Tag Archives: life in Lebanon

The foreigners’ guide to moving to Beirut, part 2

Ok, so now that we’ve gone through things to pack, let’s move on to a few other things you need to know about moving to Beirut.

Finding an apartment in Beirut

Danielle’s take:

This has to be the singlemost frequently asked question I receive from people considering moving to Beirut. It’s also one of the most difficult for me to answer. My first three months in Lebanon were spent at a friend’s home in Hazmieh (which is outside of Beirut). When I decided I wanted to get closer to B-City, I spent weeks trying to find something online or on-foot, and that was WITH the help of a Lebanese friend (although his Arabic wasn’t that good – he had recently moved to Beirut from Montreal).. Everything that I thought was promising online, either demanded six months to a year’s rent up front, or just wasn’t what it professed to be (old, unfurnished, in an inconvenient area..etc etc..)..

Apartments in Beirut

Finding an apartment in Beirut is a mission and a half. Actually, it's two missions. Yep. two.

source

Finally, I got so desperate that I moved into an ALL GIRLS DORM if you can believe it, called The Diva House (shameful, I know..) I paid $700 for a ROOM with a bed, a TV, a closet, and a toilet (at least it had daily maid service!). Even the kitchen was shared. :( (At the time, I was making $1100 a month..so, do the math. It sucked). One day, while I was at work, a friend of mind who went to AUB forwarded me an email from someone in her program looking for a roommate,,and that’s how I eventually came to find the bliss street apartment I lived in for nearly a year (A two bedroom place that went for $1000 a month $500 per person..still expensive versus what I was making, but a good price considering the size and central location).

So, yeah that’s my story. My advice to people looking to move to Beirut would be to check out websites like ahlein.netrealestate.com.lb, lebanon.dubizzle.com (thanks Bass B.) and even beirut.craigslist.org and to get a sense of what you’re dealing with size/furnishing/price wise. Chances are if you’re moving to Beirut, you already have a job or are attending a program that should be able to help you with finding accommodations, or at least point you in the right direction. Finding an apartment is REALLY difficult to do on your own. If you are like me,,and are winging it, it WILL take you time to find something that suits your preferences/price range..(that is, unless you’re balling out of control and money is no object for you.) So you will need to figure out a place (either a hotel or a private home) to stay in the mean time..If you are really adventurous,,you can try couch surfing while you look for a place!!  Either way, I STRONGLY advise having someone local help you/do the talking. Be advised: People WILL take advantage of the fact that you are a foreigner and will try to raise the rent on you.

As for ‘what part of Beirut should you move to’..I would suggest somewhere in Achrafieh, Monot, Gemmayze, or Hamra, Mar Mikhail..they are all relatively close to (or in the middle of ) all of the action..and easily accessible by foot. They’re also – in my humble opinion – the trendiest parts of the city. You could also consider Sodeco, Rawche, and Downtown (Although Rawche and Downtown are usually reserved for baller shot callers only).

Watched this video by BeirutNightLife to go on a nighttime tour of many of these areas..

* Pete of Beirut Beat suggests that you check out the Apartments in Beirut Facebook page..apparently it’s a good resource for finding places to live. Thanks Pete!

Youssef’s take:

Real estate in Lebanon is becoming ridiculously expensive and prices in Beirut especially are through the roof!! Most Lebanese families who still live in central locations in Beirut are holding on to old lease contracts that pre-date the civil war. This means that what these families pay for a year’s worth of rent, is what anyone else trying to find an apartment in Beirut now, would pay in just one month! (Ridiculous, I know.) This has forced many young people outside of Beirut for affordable rent..and by default has created a significant “commuter culture.”

Traffic in Beirut

Commuting to and from Beirut can be..pretty nightmarish..

source

Some young families are settling in areas like Jnah, Dawhet el Hoss and even Dahieh where apartments are, contrary to popular belief, not cheap but many times cheaper than any of the new building coming up in Beirut (which are all sold out by the way, believe it or not).

Lebanese culture dictates that most young professional stay at home with their parents until marriage. Therefore, the demand for rooms/flats/apartment mates is limited to a small number of university students (and expats) coming from outside of Beirut and a handful of exceptional cases (like Danielle). Most individuals looking to share the cost of living tend to be foreigners and thus the supply is very, very limited – and the costs somewhat steep.

