Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hotel Luxe by Vartan Gregorian

Hotel Luxe by Vartan Gregorian

Quoting from Vartan Gregorian’s book titled “The Road to Home”, pages 65 and 66, (2003).

“Once in Beirut, I had stage fright. My Persian, Armenian, Turkish, even some Russian, proved insufficient as a means of communication. One of my companions on the IranAir flight came to my assistance. He helped me change Iranian rials to Lebanese pounds, negotiated the cab fare for me, and gave the driver the address of my destination in Beirut: Hotel Luxe. “Which one?” the driver asked. I said, “The one, the famous one. It is a well-known hotel.” The driver shook his head. “I know about the location,” he said, “but I have never heard about Hotel Luxe.”

After a wild taxicab ride and an inquiry or two, the driver located the Hotel Luxe. It was in one of the busiest sections of the business district. Buried among a myriad of signs was a discreet, small sign indicating the exact location of the hotel. It was on the fifth floor of a building and was reached by a crude elevator. The hotel had six or seven rooms and a nice, large, airy rooftop terrace. The owner, Mr. Toorigian, and his family lived on the top floor. The kitchen served the family as well as the guests. It was a lively Armenian hotel. In the evenings, it served as a gathering place for several writers, or backgammon, and discuss a variety of pressing national and international issues. It was sort of modern-day salon.

The hotel’s rooms were occupied by visiting writers, teachers, and businessmen from Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. I was the first guest from Iran. I handed Mr. Maloyan’s letter to Mr. Toorigian. He extended a warm welcome and gave me a room, and asked me to join him, his family, and guests for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The guests, all Armenians, spoke the western Armenian dialect. I spoke the eastern one, but we understood each other. My first night in Beirut was depressing. All of a sudden, I felt alone in the world. I was in a faraway place, in a strange city and strange hotel and bed, uprooted and transplanted to follow the unknown. I had neither friends nor acquaintances.

My first two weeks in Beirut were memorable even though I was alone and lonely. I found the city intoxicating. It was my first encounter with a foreign metropolis, a seaport, and ships. I experienced, for the first time, the distinctive smell of the sea, and the oppressive late summer heat and humidity of the city. This was offset by the clean air and gentle breeze of its beautiful nights.”

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