Michelle & Noel Keserwany: 3al Jamal bi Wasat Beirut (عالجمل بوسط بيروت)

Video: 3al Jamal bi wasat Beirut – عالجمل بوسط بيروت [official clip] Michelle & Noel Keserwany from Michelle Keserwany on YouTube.

Michelle and Noel Keserwany (ميشيل ونويل كسرواني) are sisters who are singers, songwriters, and visual artists. They have become known for writing songs which cast a critical eye at Lebanese society while retaining an endearingly playful quality. Their breakthrough was “Jagal El-USEK” (2010), which was followed in early 2012 by the whimsical satire “3al Jamal bi Wasat Beirut” (“On a Camel in Downtown Beirut”).

As explained by Noel, there are two ideas behind this song. The first is the surprisingly common belief among those who know little of Lebanon that this country must be filled with camel-riding natives. The second is the reality of the Lebanese capital’s Downtown: an area of high end shopping and dining establishments, effectively excluding those of more modest means and aspirations.

For the video, the Keserwany sisters picked up two camels from Baalbek and brought them to Beirut. They then proceeded to film themselves and the reaction of those around them as they paraded around the glitzy Downtown atop their dromedaries. As explained in the notes to the official video:

“Have you ever felt when going to Downtown Beirut that you’re at the sidelines of some “power” contest where “la creme de la creme” of the population is found parading with their newest cars, trendiest clothes, tallest cigars… And that when you dare enter their perfect little world at the risk of being stared to death, you sense that you’re being deprived of enjoying the beauty of the city?? Well who said that it’s illegal to be less fortunate and go to DT? Better yet, who said it’s against the law to go there riding a camel?!?! A group of friends and us tried to see the outcome of that theory by actually entering the capital city on camels! And that was the reaction! Enjoy!!!!”

Michelle & Noel Keserwany:
https://www.facebook.com/michelleandnoel
https://www.youtube.com/user/MichelleandNoel

“3al Jamal bi Wasat Beirut (عالجَمَل بِوَسَط بَيْروت)” © 2012 by Michelle & Noel Keserwany
Lyrics and translation of “3al Jamal bi Wasat Beirut” are printed here by the Lebanese Arabic Institute with the permission of the copyright owner.