The best way to find a place to live in at an affordable rate is to look for student residences around AUB and LAU. Find yourself a local who knows the area (they’re easy to spot, it’s usually the one walking down the street saying hi to every shop owner he passes by), offer them a small compensation and go with them from building to building talking to the doormen to acquire about possible availabilities. (believe it or not I know a Lebanese person who hired someone to find places for her in Beirut, it really is hard to do otherwise..)

Driving/Taking Taxis

Youssef’s take:

Quite honestly, for the most part you do not need to drive in Beirut. And I am looking to start a movement that encourages people to walk more and drive less to places in the city. If you live within the 4 corners: Corniche el Mazraa, Downtown, Manara and Ramlet el Bayda, you can easily get to any place within that area in 20 to 30 minutes of walking. That includes areas like Sanayeh, Hamra, Bliss, Mar Elias and Verdun. Of course there are exceptions and certain situations that require the use of a car and for which the ‘service’ (discussed separately) is a good option. But the Lebanese need to stop taking their car to go from Hamra Main Street to Bliss Street and spend 30 minutes in traffic cursing, shouting and honking for no particular reason.

As for the ‘Service’, it may be one of the cheapest ways to commute in the world (LBP 2,000/USD 1.3 for a short trip anywhere in the city or LBP 4,000/USD 2.6 for longer trips but still within a reasonable range in Beirut and its suburbs). They are also the most common and dominant form of public transportation. They are similar to Colectivos found in Santiago, Chile or other parts of the world where you share a cab with other passengers for a fixed rate. Unlike the Colectivos though, the ‘service‘ does not run on a fixed, predetermined route. In the good ol’ days, the easiest way to spot a taxi was too look for an old Mercedes..or by the red license plate.. While you will still see these Mercedes on the road, there are also many other types of vehicles that operate as taxis.

Lebanese taxi

Typical Lebanese taxi..red license plate..

source

As of 2011, private taxis, ‘services‘ and any kind of public transport (which includes mini-vans, a story of its own) are required to have the official sticker on the car. So essentially, look for the red plates, and the stickers.

Lebanese taxisOfficial sticker.

source

But not worry, hailing a cab in Lebanon requires zero effort – it’s a hospitable country after all! The driver will actually pull as close to you as possible, honk until your ears bleed, or you notice him (whichever happens first), at which point in time you’ll either yell out your destination, or wave your hand to attempt to get them to go away (they’re persistent, sometimes they’ll try to convince you to come in with them regardless).

Danielle’s take:

Driving in Lebanon. HA! Theses could be written on the subject. In all of the places I’ve traveled to, I have never seen anything quite like it. Anything. (It’s funny how every country you go to,,people always say, “If you can drive here you can drive anywhere.” I say..to hell with that. If you can drive in BEIRUT you can drive anywhere. Period. Full stop. Yeah.)

I mean, why would you even consider buying a car/driving when when you have cheap and relatively efficient public transport options? (That is, unless Daddy is willing to fork out to buy you a car..) Driving in Lebanon seriously forces you to employ all 5 senses, and maybe even your 6th. You see, buying a car was never an option for me. So I never even really considered it. I simply couldn’t afford it..(and from what I know, cars are very expensive because of import duties, etc etc). If that isn’t enough,, parking is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS a problem..and although a lot of places do have valet service, it just seems to me that unless you are planning to move to Beirut for GOOD and build a family, etc etc etc..public transportation ie. services and private taxis are the way to go.. That being said, you should know that Lebanese people take pride in their cars. I’ve heard stories of young men who would spend all of their money on their cars rather than using the money to get out of their parent’s house and into their own place. Again, it’s all about image in Beirut..and I think that – especially for young men – that may have to do with the fact that many (not all, but many..yes, I know this is a generalization here people..) Lebanese women consider having a car, a prerequisite when determining whether to date a man or not.. But anyway,,I’m going off on a tangent. Back to the point.

