Mille fois morte, mille fois revécue

church beirut

bringing ruins to life

However derelict and forsaken a scene one may come across in Beirut, it never looks completely forlorn. Even this gutted church, roofless and full of bullet holes, is far from a mere ruin. The inborn resilience of the Lebanese has kept them rising from the ashes time after time. This is well illustrated by a poster ad which hangs on the wall in the office of my local mukhtar. It is an old Middle East Airlines advertisement which reads: Beyrouth : Elle est mille fois morte, mille fois revécue. It is dated 1982, one of the worst years of the civil war.

Though the Lebanese still blame the state for everything they cannot change or do not wish to, they have a fantastic impetus for rebuilding from scratch, whether it means adapting to a new country or launching yet another start-up.

In Lebanon there is no such thing as over-regulation to smother this ambitious, enterprising spirit. In fact there is only one sector in Lebanese economy which is highly regulated. While banks around the world were disproving the too-big-to-fail assumption, Bank Audi, Byblos Bank and co didn’t turn a hair as their war-proof lending rules proved their worth.  

Beirut tree

against the odds

Banks here are obliged to keep 30% of capital in cash and conditions for obtaining credit are particularly stringent, designed to hold up under civil war and the likes. So rather than being sucked under by the financial crisis they actually performed very well in 2008 and 2009.

The global recession did have an indirect impact on Lebanon due to the downturn affecting expats in the countries where they have settled. As the millions of Lebanese across the world – and particularly in the American superpower – suffered, remittances sent back home dropped slightly last year, after soaring by 24% in 2008. This is still better than the rest of the MENA region, where remittances fell sharply in both years. Remittances account for over a fifth of Lebanon’s GDP.

Ironically, at the end of the day the main corollary of the recession may be that expats become convinced that Lebanon is a safer place for their money than the west, particularly as the relative calm brought about after the Doha agreement begins to feel like the norm.  As the worldwide press rushes to identify who benefited from the banks’ demise, it’s funny to think that in Lebanon, the beneficiaries are the banks themselves. At home and abroad, the Lebanese have cast-iron faith in their country’s ability to pull through come what may, and, putting their money where their mouth is, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

3 Responses to “Mille fois morte, mille fois revécue”

  1. alaa bitar says:

    Hello,

    My name is Alaa Bitar, I have been looking for this Middle East Airlines advertisement for years now. I have a picture of me when I was a kid standing just in front of it but I never could find it. Do you have any information where I could find it ?

    • Hi there Alaa, the mukhtar I mentioned is in Achrafieh, in rue Salah Labaki, halfway down a flight of steps linking to rue Gouraud/Gemmayze. Nothing had been changed in years, so maybe it’s still there. Let me know if you find it!

  2. alaa bitar says:

    Hey Georgia,

    Thank you for the tips actually I live in Switzerland now but I sent my friend to the Salah Labaki street and he found the mukhtar and talked to him but he already closed his office so my friend will be headed there again on Monday. The mukhtar thinks he still got the picture so fingers crossed :) Anyway I will keep you posted and thank you so much for your help it has been more than 20 years that I have been looking for this :)

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