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Beirut, I Love You


Beirut, I Love You: Booktrailer for Zena el Khalil - Posted by Zena El Khalil, August 29, 2010

Beirut I Love You is Zena el Khalil’s rollicking yet tender memoir about living in a city that thrives on contrasts and contradictions.

This is the story of Zena, a young woman who has fallen under the spell of a city that threatens to engulf her in war, grief and love affairs.

In the streets armed militias carve out their territories, while ragged construction workers rebuild the city. Refugees sleep five to a bed as bleach-blonds wend their way to the next drug-fuelled supernightclub. At any moment, the bombs will start falling.

Meanwhile, Zena and her best friend Maya must try to make sense of their lives amidst the craziness, and negotiate the city’s many obsessions including cosmetic surgery, husband hunting and Kalashnikovs.

As honest as it is forgiving, this artist’s memoir pits love and art against the ever-present threat of war.

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El Khalil brings the city and its current events to life through personal anecdotes about loss, tragedy, friendship, life as a young woman in a polarized city, and love for this conflicted, beautiful place she calls home.

Gwyneth Paltrow / 

Available Translations

Lebanon, Lebanon edited by Anna Wilson (Saqi Books)


This collection of writing and drawings – from some of the world’s leading authors and artists – was put together to support the children of Lebanon after the outbreak of war in July 2006. The contributors include:

Etel Adnan, Adonis, Paul Auster, Hoda Barakat, John Berger, Abbas Beydoun, Raymond Briggs, Carmen Callil, John le Carré, Jung Chang, Hassan Daoud, Mahmud Darwish, Margaret Drabble, Moris Farhi, Simone Fattal, Robert Fisk, Lara Frankena, Maggie Gee, Mai Ghoussoub, Charles Glass, Fabio Guzman, Malu Halasa, Mona Hatoum, Tobias Hill, Aamer Hussein, Nada Awar Jarrar, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Peter Kennard, Judith Kazantzis, Mazen Kerbaj, Zena el-Khalil, Hanif Kureishi, Doris Lessing, Toby Litt, Madi, Jean Said Makdisi, Alberto Manguel, Yann Martel, David Medalla, Adrian Mitchell, Blake Morrison, Beverley Naidoo, V. S. Naipaul, Alexandre Najjar, Adam Nankervis, Greta Naufal, Shirin Neshat, Rebecca O’Connor, Orhan Pamuk, Hadrian Piggott, Harold Pinter, Clare Pollard, Mohammed Rawas, Rhea, Claudia Roden, Marisa Rueda, Kamila Shamsie, Hanan al-Shaykh, Owen Sheers, Anna Sherbany, David Shrigley, Iain Sinclair, Souheil Sleiman, Ali Smith, George Szirtes, Arnold Wesker, Brian Whitaker, Hugo Williams, Zapiro.

All profits from this anthology will go to Lebanese children’s charities.


Buy here: al Saqi bookshop

An intimate challenge, to which the most knowledgeable of readers should rise.

The Daily Star


It is not often that a publisher responds to an unfolding tragedy with such a diverse and effective offering as this anthology.

Arab Banker

Beirut Noir edited by Iman Humaydan (Akashic Books)


Translated by Michelle Hartman.

Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies, launched in 2004 with Brooklyn Noir. Each story is set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.

Featuring brand-new stories by: Rawi Hage, Muhammad Abi Samra, Leila Eid, Hala Kawtharani, Marie Tawk, Bana Baydoun, Hyam Yared, Najwa Barakat, Alawiyeh Sobh, Mazen Zahreddine, Abbas Beydoun, Bachir Hilal, Zena El Khalil, Mazen Maarouf, and Tarek Abi Samra.

Most of the writers in this volume are still living in Beirut, so this is an important contribution to Middle East literature—not the “outsider’s perspective” that often characterizes contemporary literature set in the region.

From the introduction by Iman Humaydan (translated by Michelle Hartman):

“Beirut is a city of contradiction and paradox. It is an urban and rural city, one of violence and forgiveness, memory and forgetfulness. Beirut is a city of war and peace. This short story collection is a part of a vibrant, living recovery of Beirut. Beirut Noir recovers the city once again through writing, through the literary visions of its authors 

“From within this collection of stories, a general attitude toward Beirut emerges: the city is viewed from a position of critique, doubt, disappointment, and despair. The stories here show the vast maze of the city that can’t be found in tourist brochures or nostalgic depictions of Beirut that are completely out of touch with reality. Perhaps this goes without saying in a collection of stories titled Beirut Noir. But the ‘noir’ label here should be viewed from multiple angles, and it takes on many different forms in the stories. No doubt this is because it is imbricated in the distinct moments that Beirut has lived through and how they are depicted in the stories.”

