Check please… Really

A week ago, I was having lunch at a restaurant in Beirut. When done, I call up the waiter for the check using the universally recognized gesture of the raised hand and two fingers simulating writing… The guy got me a pen!

I appreciate hiring amateur students and what have you as waiters to make some extra bucks. What I don’t like is when the outlet management is more amateur than those they hire!

Oh, I understand. With the riches in which Lebanon basks, like oil, gas, industry, export and others, hospitality is a detail… I mean, why would we need to invest in that industry as if it was our sole source of decent income!


Our beloved Minister of Tourism shows up on TV desperately and pathetically defending himself over the Gemmayzeh Decibel level. How about he gets busy solving the rising moronic level of the hospitality industry! How about we lay some simple, easy to understand, rules that govern how outlets hire front office staff? How about we ask for a minimum of knowledge from a Lebanese applying for a waiter job, like… mum… say speak Arabic?? Or smile? Or know that a raised hand and two fingers simulating writing means “Check please”?… Really?!

We excel at one more thing in this country: The fast buck! We think that a nice logo, outdoor sign and a totally stupid smile at the door is enough to generate a pleasant experience.

Well let me tell you, if this is what people are looking for, I would open a “restaurant” made out of two doors back to back, one entry and one exit,m with a great logo, a wonderful sign and a smiling babe greeting you. You pay, and get the hell out through the second door right away! How about that for an experience? Hein??

Idiots! An experience includes the orgasm!!!!

Yes, I like a good brand. Yes, a visible sign would help. The smile at the door? Priceless… but… Have you ever heard of “service”, “quality”? AND, the raised hand and two fingers simulating writing that means “check please”?… Really??

For many of those idiots who misread my third paragraph above, put your shades on cave bats, I’m going to shed some light on the facts:

NO, we do not have oil,

NO, we do not have gas,

NO, we do not have industries,

NO, we do not have exports… well yeah, people, but that’s another chapter.

All we have are politicians, not much to put a country’s goodwill out. We also have “citizens” who don’t even know how to draw their own country’s flag. Thank God we don’t carry the Brazilian flag; we deserve the Libyan one! And.. we have tourism and hospitality.

Now, let’s see. Tourism; the country where you can ski and swim at the same time… Yeah, and no one ever asked why?! Simple, because by the time you leave Faraya in December heading for the beach, you’re guaranteed to get there by June! Tourism is not an industry in Lebanon. It is as archeological as archeology itself. Haphazard lame advertising campaigns promoting “what we sell” instead of who we are. Tourism is not about sea, sand and sun (and sex). It is not about archeology. It is not about food. It is about IDENTITY. Now you tell me, what is our identity? The one we need to sell to create our touristic platform? Name online please… I dare you!

Hospitality? I guess that the problems lies deep within our knowledge of the language. No schmucks! Hospitality has got nothing to do with hospitals! Is that why we’re selling Lebanon as the prime destination for cosmetic surgery??! Is it?

What happened to Raoucheh, Jeita grotto, Beiteddine, Rabbits’ islands, Maameltein… Oops! Sorry, we all know what happened to this one! Another linguistic misunderstanding, we actually thought that “warm welcome” meant “reaaaally” warm… Thank God we did not word it in typical Lebanese “hot welcome”…

So, we’re left with Downtown, Gemmayzeh, nightlife, belly buttons, (fake) boobs, in-your-face sweaty arm pits and some 60’s smiling faces.

Reality is that underneath this layer, hides a crave… “My” crave to be able to call a place “my” country, be able to describe it in 2 words instead of a dissertation that gets into the existentialist reasoning of war stigmatized citizens.

I have a crave to talk about this place without having to insert the word Zionist, or “Amrica al shaytan”, or Syria the occupier, or International tribunal, or Northern Emirate, or security belt, or Solidere, or UNIFIL or trees…

I have a crave to stop calling this place “this place” and start calling it home…

Until then, please give a decent place to eat, a pleasant corniche to walk at, a “free” beach to watch the sunset, or an archeological site that does not come with beads sellers, Sudanese nuts and begging gypsies. Can you? Can you do that at least?

Oh, and please, kindly remember, a raised hand and two fingers simulating writing means “Check please”… Really.


10 Responses to “Check please… Really”

  1. October 20, 2010 at 18:29

    I’ll have to bookmark this page!

