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Lebanon’s cowboys, and entrepreneurial spur
Beirut is not the place you’d expect to see a rodeo show. But anything can happen in the Wild West, says Katherine Azmeh.
April 21, 2010 5:51 by Katherine Azmeh
I know, I know: Beirut is widely regarded as the entertainment capital of the Middle East. But even so, I was surprised when a friend invited me to the city’s first Wild West Festival last year. I am an American from Texas, so you’ll forgive me if I had a hard time envisioning Lebanon’s capital as the right venue for country music bands, rodeo cowboys, and barbeque.
But as it turns out, the event was right at home in the city. Indeed, Beirut is a contemporary wild west, a place where loopholes will be exploited and locals delight in that look of bewilderment on the face of newcomers.
Learning this terrain involves a leap of faith: Just because things are not spelled out, does not imply there are not clear rules of engagement. Enclaves of self-rule persist – for better and for worse, and lapses and judgment will cost you dearly. Rule number one upon arrival: learn the unspoken rules of the game.
In celebration of Lebanon’s Wild West spirit, Kipp offers you this collection of personal anecdotes from locals and foreigners. Each one illustrates the yin and yang of living here: learning to be at peace with the irrational, while recognizing the underlying entrepreneurial spirit of it all.
The moonlighting real estate agent
In the west, realtors are not hard to find. Their signs mar the landscaping of otherwise lovely front lawns, their business cards are offered at parties, and they take up all the tables at Starbucks. In some markets real estate brokers are licensed professionals, dressed in suits, sitting with clients in trendy restaurants – house plans littering the table, laptops open, mortgage calculators whirring.
As a foreign journalist in Lebanon, I was keen to get a handle on the country’s property market, and had naively made my own attempts at contacting a realtor. After all, those guys generally have their fingers on the pulse of the sector – hot neighborhoods, price per square meter, where the deals are. After a few failed attempts, I met my friend Elie (at Starbucks, of course), hoping he could enlighten me on the elusive nature of the property broker in Lebanon.