We are back in Canada!
During our last few days in Lebanon, we made a trip to the Northern mountains, the village of Bcharre, the cedars, and the Valley of Saints (Qadisha ‘Holy’ Valley). Since I didn’t have internet access during that time, there’s still quite a few Lebanon posts coming!
The trip back to Canada was pretty interesting to say the least: Beirut airport was such a chaos, which proved again that no matter how many hours before your flight you arrive, you’re always too late. The airport doesn’t operate under any known logic. The first security check is unusually before check-in; all luggage goes through a scan before you can even get to the check-in area. After the check-in, there are still 2-3 security checks that check absolutely nothing! It feels like it’s all for show. For example, normally in every security check I have been to they ask to see the liquids packed in the little plastic bag, laptops etc — not in Beirut! Also, there were even people taking holiday photos (!) at the security metal detector gates.
The second last security check was absolutely ridiculous. I had to take the “Foreigners and Arabs” line (what happened to terms like “other nationalities”?). After standing there for what felt like forever, a woman in front of me was sent back from the desk because she hadn’t filled in a pink exit slip: A slip that no-one asked us to fill. A slip that was not handed out anywhere. A slip that was required but yet nowhere to be found! So I had to leave the line up where I had stood for ages while Imad was gesturing to me from the other side that our flight was leaving to find this mysterious pink piece of paper. It turned out, they had run out of the exit forms (?!) and a young officer, who moved in absolute slow-motion, was sent to get some more. I finally got one from a family that happened to have an extra one, while others still stood stranded waiting for this slow-motion person to return.
The slip itself was a joke. Questions like “reason for leaving Lebanon?” are strange since the choices didn’t include options that made any sense. Tourism? Business? Other passengers were confused as well since there really wasn’t an option that correlated with “going back where I came from”. So, I just checked I’m going to Canada for “tourism”.
The slip also asked for other things I don’t think quite make sense. For example, asking for ‘the father’s name’. In Lebanon your middle name is your father’s name; a daughter of a man named Joseph called Maria would go by Maria Joseph (and thus have a man’s name as ‘middle name’). Even the Lebanese passport has instead of ‘middle name’ a section for father’s name. It’s all clear and understandable. However outside Lebanon, in most of the world this is not the case: My middle name (Johanna) is not my father’s name and thus I think it is quite funny that the slip that is targeted at foreigners whose names most likely do not follow the Lebanese system, has this question on it. If they actually needed to track down a person, wouldn’t it make sense to just ask what the traveler’s name is in actuality rather than have this separate “father’s name” box on the form? Should I have written down my father’s name, or my actual middle name? I have no idea, but somewhere in Lebanon there’s now a pink form that has my father’s full name on it, middle names and all. Very confusing.
Back in the queue, the officer at the desk seemed to interview everyone longer than ever necessary. Even little children! I too was prepared to tell him my life story but when it was my turn, all he did was look at my last name, and wished me a good trip. All this queuing for absolutely nothing! No questions about what I bought in Lebanon, or even where I am going.
Our flight was scheduled to leave in fifteen minutes when we finally cleared the final check point. Eventually we made it to the plane, which of course was delayed because of the mayhem at the airport. Half the passengers were stuck in security for an extra wait, and yet our luggage didn’t make it to the plane.
In Paris, we grabbed a quick bite and found out that we had been seated in the Premium Economy/Business class for the last stretch of our trip, which was a pleasant surprise. For once I didn’t have to sit with my knees bruised by the seat in front of me! Instead, we got plenty of space and overall a much nicer flight experience. Or, it would have been much nicer, if I hadn’t got sick again. Sniffle sniffle.
It feels nice to be back home, although we could have easily done 4-5 more days in Lebanon. I’m hoping to publish everything travel-related by the end of the week, but until then I’m afraid you’re stuck with my Lebanon stories for a few more days!