Of driving and drivers. Another nail in Brand Lebanon coffin

She’s in a top of the class dark grey Range Rover with a four digits plate number, on the left lane of the road. Her cell phone is held between her left cheek and shoulder. She’s confirming her 11:00am Botox appointment. Her right hand is holding her $200 Mascara stick. She’s staring at the rear view mirror trying to work her eyelashes into giving her a more slutty look. A super slim mint-flavored cigarette is dangling from her lower lip glued by the thick layers of deep red lipstick glazed by another two coats of gloss. On the right seat – the one we call “la place du mort” in French or “the seat of the dead”- is her five years old daughter standing, leaning against the dashboard looking at the traffic. In the backseat the Philippine maid is the only one with her seatbelt on. A Starbuck’s coffee is sitting in the cup holder on the dashboard. On the rear windshield is a small round sticker with the Army logo. Oh, and by the way, she’s driving!

He’s in a black 1982 BMW 316. He changed the model number to 325. You could buy these chrome digits from any parts shop. He’s also driving slowly on the left lane of the highway. They must have all earned their driving license in Great Britain! His car windshields and windows are all shaded with a 90% black Fumé that he had had installed few months ago at Tiger. You could tell from the “Tiger” letters stuck under the newly installed “325”. The driver’s window is open. He’s there wearing a green 100% glossy Polyester short sleeve shirt open all the way to his pelvis. Abundant chest hair is proudly protruding and almost hiding a thick gold chain that rivals 50Cent’s and with a gold cross at the end that rivals the Pope’s official cross. His left arm is dangling, fully, outside the window, so low it could touch the asphalt. There’s a tattoo on his shoulder. You can only guess few letters, under a hidden graphic, that say “Shirine”. On the dashboard, a panoply of dials lit in blue. There’s even one for his IQ always stuck at zero. He’s from a special race of people genetically afflicted with a rare disease; when you honk at them, they slow down! Science has yet to find an explanation and cure. On his rear windshield, there’s an A4 poster of some dead relative with the “we will never forget you” line underneath the photo. Seems this poor youngster was ran over by another BMW.

On the same highway, same lane, an old crumbling Vespa is coming towards them, against the traffic. All that’s left from the “mobilette” is her bare mobility! Riding it is a 15 years old boy. He’s wearing a sleeveless navy blue tshirt with a huge white Armani eagle on the back. I always strongly believed that these guys genuinely think that Armani is from Bourj Hammoud! He’s got more gel on his hair than at Elie’s my barber, so much that his wannabe mohawk styling is creating a wind sheer factor that’s slowing him down. Between his legs, resting precariously on the cycle’s floor, is a blue gas canister he’s delivering to a nearby shawarma outlet. While his right hand is clinging to the throttle handle, constantly keeping it twisted to the extreme, his right hand is holding a $20 violet Nokia cellphone. He’s organizing his shisha night. Replacing what used to be his only headlight, is a plastic yellowish skull with 2 blue lights for eyes. He’s keeping the traffic driving at his pace. Probably the wind on his face gives him the impression to do 80Kmh.

He’s just crossed the intersection towards which the chick in a dark grey Range Rover and the macho in the black BMW are heading. There, is standing a caricature of a traffic officer. From afar, you can first guess his beer belly, and the closer you get, the more you find out that he’s standing right in front of the cars he’s asking to move, blocking them! He’s wearing over-sized trousers that barely hold to his lower waist and are so long they actually fold under his shoe heels. By contrast, his short sleeves shirt is so tight, it reminds you of the Village People, not that he’s well built… Few salt and pepper belly hair are trying to make a run for their lives through the gap between two buttons struggling to keep the two sides of the shirt holding together. Right beneath his left chest pocket, is a dark spot left by a clumsy cleaning of some taratour from the Falafel sandwich he’s just had. He’s wearing white gloves. They’re not white anymore but rather a gradation of grey that starts light towards the wrist and end up in a dark warm grey at the tip of the fingers. Thank God he removes them to “clean” his nose… So he’s waving the traffic frantically to move and clear the intersection, but he does not notice that he’s standing right in the middle of the road making it impossible for cars to move. He’s actually on the phone, you could tell it’s his wife (or mom) from the uncomfortable look on his eyes. Then, he suddenly asks the cars to stop, and forgets to wave the other lane to move. And now, he’s standing all alone in the middle of the intersection speaking to his wife (or mom), while the whole frozen traffic is anxiously awaiting a sign to move, just like a well-trained dog awaits a signal from his master to hit the food plate.

Not far from there, a 95 years old taxi driver in a 1989 orange Hyundai Accent has stopped in the middle of the road trying to pick up 2 Ethiopian maids on their day off. They want to go to Hamra, but he’s only getting to Clemenceau. Traffic piles up behind him, honking, curses, ranging from “Ya hayawen” (You animal!) to things that brings him back in memory to the day he was conceived… He’s either deaf or playing deaf.

