Summer is pretty much here in Lebanon, although we’ve had some rain this last week with unusually chilly weather! If you’re thinking to travel to Lebanon this summer, there’s a few safety things to keep on your radar when you come. These aren’t things that should keep you home, but are things you should be aware of that you probably won’t see in the Western media before coming!
First, Lebanon is undergoing a new vote law, with some kind of resolution happening in mid-June. There might be either really happy political parties celebrating in the streets, or not-as-happy political parties protesting downtown. If you see a large crowd holding signs and banners, and its not for a concert or culture fest, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear! Protests and demonstrations are pretty peaceful here (Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy with free speech) but it’s a good idea for foreigners to stay out of internal political events.
Second, there’s a huge ship full of metal ore beached on the Sidon coast. If you planned to go to the beach in Sidon, you can’t really enjoy the part with the huge tanker ship washed ashore right now, although they are still trying to tug it back into the ocean before it breaks up and spills diesel fuel and metal deposits every where. It’s not Lebanon’s fault this ship got stuck there, the ship’s foreign crew got too close during high winds/tide and couldn’t get back out to sea in time.
Third, there is still some tension on the Lebanon/Syria border in the north-east where the Lebanese Army is securing the border regions. It’s fine to go to Baalbek, Anjar and other major tourist/archaelogical spots in the area, but do not go too close to the border cities right on the Syrian border. If you get stopped at a checkpoint and told to turn around, listen to them, it’s for your own safety!
Finally, as mentioned elsewhere on this blog, make sure to stay out of the Palestinian camps unless you have official business there. The large camp in Sidon and some smaller ones up north are undergoing security operations by the Lebanese govt and cooperative Palestinian groups to drive out some of the ‘bad guys’ living there. Don’t get in the middle of a security operation on accident! If you check the local news when you arrive you should be able to see if anything major is going on. The areas near the camps, including the souk in Sidon and shops, should be totally fine to visit though!