Electrifying Lebanon

Many will brag to you (mostly Lebanese), of Lebanon’s modernity and how it is unlike any other Arab country out there. We’re classy, we’re westernized, we’re open minded, we have amazing sky high buildings, we are what happens when Dubai has a baby with a French maid (we speak English and French, what is this Arabic you speak of?!) And yes, most of these things are true. Lebanon is a great country. We have a lot of geographical advantages for tourism, such as our vast seas and mountains scattered everywhere. Most would think we’re set for success right?

Wrong. There’s one thing missing. One of the most basic things that almost every country that claims to be “modern” can provide it’s citizens- ELECTRICITY. I can hear every Lebanese saying, “tell me about it!!!” and oh I am about to!

Sure, Lebanon’s not perfect (but I’m good at making it seem that way, huh? I should work in advertising). We have our political problems, but doesn’t every country suffer from the wrath of corrupt politicians? That’s not the point. The point is, HOW on earth does a country like Lebanon not have the capability to light up it’s nation? We apparently have enough money to contemplate building a island in the shape of a palm tree (see here: http://tinyurl.com/3m7xrr3) and have Beirut be one of the most expensive cities to live in (see here as well: http://tinyurl.com/3nnd8kv). Surely, that money could go into basic things like electricity and water correct?

Wrong again. While tourists are chillin’ on a palm tree island, I’m unable to turn on my washer and dryer machine on at the same time. Why? Because I fear that all that power will make my apartment building explode. Lebanon’s infrastructure cannot handle powering a house for a full 24 hours a day. So want do we end up with? How do we get by? Depends which part of Lebanon you live in.

If you live in the south, you get around 6-7 hours of electricity a day. Bare in mind, that’s just around 3 hours more than what the besieged Gaza strip gets. And that’s not promised, you’ll likely end up with 3-4 on most days. On the hottest days of the summer. Like right now. I feel like death.

If you live in Beirut, where the tourists roam, you get a little bit more than that and personally I think that’s just to show foreigners how awesome we are. But if you live in a residential area in Beirut, without tourist attractions, you’re gonna live like us damn southerners.

Oh, but no reason to live in dismay. You can always purchase ishtiraq. What’s ishtiraq you ask? Let me enlighten you.

Ishtiraq is a ridiculously overpriced substitute for electricity which is generated by a motor to power the houses of unfortunate Lebanese. You pay a certain amount of money for a certain amount of amps. The amount of amps you have determines what you can and can’t turn on while the government owned electricity is out. So, if I pay for five amps (which is 125,000 Lebanese pounds, 83 USD ), I can probably power about 3 lights and a small TV. If I get 10 amps, I can power 5 lights & an air conditioner. If I get 15 etc…you get the point. It might seem like a good deal huh? It’s not. We’re forced to pay for government owned electricity and unless we wanna sit in the heat for 17 hours of the day, we have to buy ishtiraq too.

So imagine being in a separate room, wanting to turn the AC on but you can’t. Either you bunk with your siblings for the night or wake up in a pool of your own sweat. (Look on the bright side, you’ll lose ten pounds in 8 hours.)

Considering that the maximum wage for your average Lebanese employee is about 500 dollars, you can imagine most of us live in the dark (or in my part of town at least) and cannot afford much amps. For a country that claims to be so up to date with technology and is perceived as the “Paris of the Middle East”, you’d think we wouldn’t have to succumb to such dumb, undignified ways to get one of the most basic necessities of 2011.

Don’t forget about what I like to call “dancing electricity”.  It’s when the electricity flickers, causing every appliance in my home to go absolutely berserk usually resulting in something catching fire or just breaking. How many times has dancing electricity wrecked your fridge? Your radio? Your laptop? How much money have you spent trying to fix these things? Probably the same insane amount you pay for electricity.

Supposedly Iran, ally of Lebanon’s newly formed Hezbollah majority government, is going to help provide Lebanon with 24/7 electricity within six months. This seems promising I guess and while I like to be a positive person, Lebanon forces me not to. There have been rumors about this for the past 5 years, they came out right after the 2006 war actually. So we have been waiting patiently in the dark, waiting for this, when really this shouldn’t be Iran’s problem.

This is our problem- we as Lebanese people should step up and demand this right. What is stopping us? Why aren’t we inspired by Egypt or Tunisia? Why don’t we revolutionize? Why, instead of building islands, are we being denied the right to fully power our homes? Doesn’t this make you angry? Come on, don’t make me protest on my own….

Don’t you want to watch TV, while doing laundry, blow drying your hair & have the lights on all at the same time without having to worry about your ishtiraq switch imploding? Because remember, you paid a lot of money for that freaking switch too.

What are we waiting for?

I’m gonna go with waiting for the electricity to come back so you can turn on your computer and read this.

Categories: Lebanon | Tags: , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Electrifying Lebanon

  1. Cecilia

    This is so funny, but I know having to live with it is not. As a privileged and lit up American, I don’t have to worry enough to learn as much about back-up electricity as you do, but from my “travels”, I can tell you that it’s like Lebanon in many parts of the world. I remember how in Cuba you could sit outside in the heat enjoying an occasional gust of strong wind, but at sun down when you go hit the switch you realize that that nice breeze knocked out the power lines and that you and the rest of the city are left feeling your way to bed at night until the government decides to send an electrician to fix the problem. And that could take anywhere from 2 hours, the next business day, or….whenever they feel like it. I assume it’s like this out in the country in many places. I also know how terribly expensive electricity is in Europe. You’re guaranteed to get death glares from your guests if you leave your laptop charging for over 20 minutes. But like you wrote, as long as the tourists are having a bright and cheerful time, all is well.

  2. Hi Leila,
    Interesting story and beautifully written !
    I’m also from the “South of Lebanon” if you know what I mean… and luckily I don’t have to use the “Ishtiraq” or solar panels because of “dancing electricity”!…
    Once it flickered for a split of a second, and deleting 3 hours of work on my PC !…
    I got hysterical and broke her legs!..
    Now the electricity is sitting in a wheel chair and watching me dancing on the keyboard !…
    There is a backup power unit for computers called UPS.
    1 average computer – 300 W
    1 small TV – 150 W
    1 desk lamp – 100W
    1 hair drier – 300W
    Total 850W
    UPS power unit of 1,500W costs about $250. ( In Lebanon it is cheaper… )
    It will give you power for 4-5 hours without Debkas!…
    Keep on writing, you are good at it.

  3. Pingback: Lebanon electricity | Everythinghome

  4. Amazing article! I didnt know really that you have lack of electricity there! Maybe because that it is long time that we have no problem like that in Iran!
    Good luck Leila


    • REVOLUTION!!!! It’s long over due in Lebanon. Time for the Lebanese to wake up and stop being in denial! I have been saying this for years! I lost 10 pounds last summer in the heat because of the power outage. I got sick. And I was only there for a month and a half. The Government is corrupted and they are stealing from the people. This is why we don’t have electricity! If Lebanon allows another country to come in and fuel Lebanon, the corrupted leaders will no longer be able to steal from the people anymore! I stay get up and get that REVOLUTION going and occupy the streets and join the spring of occupation to liberate our people and Libnan! I wanna go home. I love Lebanon. Be more then willing to help with a REVOLUTION!!!! Salaam..

  6. Pingback: Where is Lebanon’s revolution? « Gold & Glitz's Blog

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