First Impressions of Beirut Lebanon in 2021

First Impressions of Beirut Lebanon in 2021

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(I love you, man.) Alright, love you too. (Be careful, stay in touch.) See you later. (Adios) Alright, bye Dad, talk soon. Never easy saying bye to the Fam, such a good summer.

But it's on to the next adventure. And we have made it finally, flight number two out of three in order to get to Beirut. So got a 13-hour, I think, roughly 13-hour flight to get us to Amman, Jordan and then after that, it's going to be having a short layover to Beirut, Lebanon.

So I'm ready to get some sleep though so I'll see you once we get there. So about 11,12, maybe 13 hours, finally made it to connection number two in Amman, and then probably about 4 or 5 hours layover here to catch the next flight to Beirut. So it's been a little bit longer of a journey than planned, but better late than never.

So I just got here to the Amman International Airport. It's been an interesting journey. The one thing I can tell you which is quite fascinating for me is that while there's no COVID test required, a PCR COVID test to get into Lebanon, there is to get into Jordan, but only in the United States that they checked my PCR test. When I actually got to Jordan, they just wanted to make sure I had the QR code proving that I had the vaccine.

Then they let me transfer, but when I got to the transfer desk, then they wanted to check my PCR test. So yeah, quite confusing right? It doesn't make any sense. I almost didn't get a PCR test because I didn't think I needed one, because I'm vaxed. So my word of advice,

wherever you're traveling, just still get a PCR test right now just to be safe, because there's probably going to be a country to transit through that's going to require them. That would have been a nightmare if I didn't have one in Chicago. The good news is I made it hanging out here in this lounge, which is pretty sweet, I used the priority pass, I don't know if you're familiar with it, priority pass basically gets you in the lounges all around the world. And the nice part is like, when you have long layovers, like right now, I have, like 4 hours, I have, like a couch I can sleep on. I could just be, you know, I don't know getting food, having a drink if I wanted. But I'm not doing that right now.

So many different options. Suppose you'd have to be in, like, the airport chairs, which is fine. But if you can get one of those credit cards where it's free to get the priority pass with it, you usually have to pay an annual fee why not? I'm right now enjoying a little chocolate ice cream, can't complain there. I'll be hanging out here for a little bit longer, maybe catch some z's, maybe not, I pretty much slept in the entire flight from Chicago to Jordan, which was super nice.

Because I can rarely sleep the whole time. Like it wasn't, like I was passed out the whole time, but I was like in and out of sleep for the whole time, which was nice. See you when we're boarding Beirut. All right. Good morning, guys. I have much more energy than when you saw me last, probably in Jordan, and I was just completely out of it.

After almost 30 hours of traveling, I'll kind of catch you up on where I've been, arrived around 3:30 a.m., and got picked up by a taxi driver, had my name on it and got me to the Airbnb. The problem was I was planning on meeting Luke, and unfortunately, the apartment that we're staying at didn't have any electricity, didn't have connection to WiFi so I was just going on a wing that either Luke was dead and was taken or something, or he just didn't have WiFi because he didn't get a SIM card yet. But good news is found Luke, the man (I am alive) Yeah, he's alive, Luke Damant absolute legend, Australian blogger, and we'll be spending the next couple of weeks in Lebanon, exploring all different places around this country and showing you guys. So you'll see a lot of him in these videos. And first of all, though, we're going to go ahead and find some places to exchange our money, because here in Lebanon, there's an interesting thing going on with their economy, and you can't just go and swipe your credit card or debit card, like you've probably seen in all my other videos, an easy way to get cash when you need it.

It's not like that, but we're going to show you exactly how we're going to do that as one of our first things today. So I want to explain to you the currency and how it's devalued over the last two years. So to put it in perspective, right now this is worth about 5 US dollars.

That's right, 5 US dollars for 100,000 Lebanese lira. Now, two years ago, 100,000 Lebanese lira was worth $70. That means it's worth $65 less. And that's roughly, and it's changing almost daily because there's multiple rates that Lebanese has for conversions from US dollars to Lebanese lira. The government rate or if you went to the ATM with your card or you swipe your credit card, it's going to use a rate of one dollar to 1,500 Lebanese lira. Bring cash inside the country, or you can use Western Union to bring cash in if you run out of cash while you're here.

