Summertime Sadness in Lebanon

While most people wait year-round for the summer season in Lebanon to get underway—and every year, summer seems to arrive sooner than the year before—I’m actually of the opposing camp. Summers in Lebanon can be miserable, and here’s why.
The heat and humidity are insufferable. Temperatures in Beirut climb to the high 80s and occasionally the low 90s (that’s upward of 30C for those who profess to the metric scale). Factor in the 60-80% humidity and you’re suddenly equipped to fry eggs on the sidewalk. A brisk five-minute walk at midday will transform you into a sweaty beast, and if you’ve got frizz-prone hair, you may as well buy a quarterly subscription in the Everyday Is a Bad Hair Day Club. You will never win “Most Photogenic” this summer.
Fine, you may counter, go cool down at the beach. Take a dip in the Mediterranean, and you won’t be able to distinguish what’s hotter—the air or sea temperature! Pools are heavily chlorinated and teeming with people, so don’t expect a relaxation séance there. The only refreshing escape is to the mountains, where it is cooler and more meditative.
Besides the scorching heat, the water supply to homes and residences drastically dwindles in the summer, as water is diverted to beach resorts and hotels. This is when independent water suppliers make the bulk of their annual profit. Night and day, you’ll hear the cacophonous roar of generators on truck beds pumping water to rooftop tanks. How lovely: you need three showers a day with all the humidity in the air, but you can hardly siphon one thanks to the country-wide deficit of H2O.
Anyone notice how the electricity supply nods off preposterously during the summer? In Mansourieh, we get at best 12 hours of electricity a day, and the shortfall is covered by privately-owned moteur merchants. You pay by amp bracket (i.e., 5A and 10A are typical for most households), but you often get less than capacity. And the intensity of the light is markedly attenuated, so if you’re a fan of bedtime reading, chuck the book, because the squinting will make your eyes ache. Plus, with the cap on amp usage, you won’t be able to run a fridge, washer, and TV simultaneously without upsetting the wretched disjoncteur (never have I loathed a French word so strongly).
Could summer get any worse? Yes, and it does. Rewind a bit to the heat and humidity. Coupled, they make the ideal brewing environment for mosquitoes. And it doesn’t matter where you live, these pests will find you. They will stud you like chicken pox the entire lengths of your exposed limbs. The worst is when you’re about to fall deep into the throes of slumber, and suddenly a detestable buzzing shakes you wide awake. Try finding the sucker (pun intended), they are masters of disguise. You don’t stand a chance. And they are tenacious—they will get your blood, and no, garlic won’t deter them.
I used to think that with schools shuttered for the summer, the despicable congestion on Lebanese roads would subside. That couldn’t be farther from reality. Traffic is distinctly worse. Blame the influx of Syrians in Lebanon, blame the ill-timed road works, blame the summer festivals in Jounieh/Byblos/Batroun, or blame people’s general boredom and retreat to the streets to gratify their vacuous lives—traffic is at an all-time high during the summer season. And with all our favorite radio hosts away on break while reruns roll on replay, traffic doesn’t get any more digestible.
Welcome to the summertime sadness that is Lebanon. If you relish heat, humidity, draught, poor lighting, vexing bugs, and incorrigible traffic, you’ve found your certain paradise.

Live. Love. Lebanon.

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