June 14, 2015

On Beaches in Lebanon versus Beaches in Europe

I went to the beach yesterday. It’s one of the southern sandy beaches (i.e. beaches south of Beirut). Going to the beach in Lebanon is definitely a different experience than in Europe. More relaxing, I’d say.

In Europe, be it France, or Holland, or Belgium, you’ve got to park your car on one of those massive parking lots some 2 kilometers behind the dunes, and then slug all the way up the dune and down again, through the sand, stacked like a packing mule.

Like a packing mule, because you’ve got to haul all your gear in one shot. The beach umbrella, the beach chairs, the towels, the ice box, the inflatable boat, the drinks, the wind screen, the sun screen, you name it.
There is nothing at the beach, so you either carry it yourself, or you’re sitting in the sand. And for every bit of food, or drink, if you haven’t brought it along yourself, you need to slug all the way back, over the dune, back to the lot, where the food stalls are.


Food stalls which offer either dried out hot dog sandwiches, or something else equally inedible. By the time you’ve carried your bottle of bee back to the beach, it’s lukewarm.
If you’re not an experienced sun bather, and you arrive at low tide, you will probably have set up shop right on the shore line. Subsequently, all your stuff gets washed away while you are somewhere in the surf, much to the amusement of beach goers who have placed their stuff right under the dunes.
If you need to go to the bathroom, back over the dunes you go, and you have to stand in line with another 20 ladies for a not-so-clean toilet, without toilet paper (of course).
And then, at the end of the day, you’ve got to repeat the whole process and drag your stuff, sandy, oily, sweaty and all, back to the car. There is no shower, or just one on top of the dunes, that you have to share with the other 5000 people that went to the beach that day. No changing rooms either.
And so after what is supposed to be a relaxing beach day, you arrive home, sweaty, greasy, sandy, dead-dead tired, totally exhausted and then you still have to unpack and cook.

I used to leave the beach early, because 1) I did not want to get stuck in a 2-hour long traffic jam, and 2) I’d be so stressed out from going to the beach that I felt I needed the time to recuperate at home before being able to go back to work on Monday.

I was contemplating over that, while I lay at this sandy beach in Lebanon. Lebanon, which, by the way, is too dangerous to visit, according to an e-mail I got from a reader, who was contemplating coming here for a holiday. At least that’s the advise she got form people around her. People who probably have not been to Lebanon.
Here in Lebanon we do beaches slightly differently. Granted, we do not have dunes, nor a tide.
But here we drive to the beach, and give our car to the valet parking, while at the entrance a gentleman takes your bags down to the beach. You pick a spot, and another guy gets you some lounge chairs and a little table. A third guy brings a couple of umbrellas and a little waste basket.
And then a waiter drops by and asks you if you’d like to order something. Sure, we’ll have a beer. Lunch? No, maybe later.
There’s an open-air shower as you get out of the sea, or would you prefer the pool? No problem. There are changing rooms, mirrors everywhere, lovely clean toilets, a lounge with beds, and a couple of life guards who make sure your kids don’t drown.

You want to move to a place under the thatched roof? No problem. The men come out and move your stuff. The menu gets read to you. A salad maybe? Which one of the 5 choices? Would you like to eat your lunch in the restaurant, or rather at your lounge chair? No, lounge chair will do.
And thus you lazily lounge your weekend away, on a sandy southern beach for 20,000 LBP a person (hahaha, bet you want to know which one that is. Granted, for 20,000, you do not get a pool; you’ll have to slum it into the sea). There’s like 20 beaches down that stretch of coast to choose from, all with pretty much the same amenities, or even more up-scale.
At the end of the day, you walk back up the board walk (made for you because walking in the sand is so tedious and tiresome), the valet brings you your car, and home you go. And if you’re really disgusting, at home, you let the maid empty your car. Dinner? How bout we call take-out?
If you're too lazy to drive down south (or north, because we've got awesome beaches up north as well; some of them sandy, many of them pebbles), how about a city beach? Just amble down the hill in Beirut, and pick one along the Corniche. There's 6 I can think off right now. 7, counting the AUB beach.
Too lazy to even go home? Heck, have dinner at the beach.
Definitely more relaxing than going to the beach in Europe, I’d say. And if you're going to come up with the argument that at least beaches in Europe are free, well, I guess you haven't paid those parking fees! Nor paid the price of the dried out hot dogs and lukewarm beers. Or stood in a 3-hour long traffic jam coming, and another 3-hour one going home.

