WARNING to all potential tourists who read press reports about what a great place Beirut and Lebanon are to visit this coming summer, you should not listen to greedy and corrupt journalists and others who would sell their mothers if they could to make a buck.
Lebanon is a very dangerous place, especially this summer:
- Crime is rampant, especially attacks on foreign tourists.
- Pollution in Lebanon is one of the highest around the Mediterranean: all large vehicles (trucks, busses, vans, etc...) run on very low grade diesel. The air you breathe in Lebanon is one of the most dangerous to your health, not to mention that everyone smokes right in your face in every public and private place, including at the airport right under the "No Smoking" signs.
- Lebanese drivers are some of the worst in the world: They drive at vertiginous speeds down dangerous mountain roads, will pass you at hairpin loop turns, then push you aside into the ditch if they encounter oncoming traffic. Traffic accidents are nothing short of horrific because of the speeds involved. There is no traffic code in Lebanon, people drive anywhere, park anywhere, and traffic jams in the summer sweltering heat are pretty close to Dante's seventh circle of hell.
- Human Rights are not respected in Lebanon. Last year the French UN Ambassador's son had a minor road accident with a Lebanese Army truck. The soldiers proceeded to kidnap him, put a bag on his head, take him to the Army Intelligence HQ in Yarzeh, and beat him so badly that they broke his back and permanently disabled the young man. There are 300,000 foreign maids working for 3 million Lebanese (imagine what that ratio means in terms of social perceptions and social disparities); every week, there are reports that these maids supposedly "commit suicide" by hurtling themselves from high rise buildings. No one knows the real story, but sexual abuse and labor abuses are believed to be behind all those killings/suicides. If you want to see Middle Ages practices in a 21st century setting, then go to Lebanon. But if you have any respect for human rights, then you should not go to Lebanon to help fund the abuses.
- Oh, and by the way, Beirut and Lebanon are VERY EXPENSIVE, especially for the poor bang you get for your buck. It's not even worth it. Even the ruins they take you to see for exorbitant fees are mismanaged and in total disrepair. The Lebanese respect nothing - they are basically a highly unethical people - believe me, I am one of them.
- Simple access to beaches on the Mediterranean is impossible: They are are either owned by proprietors in collusion with politicians, and so are made to be "exclusive" with high entry fees and where you find snotty snobs with their maids (who are denied swimming, of course, with the natives), or they are dirty "public" beaches that are 1 hour away from Beirut where you will lounge on rocks and pebbles (instead of sand), amidst piles of plastic garbage, and swim with tchador-clad women. There is nothing in between. It's either filthy rich, or it's simply filthy.
- Last but not least, A second war between Hezbollah and Israel is looming very large. There are daily threats on both sides, and the stupid Lebanese government of Saad Hariri and Michel Suleiman are backing the terrorist organization Hezbollah, and so is the cowards in the Baath regime in Syria.
- This war is likely to be so much more devastating than the 2006 war because Hezbollah is no longer an organization, it now sits in the Lebanese government. While in 2006, Israel limited its devastation to logistics targets serving only Hezbollah, this time Israel is saying clearly that - since Hezbollah is in the Lebanese government - everything is fair game: Lebanese ministries, army positions, etc... Also, because of the perception that Israel "lost" in 2006 by not being able to curtail Hezbollah's ability to shell Israeli territory, it is likely that Israel this time will be unrelenting, which means that the war is likely to be much more devastating and last a longer time, something resembling the 1982 Israeli invasion to dislodge the PLO from Beirut.
- You, as a foreigner, don't want to be stranded in a basically lawless country where the infrastructure sucks, and have to be evacuated in miserable conditions, like what happened in 2006.
Lebanon is my country. I know it. I love it. But I no longer respect it because it has become synonymous with the worst in humans. I do not advise you to go spend your money and be mistreated. One day in the future, perhaps, when there is no more garbage in the streets, when people no longer smoke in your face, when the forests and the beaches of Lebanon become clean and protected from greedy corrupt developers, and when the Lebanese finally learn to treat their fellow human beings with dignity and respect, perhaps then I will invite you to my own home. Inshallah.