I could sit here and describe what driving in Beirut is like (even though I haven’t experience it first hand, being a passenger and all), but that would take a year. or two. or ten. Instead, watch this video to get a sense of what it’s like. You only need to watch 45 seconds to get the point. You will notice that pedestrian right of way does NOT exist in Lebanon. Drivers don’t stop for the elderly, or for women with strollers..so chances are, they will not stop for you! Something I definitely had to learn the hard way.

So, yeah. I never drove in Lebanon and I never will. Ever..

Instead, I took ‘services‘ or private taxis wherever I went. And it worked out just fine for me.. When I first started this blog, I wrote a post detailing my first time taking a service and outlined the important differences between a ‘service‘ taxi and a private taxi service that every foreigner visiting/planning to move to Beirut should know..but as this post is already wayyy longer than I anticipated, I suggest you click the link if you really want to know more about it. However, Youssef and I updated the post to include some important information, which I will repost here, just to round off this section. So here goes it:

Danielle’s take:

Almost all service taxi drivers are out to ‘make a buck’ in whatever way they can..I mean, they lead difficult lives. Fare prices are low ($1 for god’s sake!), gas is expensive, and traffic is insane..which means that oftentimes they can’t even afford to maintain their cars or fix their parts – which is a contributing factor to why the pollution (and noise pollution) is so bad in Beirut (a conversation for another day)..so for those of you, like me, who have been driving your entire life, getting used to the sometimes squalid conditions of the taxis will take some getting used to. (The vast majority of the taxis on the road are..I want to say..between 30 – 40 years old Mercedes Benz..feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) For those of you accustom to clean public transport systems (subways/buses) I guess it will be easier for you, but an adjustment all of the same. Now back to my point..

If you are a foreigner, and obviously look and dress like a foreigner, taxi drivers will try to rip you off EVERY SINGLE TIME. Without fail. I was relatively lucky because people often mistook me for being Lebanese.. But even so, I made sure to pay my fare as soon as I got in the taxi. The thing is, Lebanese service taxi drivers all like to think they’re political pundits..and their monologues about the latest political bru-ha-ha begin as soon as you enter in the car..Often times, when they’re finished, they’ll expect you to contribute to the conversation or at least have something to say.. On several occasions, when they learnt I wasn’t Lebanese and didn’t speak a word of Arabic (due to my failure to contribute to their conversation),,they oftentimes tried to up the fare on me..or they would automatically turn the service into a taxi without my consent, and then expect that I give them 10,000 LL at my destination. Not cool. So not cool.

It will be hard at first, but stand your ground..they can be a bit intimidating at times, but if they picked you up and made no mention of “Taxi?“..then it is safe to assume that your fare will cost 2,000 LL.. If, before you enter the taxi or as soon as you enter the taxi, they determine that the ride is going to take them a bit longer than than a 2,000 LL ride, but not as long as a “Taxi ride” then they will say.. “servicen?” Which simply means “Two services”..thus doubling the service fare = 4,000 LL..

As Youssef pointed out above, finding a taxi is never a problem. They honk, and honk, and HONK at you..even if you haven’t even given them the slightest indication that you want to take a taxi.

Arabic taxi Beirut

Just had to put a picture to break up all of this text! ;)

source

Youssef’s take:

As a foreigner, anywhere in the world, in order not to get ripped off always ask local about how much getting to and from certain destinations should cost. For the ‘service‘, you will not get a receipt and there is not a price list (although there should be, I need to have a talk with my friend who works for the Consumer Protection Agency) so there is somewhat of a guessing game..and it’s often times up to the discretion of the driver,,or determined by negotiation between the driver and the customer. But if you go in to one already knowing what to expect, you can avoid this. So..ask people what price to expect and they should be able to tell you. If you have no one to ask here are a few general rules of thumb (not 100% accurate but bear with me). If you are in Beirut, going between Raouche, Manara, Hamra, Verdun, Mar Elias, Downtown or any smaller area in between should cost you the regular fair of 2,000 LL. Going from any of those places to within the greater Beirut area but not in this list should be the double fair of 4,000 LL (examples: Ashrafieh, Dahieh, Jnah, etc). Any other major city should be about the same, like Saida, Tripoli, Tyre, etc, where you have the central locations and the surrounding areas. Going from one city or town to another (unless they are adjacent small towns) will usually require a taxi. And for those instances, you might as well just call one and not grab a random one from the street. You could take a ‘service’ to Dawra and take a bus from there all the way up to Tripoli (or any stop in between) if you’re going north or go to Cola and take a bus to Saida if you’re going south. This becomes a matter of ‘it depends’ for what is best for each scenario.

