The Birds of the Holiday Inn
The events of the novel take place at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war (1975-76), when the war began to dominate the daily lives of people and large numbers were forced to leave their homes. Beirut was split into West and East. The fiercest battles were fought downtown, where the largest and most famous hotel in the city stood, the Holiday Inn. Most Christians were expelled from West Beirut and the majority of Muslims from the East, while the militias of the Lebanese Forces, the Tigers Militia and the Guardians of the Cedars took over the mainly Palestinian refugee camp of Tel Zaatar, where a terrible massacre took place.
The heroes of the novel all live in the ‘Abd’ building in Ashrafieh (East Beirut) and through their stories we are given a glimpse of Lebanese life at the time, and the experiences of isolation, fear, chaos caused by armed groups and kidnappings on the basis of religious identity. The book portrays the sufferings of everyday life and the tragedy of families searching for their loved ones who have ‘departed and not returned’. Memories of those who disappeared are still alive today, along with the hope that one day those lost will return.