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Being Dark Skinned in Beirut

Wednesday, 30 May, 2018

Adesh, Adesh?” shouted the first driver in the line-up of five cars beside me. As I walked on the sidewalk, drivers shouted, “How much, how much?” It was only my second week in Beirut, and I had been told the slang for maid was “Sri Lanki.” I wondered if the accosting had something to do with the fact I’m Sri Lankan.

I’ve lived and travelled the Middle East for years. The first time I moved to the Gulf I was soul-ridden from seeing the migrant domestic workers (MDW) that looked like members of my family and the community I grew up in. There was the Sri Lankan maid who’d knock on my door asking if I wanted her services, the Filipina women pushing strollers, running after Arab children, and the Bengali woman sweeping close to the table I sat at with my white and Arab friends. I’d always smile, almost embarrassed if I was wearing short shorts in front of an aunty, guilty for my company with white expats and the Arab majority. I knew while the organisation I worked for held my passport for three months, theirs were held for years.

Full piece by Priya Guns