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Zena el Khalil, a young Beirut-based female artist, writer, and activist who had an unconventional but worldly upbringing growing up in Lagos, Nigeria and attending art school in New York, returns after 9/11 to her familial home of Beirut and its mountains, beaches, food, music and drugs. Beirut, I Love You, spanning from 1994 to the present day, brings Beirut to life in all its glory and contradictions and is filled with personal anecdotes of Zena's life there: a place where, in spite of the pervasive desire for hope and the resilience of its people, still bears deep scars from the Lebanese Civil War and the Israeli invasion of 2006—a place where plastic surgery and AK 47s live side by side and nightclubs are situated on rooftops in order to avoid car bombs. Yet Zena and her friends, in particular her fellow rebel Maya, refuse to accept the extreme poles of Beirut, the militias and gender restrictions on one side, hedonism and materialism on the other. And although Zena experiences tragedy and loss, her story is a testament to the power of love and friendship, and the beauty of her city and its inhabitants.
Written with an honest, profound simplicity, Zena is intoxicated by the country’s contradictions—“Lebanon was, and always will be, schizophrenic”—and attempts to come to terms with her role among her friends, family, and city.