Mabrouk you say? Oh, why thank you! What? The prettiest baby you have ever seen?... Ever? Really? Hmmm… I’d say she pulls off the main attributes of a normal newborn baby, but thank you, you’re very kind.

So what has changed in my life after recently becoming a new parent? A lot! And if I may be so bold, I might even go as far as to say: everything. Everything has changed. And the one thing which has completely transformed, is my opinion of Lebanon. It has gone from romantic, shambolic and enjoyable to something rather untenable. The dreamer anarchist who once lost himself in worthy political and social causes has transformed into a seat-belt wearing papa bear who constantly worries about the safety and future of his daughter.

Here's four reasons I want to get the heck out of Lebanon.

1. The Cost of Living

( Image via Wandering Gearl )

When it comes to the average income, Lebanon has not been generous to its citizens. For a long time, our minimum wage was a paltry 400,000 LL a month. In January 2012, it increased to an equally laughable 650,000 LL. All of that is ok for the adventurous Lebanese who is willing to eat mana2eesh for a whole month. A single guy or gal can even refuse jobs he thinks are beneath him.

A married man does not enjoy this luxury. A man with children will do almost anything to get paid and support his family.

I have a set of skills that used to bring me about $1500 per day of work. No, I am not a prostitute (I assure you I wouldn't be that expensive), but you’re close - I am an actor. I usually get a job once a month, twice if I’m lucky. I started accepting $600 rates when I got married and I've even considered taking a $150 job since the birth of my daughter.

Low-Wages-Lebanon also delivers another blow: a high cost of living that requires maximum expenditure while delivering minimum returns on almost every front. According to the Ookla Agency, we have the highest rates on cell phone calls in the Arab world, and we have the indignity of hosting among the slowest and most expensive internet connections around the globe. So we might be a designer-wearing, iPhone carrying nation, but we are, according to the numbers, a first rate third-world country.

2. Security

( Image via Wall Street Journal)

The civil war might have ended at the start of the 1990’s, but who are we kidding? The location and importance of Lebanon in world politics and its role in the future of the region cannot help but make it a central location for all kinds of strife.

Every faction has a military wing. Even families have their own military wings. Actually, you yourself can have a military wing right now. You mean nothing as an ordinary law-abiding citizen of this country, but if you have a military wing, you will earn instant respect, make appearances on TV, and get an interview with Marcel Ghanem.

Furthermore, it has become increasingly apparent that you have to take sides if you want to live in Lebanon. If you take sides, you can hide in your camp and be an absolute jerk toward others. But if you want your children to be neutral and to exclude themselves from all this madness, then you're automatically putting them at a disadvantage; they would be in neither camp, and thus, have no protection. In short, sell your soul to violence or violence will take it forcibly and give you nothing in return.

3. The Future

( Image via Come Back Alive)

Part of what makes Lebanon so charming is its unpredictability, right? Yeah man, we are the manifestation of carpe diem here. We are either alcoholics, drug addicts or obsessed with religion. We are terrified of tomorrow.

The issue of security definitely plays a part in your future (being dead doesn't allow you to do... well... anything) but the general unpredictability of everything around us makes long-term planning a near impossibility. My wife and I didn't mind this when we were both single and childless. But with the coming of our daughter, not knowing where the hell we’re going is just not cutting it anymore. Do we invest in Lira? Should we buy a house in the South? Establish a catering company? What to do? In Lebanon, any of these ideas can backfire spectacularly and ruin your livelihood in the process.

4. The Lebanese Passport

( Image via Speakin' The Blues Blog)

Are you convinced now? Are you packing your things in a fit of tears as you read this? Eh bas lawen ya shattour? According to the 2013 Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index, which is a global ranking of countries based on the freedom of travel for their citizens, dear old Lebanon is tied for sixth place at the bottom. We are beaten to the worst possible passport by world-class havens of delight such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea. Ironically, we are in the same position as Sri Lanka (Shu ya madame? 3a shou sheyfe 7alik?). And we are even beaten in the passport category by international pacifists Iran and North Korea.

Most of us have had to go through this ordeal at some point in our lives for a variety of reasons (a marriage, a job opportunity, tourism) and from this we know that traveling anywhere requires more paperwork than setting up a bank. You are treated like a criminal, guilty until proven innocent, by all embassies. Some people go from one rejection to another, accumulating failures and making it harder and harder to leave each time. My application for the UK was refused twice. The reason I was given for the second refusal was this: “We are not confident applicant Mazen Zahreddine will not seek illegal permanent residence in the UK to acquire minimum wage jobs.”

Imagine that! Imagine the damage it did to my middle-class Lebanese ego. After all the looking down on other people, after all the contemplation of my glorious Phoenician past, imagine my surprise when I was refused a visa because it is believed whatever I can achieve in my home country will never beat the pure joy of flipping burgers illegally in the UK.

So when sh*t hits the fan, and you are scared for your children, and you just want them safe, and you don’t necessarily want to emigrate forever, just leave for a while until things blow over, your passport will not allow you to go anywhere except to places that are worse off than your own country. And let's say you do get the opportunity to get out - and move to Australia or Canada (popular destinations for Lebanese emigrants). Would you say no to that visa? Think about it: you could live in peace. Lebanon would be a distant memory, wet dreams of hommos still haunt you at night, and a “yeslam temmak ya za3eem” is uttered every now and then out of habit, but nothing else. You would be happy and safe. Your daughter would cry because her boyfriend was being a jerk, not because a B7 severed her leg off.

Yeah, I know not only 7ommos, but also akbar jat fattoush. W akbar znoud el sett bel middle east. But having weighed my options, our little family regretfully announces that we are now looking for a new home.

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Please, do elaborate. How is genuine worry about the future of our country and children a total waste of time?

Mazen Zahreddine on May 29, 2014 via web
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This kind of thinking is a total waste of time.

Gab Ferneiné on May 29, 2014 via web