So you’ve decided to visit the Paris of the Middle East? You’ve probably heard amazing things about our history, and even more amazing things about our hospitality. We welcome you! Pack your bags, and hold on tight, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
The last 30 minutes of any flight is usually heaven, you finally get your first glimpse of your vacation destination from an aerial view, what could be more beautiful? When landing in other countries, this time is also usually a peaceful one…not in Lebanon. The Lebanese mother with her 3 unruly French speaking children has lost her patience, and has stood up to start collecting her carry on bags before the wheels of the plane have even hit the runway pavement. Her kids a fighting with each other, and arguing about who will get to ride in the car with Khalo Samir.
Now you’ve landed, it’s show time. You’ll notice that everyone is clapping that the plane has landed. No, this is not their first time landing in an airplane, the Lebanese passengers are simply excited that they yet again have made it safely to enjoy their yearly pilgrimage back to their homeland. If you have Lebanese friends that live outside of Lebanon, you’ve probably heard them on many occasions talking about how they love Lebanon, and that they can’t wait to go back and “Barty on ze bitch next summer!’ and this is probably the whole reason that you sitting and dealing with this loud, and stinky flight.
Exiting the airplane in Lebanon is NOT the same as other countries, the previously mentioned Lebanese mother is now halfway out of the airplane toting kids, and bags, and everybody else is shoving their way to through the aisle with no regard for the “Exit in rows” rule, because, “Khaye, ma bade i3la2 bi 3aj2a 3al secutiry!” but they have no idea that in the end, they will have to wait anyway because, hello! Baggage claim! At this point, you’ll be secretly hoping that the asshole who hit you in the face with his overstuffed carry on while taking it out of the overhead bin, will have to wait an eternity for his checked baggage to come on the carousel.
The security checkpoint, is not really a security checkpoint. It is a gathering place where are the Native Lebanese people get to show off that they have a foreign passport, which they probably got by marrying some poor unaware foreign man or woman. It is customary when a Lebanese person has a foreign passport, for example American, to speak to them only in English, otherwise they will not respond. These people are on a different level than “normal” Lebanese people, because of their possession of something NOBODY else has.
Good for you, you’ve made it out of the airport. Walk outside (ignore the army of families holding balloons and flowers, waving and jumping violently) and take a deep breath! What’s that smell? Eau De Beirut of course.
Make your way to where the taxis are, kidding, they are everywhere, can’t see them? We’ll help you, a Lebanese taxi is ANY old ass Mercedes with a red license plate that has a wrinkled sweaty man in a plaid shirt holding a cigarette driving it. Get in, don’t be afraid, this is the first you’ll witness of our “hospitality”. Tell the man which place you are staying in, and he will take you there. I cannot promise that you won’t have about 150 heart attacks on your way there. During your ride with the taxi man, take some time to enjoy the beautiful sites. Bullet ridden buildings from our recent civil war, tires burning as outraged citizens welcome you in a plume of tar smoke, and best of all slumdog millionaire (the movie) is always playing LIVE in Beirut, brought to you by Syria!
You’ve arrived at the quaint old Lebanese apartment you’ve rented for your stay here. Too bad you packed so much stuff in your bags, because the electricity is out, which means no elevator, and you’ll have to use the stairs. We promise there will be power inside the apartment, thanks to generators. Go on in, sweep up the dead cockroaches, take off your shoes, take a shower, and relax.
By now you’ve noticed that there is no hot water, and no air conditioning inside the apartment.
It’s going to be a long, dirty, hot night until the clock strikes midnight and the electricity comes back. It’s like a reverse Cinderella moment, you were hot, sweaty, and glued to the leather couch by your own sweat, and at the stroke of midnight, the AC came on and you finally felt alive. Until the neighbors from upstairs decided to have a barty. Lebanese parties are a big deal, and it sounds like there is literally a nightclub above your head, and you’re about to order one big champagne. Jino w noto jino w noto, you have no idea what it means, but it’s now stuck in your head, you’re suddenly wearing an button up shirt, with an inappropriate amount of buttons undone, you’ve sprouted chest hair, and decorated yourself with all the gold, and you’re chocking on cologne. What happened? You caught the Lebanese party bug.
Next week we will be giving you a detailed guide on how to make your way around Lebanon as a tourist. Going to the beach? We got you. Checking out the old ruins? We got you.
Maha El Khoury