Few meters behind is a black Mercedes with a blue plate carrying 2 digits, and flanked by two black Chevrolets TrailBlazer. Sirens, honking and the whole works. Some deputy is late for work… or lunch… or his mistress… or just like that, for the fun of playing deputy! They push everyone aside, pass and speed away…


They always speed away. They learned that the farther you get from a problem, the less of a problem it is.


Someone commented a while ago on my blog saying that the beauty of Lebanon is in its chaos… If this is the case, Lebanon must then advertise for providing “quality” heart attacks, unparalleled quality of CO2 pollution therapy, and being the only place on Earth that teaches CSL (Cursing as Second Language)!

I drive slowly on the right lane and fast on the left. I wear my seatbelt before starting the car. I use a headset to speak on the phone, I don’t have shaded windows. My car’s model is genuine and I keep my chest hair well tucked under my shirt!

What I have a problem with is working my ass out to pay the salary of deputies, ministers, and traffic officers. Being a boss who can’t fire is annoying. I have a problem paying taxes every time I renew my car’s license, only to drive on roads that resemble Himalayan donkey tracks. I have a problem with newly installed traffic lights that don’t light! I have a problem with police officers that scare me more than they protect me. I have a problem with Black Mercedes, BMW and Range Rovers. I have problems with Picantos that think they’re Ferraris.

No, The beauty of Lebanon in not in its chaos. It is in its diversity, where idiots live in harmony with the cultured. It’s in its fauna, where all sorts of animals cohabit with humans. And most of all, the beauty of Lebanon is in its flora, where vegetation exists along the vegetables we became!

I know someone will gloriously comment on that blog entry by asking why don’t I do something about to start with! I am… Can’t you read? Ah, sorry I forgot… In Lebanon words don’t count anymore. I’ll honk!


29 Responses to “Of driving and drivers. Another nail in Brand Lebanon coffin”

  1. November 1, 2010 at 13:06

    “No, The beauty of Lebanon in not in its chaos. It is in its diversity, where idiots live in harmony with the cultured. It’s in its fauna, where all sorts of animals cohabit with humans. And most of all, the beauty of Lebanon is in its flora, where vegetation exists along the vegetables we became!”


    I remember the days you used to blog only about branding. Oh how things have changed..I welcome the new you! Fantastic piece.

    You described all of the reasons why, as long as I live in Lebanon, I will never drive!!

  2. November 1, 2010 at 13:27

    I enjoyed every bit of this post!!! (except qualifiying an overdose of mascara as a more slutty look) isma7li 🙂

  3. November 1, 2010 at 13:30

    Don’t know what to say!!!! Sad, true, frightening…

  4. November 1, 2010 at 13:33

    Loved it. Honest and powerful. Here are my 2 cents:

    your cross-sectional palette of the Lebanese driver is fascinating, but in my opinion, it’s more a reflection of your own anger than of reality. The descriptions are a bit more than statements of facts (with the exception of the odd starbucks cup and car color). They are more like caricatures.

    For example, the first woman was painted as a “slutty” monster. Her phone call could very well have been with a dying parent, but you chose instead to characterize it as a call to a botox clinic. That literary device served you to reduce the humanity of one of the people responsible for your daily stressful commute, and to induce sympathy from your readers.

    In my opinion, this is not a piece which attempts to fix our state of affairs. It’s simply one of letting off steam. A fantastic one at that.

    • November 1, 2010 at 13:41

      Thanks a million Mustapha for your input. And yes you’re right! I never did and never will pretend offering or solving the problem. I honestly don’t care much anymore. I am indeed letting my frustration out and, trust me, I was “polite”! 🙂

      She might as well be talking to a dying parent (although I doubt she would while putting her Mascara on), but she could do it on the side of the road, not to mention that with a car like that, she sure could afford a hands-free device, no? 🙂

      Thank God we have our blogs and words to vent Mo, otherwise, I would be on a rampage now. Haha. Thanks again

    • 7 rudy
      November 2, 2010 at 02:51

      hello mustapha,

      i don’t think it’s a relection of anger.. as much as of disgust.

      also, they hardly qualify as ‘statements of facts’. when you consider how much blood has been shed on the streets as of late, they become understatements.

      and btw, if i was a parent of this character, i’d be dying too %)

      (and drive safely mate)

  5. November 1, 2010 at 13:43

    It is amazing how you can write so beautifully about something so tragic. A beautiful post, supplemented by a very smart title.
    “I know someone will gloriously comment on that blog entry by asking why don’t I do something about to start with! I am… Can’t you read? Ah, sorry I forgot… In Lebanon words don’t count anymore. I’ll honk!”
    That part, to me, is like a pièce de résistance.

  6. 9 Wael el Hajj
    November 1, 2010 at 13:53

    Dear Sir,
    Kindly email me any of your BLOGs hence i have become a huge fan after this one. i have nothing to say other than that.
    it is very hard to change a fact that became an educative trend, the lack of authority or respect, and the false notification of freedom…
    i was free to do something about lebanon, i was truly free and still am. yet i only got my true freedom as a human being not as a sheep in a herd when i stepped in the airplane.
    now i am free to go anywhere in the world, yet many things limit my freedom to go back to lebanon. I wonder what these issues are but i am grateful they exist. i might call them the quest for happiness, security, and health.
    thanks for your words…it is barely a vendetta.