    • October 20, 2010 at 19:02

      Hi there,

      I got very concerned by your article and would so much appreciate if you could have some kind
      of proposal or solution to make Lebanon, my country, a better “place”.
      Thanking you in advance

  2. October 22, 2010 at 11:18

    Very glad to have stumbled upon your page. It did give me a little bit of hope that all might not be lost yet. I gave up a while back on the notions of “nation” “people” “homeland”….etc and found myself being dragged down deeper and deeper by “this place”. If it weren’t for my son I would have gone back to England. With regards to our Dear minister of tourism, I have had my fair share of problems with him (and many other “civil servants”) and still have not come to their conclusion yet. I do understand your frustration and had to go through it for a very long time upon my return Since 1999, but I am afraid that it sucked the life out of me. Just like in Rhinoceros by Ionesco, everytime I look into the mirror I am becoming more and more like them.

  3. 4 PeterinDubai
    October 25, 2010 at 11:50

    Dude … give the student a break. At least he got you a pen 🙂

    He needs the income, Bro. Come back next month. You’ll be surprised how much he’s learned and how much you’ll miss him when he graduates and gives you bad service at the bank.

  4. October 25, 2010 at 22:00

    Hello Ibrahim:

    Do you remember me from Publicis Graphics in 2006?

    I like your post, and I understand your frustration. But hear this one: My husband was in a reputable hotel in Tunisia in the early 90’s. When he asked for lemon in his drink, he got a whole lemon unpeeled and uncut in en empty glass!

    Hiba Khoury

  5. October 26, 2010 at 11:32

    Wow, I’m loving the rant. But seriously, I don’t understand how some places here don’t see the value in training their employees! What about when you order a drink in the middle of your meal, and they bring you mixed nuts..even though you already have your food!?! To me, it all goes back to the obsession with appearances..as long as it looks good on the outside (the branding, the menus, the place, the hot babe)..who cares about the experience!! At least that’s what they think..but what about people like us? All we care about is THE EXPERIENCE! (The orgasm is part of the experience, lol lol) After all, that’s what we’re paying for, right?!

    HAHHAAH I still can’t believe he brought you a pen!

  6. October 27, 2010 at 07:25

    Interesting blog post: this is not (I think) my first time on here but my first time commenting.

    While I can understand your frustration at our crappy (though not always) services. I’d like to point that you are being harsh on our country as a whole.

    Basically, the line that caught my attention most is this: “…pleasant corniche to walk at, a “free” beach to watch the sunset, or an archeological site that does not come with beads sellers, Sudanese nuts and begging gypsies. Can you? Can you do that at least?”

    You see, your overall rant I agree with. All we have is our tourism and we don’t know how to make the BEST use of it but the fact of the matter is that we do have a pleasant corniche to walk at, we do have free beaches, and our bead selling, sudanese nuts and begging gypsies at archaeological sites are part of our culture and identity – we can’t run away from that.

    There are aspects of our culture that don’t live up to a certain par or standard and they don’t have to but what they do need is a standard – at least our own standard. We need rules on how these sellers and gypsies can hang around, we need rules to ensure that most our beaches are free, we need rules to ensure that hospitality training is done properly and that our services aren’t just a matter of image.

    People whom aren’t from Lebanon generally don’t notice our flaws as much – I know a woman whom LOVES Lebanon more than her own Germany and Croatia and Canada.

    Our identity today is shaped by our past identity as a nation- we have seen war, struggle, revolutions, murder, crimes etc… and while these do not justify Lebanon’s inability to grow to what we all want, there have been barriers we can’t just ignore.

    Lebanon in a few words is a land of orderly chaos. It is beautiful yet ugly. One will love it anyway.

    Also, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim to make our country better, what I do think though is we need to recognize that Lebanon’s beauty is in its inability to live up to the standard of neither Arabs nor the West. We are our own selves and while building and fixing ourselves we should hold on to our simple and beautiful identity.

    With that, I’d like to make a quick point about another blogpost regarding “being patriotic”- I’m very patriotic and I have no political leaning. For me, Lebanon is my home, my family, my memories, my future. It’s a beautifully chaotic place. I love the sound of honking horns, the way when electricity runs out at night – the family comes together for a few moments. I love that we have beautiful nature and I can and have explored it in under 3 hours at a time. I love how busy the streets are. I love the street ads. I love the guy down the street screaming for me to buy his ka3k annd I love the noise of construction on a beautifully, sunny morning. Maybe this isn’t how others in the world live or like living but this is our way and we should embrace it and look for the positive in it. While some things will one day change for the better, it doesn’t change that some things will go with it that make our culture beautiful and simple.

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