It was a saturday night in Lebanon, at around 10pm as we headed to Gemmayze, an area in Lebanon that lights up at night, resident to a few party owls. Music walks alongside us as we waltz down its mildly cold streets, barely lit up with big flickering red bar signs and the light glow of the moon. You can hear everything from Jazz to the latest pop hits, bass sounding as rough as ever and coordinates with the heartbeat of every pass-by, I think that’s why people find the street so addictively beautiful. We were so usually surrounded by disappointment on many levels. To break them down, you get to march down a road where laughter is the only repetitive hammering sound you hear after the loud bass drops.
We walk into Leila’s café in a pleasant little corner of the loud street, where all the food starts coming in on large trays firmly held on young and stressed waiter’s arms. The display of food was surprisingly interesting, it was a very traditional lebanese feast with a hint of modern to the mix.
There was a lebanese singer equipped with a “oud”, a pear-shaped stringed instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music, and a cute little black hat. He sang everything, from old to new, vibrant to mélancolique, the café was so crowded people could hardly stand, but they were able to clap and sing to every song he played.
The smoke from the “argileh maassal” was filling up the room with its sweet scent and I could hear every joke and burst of laughter surrounding me with a cheerful mood, when suddenly a young and very attractive couple came in the crowded scene and sat on their own little table near ours. They were significantly different from the rest of the jubilant audience, mostly over their forties and their second drinks, they snuck in like a flame and spread like wildfire all throughout the café. As the singer was strumming on his “oud” singing a very famous song, the man threw his scarf and the table, and the lady took off her jacket and rested it on her chair as she put Her hand in His, and jumped with excitement for a dance.
He took her to the middle of the café twirled her around to the music, left to right. She took charge, and so did he, and in their own clever little way they fought through dance, one pressuring the other but never really winning, only creating a charming back-and-forth battle-like effect. They mixed a little salsa with folkloric lebanese “dabké” moves and it was so captivating to watch. Soon it wasn’t the singer, the food or the street that was the center of attention, but these two breaths of fresh air that had the passers stopping by for a good look at what was going on in Leila’s café that Saturday night.