An Open Letter to the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism
Dear respected members,
Recently the Ministry of Tourism released a promotional video in a bid to encourage Lebanese tourism. Although it was a very well-made video, it failed to capture the diversity of Lebanon by selectively picking a few places. The video neglected large swathes of Lebanon, especially Tripoli and the Northern Governorate. Many analysts, Lebanese expatriates, and Northern Lebanese have noticed a depressing trend of sidelining Tripoli in these kinds of promotional videos. Besides Tripoli's famed Rabbit Islands Natural Preserve and the International Fair Complex built by the legendary Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, the city is awash with historical artifacts and remnants to the extent of being labeled the second city in the world with the most Mamluki-era monuments! Having gone through nearly all Ministry of Tourism videos, it is apparent that there is little to no coverage of Tripoli.
"[Tripoli is] the second city in the world with the most Mamluki-era monuments"
The minimal coverage of Tripoli is even more pronounced on Lebanon’s national air carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA), where many Tripolitans, including myself, have noted numerous editions of Ministry of Tourism-supplied magazines and brochures that purposely leave out the city of Tripoli while including minor, less populated villages on the map. Imagine a brochure on Egyptian Airlines with no mention of Alexandria!
Furthermore, the lack of appropriate depiction of Lebanon's demographics is clear to any avid follower and admirer of Lebanon. For example, the overwhelming majority of the villages displayed in the most recent Ministry of Tourism sponsored video presents a homogenized version of Lebanon that contradicts the country’s multi-sect and multi-ethnic fabric. This depressing phenomenon is found in nearly all Ministry of Tourism-sponsored videos when presenting the faces of Lebanon. The deliberate exclusion of a sizable portion of the Lebanese populace from these promotional tourism videos presents a version of Lebanon unknown to the native and foreign to the lived reality on the ground.
The systematic and historic neglect of Tripoli by the Ministry of Tourism over the years has contributed to the rise in poverty and a highly skewed tourism-generated revenue influx to areas outside the boundaries of Tripoli. Lebanon's second largest city has much to offer. If the current policy continues, not only will Tripoli lose potential income, but so will all of Lebanon. If, on the other hand, Tripoli prospers, all of Lebanon will prosper. We hope you reevaluate your tourism videos and make it an effort to properly represent Lebanon and its people.
R. Mahmoud Yamak
و الحلو علينا .P.S
To read the open letter in Arabic, click here.
About the Author:
R. Mahmoud Yamak is a petroleum engineer currently residing in Houston, TX. He is a commentator on Arab and Middle Eastern affairs who has previously written for the Daily Sabah, The New Arab, Muftah Magazine, among others.