I welcomed in 2012 in great (if chaotic) style, partying with my family, visiting from England, in the streets of Hamra and enjoying the balmy 18 degree night air. We took some beers and went to wander around the busy streets of Hamra, finishing up in one of our favourite night spots. Known as ‘The Alleyway’, is it a little back street just off Hamra’s main street. Car free and covered on both sides in little bars, all abutting one another, at night the patrons spill out into the alleyway itself which is always filled with a laughing, drinking, singing, chattering crowd.
The people who had gathered to welcome in 2012 were a mixture of men and women, old and young, Lebanese and foreigners, but what united us all was the excitement in the air – and a rather spectacular display of feathery masks, sparkly hats and sequinned fancy dress items which ran the gamut from odd to trendy to beautiful to plain hilarious.
As the key moment approached we checked our phones for the time, wondering if there would be any sort of countdown or whether we just had to take an average from our own watches. We could hear loud music from at least different 3 bars, but no sign of anybody keeping track of the real time.
At about 3 minutes to midnight (by our estimation) a group near us began counting down from ten. It caught on with a few people nearby, and about 15 people yelled ‘Happy New Year’ and raised their glasses in celebration. A few minutes later a much louder countdown started somewhere in the crowd to our left. This time it caught on with almost everyone, and we joined in, thinking it was the real deal. When the countdown got to one the whole crowd, by this time several hundred people’ gave a cheer, and everybody hugged/kissed or gave a friendly punch to those nearest to them, according to their preference. We did our cheering and drank to 2012, and had just started to talk about other things when another countdown started. This time two men on opposite sides of the alleyway, each standing on a table, lead the countdown, leading us to think they might actually have the real time after all. One again the crowd went wild, everybody cheered and we drank to 2012…
Two minutes later another countdown started. The amazing thing about the arrival(s) of 2012 (of which there were many) was that each time the crowd was just as excited as the 2 or 5 or 10 times before. By the third or fourth countdown we were all laughing hysterically, and I still have no idea which countdown heralded the real second of change from one year to the next, if any. Neverthless I think I like the Lebanese way better than the more organised street parties in Edinburgh or London. For one thing it’s warmer – and for another everybody had a lot of fun – lots and lots of times!