The Week I Lost Hope in Lebanon

It is a sad moment when you find out that even though you belong in your country, you simply don’t fit there. This past week had this revelation thrust upon me. I belong in Lebanon. But I do not fit.

It started with me blogging about the Batroun cocaine scandal and my parents getting inundated with phone calls for me to pull the article offline. Some of those calls had been from a high-ranking priest. Others had threatened to pull their political strings. My parents got so worried about my well-being that they couldn’t sleep that night. I had to abide. It seems that there’s a limit to what you are allowed to say even when it comes to littlest things such as writing a harmless, nameless post about an issue that’s affecting my generation. But it doesn’t stop with drugs.

Everywhere I look, I am faced with the reality of people so untouchable that the mere idea of mentioning them would make me lose sleep. I am not a coward. But it’s just the way things are. In fact, I think I am automatically limited in Lebanon to the confines of what is allowed to me simply because my father is not one of those untouchables, he doesn’t know one of them and he’s not a millionaire who can buy his way into becoming one.

As I sat pondering over this in my Achrafieh apartment, I was melting in the July heat. There was no electricity. I wasn’t put off by the fact that the three hour cycle I had gotten used to by now was being messed up. It would only be a matter of minutes. But when those minutes turned to hours and those hours started doubling, I knew something was wrong. It just couldn’t be.

The situation persisted for a day. And two. And then three. So much so that after the only 50 minutes of electricity I had gotten on one of those days, I met up with some friends for a walk around Beirut. As we wandered through Gemmayzé and then Downtown, I felt happy to see so many people happy. Perhaps alcohol-induced ignorance is really bliss.

But as we got to Downtown, a Lebanese-looking girl came up to me and said with a khaliji accent that I later realized was fake: “I want you to fuck me.” My first reflex, after the few seconds it took me to understand whatever she had said, was to reply with my Lebanese accent. She immediately lost interest. It seemed that this girl and her friend had been hunting down foreigners and khalijis in Downtown Beirut, using an improvised accent to hook them. If you’re Lebanese then odds are your coffers are empty and they wouldn’t be interested in you.

As I walked through Downtown and some very annoying people came flooding over me with their pleading for me to sit in one of their restaurants, I looked at the menus they were offering. And behold: the main dish every day for the entirety of summer is…. KABSE! Our national dish is no longer tabboule or fattoush, but Saudi Kabse. Even l’entrecote de Paris in Downtown Beirut had hookahs being offered. Would you like some apple-flavored nicotine with your French steak, sir?

Scattered around the area were ancient ruins as well, some of which had been demolished already in favor of the newer structures. Others stood defiant among restaurants, churches and mosques. I remembered the Phoenician port that was demolished and how some people thought that decision was wise. What use would the port be for tourists? Would the Khalijis like to visit the port?

Because the entirety of the country now rests upon what the khalijis may or may not like. So we give them what we expect would bring them pleasure and say screw everything that is Lebanese.

Our identity crisis didn’t stop there. Our need to please foreigners with what we think they would like doesn’t stop at the mere elements of food or ancient monuments. Our walk took us to Saifi village, a very beautiful place in Downtown Beirut. One of the shops there was selling khaliji clothes and nothing more. Because, you know, there’s nothing better-looking than for me, as a Lebanese, to wander around in one of those white robes with that thing strapped around my head.

So I left the security zone known as Downtown Beirut and went back home. And there was no electricity still. I showered with whatever water I had left using a fluorescent light that I had left charging with whatever grid-coverage my house had gotten throughout the day. And then when the lights flickered, I decided to watch the news. Somehow, a very creepy looking bearded man riding a horse (or a donkey) and making fiery statements in Saida had made national news. That man was sheikh Ahmad el Assir, an extreme Muslim cleric who has apparently decided to restore Sunni pride and honor by blocking roads and making speeches, despite the former being clearly against Islamic shari’a.

Ahmad el Assir was followed by another bipolar segment about the Maronite Patriach and another statement of his that contradicted something he had said a day or two before. Then came on his Holiness Hassan Nasrallah (because using any other prefix would get you shot) to bestow upon us his eternal wisdom. As I listened to these three men talk, each of them representing one of the country’s three main sects, I realized exactly how deep their influence runs. When Nasrallah speaks, the Shiites rise. When Ahmad el Assir shouts, the Sunnis boil and when Beshara el Raï does anything worth mentioning, the Maronites go into a frenzy.

It’s the way things are. It’s the way things have always been and will always be.

