Author and journalist Warren Singh-Bartlett arrived in Lebanon in May 1998 on what was supposed to be a brief sightseeing trip. Nineteen years on, he’s still here. In a candid interview, he talks about his relationship with Beirut and his latest book.
There is no question that Warren Singh-Bartlett is passionate about Lebanon. The author has spent the best part of two decades living in Beirut, where he has successfully released two books about the country. He is not shy in admitting, however, that his unlikely love affair with Lebanon happened by pure chance. “I originally washed up here in 1998 on what was supposed to be a three-day visit to Beirut, Byblos and Baalbeck. I arrived overland from Syria as I was backpacking at the time, ostensibly on my way to China where I planned to work as a journalist,” he recounts.
Making the hop across to Lebanon from Syria seemed like a good idea to the adventurous traveler, who assumed he had nothing to lose from a bookquick side-trip before resuming his trip north to the Caucasus and then into Central Asia. But things did not entirely go to plan and Singh-Bartlett soon found himself captivated, particularly by the capital. “I fell in love with Beirut the minute I first saw it and so I never left,” he confesses.
In 2010, he released his book “Bet You Didn’t Know This About Beirut!” full of quirky facts and anecdotes about the city. “I started writing guide books in 2007, and from that came this idea of writing something about Beirut, a place which is so close to my heart.” In his book, Singh-Bartlett touches upon the culture and complex history of Beirut in an artfully entertaining manner, making “Bet You Didn’t Know This About Beirut!” a fun and light-hearted read for tourists and Lebanese alike.
His most recent project is a part guide, part photo book titled “Getting Lost in Lebanon.” Chronicling Singh-Bartlett’s journey around Lebanon, it contains more than 150 pictures, some of which he captured during a month-long walk with the Lebanon Mountain Trail in April 2016. Although the photos were intended for his Instagram feed, he decided to publish them after a number of his followers commented that they would like to see the images in print. “What you will find illustrates purely personal interests, which tend towards Lebanon’s wilder places, its architecture and history,” he says.
Singh-Bartlett’s affinity with Lebanon is inspiring to the point that one forgets he is not Lebanese. He talks of his “stubborn desire” to see the country get back on its feet and re-establish itself as a Mediterranean paradise. “For a small part of the world, Lebanon packs a disproportionate punch thanks to its position, lengthy history and cultural diversity. I find it endlessly fascinating, despite the many, many drawbacks there are to life here. Most other countries seem terribly boring in comparison!”
“Getting Lost in Lebanon” is available in bookshops around Lebanon and online through Amazon, Bookwitty and FNAC.