Āanā… baddé kazdir 3aljamal
أَنا… بَدّي كَزْدِر عالجَمَل
biwasaT bayrūt بِوَسَط بَيْروت
Ḱallé llī mā ma3uħ HaĀĀ binzīn
خَلّي لّي ما مَعُه حَقّ بِنْزين
ySīr 3induħ Āamal يْصير عِنْدُه أَمَل
Ḱallé lĀajēnib yunbusTō
خَلّي الأَجانِب يُنْبُسْطو
wĀaḰīran šēfō ljamal وَأخيراً شافو الجَمَل
Ḱallé kill ĀaSHāb lmaHallēt خَلّي كِلّ أَصْحاب المَحَلّات
yi3imlō panique يِعِمْلو بانيك
wikyēs š-shopping tūĀā3 وِكْياس الشّوبِنج توقَع
min Āīd l3ālam š-chic مِن إيد العالَم الشّيك
wilmonsieur lfaḰāmeŧ والمِسْيو الفَخامِة
yiflut min timmuħ s-cigar يِفْلُت مِن تِمُّه السّيجار
“māmī! māmī! HSān!”
‘‘!مامي! مامي! حْصان’’
ySarḰō liwlēd SSğār يْصَرْخو الِوْلاد الصّغار
Āanā baddé kazdir 3aljamal
أَنا بَدّي كَزْدِر عالْجَمَل
biwasaT bayrūt بِوَسَط بَيْروت
wḰallé kill nnēs tğār وخَلّي كِلّ النّاس تْغار
I want to go cruising on a camel in Downtown Beirut
Let those who don’t have the amount for gas have hope
Let the foreigners be happy that finally they saw a camel
Make all the shopkeepers go into a panic
and shopping bags fall from the hands of the stylish people
and the cigar fall from the mouth of the eminent monsieur
“Mommy! Mommy! A horse!” The little children scream
I want to go cruising on a camel in Downtown Beirut
and make everyone jealous
wasaT bayrūt, bijamalé baddé fūt
وَسَط بَيْروت، بِجَمَلي بَدّي فوت
wbén ssiyyārāt jamalé ykazdir mabsūT
وبين السِّيّارات جَمَلي يْكَزْدِر مَبْسوط
wasaT bayrūt, bijamalé baddé fūt
وَسَط بَيْروت، بِجَمَلي بَدّي فوت
wbén ssiyyārāt jamalé ykazdir mabsūT
وبين السِّيّارات جَمَلي يْكَزْدِر مَبْسوط
wasaT bayrūt وَسَط بَيْروت
Downtown Beirut, on my camel I want to go
And between the cars my camel to cruise happily
Downtown Beirut, on my camel I want to go
And between the cars my camel to cruise happily
Downtown Beirut
winzilt kazdir bibayrūt 3aDahr ljamal وِنْزِلت كَزْدِر بِبَيْروت عَضَهْرِ الجَمَل
bšūf waiter 3am biHuTT salad بْشوف ويتَر عَم بِحُطّ سَلاد
biĀafḰam maT3am bibayrūt بِأَفْخَم مَطْعَم بَيْروت
miš 3ārif hōnīk bizzēt مِش عارِف هونيك بالذّات
bijamalé baddé fūt بِجَمَلي بَدّي فوت
wjamalé m3attar ta3bēn وجَمَلي مْعَتَّر تَعْبان
Dārib bibaTnuħ ljū3 ضارِب بِبَطْنُه الجوع
mā huwwe jamal ما هوّ جَمَل
mā fīk tĀilluħ 3an walā šī mamnū3 ما فيك تْقِلُّه عَن ولا شي مَمْنوع
winnēs t3ayyiT witSarriḰ والنّاس تْعَيِّط وِتْصَرِّخ
tirkuD wbiba3Dħā tfūt تِرْكُض وبِبَعْضها تْفوت
wjamalé la3was s-salad 3amahluħ mabsūT وجَمَلي لَعْوَس السّلاد عَمَهْلُه مَبْسوط
Āanā 3aljamal nzilt kazdir wbiwasaT bayrūt أنا عالجَمَل نْزِلت كَزْدِر وبِوَسَط بَيْروت
So I went for a cruise in Beirut atop the camel
And I see a waiter placing a salad in the most eminent restaurant of Beirut
Unaware that that’s exactly where I want to go with my camel
And my poor camel is tired and famished
And he’s a camel – you can’t tell him something’s not allowed
And people shout and scream, run and bump into one another
As my camel was chewing his salad, taking his time contentedly
I, on a camel, went for a cruise, and in Downtown Beirut!
wasaT bayrūt, bijamalé baddé fūt وَسَط بَيْروت، بِجَمَلي بَدّي فوت
wbén ssiyyārāt jamalé ykazdir mabsūT وبين السِّيّارات جَمَلي يْكَزْدِر مَبْسوط
wasaT bayrūt, bijamalé baddé fūt وَسَط بَيْروت، بِجَمَلي بَدّي فوت
wbén ssiyyārāt jamalé ykazdir mabsūT وبين السِّيّارات جَمَلي يْكَزْدِر مَبْسوط
wasaT bayrūt وَسَط بَيْروت
Downtown Beirut, on my camel I want to go
And between the cars my camel to cruise happily
Downtown Beirut, on my camel I want to go
And between the cars my camel to cruise happily
Downtown Beirut
fajĀaŧ bišūfné daraké wbiwaĀĀifné 3alyamīn فَجْأة بِشوفْني دَرَكي وبِوَقِّفني عاليَمين
biĀillé: “3aljamal biwasaT bayrūt بِقِلّي: ’’عالجَمَل بِوَسَط بَيْروت
mfakraŧ Hālik mīn!” مْفَكْرَة حالِك مين!‘‘
Āiltilluħ, “yā HaDrit ddaraké قِلْتِلُّه: ’’يا حَضْرِة الدَّرَكي
sma3né šū baddé Āūl سْمَعْني شو بَدّي قول
Āanā bi3rif HaDirtak أنا بِعْرِف حَضِرْتَك
3an Āamin lmuwāTin masĀūl عَن أَمِن المُواطِن مَسْؤول
bass, mā Āanā kamēn muwāTneŧ بَسّ، ما أنا كَمان مُواطْنِة
wHaĀĀé fūt 3ahalmadīneŧ وحَقي فوت عَهالمَدينِة
wĀanā min 3ayleŧ mitwāD3aŧ وأنا مِن عَيْلِة مِتْواضْعَة
wbalā haljamal mā fīné وبَلا هالجَمَل ما فيني
wjamalé muwāTin SāliH وجَمَلي مُواطِن صالِح