(This post is a partial re-run)


Patyl Khanamirian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jihad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jihad said...

This is a poor comparison. Because wherever you are in Europe, be it France, Holland or Belgium, if you pay more you get more. And if even you're stingy you still get to go to nice clean beaches, but in Lebanon if you can't afford it you're screwed.

Anonymous said...

Horrible review. As an European living in Lebanon i can say that your comparison is soo off. In Europe first of all there is no 2 km walks to the beach. Second..beach is meant for everyone,not for some pretentious assholes, who god forbid have to lift a finger. Beach shouldn't cost 30 000 per visit. Beaches in Europe are clean, and people respect the nature. They know where they are going and are prepared.You making it sound so dramatic...Omg... I have to walk, i have to carry my own bag. People like you, who act like this make me not want to go to beach here.Mishmuuuuul

Anonymous said...

Just to correct a few comments that I have read:
1) Actually, you already pay more in Europe and you still get less. For example, a full day parking is around 14 euros (much more than the 5000LL you give to Valet).
2) even tough water is certainly cleaner, beach are often much more disgusting (there no guys cleaning around at the end of the day).

- We can also add the lack of parking place, in summer, they are all full, so you drive around half an hour to find a sport (or you do park 1 km away from the beach).
- Beach are often overcrowded, specially in south of France, and not easy to find a sport if you decide to come in the afternoon.
- And last, and that's probably the most horrible thing, there is ALWAYS one person that stay on the sand when the others swim. You just can't leave the bags with your wallet, cellphone, car keys, etc. in it alone with nobody watching it. So if you are a couple, well, you'll swim alone. And that alone is a reason why i hate swimming in France.

Jaume Alba said...

I use to follow your blog, as I have lived some time in Lebanon, and use to find it very interesting, but this post is simply annoying and gives a very inaccurate image of how the beach "system" in Lebanon works.
The most important, beaches in Europe are PUBLIC, so that no friend of any politician can claim a piece of beach, close it, build a private beach club and start asking for money to use a beach that should belong to all lebanese. The european governments see that the beaches are well maintained and everyone can have access to it and provides with basic services. Obviously you don't get a valet parking, and a pool, and a waiter.
If you really want to make a comparison, you should compare the beach in Europe with Ramlet Al Bayda, Beirut's public beach. Filthy water, garbage on the sand, no services at all. But hey, let this beach die so that wealthy people head to the private beach clubs to keep my friends' pockets full and leave the filthy public beach to the poor. Maybe you could visit that beach and write a post about the experience and do the real comparison.
I'm looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

Sieske is spot on here. If you want a good clean service in life , you have to pay for it. Up yours to all the haters of this accurate post. I prefer life in lebanon to life in Europe.

Anonymous said...

You can comment without being rude, you prefer life in Lebanon, your choice

Anonymous said...

Come on take a chill pill everybody !!!

Which beach is that? i loved the setting

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Anonymous said...

That's exactly the difference between a selfish, wild capitalist, individualist way of life and a collective, ecological and social one.
Not surprised that the sea is so polluted that no one cares put his for in it, since every city, every municipality and every community thinks individually, wether for the waste treatment, the used water or any subject that needs to be managed COLLECTIVELY.
My congratulations go for you because you have enough money to pay caller parking, beach entry, beer, salad, dinner we and slave, opus! I meant maid. But if you dare swim 100m in your polluted sea then you can pretend compare your self to Europeans. I know you don't care because you don't go to the beach for swimming but to show to others that you CAN go to tje beach :D Poor thing