It is then that I decided to check the situation of my visa application at the French embassy for my trip during the month of August. The same notification popped up. “Wait 10 business days on average for the application to be processed.” Fine. So I decided to see if there was a possibility for the visa to be done before the 10 business days. They did say “on average.” My google searches led me to a page that listed which countries were required to have a 10 day wait for their schengen application to be processed. Lebanon is one of them, obviously. What are the other countries that Lebanon was grouped with? Let me name a few: Niger, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, Rwanda, etc…. The total is 39 countries. How many of us thought we were better than those countries? I’m sure most of us did. Not for the folks in the Eurozone. The rest of the world either doesn’t need one or can have it issued in less than a day.

I don’t really care about needing a visa, although ideally I would prefer not to. But it seems my passport is so low-grade that even my visa has to go through countless bureaucratic steps. My mind then wandered to my family in the US, how they are all US citizens, with the exception of my father, and how for the simple fact that they hold that navy-blue American passport, they have much more opportunities – the simplest of which is when it comes to traveling. But I shrugged the idea off.

The following day, my friends were trying to come up with plans that involved going to the beach in Sour (Tyr). I had my reservations on the matter. For the past few months, the only thing I had heard of Sour was about restaurants serving alcohol getting bombed and liquor shops getting forcibly closed. I had started to wonder if that part of the Lebanese South was slowly getting turned into New-Tehran. And even though I had never been past Saida, my interest in visiting Tyr had gotten very minimal. My friends told me my worry was unfounded. But when the minimal concept of people being free to drink whatever they want is lost upon some individuals, what would they think of me?

“You don’t really need to drink beer on the beach in Sour.” But the question is: what if I want to?

Amid all of this, the citizens of Jal el Dib were busy throwing a tantrum. Their bridge had been demolished because it was a safety hazard and their commute time had increased by a few minutes. Totally unacceptable. What way of protest did they decide was the most suitable? Block the highway in both directions. That would teach the Lebanese something, sure. And they, of course, got what they wanted: $20 million from our tax money for them to have a bridge (or a tunnel) whose construction will create way more traffic for everyone in the year or two (or even more) it will take to finish. It’s not like this form of protest is illegal but our security forces are too cowardly to crack down upon them and open the highway. It’s apparently not my right to go to class or work but it’s their right to stop me.

And we’re also not allowed to talk about the army, the ISF or any form of people who are “protecting” the country because they are doing all of us a service. It seems that the concept of a person doing his or her job has escaped people in the country. People have forgotten that they’re paying the army, the ISF. But I digress.

“Thank you minister Sehanoui for fixing the internet!”

It’s his freaking job to fix the internet. I shouldn’t thank him for it. It’s his duty to fix whatever went wrong because he is in charge of it.

“Thank you minister Bassil for providing the $1.2 million needed for the water project in Ebrine.” That was a banner at the entrance of my hometown.

No, I don’t want to thank Bassil for using money that I had paid to fund a project that has been in the works for a few decades.

No, I don’t want to be eternally grateful to ministers and MPs who are spinning doing their job into a 2013 elections campaign.

So as I sat in one of my med school’s tutoring classes, as a practicing physician told me how I’d be lucky to get paid $400 in Lebanon after 7 years of medical school, I looked around me and saw one of my colleagues who thinks Ahmad el Assir is the best thing to come to Lebanon in a long time and then another who thinks Muslims should be eradicated from the country because they are the root of all evil and a third one who believes that Hassan Nasrallah is the undeclared return of Imam el Mehdi.

And I realized that these three people represent their societies, their families. Their convictions run way deeper than what they’ve declared. And as the realization that I do not really fit among my friends dawned on me, I remembered that girl from downtown, my electricity situation at home, my crappy cellular coverage, my lack of water availability at home, the deafening traffic, the people who can move mountains, figuratively, with a flick of their finger; the people who can block roads and not face any resistance; the people who honk until your ears bleed because you stopped at a red light; the people who cannot stand to grab their kleenex for a few minutes so they throw it outside their cars without caring; the people who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about our national heritage… And the list goes on and on.

I realized I have pitiful job prospects in a country of no national pride, no national unity, no electricity, no water, no internet, no security and – for the first time – no hope whatsoever.

Can we nag? Sure. Would that lead anywhere? No. Can we talk about it? Sure. Would that get us anywhere? No. Can we do something about it? Perhaps. Would that change things? No.

We’re in a ditch that we cannot escape, change or alter. And they wonder why we look West in envy. What 2012 has shown over and over again is that the situation is hopeless. We thought we had learned from May 7th, 2008. And then many mini-May 7th took place in the space of a few weeks. We thought we had learned not to get swept by enticing political rhetoric. It only takes a leader a sentence to get his followers on or off the streets.

