture.

    Have you notice also the little shoe on service/taxi cabs, it usually comes with the eyes. Sometimes on trucks, there is a proverb written in arab with the eye.

  2. Tfeh! said

    Once again I agree with Kheir. I remember trucks that use to haul goods from Syria to Lebanon and vice-versa; those were something to see with slogans painted on all sides (3ein al hassoud la tassoud, baba la tasra3 fa al mama bi intizarak….ect) pictures of “Sabbouha” (along with some half naked ladies) on the sun visor.
    Lebanon sure does enjoy some varied cultural facets.

  3. Tfeh, too funny! The trucks/cars I’ve seen do have slogans on them, but they tend to be “clean” – mostly religious admonitions. As for the half-naked ladies, truck drivers in the US have historically been big, big fans of that “art” as well 🙂

    Kheireddine, you are right – Lebanese culture is loud! But so is Italian culture, Greek culture, etc. I think there really may be something to the idea of a common Mediterranean elan 🙂

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