9 Common Misconceptions Your Foreign Friends Have About Lebanon

Rami Rizk | @rasheed.k.photographer

If you’ve ever had to explain where on the map Lebanon was, you might say, “It’s a country in the Middle East,” just to make it easier for foreigners to understand.

Suddenly, people begin assuming things about Lebanon from what they believe about the Arab Gulf countries.

Lebanon is beautiful yet so misunderstood. Here are some misconceptions about Lebanon that foreigners have all wrong.

#1 People don’t speak English

So wrong. People can understand and speak many languages and dialects. Lebanese are known for the trilingual expression, “Hi, Kifak, ça va?”

#2 It’s a desert

This one kind of hit us every time. With the iconic cedar tree, the symbol of Lebanon, well centered on our flag, one can’t possibly think cedars grow in the desert. But some still ask.

Lebanon, this beautiful country that embellishes the Mediterranean sea, is far from a sandy desert. It is a country of lush greenery, snowy mountains, and sunny beaches.

In fact, the word Lebanon (in Mount Lebanon) comes from the Phoenician root lbn meaning “white” which is believed to have been describing its snow-capped mountain peaks in winter.

#3 People ride camels

Okay. Sure. Look, here’s a picture of some camels in Lebanon – but don’t be fooled! They’re not common at all. Spotting camels in Lebanon is like seeing unicorns; they just don’t belong here.

#4 It is dangerous to visit

Situated where it is, between places of conflict, and with the tension between Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Israel, it’s understandable for people to assume that Lebanon is a dangerous country. But in truth, it really isn’t!

That’s to add that the Lebanese are very friendly and welcoming people who make a foreign visitor feel at home in a heart beat.

#5 It’s a Muslim country

Wrong. Lebanon is very diverse! It is home to 18 religious denominations, encompassing Muslims, Christians, Druze, and even a small Jewish community.

Notably, Lebanon is mentioned several times in the Bible, and Christmas is celebrated nationwide… a la granda!

#6 It is at war and war-torn

While you may come across occasional remnants of the 15-year civil war in Lebanon, that ended over 30 years ago, and the country is not at war.

It has developed and, for the most part, has moved on. The new generation does not dwell in the past but only looks forward. They don’t care about sectarian politics and are united for a better Lebanon.

#7 People are religiously persecuted

Persecuted is the last word to use to describe Lebanon’s nation. True, the country had some religious conflicts during its long history – like so many countries around the world – but people in Lebanon do co-exist nicely.

#8 People in Lebanon are generally miserable

Wrong. They love to party, celebrate, dance, sing, and enjoy life! In fact, they so love life that even amid their hardships and challenges you can hear them singing and see them dancing. In fact, for months, that has made protesting in Lebanon fun and empowering!

#9 Lebanon is an aggressive environment

Wrong. Even their revolution was largely peaceful and chiefly reflected humor and sociability; that when they weren’t attacked by pro-regime partisans and rogue military.

Since October 2019, they have been protesting against the political elite to be able to live in peace and with dignity in their own beloved country.

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