Lebanon 101: Living Through A Power Outage

Have any of you ever considered what life would be like in the absence of electricity?

Readers from Lebanon are all too acquainted with this grim situation. 25 years after the Civil War’s end, and we still witness a daily average of 12 hours of government-supplied electricity in most Beirut suburbs. The shortfall has to be distributed by independent motor generators who charge a pretty penny for various thresholds of electric current.

But what if you were deprived of electricity altogether, thanks to some freak blackout left untended to? What if you became enveloped in total darkness?

Photo credit: eieihome.com

A few minutes after the stroke of midnight Saturday, our house went totally silent. No humming of the fridge, no gentle oscillation of the air conditioner fan, no LED lights on the portable landline phone. I lay in expectant stillness, but an hour rolled by, and none of the appliances resurrected.

In the morning, there was still no electricity, and we learned that a blown fuse in the neighborhood had affected some homes, though not all. We were among the misfortunate, and for the first time since moving to Lebanon, we looked forward to when the “moteur,” or generator, would kick in.

Just picture it: 

Sweltering heat and humidity, but no fan or air conditioning to take the edge off your sweat. 

No fridge or freezer to preserve your meat, produce, frozen novelties, and the like. 

No running hot water (most homes in Lebanon are equipped with electric heaters or water boilers). 

No router to power your Wi-Fi. No television. No juice in the electric outlets to fuel your hair dryer, straightener, iron, laundry machine, food processor, or blender.

How about the obvious? No light. Pitch black.

Hour after hour, we hoped for the best, but reality continued to outpace our prayers. We tried calling the electric company, but it was Sunday. Is it too much to expect a 24/7 hotline for something as essential and basic as electricity?

The house quickly became unlivable, and by 1 pm, we sought refuge at the beach. Sunshine and frolic helped dissipate our woes, but we feared that even by nightfall, we’d return to a gloomy abode. Right we were.

In the morning, the start of a new workweek, we awoke to the same dysfunctional misery. Lukewarm showers. No styled hair. We fought perspiration as we struggled to put on our office attire.

Needless to say, we contacted the utility company prolifically on Monday, and each time a customer service representative mechanically noted our frustration and promised to pass it on to the engineers.

Times like this, you realize how loudly your tax dollars speak. One would be sympathetic if a natural disaster incurred the power failure. But when you scan the street from the edge of your balcony and notice your neighbors enjoying the final game of the Euro Cup; when you register the building concierge laughing cacophonously as he tucks in to his favorite Turkish sitcom; when life around you flourishes while you’re squirming in the dark, you realize this is the Lebanese plight.

Injustice. Insecurity. Instability. Obscurity. Even if you don’t take the little good for granted, you’re still powerless to push for progress.

All you can do is light a candle. And while you’re at it, make sure it’s scented.

Photo credit: www.smithins.com

Update: 48 hours later, at the stroke of midnight, electricity was finally restored. Hallelujah! 


  1. That must have been such an annoying and exasperating experience! But hey that's how it is in our part of the world. Now with summer in full bloom, electricity shortage are the worst and then there's the water shortage!!!

    1. And they go hand in hand! No electricity means no power to pump the water up to the rooftop and distribute to all the tanks. Double whammy :(

  2. If it makes you feel better, I think we'd be champions in the States where blackouts get BREAKING NEWS coverage.

    1. I demand a Purple Heart for my trials and tribulations...totally joking.


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