Hamada/Amanda, 38 years old, He/His/She/Her
Hamada made up the stars. His Instagram account of more than 66,000 followers is populated with faces of Middle Eastern stars whom he has touched up with his renowned makeups. With his associates, who are like his adoptive family, they founded a design agency. Together, they renovated a nineteenth century traditional Lebanese house (circa 1845), in the trendy district of Gemmayzé, a stone’s throw away from the mythical Beirut port.
They divided the space into two parts: A private apartment, with a majestic façade consisting of three fully glassed arches that let in a soft light through multicolored squares, and an office with vintage mirrored walls, thick, bluish and beveled.
Hamada performed miracles with his hands. He even gave them each a name, H & M, and often introduced them jokingly as his best friends.
2020 was a bad year for business: Pandemic, cancelled contracts, closed airports, severe devaluation of the national currency, revolts in the streets and governmentally imposed sanitary restrictions.
When we asked Hamada/Amanda to tell us about the events of August 4th, he repeats over and over the numbers 4 and 8, like a mantra, and then proceeds:
“The 4th of the 8th is a date that I will never forget. It is the day of my death, or perhaps my birth. It is the day of my resurrection. It is like a dream, or more like a nightmare, one that will haunt me until the end of times.
My last work contract was in Riyadh, completed a few months ago. I was jaded and discouraged by the economic situation and the impossibility of finding more work.
On the morning of August 4th, Dory, my associate and great friend, asked me to join him right away in the office. We had just received an offer to develop a new conceptual design for a center in Dubai, a rare new contract, the first one in quite some time. This news was the most beautiful celebratory gift, arriving right at the eve of Dory’s birthday. And we planned to celebrate!
We got together, we congratulated each other, we put on some music and started cleaning the office. We were happy and confident.
We broke for lunch at Noon and ordered a delivery of the most delicious dishes from the best restaurant in town.
Early that evening, a loud detonation filled Beirut’s sky. Nothing to worry about, we thought. A fire somewhere in the city, or a plane breaking the sound barrier. Regardless, it was not the time to panic about what was happening elsewhere, it was the time to celebrate what was happening to us.
A second explosion followed, and the multicolored windows of the three arched façade right behind me disintegrated and morphed into projectiles that lodged into my shoulders and back. I was thrown across the room. The beautiful and rustic mirrors adorning the office walls, 3 to 4 cm thick with their magnificent bluish color, found my front, tearing up my face and belly. I was wrapped by the shattered glass in an excruciatingly painful embrace, and it would not let go. At that moment, I could not utter a single word, except to scream in agony: YA MAMA!
But no one in the world could help me.»
Hamada and Amanda
Hamada and Amanda always coexisted together, in the same person, according to the needs, desires, logistics, the social and professional circumstances.
Before the explosion, it was Hamada who was protecting Amanda. Hamada worked, had lucrative contracts, provided for Amanda the most beautiful clothes and accessories. Hamada told us: Amanda is the Barbie in me. Hamada has hands that know how to draw, Amanda is the inspiration and the muse.
After the explosion, it became the other way around. Amanda now protects Hamada.
Amanda explains: “The confessional and parochial society that we have here refuses to accept homosexual people. However, this same society reveres women. Hamada is dead, one can see it clearly in the photos. He’s dead. So Amanda saves his life. People are merciless. They judge people on their appearance, and they have more affection for women. If they see Amanda, they will have compassion towards her, they will help her. They love women. If they see Hamada, they immediately refuse to understand.”
I’m 100,000 injuries
“Obviously, I lost my health. I had a shard of glass in my eye, which I had to remove myself in the emergency room at the hospital, because no one had the time to take care of me. I still have pieces of glass in my body that could eventually become carcinogenic. Above all, I lost the use of my hands. I often think about suicide, I tried it 3 times. It is unbearable to have all your mental faculties intact while being unable to manage the use of your body. This hand that gave me my career and my professional reputation can’t even grab me something to drink any longer. At times I even thought about cutting it off, maybe because it’s hurting me, or maybe because I blame it for refusing to help me.
Even more difficult is this other terrible aspect: the family.
The explosion caused a lot of collateral damage. It’s like a house of cards that came tumbling down, my life’s house of cards that got tossed in the air with the Beirut harbor. My past, my achievements, everything I had built…not just the material part but also my friendships, my career, my family ties, everything crumbled…
My family and friends can no longer stand who I am because I am no longer a source of income or gifts to them. They “tolerated” me being different because I had money.”
About Hamada’s hands
“I must confess that of all the pain I felt in my body, the pain in my hands was the most unbearable. They are the ones who gave me Hamada, my career – and when I think how much they have suffered, I feel twice the agony because they are my best friends. I hope one day my hands could shake each other, and I could work again. That is all I want.”
Hamada/Amanda to Lebanese politicians
“What does social security mean in this country? I never asked for anything from anyone. I lived off my work, paid taxes, took care of my family and my employees, and YOU blew up the port and my whole life.
I have been without income for 9 months now. I sold everything I own. I can’t sleep at night, I have shards of glass in my body. I can no longer continue like this, I have nothing left to give. I am judged, blamed and held accountable for my suffering, for something that was inflicted on me, that I have not caused.
Who blew up my house? Who knocked down those walls on my head and lodged the pieces of glass in my body? I am not responsible for all this.»
An ophthalmic surgeon agreed to operate on Hamada/Amanda pro bono. However, there is no one to cover the minimum costs of the preoperative tests. Hamada can’t even afford to pay for the transportation to and from the hospital.
“I need to get both hands functioning gain and have my eyes healed so I can get back to work – I will take care of the rest of my scars later. I can bear all the suffering and wait as much as I need to, just let me have back the use of my hands and sight…
I could post a single photo of myself on my Instagram account, and I would get help right away. But customers will know I have an eye injury, difficulties using my hands and I risk never to land a contract again. It would end my whole career.
Those of my clients who are aware I was a victim of the beirut port explosion think I am recovering, in physiotherapy or in the process of healing. But the truth is I am dying, not recovering. I don’t want to lose my career.»
6 months rent, transport, food, clothing: CAD 6,000
Mobile phone: CAD 700
Surgery and physiotherapy: CAD 15,000
Total: CAD 21,700