Now, if you’re are adventurous and have a little time on your hands to explore, you’ve got the mini-vans option. I do not want to scare you but I want to make sure you know what you might be getting yourself into. One of my friends always used to say, “to me that the mini-van experience is paying 500 LL for an uncomfortable ride on a vehicle that won’t stop until it hits a wall and that’s when everyone would have arrived at their destination.” Now obviously that’s an exaggeration. But the point is that it’s not for everyone. You need to know where exactly where you’re going (meaning you’ve been there before, would recognize it when you get to it and are able to ask the driver to stop), know which area close to you the vans that go there pass by and has a stop, and know which of the vans that passes by is the van that you need to get on. Now I’m sure there’s at least one expert in the matter who’s reading this and will post all the details in the comments ;)

HOT DAMN. This is a long post. But it had to be done. I guess this means there will be a part 3, 4, and possibly even a 5! For all the Lebanese reading, if there is anything we have neglected to include, or have described inaccurately, please feel free to let us know in the comments. Also, check out this site for a listing of private taxi companies in Beirut.

Here is to hoping we helped make someone’s life a tad bit easier. Just a tad.

Cheers!

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Sometimes, I’m at odds with myself.

Let me explain.

Not having a car means that I have to take taxis at least twice a day – to and from work. Usually I only take service taxis, but on the rare occasion that I have to go visit some friends outside of Beirut, I usually call a private taxi service.

Friday after work, I had plans to go visit a friend in Hazmieh, where I lived for about five months before moving to Hamra.  Most of the taxi drivers that work for the private taxi company I use know me by name – I used to call on them twice a day when going to and from work from Hazmieh. Usually, the ride with them is very pleasant..we talk about life..about work..about how I’m enjoying Lebanon..about how they have to work a second job just to pay for their wives to go to the salon three times a week (true story!)..

But on Friday, my experience was very..very.. different.

I had given the taxi company instructions to meet me outside of DHL in downtown.  I was having coffee at a nearby restaurant with some friends waiting for the customary missed called signifying that the taxi is either close by, or at the appointed destination..I get the miss call, say my goodbyes, and start heading towards the taxi..then I get another missed call, and another, and another..until I look down at my cellphone and see that the taxi driver missed called me 6 times in a row..

“Something must be wrong.” I thought.  “Usually they aren’t this impatient.”

My pace quickened.

Finally, I got in site of the taxi and started waving just as he was about to miss call me again.  As soon as I get in the taxi, he started to rant,

“20 dollar! 20 dollar ticket!” he yells as he waves this piece of paper in front of me with indecipherable Arabic written on it..

“Excuse me?” I ask, unsure of whether he was trying to charge me $20 for the ride from downtown to Hazmieh..

“The police! He give me $20 ticket for waiting on the road for you!  I drive 14 hours a day and I don’t even make $20 dollar!” he says as he puts his head in his hands.  It was painfully obvious what a big deal a $20 ticket was to him.

I didn’t know what to say, usually the taxi drivers know not to wait on the main road, and swing around into the parking lot where they aren’t block traffic.  And I knew that I hadn’t kept him waiting for that long of a time to warrant a $20 ticket.  But even so, my heart broke.  The driver must have been in his early twenties, but the wrinkles around his eyes made him look a lot older.  He looked exhausted..exasperated..on the verge of tears.

I spotted a ring on his wedding finger and immediately my mind jumped into a different scene.  There I was, sitting inside his home..watching as he explained to his wife that he got a $20 ticket at work today..and saying, “I don’t know what we’re going to do..”

But my mind quickly came back to the present as we started swerving in and out of traffic..my body sliding left and right with every turn of the car..

“You see, there is no traffic here,” he said, as he whisked past old ladies, and children, almost knocking them over.  I don’t think I will ever get to accustom to how people in Lebanon drive with complete and utter disregard for everything and everybody.

