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.
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.
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.