Mirene Arsanios


Beirut: Your Charm


Years ago, I cheated on an old boyfriend with an Algerian politician. He was older. I was skinny and wore cowboy boots regardless of the season. The politician said he was attracted to me because I smelled ‘hormonal.’ He also said he was a sex addict. What he meant by ‘hormonal’ wasn’t clear to me. It didn’t matter, I followed him to room 208. Sex workers roamed the hallways of the Phoenicia hotel or sat cross-legged in the lobby. Most of them were blondes from the Ukraine or Russia. Some were from Morocco. All were ‘artists’ whose services were exchanged for petro-dollars and jewelry purchased at Harry, an in-house high-end boutique.


According to the General Security (a Lebanese intelligence agency), an ‘artist’ qualifies as: ‘a masseur/ masseuse,’ ‘a barmaid,’ ‘a waitress,’ ‘advertising female’ or an ‘art practitioner.’ ‘Artists’ lives are highly monitored. If you are a female artist you must ‘perform a daily artistic show from 10:00 p.m. until 05:00 a.m. and get one day of rest per week. You must ‘stay in your room from 05:00 a.m until 01:00 p.m (rest hours)’ ‘and you are forbidden to stay in any place other than the hotels and authorized houses unless for exceptional cases decided by the General Director of General Security.’ I’m not an artist. After having sex with the politician twice, I made sure to snatch all the ‘all-in-one shampoo & conditioner’ I could find in the marbled bathroom of suite 208. When I left the Phoenicia it was 04:00 a.m.