Listen to my interview on “Life in Beirut”

So I recently met with the cool Harry Darkins, journalist and producer at RFI, and chatted with him about gay life in Beirut, as part of the “Life In Beirut” series. Check out the interview below or on the RFI website:

Spoiler alert: I say Lebanese Penal Code 543 instead of 534. Sorry, Helem. “543” just sounded better.

Kareem (part 7 of 10)

Continued from Part 6

kareem 7

“Babe, where do you put the sugar?”, Joe yells from inside.

“In the cabinet next to the fridge”.

I’m sitting on my bed wondering what to do. Should I go meet Charbel at 3 pm…or shouldn’t I?

I promised Joe to stop acting shady. I don’t know what to do.

Joe enters the room. “Hey. come inside, I made you cornflakes”.

There we are. Eating cornflakes like a real couple living together. I just hope it lasts this time.

“Kareem, we should do something tonight. Let’s go out to Bardo”, he says.

“Umm… I don’t know…”.

I hate that place. All the gays gathered under one roof. I, especially, should not go there.

“Come on, we never go out together. Me and you. Bardo. 10 pm. We have some wine. It’ll be a nice change”.

“Babe, you know I’m not comfortable with places like these”.

“You told me you used to go to gay places a long time ago. What changed?”

“Okay, you know what? Let’s”.

“Fuck yeahhh!”. He gives me a kiss, then stands up and says: “I gotta go. I’m late for uni”.

We walk over to the door and kiss.

“See you tonight!”, he says.

“See you habibi”.

After I shut the door, I realize this is the guy I love. I have to stop what I’ve been doing…at least for now.

I send ‘3pm Charbel’ a text message: “I’m sorry, I can’t make it today. Maybe some other time. Take Care”.

What a relief. I’ll just spend the afternoon catching up on my studies.

When the clock hits 10 pm, I head to Bardo.

Joe’s already inside. My taxi drops me off and I start to panic.

What if someone sees me? Someone who knows me. But I have to try to get over it and move on with my life.

I’m already getting weird looks and whispers from people outside of the pub. I don’t know if they recognize me, if I’ve fucked them, or if I’m just being paranoid.

I see Joe sitting on a table. I come up from behind him and kiss the top of his head.

He turns around: “Habibi…”. He stands up and kisses me.

“You okay? It’s not that bad, is it?”, he asks.

“I’m okay. Don’t worry”, I assure him.

We spend around an hour drinking wine, talking about us, laughing. It felt good. For a second I thought I could leave it all behind me.

As he smiled and laughed, I was thinking…should I confess to him what I’ve been doing behind his back? Will it hurt him? Will he appreciate me being honest? Or should I just shut up and let it go?

Then someone bumps into me. A 40-something year old blond man.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he says.

“It’s alright”, I smile back.

Then it seems like he remembers me.

“Hey! Omar.”

“Shit”, I think to myself. I don’t remember this guy. But he clearly remembers me.

“No… I’m not Omar”, I reply.

He looks at Joe, then looks back at me.

“Oh, sorry. My bad”, he says, and goes and sits at a nearby table.

I am embarrassed. I can’t believe I thought this night would go without a hitch. He’s probably talking to his friends about me . About what we’ve done together.

I get up out of my seat.

“Babe, I’m not feeling well…I gotta go”, I tell Joe.

“Wait, what? But…”, he says.

I just head straight out. I can’t take it anymore. I need to breathe. I walk as fast as I can to grab a taxi.

Joe runs after me yelling: “Babe, come here. What happened? Was it that guy? It’s okay. He thought you were someone else”.

“I do know him”, I reply.

“What do you mean?”, he asks.

I don’t say anything.

“Kareem, did you fuck that guy?”, he asks.

“Yes… a long time ago”, I reply.

“Then why does he think your name is Omar?”, he asks.

“Because he paid for it”.

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Read Part 8 here.

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Kareem (part 2 of 10)

Continued from Part 1

kareem part 2

While I’m stuck in traffic for two hours, I fight the urge not to check Joe’s “last seen today” on Whatsapp. I’ve been trying to get a hold of him for two days now. Guess when Salim asked me about my “boyfriend” today, I should have just answered: “Oh, he thinks I’m the worst person on earth and threw a drink on my face last Saturday”.

I used to be so honest. When did I stop? Funny… used to hate people who lie. I mean, I still do. But I guess I understand it now that I’m older. It’s just easier to lie. Pain-free.

I crack under pressure. I send him yet another Whatsapp: “Please reply”. It’s fine, I’ve already sent 7 of those. I can’t get lower than this, really.

His “last seen today” changes to “online”. Good. He’s reading the message. Then his status goes back to “last seen today”.