So I brought in US dollars so I could exchange them on what's known as the black market, which sounds much sketchier than it actually is. Really you just find some exchange shops and you look up what today's exchange rate is for $1 to Lebanese lira and you agree on a rate close to it. So I did the exchange rate 2.15 million for $100. So it's my first time here as a millionaire, Lebanese millionaire. And for the most part, we've gotten relatively close to the exchange rate, it's about 22,300 Lebanese lira to US dollar and we got 21,500 Lebanese lira for one dollar. So it's quite good, I would say, in terms of coming in as foreigners.

But the crazy part is if you don't know this coming into the country and you're like, alright, just going to use my credit and debit card or I'm going to pay in US dollars at the spot, at this place where we got a cold brew, four waters and some milk in there it was 43,000 Lebanese liras so that's going to be about $2. Now, right here on the receipt, the crazy part is if you paid in US dollars, obviously it's using the government's conversion rate, which is 1,500 Lebanese liras to one US dollar, you'd have to pay a whopping $28.67. So that just goes to show you how mad it is.

But just looking at it like that, how one simple decision paying in one currency versus the other can literally cost you what is that like 15 times as much money in order to get the same product. And so when you think about that, just in the last week it's gone up another, it went from one US dollar to 15,000 Lebanese liras now it's one dollar to just over 22,000 Lebanese liras. It's obviously quite a massive crisis and it stems from a lot of things, but it sounds like it's mainly, once again, I'm not an expert on it, but a lot of it comes from politicians. And I think I heard quoted in the video, it was basically like having all your life savings one day and a year later you have absolutely nothing.

So it's super scary to think about so many families in Lebanon who simply just can't even eat right now because their prices for products absolutely skyrocketed and their currency or their money in their savings account drops to near nothing now so, yeah, we're going to share with you more about this as the time goes but I only explained to you how the conversion rate works and what that means for spending money here in Lebanon. Oh yum, traditional Lebanese? (Yeah.) Perfect. Shukran, shukran.

(We get two?) Oh yeah, two of those please. (Yeah, cheese) Perfect, perfect. Here's our man. Oh man, look at that. Look at that, shukran, shukran. That looks, delicious. It almost looks like a Lebanese version of pizza right there. So the first Lebanese meal is Jupne Mazada.

Mazada. I've been waiting for this. I haven't had a meal in like 15 hours, so I am so hungry. It almost looks like pizza, but it's way better, right? Way better than pizza? (pizza number two) Yeah (pizza number one) pizza number two, yeah. Toss a few veggies on here too, get her loaded up, we got pickles, we've got some sort of other leaf, maybe mint, I don't know.

That is what we call delicious. Shukran. So good. Amazing first meal in Lebanon.

Look at how amazing this looks. So as you probably know if you see my other videos, I absolutely love pizzas, my number one favorite food in the world. So having a Middle Eastern version of that is nothing better. For breakfast I could probably eat this for every meal. I have something like this in Dubai,

but I'm pretty sure it might have actually been a Lebanese restaurant. I just didn't realize it at the time. I scarfed that down like there's no tomorrow, and it was so good, so good.

That's probably going to be my favorite meal here. Actually, I have no idea, because that's just the first meal, but that was a great first meal. What did you think Luke? (It's delicious. 10 out of 10) That comes out to only $1.50 for the current exchange rate. So that is amazing. If you would have paid in US dollars for that, that would have been roughly $34.

It's pretty crazy how important it is to make sure you hop on the black market, exchange your money like we did the right way for the today's currency exchange rate. And the crazy part is you don't want to exchange all of your money at once. I brought a bunch of USD, but I'll only exchange probably 100 US at a time, because just I think maybe seven or ten days ago it was one USD to 15,000 Lebanese lira, and now it's one US to 22,000. So say I had exchanged all my USD, then I would have lost a large percentage of it that quickly. I honestly thought there was going to be way more English speaking because every video that I saw before I came here, it was like everyone speaks French, Arabic, and English.