I began to get a little concerned as his driving got progressively worse.  I decided it was best to keep my mouth shut.  I had just cost the man $20.  I remembered this, and opened my wallet to see if I had enough money to pay for the trip, and for the ticket. But after going through my wallet and my bag, all I could find was 19 thousand.  I’ve always had a bad habit of never keeping cash on me.

My silenced ended when we stalled on a ramp that feeds onto the highway that takes you to Hazmieh.  I looked up at the driver and saw that he was getting ready to REVERSE DOWN THE RAMP with cars coming our way!

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled..

“Look at the traffic!” he said as he pointed to the sea of cars that lay ahead of us..

And then I remembered.  The Syrian and Saudi president were in town visiting the President at the palace in Baabda.  Of course there was going to be traffic.

“It will take us an hour and half to get through!” he exclaimed..

I glanced behind me and saw cars quickly approaching.  There was no way I was going to let him reverse down a highway..even though I knew that making him wait in traffic would cost him even more money..what was I supposed to do?

“Please.” I said.  “I would prefer if you didn’t. It’s not safe”

With a huff and a slam on the gas, we joined the impenetrable traffic jam.

And then the rage began..

Swerve. Honk. Stop. Go. Screech. Dodge. Honk Honk Honk Honk!!..like a live game of bumper cars..soldiers looking on at the crazed antics of this taxi driver.  I swear, driving in this country is enough for you to want OUT.

I kept my eyes forward.  Too embarrassed to look at the disgusted faces of the people in the cars next to me.  At one point we were at a complete standstill, which is when he proceed to get out of the car to survey the scene himself..Hands in the air he cursed..he cursed life, his job, the traffic…me.

He got back in the car just as the traffic started moving again, and within a few minutes we arrived at my destination.

“I knew it wouldn’t take an hour and a half,” I told him..which is when I handed him the 19 thousand, knowing full well that the ride costs about 11..”I’m sorry for the ticket, but this is all I have.  Next time, if you drive around there is a parking lot where you can wait for me..so that you won’t get another ticket,” he took the money not listening to a word I was saying, and sped off just as I slammed the door behind me..

I’m at odds with myself because a part of me feels that I should call the taxi company and tell them about the incident.  Under no circumstance is it ok to berate a paying customer for your mistake, reverse down a highway ramp, nor subject a customer to unjustifiable road rage..

But then another part of me feels that doing so would cost him his job, and me, my conscience.

14 hours a day, and still..a $20 ticket could be enough to break him for the month.  Does everyone feel this way, or is not being able to cope with unforeseen incidents, such as getting a ticket, limited to only taxi drivers?

It makes me wonder, would he have acted this way had he been compensated fairly for his efforts?

How much more strain can the Lebanese take?

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bas emn el 3am

Note to self: never leave going to the bas emn el 3am  (The General Security Office) until an hour before your check in time at the airport..You will miss your flight.

Just like I did.

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Hurray for small victories!

So, I took a “service” taxi by myself for the first time this morning..woop woop!

What’s the difference between a service and a taxi service?  Well, in a “service” (pronounced ‘serveece’), the driver can pick up as many people as his car can hold, so you never know who is going to be sitting next to you, or how many stops there are going to be before yours. That is, unless you tell him you want a “taxi” in which case you will pay as much as you would for a private taxi service.) When you call a private taxi service, its only you in the car, and the only stop is your stop..(but you knew that already. right? Have I lost you yet? No? Good.)

Moving on..

You see, the average taxi ride in a service taxi is 2,000 Lebanese Pounds (LL) , or a little more than $1, whereas when you call a private taxi service,  every ride averages around 10,000 Lebanese Pounds (LL), or almost $7.  It is because of this, that service taxi drivers are picky when choosing which customers to drop and pick up, and it isn’t uncommon for you to get rejected a few times before someone agrees to take you.. So essentially, how it works is that you have to stand at the side of the road, shouting out your destination to service taxi drivers as they pull up next to you (hailing a taxi requires zero effort..they pull up directly along side you and honk, and honk, and honk until you acknowledge them)..and then leave it up to them to decide whether or not they want to take you. Yep. That’s how it works.