I know I had said before not to take Lebanon lightly. But I believe that we get the country that we think we deserve. The sad reality is that the collective of the Lebanese population thinks they deserve shit. And shit is what they’re getting.


86 thoughts on “The Week I Lost Hope in Lebanon

  1. I agree with what you’re saying, mostly with the part about not fitting in with your friends and all their different ideologies. I’m sitting in my home writing this on my phone becuse theirs no electricity, and their won’t be till 6 am. Living in this country for an extended period of time just makes you feel hopless.

  2. Great post, my favorite so far about Lebanon on your blog. I belong to Lebanon as you’ve said, and I don’t fit in as you’ve said and then when I graduated I found out that it’s not just that I don’t fit in, there’s no place for me in Lebanon, so I took off, whether I like it or not was not the issue because I had no other choice.

    • I knew you’d like it. We belong to this land, to our homes. But we don’t fit among the mentalities of the people there. It’s sad to realize that – as I said – but sometimes it’s a necessity to move on.
      Moving on with the rest of your life sometimes requires saying goodbye. Sometimes there’s good in goodbye even if it’s said to your home and land.

  3. Couln’t have said it better,though to come to this conclusion after so many years in Lebanon has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
    So much expectations after the war to end up where we are now.What a waste!What a shame!
    A country where everything and ….almost everybody is for sale to the highest bidder.
    A country having seventeen different religions,but where people know nothing about their wisdom.
    A country lost in a sea populated with sharks of all kinds.
    If we did have some dreams of a better future,the past few years have showed us that they are just that dreams…
    Hopeless…and so very very sad

  4. You put into words what I and many others have been feeling for a while now. We love our country. It’s our land, our people and our homes. But I, like many, am becoming increasingly frustrated at how little hope there is in everything around me.
    Lebanon, I love you. I love you not.

  5. What you’re saying is a 2012 version of Lebanon’s history. See, the country has been under oppression for thousands of years, but let’s stick to the last 400 years or so, ever since the Turks:

    We’ve been oppressed, just like now.
    We’ve been treated unfairly, just like now.
    We’ve been kept away from basic necessities (mainly food back then), just like now
    We’ve shed blood and tears for our country, just like now.

    The list goes on.

    If your ancestors ever gave up, you’d be a citizen of a different country, or a Lebanese with a worse situation where nobody stands in front of the oppressed.

    Every generation has its challenges, and ours is no different. The only difference is that our ancestors had more difficulty to travel, while we can at a relatively easier procedure. This only makes our fight even more daunting, adding temptation and a high-demanding society to the equation.

    That is why I agree with what you say, because me too, live in the same conditions. I just ‘hope’ that I won’t be alone thinking that my beloved country belongs to ME and only ME, and the rest just comes and goes. I know every dog has his day, and there will come a time where the unjust will be prosecuted one way or another. The key is to be a light-well of hope, no matter how dark your surroundings become.

    • The thing about history is that even a decent book from 1950 onwards for this country doesn’t exist. Our ancestors sure fought. But they were also helped immensely by shifting powers. The turks wouldn’t have left hadn’t the French won over them and took their place. The list goes on and on.
      I’m thankful for the struggles of my ancestors. But the problem isn’t with them. It’s with their descendants who cannot see that we have such a brilliant part of the Middle East for us and they are literally ruining it with every single thing they’ve got.

      Leaving Lebanon is nowhere near easy. But sometimes it’s a necessity to build a future decent for yourself and your family. There’s nothing I want than to be proven wrong and the country to come out of this triumphant.

      Thank you for reading!

      • to fix this country we’ll have to start something completely new …
        but we have to be willing to die for it
        we would have to fight the biggest fight ever fought on this land.
        A fight that doesn’t rely on outside forces , that doesn’t need Help … a Fight that ENDS with a Result…
        the Real problem Elie is that We allowed them to Remove our identity… All these “Helpers” that came and “Liberated us ” Managed to take so much.
        They managed to rape our identity out of our bums.
        But I still have a hope for the future … in People like you… I’m sure that if you where in the States and you saw the Lebanese Rising from the ashes building a New utopia, A Fight for their life and their identity ONE LAST FIGHT!
        I’m sure that your Body will be in the front lines the same day!
        Holding hands and ready to defend whats left.
        Great write

  6. You sound so defeated. Its sad when the people that observers outside the country lay their hopes on for a brighter future, lose hope themselves.

