The Latest In and Around Beirut

Here’s the latest on what’s come under my survey the past week:
1.       The Alexa storm, which at first admittedly wasn’t as headline-worthy as the media made it out to be, evolved into a nasty little tempest. Temperatures in Beirut and its immediate suburbs plummeted to the low 40s (for my metric-system readers, that’s 5C), and gusts blew up to 15 mph (25 km/h). Schools were cancelled over three days in an effort to ease traffic—if you’ve ever been to Lebanon, you’ll quickly discover that the infrastructure can hardly withstand a mild drizzle, let alone a real storm. Here’s what winds in Beirut did to one tree in the downtown Minet el Hosn area:

2.       Driving courtesy in this country continues to reach new lows. Michael Young, columnist at Lebanon’s English-written newspaper The Daily Star, eloquently captured this along with other misdemeanors from which this country suffers in his December 12 editorial entitled “Lebanon is no country for young men.”  In it, he lashes out against “the latent violence and aggression of many drivers, their rudeness, selfishness and utter indifference to the consequences of their foolish risk-taking.” But Young makes a deeper and very loaded argument, classifying Lebanon as “a vast con game, an unprincipled country where violence is given free rein, where charlatanism is rewarded, where incompetence is generalized and where legalized theft is widespread—a country which it is easy to leave and from which the young understandably seek escape.” Young blames the Lebanese and not the state, for he claims they “lament the absence of law and principles in their society, but then routinely behave outside the law, without principles.”

Honestly, I too have gotten fed up with the lack of etiquette or any form of human civility I witness daily from behind the wheel. Putting on your blinkers to change lanes is an invitation to other drivers to speed up and cut you off, trapping you in your lane. Drivers refuse to make eye contact because when they do, they will have to answer to their belligerence—as if ignoring your notice will pardon them. And traffic lights, whose abidance has certainly increased since their introduction, continue to remain mere suggestions to many drivers who will breeze right through them unscrupulously.

Where do we start to introduce good manners in driving? How can we teach the younger generations to be civil on the road? I implore all my Lebanese readers to be the change you want to see—drive defensively, not offensively. Yield to drivers changing into your lane or making a turn in front of you, but of course do so only when it’s safe. Smile when driving: your mood will positively follow and rub off on other drivers. And avoid using your horn unless it can prevent an accident. Believe me, the ripples of change may be small at first, but as they travel outward, they grow bigger and bigger, and their marks are unmistakable.

3.       In more entertaining news: if you work downtown and are frantic to duck out of rush hour, your prayers have been answered. Beirut Souks officially launches Cinemacity on the 18th of December, with 14 screens and 2 VIP theaters. It looks like construction is still underway in some sections of the complex, but at least watching movies in the heart of Beirut will soon become a reality. I can’t wait to try it out!

4.       And if you’re downtown discovering Cinemacity, check out the singing Christmas tree right before the Jewelry Souks. Generously donated by Patchi, the tree is topped with the Patchi logo in place of a star.  It’ll really light up your day!


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