So, after learning all of this..something about the idea of yelling out to taxis on the street, with the chance that they may or may not want to take me, on top of not knowing who I was going to be sitting next to, or if the taxi driver was going to rip me off..jussssst didn’t appeal to me… I mean, prior to this the only time I had ever taken a taxi was when I would go drive down to South Beach, park, and then hail a taxi cause my friends and I didn’t want to walk from 10th to 17th street in our stilettos. True story., So for the last three months, like a little princess, I’ve been calling a private taxi to take me everywhere..revelling in my comfort while emptying my wallet..

I knew there would come a day, when I would need to man up and start taking services instead of calling a private taxi service..but I was putting off that day for as long as possible. When, yesterday, it arrived.  I was sitting down counting all of the money I didn’t have, when I realized that 1. I need to cancel my membership at the gym, and 2. I have to start taking services.

Sooo..I decided today was the day that I would over come my fear.

I can do this!” I told myself as I walked out of my apartment this morning and joined the others trying to hail taxis.  And so it began,,

Downtown!” I yelled to the first taxi..REJECTED..”Downtown!” I yelled again to the second taxi..REJECTED..aaand I started to panic..trying to calm the anxiety that was swelling up inside of me.

I looked around, and across the street, a taxi had stopped and yelled back to me, “Downtown??”  To which I nodded, and with a quick jerk of his head (which I quickly learnt meant “yes, I’ll take you“, I dodged oncoming traffic, and jumped into his car..SAFE. (Note: It’s quite a skill to determine whether a service driver has told you ‘yes’ or ‘no’..if they don’t want to take you oftentimes they will just drive off..or sometimes, they’ll stop once they’ve heard your destination, as if they’re contemplating their route in their head,,and then you start walking toward them,,almost touching the door handle,,when they drive off and leave you stranded in the middle of the road. Yep… How do you know if they’ve accepted you? Well, a quick jerk of the head backwards almost always means yes. Confusing. I know. As you take more and more taxis you will get the hang of it – as with almost everything else in that thing called L.I.F.E.)

On the way to Downtown, we picked up another young girl who looked like she was going to University, when I realized, “SHIT, how do I tell him where to stop?!? What’s the word for ‘stop’ in Arabic? stupid.stupid.stupid. I should’ve asked my friends this question before I did this! Arghh!”  So I turned to the young girl next to me, smiled, and asked her, “Do I tell him where to stop, or does he decide?”  To which she replied, “Tell him where, its better..

Ok.

So I tapped him on the shoulder (I felt too embarrassed to ask the girl how to say ‘stop here’ in Arabic…which I later learnt is ‘hone’ or you can say ‘hone please’ as iI would say hahah), just before he made the turn to leave Downtown..and hopped out of the service beaming with pride.

Hurray for small victories!

I had taken my first service in Beirut!

The Taxi Scene in Lebanon

*IMPORTANT UPDATE as of 1/7/12 – Almost all service taxi drivers are out to ‘make a buck’ in whatever way they can..I mean, they lead difficult lives. Fare prices are low ($1 for god’s sake!), gas is expensive, and traffic is insane..which means that oftentimes they can’t even afford to maintain their cars or fix their parts – which is a contributing factor to why the pollution (and noise pollution) is so bad in Beirut (a conversation for another day)..so for those of you, like me, who have been driving your entire life, getting used to the sometimes squalid conditions of the taxis will take some getting used to. (The vast majority of the taxis on the road are..I want to say..between 30 – 40 years old Mercedes Benz.) For those of you accustom to clean public transport systems (subways/buses) I guess it will be easier for you, but an adjustment all of the same. Now back to my point..

If you are a foreigner, and obviously look and dress like a foreigner, taxi drivers will try to rip you off EVERY SINGLE TIME. Without fail. I was relatively lucky because people often mistook me for being Lebanese.. But even so, I made sure to pay my fare as soon as I got in the taxi. The thing is, Lebanese service taxi drivers all like to think they’re political pundits..and their monologues about the latest political bru-ha-ha begin as soon as you enter in the car..Often times, when they’re finished, they’ll expect you to contribute to the conversation or at least have something to say.. On several occasions, when they learnt I wasn’t Lebanese and didn’t speak a word of Arabic (due to my failure to contribute to their conversation),,they oftentimes tried to up the fare on me..or they would automatically turn the service into a taxi without my consent, and then expect that I give them 10,000 LL at my destination.

