The columnist had a good time learning about Lebanon’s history and culture from Mohamed.
Stepping out of Beirut’s international airport into my guide Mohamed’s car, I asked the local if the Lebanese capital produces marble. That’s because expensive marble is laid everywhere at the airport terminal. The lavish infrastructure doesn’t bring to mind a country that has gone through 45 years of armed conflict.
Immigration officials at the airport gave the impression that they were efficient, professional and friendly. I felt that the international media had not been fair in their reports of the country.
“This country is absolutely not a horrific place as many claim it to be. It isn’t unsafe or unsuitable for travel, ” said Mohamed.
Lebanon reportedly hosted two million visitors last year, and according to Mohamed, many visitors were impressed by the country’s rich culture. Back to the question of the marble’s origins, I’m told they are from Syria.
“Syria, the neighbour we both love and hate. Although we only have a small population of 4.5 million, we manage to house some 1.8 million distressed Syrian brothers and sisters and an additional one million Palestinian refugees, besides lots of marble!” said Mohamed.
He lamented that the influx of foreign refugees in Lebanon has caused social, religious and ethnic complications and crises.
“We sacrificed jobs, which should have belonged to us, for these people. The UN handed out aid to eligible refugee households each month, but who will come to the rescue of impoverished and dejected Lebanese families?” he said.
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