Riham's Blog


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Life in Lebanon category.

Rant: Lebanese reactions to smoking ban

I’ve been told by some very wise people that I should stop caring about Lebanon now that I’m outside of it. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly do that, and use blogs and news reporting sites to know what’s going on as long as it’s not related to politics.

This is why I was really happy to read about the smoking ban. Then I read an article on NowLebanon stating the reactions of people to this law, and I am seriously disgusted. I know this article is not representative to the population of Lebanon, but something tells me the reactions stated in it are really common. Reactions such as:

  • This ban violates the freedom of smokers. – If you had any common sense at all, you would realize that what you’re stating is that you’ve been violating the freedom of non-smokers for years. Since I’ve lived in Lebanon long enough, I know my typical-Abed will reply to this by saying non-smokers are free to not smoke, a statement I won’t even bother replying to because everyone knows about second-hand smoking.
  • I’ve been smoking for a long time, I’m not going to stop now! – Then it’s a good thing that no one is asking you to stop. We’re just limiting where you can do it so that you don’t violate people’s rights to breath clean air.
  • There are more important issues that the government can deal with! Like internet, electricity, weapons, road safety! – Every time a new law passes in Lebanon, this is the statement that drives me the most crazy. We have a lot of problems, yes, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t deal with anything. The bigger problems listed above require more time, effort and most importantly resources, so let’s start with what we can do now. If anything, change can start with you. It’s true that it sucks how easily you can get weapons in Lebanon, and that it’s something the government should deal with, but until then, how about you don’t shoot up the air every time your worshipped leader makes a speech or your dear son passes an exam that requires the IQ of a peanut (AKA Brevet)? It’s true that our roads are not safe, that car accidents are a big issue, but until this is fixed, wear the damn seatbelt, don’t drive through a red light, and for the love of god, respect your fellow citizen and don’t blind them just because you have a big car and you can!
  • This will harm my business, there’s nothing better than drinking and smoking at the same time, how will people drink – To that I have one thing to tell you: I live in Ireland. People smoke outside in the cold weather all year round. People are also drunk by 9pm. Your business will live.
And finally…
  • Whatever, no one is going to follow that law anyway – Unfortunately, this is actually something I’m scared of. But the fact people take it for a given upsets me. We keep bragging about how our country is “[Insert name of European city here] of the Middle East”, and yet we don’t want to embrace the good laws that these cities have been following for a long time now. I don’t want this law to be respected as much as the “No smoking in the airport” is, where everyone still smokes.
I never believed in some things until I left Lebanon. I always thought “noise pollution” was a made up expression until I lived in a city where cars very very rarely honk. I never understood the usefulness of a smoking ban until not only I left Lebanon, but came back and noticed the difference as I wondered why it was suddenly stinky as my friend lit up a cigarette in a coffeeshop.
This law is as important to me as faster internet or 24/7 electricity. Let’s hope my fellow Lebanese break their trend of disappointing behavior.

Discover Lebanon first

Greenery!

One common thing you hear from the Lebanese who live abroad is that we take this country and what it has to offer for granted. I find this to be true, as many times, we do not visit all the historical sites that are available to us for free. We accompany our tourist friends to them when they are visiting us, but we never see them for ourselves.

Courtyard

I was at Beiteddine Palace last week. It was on a weekend, on a Sunday even, which means almost everyone does not have work. The weather is also perfect as it was very hot in Beirut. My expectation was that the area was going to be packed. I was disappointed to see that the whole area was almost empty, and that the palace was being visited by only several people. No school trips were taking place, and barely any Lebanese people. Those who were there were all foreigners, and by talking to one of them, I discovered that they had been there before, and that they were visiting for the second time because they think the palace is beautiful. I wanted to see kids on a school trip, a family, a group of friends visiting. None of that. Is the only reason to ever go to Beiteddine is to watch a concert during the festivals?

It is great to see foreigners taking interest in Lebanon, but I honestly find that we take what we have for granted. I am sure that you are able to find a Lebanese person who can tell you about any historical landmarks or touristic sights in a European city in great detail, but is unable to list more than three similar landmarks in his/her own country. It really is a shame.

Another thing is that not much effort is being done to promote all these locations. I have seen some ads to promote Lebanon in general, but not many for specific areas. As we were walking around in the different rooms of the palace, I noticed one room that I haven’t been in before. I told my friend that I don’t remember ever seeing this part of the palace, only to find out from the guide/security officer that this room has been opened to the public recently, so the reason I can’t remember being in it is because it was closed before. If new rooms are being opened to the public, why not inform the public? The guard overheard me by chance and told me about this, otherwise I wouldn’t have known.