It will be hard at first, but stand your ground..they can be a bit intimidating at times, but if they picked you up and made no mention of “Taxi?“..then it is safe to assume that your fare will cost 2,000 LL.. If, before you enter the taxi or as soon as you enter the taxi, they determine that the ride is going to take them a bit longer than than a 2,000 LL ride, but not as long as a “Taxi ride” then they will say.. “servicen?” Which simply means “Two services”..thus doubling the service fare = 4,000 LL..

I know, I know this is a lot to take in..but yeah. This is Beirut.

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Palais Sursock

What I love about Lebanon, is how you can discover gems like Palais Sursock, a one hundred year old mansion, just sitting there, watching..as modern life passes it by..

Go up the stairs..

Then go inside..

Greet the lady of the house..

Be entertained!

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Scenes from Lebanon..

Inside a Lebanese sweets shop

More Roman ruins in Beirut..

Church in Hazmieh..mountains in the background

Posters encouraging women to "make their move.."

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Taxiphobia

Was it only three months ago that I was suffering from a severe case of Taxiphobia?

You see, the thing is, I’ve been driving myself around South Florida for the past 7 years, and can honestly say that I know it like the back of my hand.  From South Beach, to Boca Raton, Pembroke Pines to Brickell, and Dania Beach to Doral – I’ve been there and everywhere…and sometimes, all in the same day.

Before coming to Lebanon, the only time I’ve ever taken a taxi is when I would go to South Beach, park on tenth and hail a cab to take me to 17th, cause I couldn’t be bothered to walk seven blocks in my heels..Two minutes, in a straight line, with a guy who speaks English..not a bid deal.

I get to Lebanon, and LITERALLY from one day to the next, I’m taking 20 minute taxicab rides in a country I know nothing about, with drivers I can barely communicate with, and having to use a currency that I still haven’t figured out yet (math was never my strong point)..So yes, I was flipping out..and for good reason..

My “taxicab stream of consciousness”..

“Why are they taking this way? We didn’t take this way yesterday..Where are we going?  Where is he taking me? Should I say something? Is he really going to make this U-turn with 10 oncoming cars coming straight at us? WHAT is he thinking?  Why is it taking so long..Are we really passing through Army check points?  Is he sleeping?  Is he TEXTING? What is he saying on the walkie talkie of his?  WHO is Markazieh? I CAN’T believe I thought Trinidad was bad!!”

If nothing else, not having my car has been a valuable lesson in patience and trust, as I quickly realized that I always arrived where I needed to be, safe and sound…So one day I decided,..HALLAS! (which means enough in Arabic)..and made a conscious decision to just LET GO.  For those of you who know me, this is no easy task..as I’m easily the most impatient and controlling person I know..

For the first time in seven years, I started to enjoy being driven around, feeling the cool breeze blow through my hair, as I observed life going on around me..Sensing this, it wasn’t long before the drivers started to open up to me about their lives in Lebanon, as it turns out…most of them do speak English..  (side note: I only use a taxi service called Taxi Paris, so I often see the same drivers multiple times in a week)..

Some started to tell me about how they work a second job to be able to pay for their wive’s trips to the salon, while others would tell me how they hope to, one day, afford to get married, and yet others would give me impromptu history lessons on how life has changed since the wars and since the efforts of Rafic Harriri..all this to say, I think I’m cured..and I’m lucky to be learning so much.

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Plastic surgery in Lebanon – on the decline?

A blog about Lebanon wouldn’t be complete without mention of plastic surgery and the looks obsessed.  Although there are some Lebanese women who still insist on looking like scary mutant clones  and walking around with their bandages still on (crazy I know), I think that increasingly, Lebanese women are refusing to succumb to societal pressures and embracing their natural beauty. (YAY!)

To all Lebanese women: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! :)

I mean, can someone explain to me the rationale for every woman wanting to look like a version of the below?

Nancy Ajram famous Lebanese singer

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Filed under life in Lebanon, Social Issues in Lebanon