    • The thing about observers outside the country is that they’re not really living the things that make us lose hope. I’m not defeated. I’m just more realistic about prospects now.

      • Well more power to you, and others like you, you do deserve better and if you cant get it there, then you have every right to try and it elsewhere.

        Keep up the writing though, I love your opinions!

  7. Respect. This is the most beautiful article you have ever written on this blog. What you mentioned is exactly how I feel and think about these days.

  8. I lost hope a long time ago. I am not sure I ever had it in the first place.
    As the years passed, I saw a country digress and its people’s beliefs narrow down to hatred.
    I lived during wartime beirut. Despite being torn to shreds, Lebanon was a beautiful place and Lebanese were kind loving people.

    Your optimism always made me smile. Yet, my first reaction as I was reading though your post was: “it took you some time to realize it.” My reaction saddened me. It is a pity to witness the helplessness in your tone. I am sad your post reinforced my faithfulness in Lebanese and the fast path they took to destroy a beautiful country.

    • I was always happy – perhaps foolishly – that I felt optimistic about Lebanon despite everyone I knew feeling differently, even my best friends. I had even written – with the help of a Lebanon lover too – about how we shouldn’t sell our country short. But the more this year specifically progressed the more the idea of “what are you people doing?” started growing in my head.

      Lebanon is a beautiful place. I only need to go home to see that. But the people are becoming ugly – not in their personalities but towards their country.

      Thank you for reading!

  9. This may sound weird coming from me, but I truly believe you and other Lebanese deserve better. If there are enough others who feel the same way, maybe you can make a difference. Don’t give up hope!

  10. I, like you was an eternal optimist, I have been here since I graduated from AUB in ’04 and worked and fought to stay here, while my friends and brothers built families and bought real estate and made careers elsewhere. I agree, 2012 has brought in a sour taste of ” What the hell are you idiots doing? Have you learned nothing?”. That’s how I feel, and sadly I am looking to leave, even though I’ve had many chances in the past and don’t have much now. I am now convinced my friends were right, i was wrong, there is no hope in our country. Believe it or not, it pains me the most to see how irresponsible we are towards our beautiful sea and our environment, its too painful to watch people just trash this country without a flinch. I am not a defeatist, i just want to live and this is not a life. i leave my city to the dogs that have ran this country and their idiot sons and will someday come back to eat and relive my better moments. I will take the flag with me though, and I am proud to be Lebanese, just not happy or satisfied to be in Lebanon anymore.

    • I’m slowly getting to that realization as well. I have two more years of med school before leaving becomes a possibility. But you are right. The curse of this country is the people who never – ever – learn and who can’t see exactly how messed up what they’re doing is.

  11. I enjoyed reading each and every word and as I came closer to the end of this article, I kept wishing dearly that it would not conclude. I found myself nodding at every point you made and agreeing, very sadly, that our country has become hopeless. This polarization we see today, once a vanguard of Lebanese culture, is very unhealthy and we may be headed in a very dark place. 

    I am as hopeless as you have become, if not more, but a part of me wants to keep hoping.

  12. “I realized I have pitiful job prospects in a country of no national pride, no national unity, no electricity, no water, no internet, no security and – for the first time – no hope whatsoever.”
    Exactly how I have felt for a while now…Many tell me “you are too much of a perfectionist…you should try to adapt, coz that’s just how things are (in Lebanon) …”. Well, NO, sorry but I refuse to give up on my principles just because the vast majority of the population has!! Just because there is no one to enforce the law (to write me a ticket if I cross a red light, if I go over the speed limit, if I litter….etc.) does not mean that I should not abide by it!
    Lal2asaf, the people in this country have NO RESPECT! not only for the law, but for THEMSELVES! and as long as they remain like this, nothing will change….

    So yes, you are absolutely right, “we get the country that we think we deserve. The sad reality is that the collective of the Lebanese population thinks they deserve shit. And shit is what they’re getting.” And people like us can do one of two things, stay here and suffer or find a way out and escape…

    • I’m honored you’re quoting me. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I’m slowly getting to the realization that leaving is best. If only it were that easy.

  13. To say this is brilliant would be stating the obvious. One of your best. Thank you for writing it. You expressed what has been going in my mind for a long time. This is the best I can do right now… this left me speechless.

  14. I think you need a thousand arms for comfort – but I can offer only two.
    Let me repeat your own argument, in another post, against ‘same sex marriages’ – “there are more important issues”, you posted.
    Maybe helpful against your despair over Lebanon and the Lebanese?
    Keep on dreaming!