Pretty & colorful room!

It isn’t enough to say that Lebanon is the best country in the Middle East, or that wherever you go, you will never find a country as great as Lebanon. The “patriotism” (if you can even call it that) you see in such statements isn’t very useful if what these people are referring to is only the night life, or merely the coexistence (or lack thereof) of different sects and religions together. If we want to truly love Lebanon, we should try to see it. This is why I am writing this post, as a call, as much directed to me as it is to others, to discover Lebanon. If not a call, then at least it is one thing I hope will happen. In other words, before you travel around the world to find beauty and discover yourself or whatever it is you’re looking for, discover Lebanon first.


Driving Radars; opportunity or curse?

I had been dreading driving lately. I know the topic of Lebanese driving has been covered over and over everywhere; just run a small Google search and see for yourself. But driving has become particularly frustrating. All those stories I have been hearing about people getting hit by cars and fatal accidents happening on the Lebanese streets made me nervous. It seemed to me that during the past few months, the drivers of Lebanon have become even more careless, paid less attention and lacked any sense of decency, more so than before. This blog post lays it down much more eloquently than I could

This is why I was happy to hear of new laws and regulations being set in place to force your average Lebanese driver to use his/her brain while on the road, and take into consideration the fact that we are not alone on the streets, and that believe it or not, we do not in fact own those streets we drive on.

However, many questions come to mind about these laws, and I hope that with time, they will be answered and clarified.
My first concern is whether this will really and seriously be enforced. We’re used to driving regulations being enforced for a while and then completely forgotten about (ie seatbelt), only to have everyone go back to their old ways as soon as the last ticket is given out. If we’re ever going to organize the way people drive here, consistency is needed. This means that I will get a ticket every single time I break the law, and not just during certain seasons.
Another issue is if we’re focusing on the issue of speeding, why aren’t there any signs that disclose speeding limits on most streets? I once tried to find out the limit on the highway leading up north, and it’s only until I got to the middle of it that I saw a sign that said “80”. The explanation so far is 50KM on every street where nothing else is put, and 100KM on the highways.
Many more come to mind. Will the money be used for better roads? Will people who have connections be able to get out of paying their tickets? Are the rates for the tickets really as high as the rumors have mentioned?

Driving is an issue that really matters to me. It is something that we do every single day, without realizing how dangerous it can be if not done correctly. I understand the reasons (well, the good ones at least) behind all of this, as the amount of accidents that have happened this year is unbelievable. However, I believe the effort should come from both sides. Citizens should be more considerate on the road, and follow the laws. But we should also expect better road conditions from our authorities.

I see those new traffic radars as an opportunity for sanity on Lebanese roads, but we shouldn’t forget that a lot can go wrong with this.


What to do when you can’t find parking space

Men are continuously influenced and affected by their surroundings. Whether we want it to or not, the people we spend time with and the society we grow up in certainly affects us, the way we view things and how we respond to them. The affected actions can go from simple, routine day-to-day situations to deeper and important issues. Let’s take a concrete example.

What would a civilized person do when they cannot find a parking space:

  • Take this issue into consideration before going, and accordingly use public transportation, get a ride with a friend, avoid being in a situation where they have to look for a parking spot.
  • Keep driving around, sooner or later someone has to leave the area and take their car with them.
  • Try to find a nearby public parking, pay 2000LL, 3500LL if you’re in an upper scale area, and park there.

What would a Lebanese person do when they cannot find a parking space:

  • Start a huge fight, use all kinds of weapons, basically turn everyone’s life into hell.

Honestly, I don’t know for sure that this is what started the fight, but previous fights (ie, trees!) show that I shouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.
I also do not care about politics, or any group or sect or party or religion or whatever else way we internally divide and subdivide our people. All I care about is not to have bullets on my balcony or have to sit at home and hear all that debacle.

So for the love of God, next time you’re on that street, and you do not know where to park your car, and are so angry you just NEED to shoot someone for it, call me, I live there and am willing to give up my parking spot for your convenience.


Lebanese E-Transaction Law

So we have good news and bad news.

The good news is that our government finally caught up with the rest of the world, and realized that the internet is happening. This is why laws and regulations need to be set in place in order to protect the Lebanese citizen, and create a safe and private environment for him/her to browse the internet.
The bad news is that the law that they are supposed to vote on does not do any of the above.

The most disturbing part of it for me was the below article:

Article 82. The Agency may, within the exercise of its functions set out in this Act, carry out inspections of financial, administrative and electronic access to any information or computer systems or tools related to operations, including those used for data processing in relation with private information.Employees are entrusted inspection functions as an specialized judicial police within the scope of the Authority’s work. Public Prosecutions and the investigating judges and courts may use the Authority in their investigations, provided that the staff of the agency concerned had sworn before the Court of Appeal in Beirut prior to their work.

