Beirut car contrasts

This photo gives a good idea of the contrasting cars you see in Beirut.

A clapped out 80s ear Peugeot next to a new Range Rover Sport. I didn’t blur the Peugeot’s number plate out for any privacy reasons – it boats its own naturally faded look.


I’m definitely seeing more new Range Rovers on the streets – on previous trips there were new models and lots of previous models, including lots of Classics. The older ones are still there and lots more newer ones are on the streets. What good taste these gentlemen have.

All these Rangies are still vying for space next to the usual bewildering array of every type of car imaginable from the last 40 years. Reliable Japanese models are conspicuous by their absence, which always surprises me.

70s and 80s era Mercedes are still popular. You see some beautifully maintained examples, but more often than not they are like this taxi.


Utterly filthy inside, with nothing working apart from the radio. I didn’t get a receipt, either.

Yesterday there was a very Beiruti site – Audi R8 dawdling along the motorway, beautiful lady inside this incredible sports car, simultaneously doing her make up, talking on the phone and nearly crashing into a 1960 Mercedes lorry.

My taxi experience from the airport was the usual disaster. I totally forgot to order a hotel car, or a taxi from one of the reliable firms whose numbers I now have.

Surrounded at the airport exit by unshaven men blowing smoke at me, trying to grab my luggage and shouting ’50 dollar 50 dollar 50 dollar’ at me before I could say where I was going, I finally broke free from these ‘official airport taxi drivers’ and was approached by an old man who said he’d take me to my hotel for 20 dollars, which seemed to be a fair price – the airport’s not that far out. I asked him where his cab was and he gestured at a reasonably new Camry. We jumped in to that car – which was already being driven by someone.

I was a bit confused about what was going on. The driver didn’t seem to want us in the car. Lots of shouting went on. We drove off around the corner and the cab stopped, we got out, my luggage was grabbed by the old man and we walked to… his cab.

This car was the dirtiest Peugeot I have ever seen. It only had one window, held in place by a screwdriver.


A twenty minute drive to my hotel followed, with the car filling up with diesel fumes, as well as the smoke from the driver’s endless series of Lucky Strikes.

We arrived, miraculously, at my hotel. I have to admit I gave the guy a bit extra, as we he was very nice, chatting away in a mix of Arabic, French and English, pointing out where Rafic Hariri was murdered, complaining about all the bad drivers and willing his Peugeot onwards.

The whole experience was both awful and quite amusing. If I’d had a colleague travelling with me it would have been hilarious. On my own it was less so. I do think it’d be a good idea to get some of the guys in the US who make travel policy decisions over to some less developed places and see what we go through sometimes. I’d love to see their faces when they land in somewhere like Douala and the person they think is the hotel driver grabs their luggage, runs off into the car park and gets threatening when you don’t have any change to pay them for their ‘help’, for example.

All in all, after a ten minute escapade to get some change for my geriatric driver (I only had a $50 note), I was smiling when I said goodbye.

Then, as he drove off, I realised I’d forgotten to ask for a receipt.

One Response to “Beirut car contrasts”

  1. alexander Says:

    You’ll have discovered the infamous ‘servees’ there, then.

    My best had his bumper hanging out of the boot.

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