    As it is, what is a satisfying explanation for the ongoing stagnation in your society? Is it religious, economical, political, cultural, based on personal and social relations of domination and submission? What is it?
    I wonder double, as Lebanese people are in high esteem all over Africa, Europe, the Americas, Asia for their coöperation, initiative, hospitability, communicative attitudes, skills, what more have you?
    Why does it not work in Lebanon and what do you need to find back hope and perspective?
    All best and more from Amsterdam, Netherlands,

    • I didn’t blog about same sex marriage. That was a guest post. Lebanese people abide by the laws and regulations of the countries they go to. Here, whatever laws we have are always made to be broken. It’s a recipe for chaos.

  15. i apologize but this is too much talk and too little said. several of your said “facts” are not accurate, and you’ve fallen into the easy path several Lebanese prefer to other daily activities, which is whining.
    each society at each era has its own issues and you obviously have a temporary case of blues. it’ll go away and you’ll pick up your life where you left it. no need to make a big fuss out of it.

    • Dear Lynn
      I really disagree with everything you said, and the way you said it shows that you are just saying this to defend someone who got mentioned in this article. If everything we are going through seems that easy and normal for you, then I think something is wrong with you. I would really love to see you daring to compare our beloved Lebanon to any developed country. I, just like Elie, am a proud Lebanese, but I’m not blinded by political, religious or historical promises. I know what respecting the armed force is, I know what respecting other people is, and I know what rights and responsibilities must be. I know what religions have to do with everyday’s life, I know where their limit should be. I know what freedom is, I know what resistance means, I know what is the real “moukawame”. I beg you not to talk about facts because you’ll only show more ignorance. Facts are real leaders assassinations, destruction of freedom of speech, living in darkness, having a retarded phone and internet service, flaws in the judiciary system, heavy weapons not controlled by our Lebanese army, bribery, stupid history books, flawed contracts, bad image of our beloved country on international news and of course the new trend, blocking roads and burning tires whenever there’s anything that bothers some people , only to name a few.
      Thank you Elie for this article, I just wish those who are in control start for once, listening to the young generation. We were happy when we saw young people get to the parliament, and we hoped they could be the driving motor for the real change, but unfortunately, not a single one of them was up to it. I guess all we have to do is keep on working for a better future, keep on trying to erase the fear we are living in, and keep on hoping for the Lebanon that we long to.

      • Milad, i would like to point out the vapid assumptions you made in your tedious post:
        1- you assumed i’m defending “someone”. perhaps you were suggesting that i support a rich, powerful person with connections. i don’t know how you got that.
        2- you assumed that the facts i’m referring to are related to politicians, i don’t know how you got that.
        3- you assumed i wouldn’t dare to compare Lebanon to any developed country 🙂 that, i really don’t know how you got.
        4- you also assumed i am ignorant, blinded by political and historical promises, and life is easy for me, unlike you of course. i beg to differ 🙂

        to clarify, my very short and innuendo-free post stated my disdain towards the sense of hopelessness that should not haunt any ‘proud Lebanese. or proud and very angry Lebanese, in your case. Elie seemed like a positive chap in his other posts, and we need more meaningful positivity, not whining blues. that is all.

      • Thank you Milad for taking the time to read the article. Hopefully we can change things. But the more I Lebanese people I meet and see, the more I think the possibility of anything improving is dismal at best.

      • this is not realistic. if we were really are doing things realistically we would discuss pros and cons in one article. all you did was point at the ugly spots. and being optimistic is not exactly being foolish, and i was definitely not suggesting to overlook problems.

        and i don’t know why you didn’t see this. if you got calls from a high-ranking priest and co, means you struck a sensitive cord. oh i would definitely take it as a compliment and an encouragement to further broadcast/communicate if i were you. it isn’t everyday that a blog gets such a response.

  16. Man, have you ever thought about the Masonic hidden hand in all this doom?

    I’m sure you will reply: “What do Masons got to do with all this!”

  17. I think this is all very sad and it breaks my heart. Just yesterday my mother was stuck in the sarba road block for countless hours. When she finally reached the protesters and exclaimed how they should not be affecting other civilians lives like this and that we are just here trying to enjoy our summer holiday but instead they made her stay stranded in the car for 3+ hours until she was numb they rudely stated “We can do whatever we like and if you don’t like it you can move to the gulf!!!!”

  18. I don’t understand what you have against people from the Gulf. Just because a couple of restaurants serve their food and a shop sells their clothes? At the end of the day we are a tourist country so doing such things isn’t strange. There are many places in southern Spain that serve fish n chips to cater to the large amount of British tourists that they get.
    No big deal and no need to say we are losing our culture which couldn’t be more untrue.

