“Hell on earth”: the unbearable everyday life in Lebanon

(Beirut) When Ayla and her two children arrived at a café on trendy Mar Mikhael Street in Beirut, it wasn’t about offering them a drink or dessert, but about sleeping them in an air-conditioned room.

Posted on Aug 20, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Bachir EL KHOURY Agence France-Presse

“We haven’t had a single minute of electricity at home for two days. The children can no longer sleep, ”she complains, while temperatures in the capital in this month of August are often above 35 ° C.

Next to her, her eight-year-old daughter sleeps curled up on a small sofa while her five-year-old son lies on her lap.

In a collapsing Lebanon, severe fuel shortages have recently worsened, causing panic, anger and chaos.

Power outages today peak at more than 23 hours a day, and in the absence of fuel, neighborhood generators that normally take over power are also taking over homes, shops, supermarkets, and institutions.

“My children can get a few hours of sleep here,” says Ayla. However, the young mother had to leave the restaurant around midnight because the café was closed.

“What we’re going through is incredible […] It’s hell on earth, ”she says. “We have nothing left […] We can’t even sleep anymore ”.

Series closures

Some cafes have air conditioning, but also a stable internet connection, as the network is disrupted by a power shortage.

The crisis, which had lasted for months, took a new turn after the central bank on November 11th.

This new ordeal comes on top of a series of dramatic episodes that Lebanese have seen for almost two years, such as the introduction of strict banking restrictions that prevent Lebanese free access to their money.

In the Gemmayzé district, the Paul bakery had to reduce its opening times due to the extremely high price for still available heating oil.

“We buy fuel oil on the black market for 500,000 pounds (425 Canadian dollars) for 20 liters to run our generator,” more than five times the old subsidized price, says AFP room manager Elie Zwein.

“We leave the fridges on overnight but turn off all other equipment,” he adds.

In addition, the group had to close three of its eight brands operating in Lebanon.

Other cafes and restaurants across the country have also closed because they can’t keep their food fresh.

In a hairdressing salon in the Hamra district, 20-year-old Ahmad cuts the beard of a customer in the light of his cell phone.

“We work under conditions that have deteriorated significantly,” complains the young barber. Other hairdressers chose to cut their hair for light on the sidewalk.

In some companies, employees sleep on site or no longer go to the office due to a lack of petrol, while taxis are becoming increasingly scarce or offering very expensive trips.

“Humiliating”

In order to avoid the long queues for refueling, the taxi driver Abou Karim parked his vehicle in front of a petrol station at night in the hope of being able to refuel the next day. But he won’t have anything.

“Is there anything more humiliating than that?” “This man gets carried away whose income has melted in a few days.

“During this time the leaders lack nothing, neither electricity nor gasoline,” says Abou Karim, repeating many Lebanese who yell at leaders of all stripes.

Several vital sectors such as hospitals have been ringing alarm bells in recent days, threatening to close their doors due to a lack of electricity and fuel.

The crisis the country is going through, exacerbated by the inaction of leaders, is one of the worst in the world since 1850, according to the World Bank.

According to the United Nations, around 80% of the population now live below the poverty line.

Ahmad el-Malla, 30, decided to keep his bar open in Gemmayzé, relying on the uninterruptible power supply and ice cube bags to keep his bottles cool.

“I have no choice, I cannot close […] If I don’t work, I will starve to death, ”he says.

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