• Quartier Suisse Hotel

Surviving chaos in Lebanon

How do you survive chaos in Lebanon when you are the manager of a charming hotel just above Beirut? When the country is insolvent and suffering from rampant inflation? When people are simply hungry? How do you survive when even planes have stopped flying? When rioting occurs in banks? When the coronavirus becomes almost a detail, despite being at the center of attention in the whole world?

People are hungry. They are confused. Indeed, what can you do? Soad, the manager of the Quartier Suisse Hotel in Brummana, near the capital, shares with us a touching and authentic testimony. Worried but hopeful, she tells us about her daily life with sincerity.

Surviving chaos in Lebanon

Since October 17, 2019, when people took to the streets to protest against the high cost of living, the brave Soad has been holding on, but she is saddened. The Quartier Suisse hotel is empty.

It is empty because the Lebanese obviously can no longer afford a hotel. Because foreigners, despite the legendary beauty and warmth of the Lebanese, are currently avoiding the country, which has become unstable, when in reality it is some sort of heaven on earth.

“I can't wait for solutions to be found, because what is happening is not real life and this country deserves so much better,” Soad says with a sigh. She’s thinking about Lebanon’s gift of hospitality, which the country can’t show at the moment. And she enjoys so much welcoming her passing guests.

A nightmare situation in Lebanon

“You have to realize,” Soad says, in a tone of regret, "that we are in a dreadful spiral now, and I don't know how it will be resolved.”

Salaries are paid in Lebanese pounds, whereas until now they were paid in dollars. And the prices have skyrocketed! All of a sudden, people have lost three quarters of their purchasing power. You can't even buy a salad anymore! People are making wild vegetable gardens everywhere just to be able to eat.”

“People are growing vegetables to survive, that's where we are at;" Soad says with bitterness, “even the pretty flowers on the balconies have been replaced by essential vegetables!”

“So, obviously, in a situation like this, tourists don't come anymore! When Lebanon is such a treasure, a unique universal heritage!”

Peaceful demonstrations in search of prosperity and freedom

People are demonstrating for their rights, they are peaceful. The crowd is respectful but worried. The people just want things to change, to live in freedom and prosperity; that’s what the spirit of the Lebanese wishes!

Soad hastens to explain that she doesn't do politics; she doesn't want to get involved. However, she notes that the people as a whole want kept promises, embodied values, real transparency.

These demonstrations are the realization that the Lebanese people are on the edge of the abyss and that a solution must be found in order to make it through. We can feel her courage in her voice and a very endearing form of fatalism. Since she can't control anything, neither for the coming of her clients nor for the return of healthy finances, she turns to the sky, in a very anchored way. We can feel in Soad, whose determination is a curious flip side of her fatalism, a real desire to move forward. To find solutions for her country, collectively.

It is a positive state of mind that has won the hearts of the population, which is very united. It also warms the hearts and souls, and Soad has tears in her voice as she speaks of it.

Getting the country moving again?

How to make Lebanon recover? Souad asks herself the question aloud. She doesn't have the answer. She knows that the people demonstrating want to change the government.

Indeed, the Lebanese, who are a joyful people, want their country to recover.

Like many Lebanese, she has questions. Why are salaries suddenly paid in Lebanese pounds? Why has the dollar soared compared to the pound? Why did the coronavirus come to disrupt the people who really didn't need this additional pressure?

On top of that, the coronavirus!

“The coronavirus, that’s the icing on the cake!” Although the current government is very recent, Souad thinks it has handled this aspect of the crisis rather well.

She doesn't say much more. Politics are not her cup of tea! She runs a small romantic and charming hotel, the Quartier Suisse hotel. And she hopes to see her clients again there soon, in this hotel which is a bit like her baby... She hopes the tourists will come back soon, as does the whole country! As we hear her voice on the phone, we can feel all the love she has for her beautiful country.

A glimmer of hope despite the difficulties

“It is true that there were clashes in the banks when people realized, in panic, that they could no longer withdraw their money from their bank accounts. It’s so stressful when you no longer have a single penny!”

“It is also true that people are hungry. Some people – yesterday from the middle class – now have no other choice than to beg, to look for food in the trash cans.”

All of this is true. Yet Soad smiles and her voice is filled with warmth. “The difficulties we face unite the country in adversity. People are being laid off, unemployment is soaring, and yet they stand together. There are no religious frictions; everyone agrees to move in the same direction. And that's really beautiful.”

Before she hangs up, Soad looks around the lobby of the Quartier Suisse Hotel where she has invested so much of her energy. And she dreams of better days. For this hotel. For her compatriots. And for Lebanon, the pearl of the Orient.

Thank you Suad for such heartfelt words!

By Christine Camporini