You don't live in Dahiyeh and you've never been there because you are stopped by your parents, or you've been stopping yourself?

But why? The name itself gives away how normal the place is: Dahiyeh is just Arabic for suburbs and is short for Dahiyeh al-Janubiyeh, the southern suburbs of Beirut. Dahiyeh is a common place like any other in Beirut, and the picture that is too-often painted in the media shouldn't affect your judgement of the area or those who live there.

As a person who has lived in the area for 21 years, I've met many people who have misconceptions about this so-called "Hezbollah stronghold."

1. Everybody is Shia/It's a 'Hezbollah Stronghold'

Some even go as far as to think that we are forced into belonging to the sect or political party. That's just not true; there are a lot of Christians in the area, as well as Sunni Muslims who live in Dahiyeh. Also, people are free to express themselves how they like with no outside pressures, the biggest proof of that being the church in Haret Hreik, as well as the mosques belonging to the Sunni sect.

2. There are guns everywhere

This isn't true, or at least no more true than anywhere in Lebanon.

3. It's a jungle of clans and war

People often ask: "How can you live in a place like this? Aren't you scared of the Zeaiter clan and guns and bombings?!" The truth is that in my entire life, a gun has never been aimed at me. And the bombings have been terrorist attacks, not done by people from Dahiyeh.

4. People are "Nawar"

Class ridicule in Lebanon knows no bounds, and people judge those in Dahiyeh because of the social class they belong to, because they aren't "classy." But, the people of Dahiyeh are good-hearted, kind people, and their houses are open to all, and we don't need to be classy.

5. The residents are intolerant of diversity

Then how do you explain the Christmas tree in Haret Hreik? How do you explain the decorations put up by all the shops in the area for Christmas?

6. All women are veiled

It's either that, or they wear a full black abaya. While there are a lot women who have decided to dress this way, there are plenty of women who don't.

7. Women don't dress fashionably

Veiled or not, the women in Dahiyeh dress fashionably, following trends, like most other women in Beirut.

8. You can't wear skirts there

Women in Dahiyeh even wear short skirts and go to mixed beaches, can you believe it? And those who don't are free just like those who do, which is completely normal.

9. It's all a big black market

And everything in Dahiyeh isn't low quality or fake, we actually have a big market of Turkish goods that are of excellent quality. And of course, if you have a low budget, you will find video games and clothes that are fake, but are of good quality either way.

10. There is no law

People tend to think that in Dahiyeh, there is no law and you can do whatever you want without being questioned about it. This is completely false, in Dahiyeh there are traffic laws and the police or army can question anyone they want to. While there are some areas in Dahiyeh where security is controlled by Hezbollah, this is a common situation across Lebanon with many different political parties in many areas – an unfortunate side effect still left from the Civil War.