  7. November 1, 2010 at 15:23

    Absolutely brilliant. This is my first time coming here, and by all means I’ll make sure to come back often. Cheers !

  8. 11 marcel
    November 2, 2010 at 01:34

    excellent. thank you.

  9. 12 rudy
    November 2, 2010 at 03:14


    i once saw a policeman directing traffic, in antelias, wearing a sleeveless black leather jacket -on top of his outfit, i might add. it was plain on the front, and on the back, across ALL the back, in red, the word FERRARI.

    now.. if that doesn’t sum up all our misery, i don’t know what does..

    loved the post, keep’em comin’

  10. November 2, 2010 at 08:48

    I just picked the post from a friend’s facebook and i really find it hilarious!
    I love the description and i certainly enjoyed the “Chute”.
    Will share for sure!

  11. 14 Juliette
    November 2, 2010 at 09:32

    Ibrahim, lots of us are honking too. And Thank God we’re past the period when even honking was not allowed or worse punished.
    Love the post… Outrageously true 🙂

  12. 15 Alina
    November 2, 2010 at 09:48

    Sounds like little changed since 1997 when I was in Lebanon for a few months.
    Except probably for the Syrian army patrolling the streets and stopping cars for checks.
    The brightness of the police officer reminds me of the Syrian soldier who stopped a VW Beatle and asked the driver to open the boot, he did so and the soldier went to check at the back of the car, the driver told him that the boot is in the front of the car, but the soldier insisted to open the back because he knows better, the driver opened only for the soldier to say in amazement “AHA, I knew you were hiding something, you stole an engine and it’s still working!”
    I hardly managed to hold back the laughs…

  13. 16 Antonio S.
    November 2, 2010 at 23:58

    Very well written… and so true.. however u cant blame the fauna for being what they r…i dont know whom really to blame anymore for this gradual fall of our (especially) social and cultural level…is it all of us? the government? but isnt the government representing the people or part of the people?
    i dont know what makes Lebanon anymore, lots of things we used to brag about arent there anymore (starting with the nature we are gradually destroying)..everytime i go back there on vacation from where i live i discover that the fauna is actually growing!

    • November 4, 2010 at 12:04

      Thank you for your comment Antonio. You mention the most important issue that is at the source of our problem and I quote “But isn’t the government representing the people or part of the people?” And the answer is simply No. They don’t. Buying votes or getting the “followers” class to vote does not instigate a legitimate government. Politicians elected by the puppets they create are themselves puppets hanging at the ends of “higher” authorities. How pathetic and sad…

      Thanks again for reading and commenting 🙂

  14. November 4, 2010 at 10:24

    I can still recall the days of the BMW 2002 Tii with flames painted on the sides, the dog by the back window shaking his plastic head, the rubber thunderbolt dangling from one side of the rear bumper and the baby boot from the other side, and a sticker of the back windshield saying “Barmaki tuning”. You also had you Z28, Fierbirds…etc. Even then many drivers were less than courteous, but at least we had working traffic lights.
    I truly enjoy reading your posts, and wonder if you have ever spent some considerable time in the UK.

  15. November 4, 2010 at 12:30

    just discovered your blog. a delight. you can thank Chanty blog for the face off. I am not usually much into reading description but that’s like story telling for it is so loud!
    thanks for expressing my feeling specially towards:
    standing kids in the front seat (saw that in a picanto wannabe i-m-a-big-safe-car),
    dark windshield bmw (when i see them i move to the side),
    politicians’ car (once they pointed their guns at me for not letting them pass!)

  16. 20 Antonio S.
    November 5, 2010 at 13:44

    Hi Ibrahim,

    I think you misunderstood what I said about the government misrepresenting us…I know the elections are almost always manipulated…however I meant that the attitude of the government is like most people in leb: individualistic n not givin a d**n about others…If you put any average lebanese man (for most am saying, with exceptions) in office, I think he/she would behave the same 🙂 It’s about us, we are losing our socio-cultural-ethical norms i think..too bad right?

  17. November 8, 2010 at 11:48

    mazbout, shou hal 3i2de with the picantos who think they’re ferraris?

    Good post!

  18. 22 fady saad
    November 10, 2010 at 18:06

    Thank you mr lahoud , for the wonderful piece of work , this can be the resume of the lebanese pple since the great myth of phonecia 🙂 …

    Yet , i don’t see any beauty comes out of Lebanon ( of course i mean the lebanese pple and i’m one of them ) diversity :))) killing machine … contrast :))) bad image … don’t forget that phonicians used to cut the Cedars in order to built navy fleets to the romans and all kind of ennemies , and for what ??? for invading Lebanon using the same navy fleets built by the great wood of ceaders .. and legend continues with the same new leabnese pple … shame on us …

  19. 23 Rawane
    January 3, 2011 at 13:59

    Excellent post, I like the ironic way to describe our daily life on Lebanese road.

  20. November 9, 2010 at 12:27

    Thank your for the repost 🙂

  21. November 9, 2010 at 12:26

    Thank your for the link back 🙂

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