    What concerns me about that part is that it shows that you just want to find any excuse to hate on Lebanon, even if it doesn’t really make any sense. Of course Lebanon has lots of issues to deal with, just like any developing country. Addressing these issues and discussing them is great, saying that Lebanon is shit just means that maybe you should leave the country and spare us your negative energy.

    • I don’t hate people who come from the Gulf. I hate the fact that my country finds it very suitable to flex itself the way it thinks they want and it loses itself in the process.
      Your country’s main restaurants in Downtown having all of them offer Kabse as their main course every single day of summer is not acceptable. Are they doing it for us? No. They’re doing it for them.

      Kabse can be on the menu for all I care. But why brag it? Do the SPanish restaurants put up posters outside telling everyone about their fish n chips?

      Sometimes, Mr. G, a sense of realism is what this country needs.

      • Then why 50% of the restaurants sell pizzas,and hambergers? Man live a few years in London, and you will surely see the negative points in Lebanon (political fiasco, kahraba, jobs, some narrow minded people, some talk from 3asrel 7ajar) but also all the positive points in Lebanon . (family still exists, people are not scared to talk/or shout (lol) at each other, we’ve got sun, we’ve got beaches! ) . I totally agree with many points you talked about in your blog, but think about it, Lebanon’s always had its problems (at least for the last 20 years) and truly this year we’re going even more backwards but its you people the future. You should not lose hope. If each believe in a positive change they can do, so be it. Yalla 3iche life is short. 🙂

  19. Pingback: A Girl’s Walk Around Gemmayzé, Beirut « A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  20. I can see how bad it must of been to be receiving all these calls to take down your article. And honestly i do not think you should of taken it down, self censorship is a bitch and once you start , where do you draw the line! So what priests are calling your family , so what your getting hate mail. When you say the truth, this is expected, how you handle it is up to you.

    You do fit in in Lebanon, you are among the very few who speak their mind and have the balls to say, “ok, i think somewhere along the line, we fucked up majorly, lets try to fix things” ; unfortunately like the few once you saw opposition and threats, you decided (i know you had good reasons) to take down the article.

    However i think was wrong, keep your article up! or better yet go anonymous, they cant attack what they cant see (use Tor browser to stay anonymous). And keep posting the truth, Lebanon will catch up and all those fuck heads who rely on censoring the truth will eventually lose.

    Dont leave hang in there and keep speaking the truth! Juste remember No One said it will b easy but at least its worth it

  21. Elie,

    You have beautifully put in words what a lot of us mumble in grudges and exhalations. Are you sure you want to waste your talent and youth in med school and not just keep writing? I’m just kidding, just look at the fate of our contemporary writers. I finished med school at the lebanese university. The first thought in my head back then was … GET – THE HELL -OUT !!! I understand the asphyxiating feeling you get when you’re a citizen of such a small country; the suffocation of traffic, of trash, of ugly cement edifices everywhere that people call their homes and that have replaced the horizon, the lack of planning in architecture, in government, in healthcare, in electricity, the ongoing “now a lebanese tradition” thievery of “elected” officials, the favoritism, the “fils a papa” in their shiny cars at their skybars, the lack of culture, the superficiality of lebanese youth, the lack of elderly wisdom, the short vision of our elected officials and of our people. Simply, the bare naked stupidity of a people sinking deeper and deeper and grasping onto almost eveything in their fall. So i left…

    I went to france first, for 2 beautiful years. I fell in love with the people, the liberty they cherish as a national heritage, the libretarianism, the progressive governments and the culture. Then for the sake of higher medical education i left for the US. My libretarian visions of society suffered a bit there by the conservativism, but I learned the meaning of hard work and of real achievements. I could understand why the US ranked amongst the first economies in the world, why the american dream, of owning your house on the prairie (or in the suburbs), was achievable to most. People worked their “asses” off here, from dusk to dawn, and everybody with no exception stood in line and respected the law. I remember a few years ago, I was driving across to Canada to visit a friend, through miles and miles of forests and hills, and all I could think of was how we used to go camping in lebanon and I would pitch my tent in such a way not related to the sun rays or the breeze, but mostly directed towards the narrow line of vision where my eyesight would not fall onto a building or a road and I could fool myself that I was really in nature and away from “un”civilization. And on my way back, I was greeted at the border by a custom’s officer with a “welcome back home sir”. I guess the only way to translate my feeling then is through a lebanese saying, “albe ma ba’a seye3ne bi sodre”. I don’t care if they were instructed to say so in their job training, but it felt awesome. For the first time in my life, I felt proud to have a nationality.

