My next story is my visit to Tripoli where I witnessed both good and not so good parts of Lebanon. It is at this time I should point out that the UK government has issued a map of the regions deemed OK to visit (green), those that should be visited only when absolutely necessary (yellow) and those to avoid (red). The red areas are around the Syrian boarder, the yellow just inside this and on the Israeli border, the rest (majority) is generally green; Tripoli is deemed to have a yellow area. On arrival by bus, all my longer journeys were by bus, the best way to mix with the ordinary people (being “ordinary people myself”), our taxi ride from the bus to a restaurant was in total contrast to that of Beirut, it was calm, orderly and slow. The restaurant staff were polite and professional, the meal was wonderful and we followed this with a short boat trip. After paying the fare our ID’s were taken (including Rita’s) and shown to and copied by the Lebanese Army nearby; this slightly alarmed me as it was my passport, but it was soon returned in tact. I feel the UK government’s cautionary map can send the wrong message sometimes (in some areas). After this boattrip we walked into an older part of Tripoli where we encountered a group of ordinary, but apparently poorer folk, who were only too keen to show us where they lived and that it was in the “traditional way” of the Lebanese. Even though their home was poorly maintained, their spirit and friendliness was evident despite their poor conditions. They offered us a “taxi” (unregistered) ride to the city, which I at first declined as this was designated a yellow zone and I was a little nervous. I was keen to learn and witness more of these apparently very friendly people, but my colleagues wished to move on, so into the unregistered taxi we climbed. Our destination was the castle in Tripoli and our journey was as slow and almost as chaotic as in Beirut, and the poorest parts of Tripoli formed the bulk of this journey. It was saddening, how I longed to help, but what is it that one ordinary Brit can do; I am not a rich man by any means, nor a politician. I witnessed a bustling market; the products on sale were simple, but could not help but notice the poverty that surrounded us all the way to the castle. I can do no more than write my feelings down in the hope that those in power, those with untold wealth that the ordinary person could not spend in a hundred of lifetimes, may notice their plight and act. If only they were willing to share their untold wealth with those in need. I had no need to worry about being in a “yellow zone,” all turned out well and we left with more understanding of the lives of the ordinary Lebanese citizen.
I believe that Lebanon has a bright future, the government must fight anycorruption and serve the Lebanese citizens. The Lebanese people are alive and exciting, friendly and on the whole honest. Of the people I met or encountered in Lebanon thus far I sawpeace and harmony(along with a lot of excitement), I felta feeling of togetherness, a feeling oneness presentinall the diverse walks of life that exist here. The university professors and others I have met were all filled with the desire for their students, and hence Lebanon, to succeed. Many Lebanese go abroad and make a good living, some are able to earn enough to finance work backhome (in Lebanon), but the main missing element in this society, according to conversations I had, seems to be motivation. Did I sense an entrepreneurial spirit?It isn’t always best to go and work in “daddy’s firm” where, as the boss’s son or daughter, your incentive to improve is missing (butyou have that shiny new car with little effort). Sometimes the struggle to overcome the austerity that surrounds us is all is thatentrepreneurial spirit. I, for one, will definitely return to this wonderful land, a land where already the differing factions have proved they can work together. Maybe the politicians of this land will also work together for the benefit of all Lebanese and not just the faction they believe they represent. I have every hope for Lebanon, its people and its future. Of course, I forgot to mention tourism, where money only comes into the national pocket. Will Lebanon once again become the jewel in the Middle East it once was? Or has it become that already and just needs a little polishing.
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