Buy at Akashic Books

In Zena el Khalil’s gorgeous story, “Maya Rose,” the spirit of a stillborn girl explores the city’s coastline, from the war-scarred buildings to the network of lonely streets and death to come, where anything may yet be possible, even second chances.

Michael Kazepis /
World Literature Today

Arab Women Voice New Realities


The discourse of Arab women speaking out, refusing to be silent, and voicing their experiences, is alive and ever-growing. Arab Women Voice New Realities presents an archive of living, breathing stories of women making promises and confessions, women coming to terms with traumatic pasts, negotiating complex present realities, and imagining alternative liberating futures. This collection attempts to bridge the gap among women writers, seasoned and novice. It spans a large geographical space, uncovers the depth of distinct experiences, and ultimately offers a platform for voice and visibility to the new Arab woman. These stories are instantiations, records, and they will never be told in the same way again. Seldom do we get the chance to see a literary project through in a relatively short period of time, especially one which involves many writers, translators, artists, designers and publishing members.

Contributors: Zena El-Khalil, Inaam Kachahi, Adania Shibli, Amany Al-Sayyed, Aisha Isam, Irada Al-Jubouri, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Raya Hajj, Youmna Bou Hadir, Shahd Al-Shammari, Fatima Mahmoud, Fatima Bdeir, Huda Al-Attas, Gabi Toufiq, Zeinab Al-Tahan, Mishka Mojabber-Mourani, Nisreen Sinjab, Reem Rashash-Shaaban, Yasmina Hatem, Nadia Tabbara, Sima Qunsol, Cyrene Bader, Zeina Abi Assy, Hind Shoufani, Rima Rantisi, Zaina Erhaim, Hafsa Bouheddou, Yasmine Haj, Rula Baalbaki, Michelle Hartman, and Amahl Khouri.

Publisher: Turning Point Books, November 2017 Co-Editors: Roseanne Saad Khalaf and Dima Nasser Format: Paperback, 304 pages ISBN: 978-9953-972-06-0 14 x 21cm RRP: $16/ 24,000L.L

The stories that greet the reader at the door are from the first section, titled Bold Journeys. The opening works are by three well-known authors: Zena El Khalil, author of the popular Beirut, I Love You; prize-winning Iraqi novelist Inaam Kachachi; and acclaimed Palestinian author Adania Shibli.

El Khalil’s Grace sketches a portrait of the black hole that remains after a friend’s death. The piece shuttles between Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon and the protagonist’s trip last year to India.

This is not about the moment in the news – the 2006 bombing – but what comes next. At the time, it seemed like the entire world was interested in her life, even wanting to help. But the day the media stopped reporting, moving on to a different crisis somewhere else in the world... people like her were left behind.

The National

Beirut. Day 41.


Collection of essays and photographs documenting my exhibition, "Sacred Catastrophe : Healing Lebanon." 

During the exhibition, I curated 40 days of workshops and activities around the themes of healing and reconciliation. One of the questions that kept popping up from viewers of the exhibition was... "What do we do on Day 41." This book hopes to share some thoughts and perhaps even plants some seeds inspiring the way forward. 

Comissioned by Fondazione Merz. Published by Hopeful Monster. 2019.

96% Love 4%Beirut :: Zero :: Śūnya


Commissioned by the Fondazione Merz and Liban Art, I produced a limited edition artist book (500 unique copies).  The box set includes a hand-bound book of my poem 96% Love 4% Beirut :: Zero :: Śūnya in English and Arabic as well as a limited edition art piece which includes 24 prints and 1 original artwork. The poem, written over five years, depicts the journey I undertook in order to create the works shown at my groundbreaking solo exhibition in Beirut entitled “Sacred Catastrophe: Healing Lebanon.”

The paintings in this limited edition box set were made in my father’s family home in Hasbaya. His home was occupied by the Israeli army for over 20 years and used as a military detention center until the liberation of south Lebanon. In May 2000, I was able to visit for the first time. In July 2017, I painted these pieces on my father’s 70th birthday.