In a time when security and privacy breaches are causing scandals and controversy around the world, an article such as this one strikes me as a little shocking. Who gets to cease the data, and how do we know for sure that they are qualified and unbiased? So many questions to be asked. Read more

I tried to read around a little bit to see some data about internet users in Lebanon and the way they browse the internet, and I was linked to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority‘s website. In a section entitled Internet & Data, we read the below paragraph.

“Both local and regional investors have indicated an eagerness to invest in the telecommunications infrastructure in Lebanon. [They] will find a ready consumer base of well educated and highly skilled people with an eager appetite for new technologies. […] With the TRA in place, the groundwork has been set for new technologies and licensees to enter the market. This provides a vital opportunity for the country to leap frog to leading edge technology, and catch up with the region. In addition, the TRA has been active in developing a Regulatory Framework in line with international best practices.” source

Lebanon, you’re a country that contradicts itself over & over. A law with articles as backwards as the one that might (will?) be voted on, these eager investors will run away. Stop pushing us to the past when we are trying to move forward. For once, vote on something that goes for our benefits, rather than unexplained backwards laws.

  • Facebook page
  • Maya’s suggestions on what better things the government should look at when establishing an e-transaction law

  • Driving in Lebanon – Adventure, or just plain chaotic?


    what the hell is going on here?

    Driving has been more of an annoyance than just a mode of transportation.

    It has been said that we’re good drivers due to the fact that we drive like crazy people, therefore gain reflexes to avoid undesired accidents. However, I think that the Lebanese people have an unbearable and unjustified attitude when it comes to driving. To be eligible for a Lebanese driver’s license, the following should apply to you:

  • You strongly believe that you own the road and other cars driving are renting the space and report to you
  • You are the best driver on the road, and everyone else is an idiot
  • On any given point, if there is a minor confusion as to who should pass first, you earn that right due to the two above reasonsA few incidents have made me really dread having to drive in Lebanon.

    The first one happened when I was in Saudi two weeks ago. We had stopped for a red light, and I noticed that people had left the far right lane empty. It was open for all those who want to go to the right. This may appear normal to anyone, but it was just amazing to me. I am used to have a bunch of cars coming and blocking what is supposed to be an unblocked way to the right, because they want to stop at the very front and immediately move when the light turns green (if they have chosen to stop for the red light, that is). But no, that’s not what the Saudis did, they left it open for whoever needs to use it.

    The second happened a few days ago in Beirut. I was in the passenger seat, and my friend parked the car and went to get something. Even though the way the car was parked wasn’t perfect, the road was wide enough for a Jeep to pass. I was waiting for her to come back, when I found a car parked right next to me, therefore blocking the road, and honking like crazy. The girl in it, what with her large sunglasses and very fancy car, just stopped to yell at me. She was able to pass (actually, the road was freakin WIDE), there were cars behind her, but she wanted to stop and start yelling. What’s funny is that I was in the passenger seat, I wasn’t the one who parked the car.

    I think the reason we drive like that is supported by our road and transportation systems. Chaos will never create order; it will create more chaos.
    The first and most important thing that should be organized is driving tests and the process to get a driving’s license. People must absolutely take a driving’s test. I do not know of any other country where getting your driver’s license means just going to pick it up. When we start forcing our citizens to learn how to drive and take the damn test, they will then learn the rules of driving safely and start being more sane. Last I heard they were organizing it, although I still hear of people getting licenses without taking the test.
    The second thing is enforcing the laws. Every year, they enforce them for a short period of time, and then back to our old ways. I don’t want to get a ticket if I am not wearing my seat belt once a year, I want a ticket if I’m not wearing my seat belt every single time. I don’t want to be pressured into driving away from the traffic lights by cars honking behind me, I want the cars behind me to find it normal and not at all lame that I’m stopping at a traffic light that is actually totally unnecessary.
    Also, what the hell is with the sodeco intersection? Why does it follow the “kil wa7ad bi shatarto” (each with his own skill) rules, when other tiny roads have traffic lights all over the place.

    At the same time though, we should be doing our own efforts. Fight the urge to stop and yell at the car next to you and inconvenience everyone behind you, respect the car in front of you’s choice to stop for a red light, let someone else pass every once a while rather than stop just because you have no other options. Driving is more dangerous than flying (this year excluded, it seems), take it seriously and avoid unnecessary moves that you do to make a point, and end up with an unnecessary accident. Make our roads more pleasant to drive on.