No matter where you go to Beirut, you will see everywhere crowded since morning. Practically a gigantic portion of the immigrants returned to visit for two reasons. The first reason is the coincidence of Christmas and al-Adhha holidays (Christian the first, Muslim and Durzi the second) whereby a lot of Lebanese students/immigrants returned. The second reason, a lot of people’s vacations were canceled in the past, practically for a whole year. The assassination of Jubran Tuieni in 2005 scared people to visit Lebanon; the same impact occurred on the summer of 2006 (July War with Israel), the assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel + the Opposition launching their open demonstration which started with over 1.5 million participant (people were terrified we were at the dawn of a new civil war on Christmas/Adhha of 2006), the war with Fatah Islam (Summer of 2007) which was accompanied with random terrorist bombings and assassination of Walid Eido and later Antoine Ghanem, and now people came to visit despite the assassination of General Francois Hajj and the political void.
The working/student class in exile needed to return and see their families and friends. In fact, a lot of collage friends agreed to meet up for the holidays whether from the US, Canada, Europe, or the Arabian Gulf. I, myself, saw people in 2 hours at a single night 51 people whom graduated with me and never saw for the past 5 years. Jemayzi, Hamra, and Monot are packed with cars whereby you can get stuck in traffic jam for one hour in the tiny street of Jemayzi. The Taxi Cabs have tripled (in most cases) their fees (1$ usually) for riders, and the immigrants came to spend their money in the richest nightlife through out the Middle East: Beirut.
A 14th of Marcher would stand up and yell: “this is what we are talking about, security and stability to bring money.” And again as always, the free market advocates are wrong, because partly why everyone left because the Lebanese Market doesn’t offer work jobs. The only thing that would benefit the Lebanese economy if non-Lebanese tourists came and invested in Lebanon, or at least purchased commodities from tiny stores. The only establishments that made good money were of course the Air Travel agencies, nightclubs and pubs, and super chain stores that would require families buying food to welcome their visitors.
I would like to pin-point that that those who traveled to outside Lebanon are not just immigrants, they are the working class in exile, away from their homes. It was the political situation imposed by the local Lebanese sect leaders (currently distributed between 14th of March and the Opposition), Syria, Iran, Israel, and other key players. I can also blame the free market system followed by the late Rafiq Harriri which made the poor poorer and the rich richer which drove people to seek economical exodus towards the gulf. Of course, the Israeli racial aggression on Lebanon last year also accelerated this exodus, and finally, the fear that a civil war may break out anytime soon motivated more people to travel. As people say: “This is a beautiful country, but it is a doomed nation.” As Iran is more threatened to be hit by the US and Israel, more people worry that this might bring war and devastation to Lebanon as well.
Instead of celebrating the minor inflow of the working class who traveled abroad, the pro-government supporters should ask why these immigrants traveled in the first place, and how many more are on their way to leave permanently Lebanon. The majority of the immigrants prefer to remain in Lebanon, but now they have no choice as this abandoned country has nothing to offer them.
If anything, the gigantic influx of immigrants has effected the ones at home. Night life is becoming more and more difficult to enjoy (specially for those who are still trapped here), commodities are a bit more expensive, and transportation expenses are on the rise. The money multiplier is not enough supported by the immigrants money to boast Lebanon’s economy, and in any case, it is short since the immigrants mostly are visiting for a week or two, rather a month or three. I would really consider any political faction to consider this gigantic turn-out of immigrants as a political victory for their coalition, because these same coalitions are responsible for the existence of immigrants, despite their will, to live away from their families.