wbiwaĀĀif 3alĀišāraŧ وبِوَقِّف عالإشارَة
mā bidawbil wmā bizammir ما بِدَوْبِل وما بِزَمِّر
wbiĀaTTi3 lmarāŧ lḰityāraŧ وبِقَطِّع المَراة الخِتْيارَة
wjamalé biḰaffif 3aTTabbeŧ وجَمَلي بِخَفِّف عالطَّبِّة
wmā byisri3 fōĀ l3išrīn وما بْيِسْرِع فوق العِشْرين
wrakkabtilluħ numraŧ
ورَكَّبْتِلُّه نُمْرَة
wĀaSlan mā byuSruf binzīn” ‘‘وأَصْلاً ما بْيُصْرُف بِنْزين
Suddenly a policeman sees me and makes me pull over to the right
He says to me: “On a camel in Downtown Beirut? Who do you think you are?”
I told him: “Mister Policeman, listen to what I have to say
I know that you are responsible for the safety of the citizen
But am I not also a citizen, and entitled to enter this city
And I am from a humble family and without this camel I cannot
ِAnd my camel is an upright citizen, and stops at traffic lights
He doesn’t overtake, doesn’t honk, and lets old women cross
And my camel slows down on bumps, and doesn’t go over 20
And I got him a license plate [lit. “number”] and in fact he doesn’t use gas”
tTalla3 fiyyé ddaraké
تْطَلَّع فيّي الدَّرَكي
wmā Habb jamalé min lĀasēs وما حَبّ جَمَلي مِن الأَساس
“bass miš HāTTaŧ s-ceinture”  ’’بَسّ مِش حاطَّة السّينْتور‘‘
jēwabné biHamēs جاوَبْني بِحَماس
“jamalik raH yēkul Zabit wmā tjarbé tiĀna3īné” ‘‘جَمَلِك رَح ياكُل ظَبِط وما تْجَرْبي تِقْنَعيني’’
Āallé bišwērbuħ ssūd wbiDuHiktuħ llaĀīmeŧ قَلّي بِشْوارْبُه السّود وبِضُحِكْتُه اللَّئيمِة
Āiltilluħ, “HaDrit ddaraké llī bitĀūluħ 3arrās قِلْتِلُّه: ’’حَضْرِة الدَّرَكي لّي بِتْقولُه عالرّاس
ĀaSlan mīn byistarjé yĀillak laĀ أصْلاً مين بْيِسْتَرْجي يْقِلَّك لأ
mā 3ajanbak fī rSāS” ما عَجَنْبَك في رْصاص‘‘
wi3Tīt ZZabit llajamal
وعطيت الظَّبِت لَلجَمَل
šēfuħ warĀaŧ, mā fihim šū hiyye شافُه وَرْقَة، ما فِهِم شو هِيِّ
Āām la3wasuħ 3amahluħ
قام لَعْوَسُه عَمَهْلُه
wbala3uħ bikill šahiyyeŧ وبَلَعُه بِكِلّ شَهِيِّة
Āiltilluħ, “HaDrit ddaraké قِلْتِلُّه: ’’حَضْرِة الدَّرَكي
mitil mā HaDirtak Talabt مِتِل ما حَضِرْتَك طَلَبْت
jamalé naffaz lĀawēmir wĀakaluħ laZZabit جَمَلي نَفَّذ الأَوامِر وأَكَلُه لَلظَّبِط
hallaĀ, kint bHibb Dall ma3ak Āaktar هَلأ، كِنْت بْحِب ضَلّ مَعَك أَكْتر
bass waĀté maDğūT بَس وَقْتي مَضْغوط
baddé Āinzal kazdir wbiljamal بَدّي إنْزَل كَزْدِر وبالجَمَل
wbiwasaT bayrūt!” وبِوَسَط بَيْروت!‘‘
The policeman looked at me and he did not like my camel at all
“But you didn’t put on your seatbelt” he answered excitedly
“Your camel is going to get [lit. “eat”] a ticket and don’t try to argue”
He said to me with his black mustache and his mean laugh
I said to him: “Mister policeman, whatever you say must be done
I mean, who would dare say no to you when you have a gun at your side?
I gave my camel the ticket, he saw it as a paper, he didn’t understand what it was
He went and chewed it leisurely and swallowed it with great relish
I said to him: “Mister Policeman, just as you requested
My camel carried out the orders and ate the ticket
Now, I would love to stay with you longer but I am pressed for time
I want to go for a cruise, and on a camel,
and in Downtown Beirut!”
wasaT bayrūt, bijamalé baddé fūt وَسَط بَيْروت، بِجَمَلي بَدّي فوت
wbén ssiyyārāt jamalé ykazdir mabsūT
وبين السِّيّارات جَمَلي يْكَزْدِر مَبْسوط
wasaT bayrūt, bijamalé baddé fūt
وَسَط بَيْروت، بِجَمَلي بَدّي فوت
wbén ssiyyārāt jamalé ykazdir mabsūT
وبين السِّيّارات جَمَلي يْكَزْدِر مَبْسوط
wasaT bayrūt وَسَط بَيْروت
Downtown Beirut, on my camel I want to go
And between the cars my camel to cruise happily
Downtown Beirut, on my camel I want to go
And between the cars my camel to cruise happily
Downtown Beirut

Here are Michelle & Noel Keserwany performing “3al Jamal bi Wasat Beirut” at the Oshtoora 2015 Music Festival:

Video: Michelle & Noel Keserwany | Wasat Beirut | Oshtoora 2015 – ميشيل ونويل كسرواني | وسط بيروت | ٢٠١٥ from Oshtoora – اُشطورة on YouTube.

Arabic learners (especially those at an intermediate level) may also be interested to check out this post by “Team Nisreen”, which analyzes various aspects of the grammar and vocabulary of “3al Jamal bi Wasat Beirut”.

Michelle & Noel Keserwany:
https://www.facebook.com/michelleandnoel
https://www.youtube.com/user/MichelleandNoel