Sunday, July 25, 2004

Ahlan Wasahlan

Ahlan Wasahlan bi kel dyoofna!
For years the trend in Lebanon has been to attract more Arab tourists. This afterall has been the mainstay of the Lebanese economy before the war and thus became the Holy Grail of the 'economic revival'. If you regard the number of Arab tourists in Lebanon as an indicator of how well the country is doing, then judging by the statistics for this season - and the projections made for the remainder of the summer - then Lebanon is about to achieve Super Power status.

But for the average person living in Beirut (me!), I have yet to feel the power surge. The potholes in the road, the power outages, the incessant frustration of daily Beirut life have not changed. In many ways they have worsened. The touristic areas of Lebanon (the entire country except Bourj Hammoud) have become almost off-limits to us. I avoid Downtown completely, and to a lesser extent Verdun. You almost need a visa to go to Bhamdoun or Aley. Shopping stores are fixated on the "abaya"s, they don't really care to serve 'us' anymore. It's hunting season in the jungle of Beirut and everyone is out to make a killing.

Of course the tourists are not to blame for all this. And I am not implying that I would rather tourists not come to Lebanon. On the contrary I welcome them. But why do I get the feeling that we have surrendered the country to them completely? Europe and the States are the most visited countries in the world, but do the French evacuate Paris in summer? Do the Italians feel crowded-out in Rome when the tourists start to arrive?

If you have an answer for me then please let me know. We could discuss it over coffee at Starbuck's... but first, try to find a table.


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