Even though I find it quite difficult to concentrate and read books when flying (
not that kind of flight!), I still can’t explain the fact why I grab no less than 2 or 3 books from the duty-free every time I do so. Probably because that’s one of the few quality moments I get in my life to properly browse subjects of interest and by the time I find a quality book I’m bound to buy it out of curiosity. But what was new this Saturday is that I bought a book which I completely finished inflight and was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t longer!
I was returning to London after a throughly enjoyed short visit to Beirut and while browsing through the highly interesting stack of books at the duty-free bookstore I narrowed down my choice to two books. The first was one that I had been meaning to read for quite a while now, the highly acclaimed ‘Beirut’ by the late Samir Kassir, a befitting choice! The second was one that had caught my eye instantly thanks to the extremely simplistically detailed illustration on the front. At a mere 179 pages, ‘Bet You Didn’t Know This About Beirut’ is just the sort of book that I was lacking in my library. The sort of artistically motivated ramblings (in a good sense of course) that a western journalist who has been living in Beirut for quite a while goes on about, well at least that’s the impression that I drew initially. Tough choice, so I went for both.
I knew nothing about Warren Singh-Bartlett, but I was sold by the light-hearted tone the author (or publisher possibly) described themselves. That tone was kept through the whole book, at points I found it hard to contain my laughter. This wasnt the highly intellectual deep fact-finding books that I sort of wished it was, but what it lacked in depth it made for in the sheer amount of interesting facts most of which an average Lebanese would be oblivious about. This was exactly the sort of material you’d like to read over a cup of coffee, possibly sharing it with mates and having laugh out loud moments. From a clarification on Lebanon’s actual size (surprised to know it wasnt really 10,425 km2), to the sheer absurd (did you know you could hire professional mourners in Lebanon called niddebeh?! And did you know that Beirut’s Roman motto was Beirut: Mother of Laws?), to the pleasantly surprising (Lebanon has its own two strands of wild orchids!), the book is the perfect addition to the discerning Lebanese connoisseur’s and foreigners’ libraries alike. It’s got all the quirky info you’d love to text your mates about claiming you knew them because your such an awesome Lebanese and they’re not – typical.
All that said, the book does have its downfalls. Many of the facts are kind of paper fillers really, do we really care that some guy called Anton Elias Lubbos who gave his home in Rio to the Portuguese king at the time turned out to be a hoax? But hey you never know, one Lubbos might be bragging about that guy one day and you’ll have just the right proof that his claims are bogus!
Suddenly it dawned on me, it was only 1 hour in the flight and there are only 10 pages left to read, result?! Shame I couldn’t start texting up in the air though.
Check it out, the book should be found in all major Lebanese bookstores, do drop a comment on your favorite facts if you do grab a copy.