    Not to sound ungrateful in any sort or means to a country that gave me so much, and that I love and respect, but there is not a single day that passes by elie where I don’t feel nostalgic to my homeland, where I don’t concoct plans in my head to go back and work 3 months a year or 1 month a year or run a free clinic or something. I know way too much lebanese horror medicine stories that would keep you up all night long. You will live through the same feelings when you expatriate, you will ache for home, wassouf’s “el ghorba so3be”, rachid taha’s “ya rayeh” and other similar songs will be on your favorite most played list. But the more time you spend abroad, the more reality sets in. Go back and do what? Remember why you left in the first place? You were not amongst the privileged ones, the “fils a papa” that you despised. You were not pampered and you had to earn the hard way every single dime. Still every summer i religiously go back and spend 2 weeks of my vacation time in lebanon, wasting money and time on “skybar” and gemayze and edde sands and more superficial and expensive pass times. Thank god for the quality time with my family and friends otherwise I would never go back, what shitty tourism is this tourism that we pretend we have? By the end of the first week I find myself aching to go back “home”.

    There is a saying amongst the lebanese diaspora in the states that goes something like this: “the best thing in america is going back to lebanon” (chou a7la chi bi amerka? … el raj3a 3a lebnen). Allow me to be more pragmatic and add to it, “for one or two weeks every other year”. Spend some of your vacation time visiting jamaica, the bahamas, europe, peru, argentina, …. Life is short, the world is filled with beautiful places, and the lebanese tourism industry? … It’s really not surviving because of you.

    Anyhow you caught me on a bad mood day, I should be preparing for some national board exam next week. Usually I am more positive about lebanon and I still have “plans” for the future but they’re more realistic now. Elie Fares I will find and add you on facebook (Jad) and when the time comes for your US move I could help you out with some advice and more

    Stay in touch and never lsoe hope, keep writing

    • Thank you for your comment Jad. It’s precisely that actually. I remember being in Spain last year and we had to wait in line for something.
      Some of the Lebanese in my group decided that waiting in line was way beneath them. So what they did was to bypass it.
      And I stood there. Because this is what a respectable person should do. And I got insulted by Brazilians because of what those other Lebanese did.
      And I took it. Because they had a point. Because I had nothing to say to them in reply.

      When I finish medical school in a couple of years, my residency will be in the US, hopefully. And in a way, I can’t wait to go. I want to know how it feels to live in a country where I don’t need to worry about all the little things that they have provided and which I don’t.

      Many Lebanese keep telling me: you will want to come back. They keep telling me that those countries also have their share of problems. In a way that’s what we call “first world problems.”
      WHen you have electricity, internet, water, sewage, etc… provided. When there’s nothing for you to nag about regarding the basic necessities in life, you move on to other more irrelevant things. And somehow many Lebanese confuse that with our current state.

      Other countries don’t have it better, they say. In a way, that’s true. I still think that – despite everything – we are by far the best country in the region. But to say that we are the best country would be very foolish it would turn laughable.

      Thanks again for your comment and I hope you keep reading the blog and providing feedback.

  22. I really can’t tell u how right u are… Finally someone spoke up…I really agree with everything but not the part… I have friends and co-workers from different backgrounds ,let’s say, but it doesn’t matter, everyone has his own opinion and we do not talk abt it so that we won’t fight…
    I loooooved ur post though, keep it up!

    Btw ur from ebrine????

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  24. Leonardo da Vinci had the Mona Lisa, well buddy you have this. Frankly it’s my 1st year in Lebanon after 10 yrs and nothing has changed. Chaos is they way life in this country, stupified by religion is what drives this ignorance. I am happy to see people who still think in this country maybe hope exists.

  25. Being a suburb citizen, I must say that there’s plenty more where the crap comes from. I thank you for speaking my mind.