Fuck. He’s not replying. I don’t blame him. If I was in his shoes, my instinct would tell me to run away too. But I just want him to talk to me. I wish he could give me another chance.

I reach this guy’s place. Very fancy high-rise building, actually. I have to call him up so he meets me at the entrance, which is gated. Instead, he sends his maid. Such a gentleman, I know. But I get it. He doesn’t want to be seen walking into his building with another guy.

15th floor. Penthouse suite. The maid escorting me opens the door and makes me sit in the living room. Marilyn Monroe portrait. Audrey Hepburn painting. Can you get gayer? This guy must be a queen; an ugly-ass 45 year old balding gay guy who’s not my type.

Then suddenly I hear…

“Sorry, I’m late”.

I look over my shoulder and he’s standing there, wearing a jeans and a flannel, drying his hair (yes, a full set of black and grey hair) with a towel. A bit hairy. Has a beer belly. Just what you expect from a… 45 year old.

“No, it’s alright”, I say. “Love what you’ve done with the place”.

“Really? You don’t think it’s too gay?”, he says while smiling.

Gorgeous smile. White teeth. Didn’t see that one coming. How is this guy single? Well, I don’t really know if he’s single. Everyone fucks around these days.

I stand up and approach him. “Well, it would be if there was a picture of another queen somewhere”.

He points at the table behind me; a framed picture of Madonna.

“Ooookayyy…yeah you’re really gay”, I say. He laughs.

“So anyway, Hussein”, I come closer to him. “Are your maids filming this?”

He cracks an awkward giggle. “Are they?”, I ask.

I put my hand on his crotch. Semi-hard. Must have forgotten to wear underwear.

“Always. I have a whole collection”, he says.

“Wow, you said that with such a straight face”, I reply.

I bring my head closer and whisper in his ear: “But I hope it’s true”.

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Read Part 3 here.

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Kareem (part 1 of 10)

Wanted to write 1 blog post about 2 guys meeting at a party. Ended up with an 8-part story.

Thought it would be interesting to write a story from a homophobe’s perspective. Ended up adding more layers to him than I expected, eventually feeling sympathy for his tortured soul.

Two weeks ago, I started writing a story about Kareem. Ended up with 10 parts.

Truth is… I can’t shut the fuck up.

Enjoy this one.


“You think he’ll call?”, I ask.

No answer.

“I think he will. He always does. He loves me, doesn’t he?”, I try again.

No answer.

“You’re just a stupid little cat with no answers, aren’t you?”. I give up.

Finally… a “meow”.

I grab her.

“But you’re my stupid little cat. Come here”.

Bisi’s the only thing that’s not judging me right now, unlike my boyfriend. Oh and that nosy neighbor on the 5th. And even if it is judging me, there’s no way of knowing it is. That’s something to be grateful for.

It’s 7:55 am and I have a Forensic Medicine exam in exactly five minutes. But I know I won’t be late. I’m never late for anything. Ever. Learned it the hard way. Time is money. Plus it helps that my university’s right across the street.

I walk out the door. A hop, skip and a jump away from a homeless man on the street and I’m in AUB.

Needless to say, I ace that exam. I always do.

Luckily, my bladder didn’t explode after holding it in for two hours during the exam so I head straight to the bathroom.

I do my thing and walk out.


I turn around. He’d been waiting for me to get out.

“Kareem, kifak? Long time!”, he says.

“Heyyyy Salim”, I say.

“Where you been? It’s been ages!”.

“It’s been two weeks”, I respond.

“Well, yeah that’s AUB for ya. Fuckin hell. How’s your boyfriend?”

“Joe? He’s doin well, man”, I reply.

“Gosh, I haven’t seen him in…”

“Ages. Me too. With all the studying… I’m not being able to see anyone”.

“Well, let’s be honest you’ve never been the outgoing type anyway. We’ve known you for 3 years and we’ve hung out for what… three times?”

I smile. “You’re right. I’m just always busy”.

“Well, anyway. We should do something soon. I’ll hit you up. Say hi to Joe.”

“Sure, wosil”.

It’s always the same story. People telling me I’m never around. And it’s the truth. I’m not. But how could I? I look at Salim as he walks away. He’s actually a great guy. Too nice. Under different circumstances, we could have been great friends.

Suddenly, my pocket vibrates and wakes me up from my daze; a reminder on my phone titled “Hussein Jnah 10 pm”. Ah, phone reminders. How did we get through life before you? With all the shit goin on, I don’t know how I would function without my alarms.

I rush home and get ready for the meeting.

The usual. The trimming. The shaving. The waxing. The grooming. The gel. The clothes. It’s hard to be gay. The hard part is trying to make it look easy. But I guess with each meeting, it gets easier and easier.

I look in the mirror. He’s gonna like this.

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Read Part 2 here.

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