Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Life is just too short to worry about tourists

Remnants of war at the sea front - and boys too young to remember.

When Cate arrives anywhere there is always a car to collect her and take her to the hotel. They do this for all the senior staff who visit the far flung Ducky Pharma empire which spans the globe.

On this occasion there was a man with a Ducky Pharma sign and Cate’s name on it. He took her bag and we went outside the airport where there was no car - but he made a phone call and two ‘Charlies Taxis’ arrived moments later.

He put us in one and disappeared in the other. Our Charlie set off on our voyage of discovery and it became apparent that he had no idea where our hotel was as he was making calls in Arabic on his mobile phone and we heard the name of our hotel mentioned a number of times.

Charlie had to stop four times to ask for directions. We eventually arrived at the hotel at 2:30 AM. The hotel was not expecting us – we not at all surprised – so we did not get the room with the sea view – but were too tired to care - and it was dark.

This was our first introduction to the Lebanese way of doing things. They are more relaxed than we are and do not worry about many things – including time.

We asked the Concierge (a young lady) to book a tour to Baalbeck. After intense negotiations over a period of an hour or so – which included my providing credit card details to a stranger on the telephone - our Concierge was able to assure us that we would have a car and guide at 9:00 the next morning.

At 10:00 the next morning after much enquiry and agitation we were informed – and it was like extracting teeth from the Concierge – first that the traffic was delaying the car, then that they were just running late and finally that our tour guides had decided against taking us because….well we don’t really know…..but it was a really nice day so maybe they went to the beach.

I really hope they decided against charging our credit card.

We then understood why we were ignored in cafes and treated with complete disdain by waiters. They like us – and are happy for us to be in their country – but just cannot be bothered with the concept of dealing with us. Life is too short.

There are simply more important things in life – coffee, women, football - almost anything really. (The majority of Lebanese appear to be supporters of the German football team - with Brazil second).

There is of course a downside to Lebanon. There is no escape at all from smokers – it is even open slather in the airport lounges – and there is no concept of a smoke free area in a restaurant or cafĂ©.

Tobacco advertising is still permitted and there is no sign of any attempt at all to stem the tide – which is a pity because it is such a wonderful place with such potential – but smoking on that heroic scale will kill a lot of potential tourism.

But if I lived in a country that had been through what Lebanon went through - and may go through again - I would not be too worried about the consequences of smoking on tourism.


  1. Did it make Vienna seem a little less smoky? Probably not. Ah well, it's all an experience.

  2. It did because there are places we can go here to escape.

  3. Well, I can sort of understand the football thing right now. England will shut down for the next couple of weeks as World Cup mania takes over. Ther are people who have (literally) laid turf in their living rooms to generate a pitch-side atmosphere. The houses are decorated with England flags and merchandise more than at Christmas (or maybe it is simply more visible as we have daylight in the summer). There will be huge anticlimax and riots if England go out at the first hurdle. Margaret Thatcher's encounter with the coal miner's strike will look like child's play.