Pretty much we can communicate with everyone. But I actually figured English would be even more popular than it is or understood more. Well, we'll see, though. So far, it's quite calm. I didn't know what to expect coming into this place just because you get such a wide variety of perspectives, the media makes it seem like it's super dangerous to visit here, and like that, it's just crazy.

Like a lot of the news articles I saw, there was even, like, tanks in the street, and I'm sure there's definitely parts of Lebanon where that's the case. But in these streets over here, it doesn't seem like super chaotic like you might expect the place going through such an economic crisis. It is crazy to be here like this is one of the reasons why I wanted to come here to see what it was like one year later after the Beirut explosion.

You can see some of the locals here got a lot of fishing going on. It's really peaceful and nice. That's the side of Lebanon that's like the very expensive side. You've got yachts, you've got really nice architecture, I even recognized one of the top developers here, DAMAC I believe it's called from Dubai is here.

And you can see it in some of the architecture, like looking up at these ones up here. Then we must still be like I said, pretty far from where the blast actually took place, because in twelve months, all these buildings are in super pristine condition. Yeah, I think I see the port way down there, and it looks like it's still another solid mile or 2 or 3 kilometers away. So we're starting to get much closer to where the explosion took off.

Luke was just telling me that these silos over there, which had a bunch of food in there. Yeah, I heard it was around one year's worth of food that was destroyed, but what it did was block a lot of the blast in kind of that direction. So I think this area was not the most affected but as we get on the other side of the silos and that's what we're going to see, sort of where the most damage took part. It's hard to tell what was affected by the blast and what wasn't because right here, there's a huge pile of rusted, looks like just scrap metal everywhere, but they could come from a load of different things. But we'll see once we get over to the other side, how bad it is.

We've walked another 2 kilometers or so since the last update, and you can start to see way more damage to the buildings over here like this one is completely blacked out. And some of these other ones, it looks like there's just that much earlier stages in their remodeling phase, probably meaning they just got so much more damage than the other ones. I don't know how well you can see it in the video, but those are the silos that protected so much of this side of the city. You can just see, like, a lot of the rubble. Wow. I can't even imagine, so scary to think about, so sad that that happened.

So many people, like, we were just talking, like, what would it be like to be standing here when that explosion went off? I probably wouldn't be here if you're standing exactly where I am at right now. It's very sad. Honestly, the people here in the first, like, 5 hours have been so nice already.

Like we're just walking down here, as you can probably see like sweating, burning up right now as we walk past all this going on. The guy working in the military was so nice. He offered us some water because he knew we were just dying right now and the crazy part is I read a lot of the news and I know the military, obviously with deflation of the currency, obviously they're barely making any money to even survive on and there's still that nice to offer us tourists walking down the road here some water. So it just goes to show how amazing the Lebanese culture is here.

You can actually see now a lot of the reminiscence of it. You can see literally all of these things basically crushed there in the distance. On that boat right there you can see, like the lifeboat hanging off.

I mean, there's just so much rubble. Over there you can see parts of the silos hanging off just in. And this is a year later, and you can still see that much. It's just absolutely nuts. Sweet.

Hello. How's it going? So we're taking an Uber back into town, it was pretty warm, not surprised by Lebanon being this warm but got quite a few kilometers in already. One thing that I didn't realize you could do is on Uber, you can actually select the cash option and so like I told you earlier in the video, paying with other currencies, you don't want to use a credit or debit card. And so if you do cash on Uber then you're able to pay in the local currency. How long have you been an Uber driver for here over on Lebanon? Over six years. Six years? Are you finding it difficult now (Now, yeah) with the fuel shortage? (Having difficulty with the petrol) how long do you have to wait to get petrol? Yeah.

Petrol for the rest of the day I wait from 5 until 9:30. (AM?) Four and a half hours? (Four and a half hours.) Wow. I continue, I sleep here, in this station here, there. Wow. That's why I come here very early on to take my car, then they will not tell me that am finished while I am in front of the line. So do people line up like overnight sometimes? Yeah there's some people there, like the one, in front of me Yeah the person in front.

The first one in the front of the, sometimes I ask him what time you come here, he said 9:00. (9:00, the night before) 9:00 he leaves the car. (Wow) He comes in the morning. That's crazy. Wow. When do people in Lebanon think things are going to start getting better? It's a very, very dark no, no, no hope.

