You can’t really blame the ministry of tourism for keeping its hopes up against all odds. After all, the country cannot function without a summer of tourists. They have, therefore, launched a new TV ad, enlisting the help of several Lebanese celebrities, to help boost tourism, gloriously titled: What’s Greater Than Lebanon?
Come on people, we have awesome food and awesome nightlife and beaches… Why wouldn’t you want to come here?
So just because you may have not heard of those touristic qualifications several times already, here’s how a trip to the great land of Lebanon can go:
Land in Beirut and keep yourself busy as you course through Beirut’s Southern suburb and its slogans.
Marvel at the wonders of Downtown Beirut only from afar. It’s unlikely – unless you’re super rich – that you’d be able to afford anything there. But isn’t that Rolex store beautiful?
Wander around Achrafieh. If you start to wonder why a lot of people are speaking French, don’t worry – that’s what happens around that place. Look at the beautiful Lebanese mansions while getting lost in the narrow streets that will soon be no more. Then, when you’re bored, do as everyone does where you come from and go to ABC.
You can also visit Hamra, which can also be called Beirut’s hipster central. Activists, militants, politics, hypocrites… You’ll find it all there. You can visit the local universities there for your daily dose of Lebanese elitists as well. Visit one of the pubs – they’re more expensive than where you come from, if where you come from has alcohol, but aren’t they just unique?
Your second day should include a visit to the South. Be careful not to cross the Litani river or you might have to answer to Hezbollah militants who get offended by your existence. I’d recommend visiting Saida but you cannot be certain clashes won’t kill you there so no Saida for you. Bummer… That marine castle is beautiful.
I hope you’ve been saving up money because today is beach day! Hurray? Well, we cannot go to any public beach because they are a reflection of how people act in this country: garbage everywhere. Odds are you’d get septic shock. So private beaches, which are also illegal, are where you’re supposed to go… Except entry will get you broke. Manage the pros and cons and decide as such.
Or you can use beach day to go North. The beaches are much nicer there and much cheaper. But I could be biased – that’s where I come from. You can visit the Cedar mountains and see our national symbol – all 20 left trees of it. You can listen to your friend or guide tell you about how this proximity between the mountain and the sea is unique and about how it actually snows – it’s best if you pretend to be super shocked by now – in winter here.
While up North, visit the Qadisha valley. Lebanese Christians use the remnants of this valley as proof that they were the original inhabitants of the country. So if your guide or friend is Christian, be prepared for a round of religious pride. But don’t worry, it’s not the kind with which you might end up dead.
You can visit Tripoli as well. They are the most underrated city in the country. They have a Crusade citadel, cheap and awesome food and several hundred bearded men roaming the streets to express their Sunni anger at the current situation of their compatriots in the country. But they’re going to heaven anyway because they don’t eat pork and drink alcohol. No Tripoli for you too… And don’t you dare go more North than Tripoli. Akkar is not a place we want tourists to see… Poverty, poverty everywhere.
Don’t worry though. It’s not all morbid. We have super awesome food. The tabbouleh they do where you come from is obviously subpar. How could it not be? The parsley we use is grown in trab el arez yalli aghla men l dehab.
You can visit the epic ruins of Baalbeck. The area is being bombed by the Free Syrian Army but don’t tell them I told you that. So instead of going there, just stay in Zahle and call it a Bekaa day. It should be enough.
Don’t forget to visit Harissa. The area sure is over-urbanized going up there with all those ugly buildings eating the mountain away but isn’t the view majestic? And make sure you drop by Jeita – our current national treasure, obviously robbed for the 7 wonders of nature.
On your last night here, you have got to go party. Don’t look at me – I’ve never been to Skybar. But there are plenty of decent (and expensive) places where you’ll dance the night away. Don’t get your hopes up for sex though. Our women are all sex but no sex. If you’re a woman… Good luck. May whoever you believe in be with you.
The greatness of a country isn’t in its mountain being proximal to its beaches and in the awesomeness of its cuisine. The touristic greatness of a country is in what unique aspects it can provide its tourists.
Say what you want about Parisians but their food and city are brilliant. Turkish people may be the most non-hospitable I’ve seen but I was told they have mountains plunging into the sea as well. And they’re a stone’s throw away. Americans may be the big bad devil but they can probably throw better parties than us.
You want a great touristic season? You need less political hypocrisy, less half-assed security measures, more stability and less pretentiousness when it comes to how valuable touristically Lebanon is.
Until then, we can keep begging for tourists to come us much as we please. As it stands, we are giving them absolutely no reason to come…. But our ministry of tourism is in touristic Lala land anyway.
And yet, despite it all, we are still expecting tourists to grace us with their presence in the Great Republic of Lebanon.