  26. The first thing that came to my mind as I was reading your blog, is my own state of mind after my trip to Japan. I remember the first few days, I felt like a complete stranger in my own country, even though I hadn’t been absent for more than 2 weeks. Living the power outages all over again, reading about all the crimes that are committed in broad day light , hearing what this or that leader said and how they all are convinced they are assuring the best interest of our country. The simple fact that certain families extort money from shops around my block, in return for the right to open or else they burn the shop at night, gets on my nerves. You see I live in the suburbs, particularly Haret-Hreik, unfortunately, for some people that automatically makes me an enemy with a guy that lives in Ashrafieh, or one that lives in Saida, but It doesn’t. And again unfortunately, stating that I am not enemies with a guy living in Ashrafieh or Saida, makes me some kind of traitor, a guy that wishes Israel to take over the country, but it doesn’t. Those perceived judgments my friend are what keeps our country in peril. Those judgments give the right to a Saudi guy to say to me and my friends in downtown that he can buy us worthless Lebanese with his money. It just breaks my heart that our government literally begs money from other nations, while most of our countrymen are absent minded and ignorant. The fact the Japanese culture had a huge impact on me, left me in a state of wishful thinking. I wanted my country to be like Japan. It’s not that am not proud of Lebanon, it’s just that I would’ve love to see here what I saw there. However reality came down on me like an avalanche burying me deep in despair. I wanted to leave this country, to head to Japan and live there, but then it hit me. Japanese people built their country with mere stubbornness. Two atomic bombs were dropped at Japan in 1945, harvesting 246,000 souls instantly and leaving damages that still reside today. Before that Japan was a nation closed on itself, with no foreigners allowed in the county. And today 67 years after 2 atomic bombs the Japanese build one of the most modern civilizations today. I am sure that millions of them had every reason to leave Japan after the bombs, but they didn’t, and that simple choice is what makes Japan what it is today. I think of myself as a partner in the crimes that tears my county apart today if I left. I’d rather live here and take all what’s thrown at me, than go live elsewhere. I’d rather be a stranger in my own country than be a stranger in other people’s lands. I’d rather live here and try and change Lebanon one person at a time, so one day we restore our country as the land that bestows jealousy upon the most modern civilizations of the world. One day when citizens from France and the US will wait 10 business days for their applications to be processed. One day when we bestow revenge upon every country, person, and organization that belittled our county, no matter how childish this is . Allow me to quote JFK here and say: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Even when every possible way is shut close in front me I shall carve one with my own hands and make something out of my beloved Lebanon.

    • I don’t think your vengeful attitude is healthy to be honest. I’m all for improving ourselves as a nation and if anything, we need to look at those countries that made it after serious adversity for examples.

      • Neither is your desert-ful attitude healthy at all. Those same countries you are talking about are the reason we are at such condition. I am talking about the whole world looking down at Lebanon as a weak nation, and unfortunately we havent got enough awareness as Lebanese people to stand united and say the hell with the whole world. Well I might as well be the first one to say it.

        • My attitude isn’t coming off as spiteful. For example, Japan is one of those countries that look down at us. But you seem to like Japan. I don’t want to stick it to other countries. I want my country to become good enough for me.

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  33. why leave,when we can help making a change? We are the future. I am Lebanese but I live in Sweden, my only dream is to finish my uni here and move down to Lebanon. YOU don’t really know what YOU have until YOU lose it, YOU don’t really know how hard it is to be away from your family. What I’m triying to say is “okey leave for some years, but come back your country needs people that are willing to make a change”. My mother always say to me and my older sister “Yaret li bi arrero bi Lebnen bi 7ebo Lebnen adkon”. WE are the future.

  34. Its 2016, Im reading this post as Im searching for ways to leave Lebanon. its been 4 years since you posted this article and the only thing that changed is the new waste crisis which you can add to the countless negative things in Lebanon. And oh, no more khaligis! no more tourists! All what is left is us Lebanese finding new ways to survive rather than live.
    You said “It’s the way things are. It’s the way things have always been and will always be” I think that is the only truth in Lebanon. Yes ” We’re in a ditch that we cannot escape, change or alter”.
    How can we when the majority of people is still following the immortal political names?
    Whats sad is that some people still have hope. they build on this hope thinking that they are going to change a thing. But when they realize how bad things are in here the truth just shocks them. There is no HOPE! we have to accept that. We cant torture ourselves with the fact that things might change. They never did, wont and never will.
    The only hope is leaving Lebanon. Let “them” have it. They had it since the beginning of time and no one else will have it.

    if anyone lives abroad, just praise your blessings.
    Stick to whatever you have and build on it. Don’t ever think that you can be someone in Lebanon. The seats here have already been taken.

  35. Just came across this blog!! Totally agree!! Very well written & so absolutely true!!
    I have one othwe thing to say about the Lebanese, that many of you may not have ever thought…you can take a Lebanese out of the country, but u can never take the country out of them…
    Th most patriotic people I have ever known. So much so they cannot see the absolute mess the country is in, till this day. How can people live this way, day in day out! It’s unbelievable that in the 21st century, there is not electricity/running water 24/7? How can that be??? It is a hopeless situation….very sad!!!


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