Yeah. (No hope) Do a lot of people want to leave Lebanon? Of course. Where do most people go? Is there a specific country or just all over? (Wherever they can get a visa, wherever, even in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, anywhere) Anywhere ( anywhere, because they are already really they are fed up here.

I spent the whole word since 75 I'm here. I didn't think even to leave this country. But now even I am all, I'm really willing to leave.) So are you living here in Lebanon or you are only on...

Oh yeah, we are on vacation, (vacation) vacation, yeah. You are most welcome. Shukran It's a pretty intense Uber ride to kind of hear firsthand from a local because I've heard that Lebanese people in general, since they've just gone so much in the last 30 years, they're just very resilient people. And one thing that really stood out that he quoted was that right now is worse than back when there was a civil war, which really puts it into perspective right now. That's how bad of a shape things are in and basically said a lot of people just have no hope. They're looking to go anywhere, whether it's Sri Lanka, whether it's Bangladesh, anywhere they can get a visa.

And they're just trying to get out at this point and also saying like a big thing, like if you don't have someone from another country that's sending you money via Western Union, then you're basically not even able to eat right now. All right, the adventure continues. We're going on our hunt for food for lunch specifically, definitely going to want something local, Lebanese and authentic so we're going to walk around, ask some people and figure out what is the move out here in Kamra. You have a shawarma? You know the best shawarma? Where is the best shawarma? (Where are you from?) Australia, United States. You know where's the best shawarma is? Yes.

Thank you. From this, like left and straight, yes, Barbar. It's called Barbar. Thanks a lot. We'll go and eat the best shawarma. Yeah. Thank you. What was your name? (Ahmed)

We are looking for Barbar right now. You just heard it from our buddy back there, Ahmed from Iraq. He said that this is the place to eat. Other one. There's multiple Barbars here. That one has falafels, this one we're going to has shawarma. Well I guess there's like, what, four or five of them around the block here.

Oh, really? We're back at the same place we're at. Two beef shawarmas. 96. This is about as fresh as it gets.

Just look at that, juicy, ready to go. It's the number one thing you must have when you're coming to Lebanon or pretty much any Middle Eastern country, shawarma is a must. We had to come back, it was so good. Shukran. It's crazy, each one of these Barbars are like a different type of Lebanese cuisine. I have a feeling that in the next week or so, we'll have tried out pretty much every single one in the corner.

All right, here we go. We've got the Barbar shawarma right here. I'm excited to try out Ahmed's recommendation, and I just think it's hilarious that the place we stumbled upon this morning also happens to be the place where it's the best shawarma. Honestly, I've only had shawarma in a few Middle Eastern countries because I've been to Dubai, Egypt, and then I've had shawarma basically in America and a few different places, but I've never had authentic Lebanese shawarma so I'm pretty excited for this. It's loaded up with beef, a whole bunch of veggies. I'm not much of a shwarma expert, though, so it's gonna be juicy. Let's give it a shot right now.

An absolute mouthful, but damn good. It's got, like, a juicy taste to it. It's almost got a cousin of lime.

Definitely got to try one of these shawarmas when you come to Lebanon, or any of the Middle Eastern countries, it's just so good. That was one of the things I was most excited for, coming to Lebanon and trying out the different types of food, because all the Lebanese restaurants I've been to, I've just always been blown away by how good the food is. It's just so tasty, so flavorful. Fast forward, just finished it. That was delicious. That's Barbar for you.

One thing I would add in is that basically the only people that are using ATMs right now are people that have Lebanese lira in their bank accounts, because then you're getting obviously Lebanese Lira for a Lebanese Lira when you withdraw from your account. But if you withdraw USD, like I was saying, then that's going to give you the one dollar per 1,500 Lebanese Lira versus the black market rate, as they call it, which is one dollar for every 22,350 Lebanese Lira I believe so, that's why you don't want to go to the ATMs right now. I'm very excited to spend the time here, whether it's two weeks or a month, we shall see. But thanks so much for watching, guys. If you can smash that like button, hit that subscribe button, you'll be guaranteed to see a lot more content coming this way.

All right, we'll see you in the next video.

2021-09-11 02:14

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