Amongst the hustle and bustle of every day life and the youngsters’ busy nightlife in Gemayzeh, lies a small shop, a very small Dekeneh of 3m x 4m. Fahed Bou Dagher owns a small grocery shop located just before Joe Penas on Boutros Dagher Street. He sells chocolates, biscuits, chips, soft drinks, nuts, a little bit of alcohol, cigarettes, and some other random things like Hummus cans, Picon cheese, and ice cream.
Fahed’s been living in Gemayzeh since 1976. He opens his shop religiously every day at 9 am in the morning and closes it at 12 am at night. He has been doing that 6 days a week for the last 10 years, 15 hours a day. If you want perseverance, here you have it in a friendly face and a loving man. If you love Gemayzeh as much as I do, walk in and ask him about it. He knows everything about everything. Everyone’s story, every street, every corner, every person, family, every home, and every building has a story that he knows.
We used to live around the corner from him and everyday as we walked by, Fahed used to sneak a lollipop or a Unica behind my back to my son as he told him “Adam habibi hayed 2ilak, shuuu, ma t2oul la 2imak,” (Adam, habibi, this is for you, don’t tell your mom). My son’s face would lit up with joy as he would take it quickly and hide it in his little pocket, giving him the biggest smile possible. Of course I had to go along with the plan pretending to see no evil, say no evil, and hear no evil.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of Gemayzeh, a wonderful kind man has been living there for the last 40 years, going to work faithfully. I love those stories of hard working Lebanese people. Not any hardworking Lebanese, but the ones that carry on with life with a smile, like Fahed. When I asked him what is the one thing he loves the most about Gemayzeh, he smiled and said, “I have no social life because of my work, I work long hours, but I love Gemayzeh. It’s my life. It’s the people that I love. We are all a family. I wanted to have my own business and “kattir kheir Allah” (with God’s praise) l am happy. Family surrounds me. ” As he finished his sentence, the butcher’s son from around the corner walks in and Fahed greets him with a big loud, ‘Ahhhlllan bi Abou Greij.’
I love Lebanon’s people. I love its little communities, for they are its backbone. There is nothing more beautiful than a man confident with his work, respectable wage for a hard laborious week, unsung heroes that make this country rich. Rich by the way they are, not the things they have, just like Lebanon. Fahed as a man has made it in life. He has raised 2 beautiful daughters and gave them a happy life. He smiles because there’s nothing to frown about. He works hard so he can do what he does today. He is who he is and that’s the way it is, as beautifully simple as it sounds.
Because it’s been 2 years that we moved out of Gemayzeh, but every time I pass by there, Fahed shouts from across his desk “Karrouna papitto, walla shti2na, waynik” (nickname of endearment for a daughter, where have you been. We’ve missed you), I #livelovelebanon and I will #fighton.