By the end of the first week we had also got ourselves a flat, without too many major hitches. A slight misunderstanding on the issue of the contract (we didn’t think we were in one) led to a full on shouting match between a Lebanese friend who had been helping us and the landlady – Malek – who speaks Arabic with a slight impediment and English, well, interestingly. I arrived home from a dip at the university beach (yes, the university has its own beach, which is rolling pretty hard in my book regardless of the fact that its made of concrete) to find we’d been told to leave.
However, three of us managed to approach Malek a little later and smooth things over. We knew we were back in with a shot when she pulled out some, guess what, Marlboro Reds, and handed each of us one. Matt was put on the phone to her uncle in America and an agreement was come to. 6 months up front were needed though, so a lot of trips to ATM lay in wait.
It was also more expensive than I had expected, even coming from London, where ‘housing crisis’ is a very nice way of putting it. The same thing seems to be happening in Beirut as back home, where plenty of apartments are being built, but they all seem to be super-luxury developments for ‘young professionals’, even though as little as $1000 per month is a reasonable salary for a graduate here. In a way though, we got a lot more for our money than at home – Malek has so far been happy to help us out with any repairs or sorting things out, we didn’t have to so much as look at an Estate Agent (Satan’s little helpers), we are allowed to have parties (see an upcoming post), and we have a ludicrous balcony that you could march troops on. On the 5th floor, it seems inevitable that we will get stuck in the Rocky Horror Picture Show lift (Fabrique en France a 1874) during one of Beirut’s regular power cuts at some stage, but all in all, the two Richards and the two Matts are pretty pleased with our pad, which is under 5 minutes walk from AUB and close to the cosmopolitan Rue Hamra – West Beirut’s main street.
We even have an H&M right nearby but, as the graffiti helpfully reminds us, should not use it since it ‘supports the occupation’ by virtue of its Tel Aviv branch. In general I certainly have my own opinions, but don’t tend to get directly involved in these kind of things, particularly when you can get $15 chinos, but after this guy’s speech at the UN I think I’m going to wait a while before I venture in:
A Highlight: Matt seeing a girl in some serious Islamic dress impatiently asking for Fifty Shades of Grey in Antoine’s Bookshop
A Lowlight: Truly getting into the spirit of things at the supermarket, buying bacon and a huge tub of Nescafe with a $50 note
Beautiful Lebanese Women Forecast: The storm is gathering before the semester begins
Sweeping Orientalist Statement: Lebanese arguments soon descend into cathartic shouting matches