Michael Karam: Lebanese disdain for public transport

‘Where in Copenhagen can you park like that?” The fearsome hi-viz-clad female traffic warden barked at my friend who was picking me up from the airport in the Danish capital. The normal, well-oiled machine that is Danish traffic had been thrown a curve ball by the unannounced building works at the airport entrance and my friend, while technically infringing the traffic law, had only pulled over momentarily to get her bearings.

But apparently that’s enough to incur the wrath of authority in this neck of the woods. A card outlining how the temporary traffic flow worked was thrust through the passenger window and we were sent on our way with a warning.

I tried my best to mollify the situation by explaining to my friend that the incident should be seen as an example of why Danish society is so envied. “Take Lebanon for example,” I said cheerily. “The government is only now trying to implement a plan to introduce proper pavements and a public transport system. Imagine.”

And it’s true; we are. Just last week, parliament’s Public Works Committee unveiled a complex “road map” aimed at improving infrastructure for public transport services to tackle the horrendous traffic that plagues much of Beirut and its suburbs.

The head of the committee said they were working with the World Bank to adopt something called the Bus Rapid Transit or BRT. A random trawl of the internet told me that BRT was … wait for it …“a city-based, high-speed bus transit system in which buses travel on dedicated routes”. Amazing. A regular bus service in other words?

But there was more: “BRT is already widely implemented in both the developed and developing worlds and research shows that [it] can reduce travel time by millions of hours for commuters worldwide”, which I guess is think tank speak for “less cars on the road eases traffic”. Who knew?

Which is on the face of it all well and good, but getting the Lebanese, the most non-collegiate of people to abandon their cars and go to work together is going to be a big ask and says a lot about how dysfunctional we are as a nation. In fact, I can’t, off the top of my head, think of another country in which the use of public transport is so scorned upon as it is in Lebanon.

Many western tourists are, quite rightly, flabbergasted by the lack of decent public transport, especially in such a small country with relatively few main arterial roads and freeways and this must surely be a factor as to why Lebanon has not been able to attract more western tourists than it does.

At a dinner about 10 years ago, I admitted to sometimes taking the bus from my home in the east Beirut district of Achrafieh to my bank on Hamra street in the west of the city. More than anything, I explained, I avoided the nightmare of finding a place to park on a busy Saturday.

My confession was initially met with laughter but when my fellow guests realised I meant it, there was a moment’s silence, before one brave soul piped up and said “Good for you. I mean why not?” There followed similar murmurs of agreement but you knew they’d rather be hacked to death by a hate mob than ride a bus themselves.

Anyway, moving on. Other promises in this latest initiative include a pledge to enforce traffic violations, which would indeed bring in much-needed revenues into the state coffers and hopefully reduce the needless death and destruction that is on our roads daily. Also on the agenda is getting rid of illegal taxis and the widening of roads and the pavements.

The last bit reminded me of a conversation I had with a cab driver a few years ago. For as we all know, it is a truth universally acknowledged that taxi drivers are fonts of wisdom and this chap was no exception when he pointed out that no matter how wide the roads were in Beirut there would always be only enough space for one car. “The rest is taken up with double or even triple parking,” he said, motioning with his cigarette to the rows of cars illegally parked, in plain view of the cops who were, as Beirut cops tend to do, standing around, drinking coffee and smoking.

Meanwhile, in Denmark it is not uncommon for government ministers to cycle to work. We can but live in hope.

Michael Karam is a freelance writer who lives between Beirut and Brighton.


Follow The National's Business section on Twitter

Dengue fever symptoms
  • High fever
  • Intense pain behind your eyes
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen glands
  • Rash

If symptoms occur, they usually last for two-seven days

Salah in numbers

€39 million: Liverpool agreed a fee, including add-ons, in the region of 39m (nearly Dh176m) to sign Salah from Roma last year. The exchange rate at the time meant that cost the Reds £34.3m - a bargain given his performances since.

13: The 25-year-old player was not a complete stranger to the Premier League when he arrived at Liverpool this summer. However, during his previous stint at Chelsea, he made just 13 Premier League appearances, seven of which were off the bench, and scored only twice.

57: It was in the 57th minute of his Liverpool bow when Salah opened his account for the Reds in the 3-3 draw with Watford back in August. The Egyptian prodded the ball over the line from close range after latching onto Roberto Firmino's attempted lob.

7: Salah's best scoring streak of the season occurred between an FA Cup tie against West Brom on January 27 and a Premier League win over Newcastle on March 3. He scored for seven games running in all competitions and struck twice against Tottenham.

3: This season Salah became the first player in Premier League history to win the player of the month award three times during a term. He was voted as the division's best player in November, February and March.

40: Salah joined Roger Hunt and Ian Rush as the only players in Liverpool's history to have scored 40 times in a single season when he headed home against Bournemouth at Anfield earlier this month.

30: The goal against Bournemouth ensured the Egyptian achieved another milestone in becoming the first African player to score 30 times across one Premier League campaign.

8: As well as his fine form in England, Salah has also scored eight times in the tournament phase of this season's Champions League. Only Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, with 15 to his credit, has found the net more often in the group stages and knockout rounds of Europe's premier club competition.


Main card

Robert Whittaker defeated Ikram Aliskerov via knockout (Round 1)
Alexander Volkov def Sergei Pavlovich via unanimous decision
Kelvin Gastelum def Daniel Rodriguez via unanimous decision
Shara Magomedov def Antonio Trocoli via knockout (Round 3)
Light heavyweight:
Volkan Oezdemir def Johnny Walker via knockout (Round 1)
Preliminary Card

Nasrat Haqparast def Jared Gordon via split decision
Felipe Lima def Muhammad Naimov via submission (Round 3)
Rinat Fakhretdinov defeats Nicolas Dalby via split decision
Muin Gafurov def Kang Kyung-ho via unanimous decision
Light heavyweight:
Magomed Gadzhiyasulov def Brendson Ribeiro via majority decision
Chang Ho Lee def Xiao Long via split decision

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre, six-cylinder

Transmission: six-speed manual

Power: 395bhp

Torque: 420Nm

Price: from Dh321,200

On sale: now

Three ways to boost your credit score

Marwan Lutfi says the core fundamentals that drive better payment behaviour and can improve your credit score are:

1. Make sure you make your payments on time;

2. Limit the number of products you borrow on: the more loans and credit cards you have, the more it will affect your credit score;

3. Don't max out all your debts: how much you maximise those credit facilities will have an impact. If you have five credit cards and utilise 90 per cent of that credit, it will negatively affect your score.


Bantamweight 56.4kg
Abrorbek Madiminbekov v Mehdi El Jamari

Super heavyweight 94+kg
Adnan Mohammad v Mohammed Ajaraam

Lightweight 60kg
Zakaria Eljamari v Faridoon Alik Zai

Light heavyweight 81.4kg
Mahmood Amin v Taha Marrouni

Light welterweight 64.5kg
Siyovush Gulmamadov v Nouredine Samir

Light heavyweight 81.4kg
Ilyass Habibali v Haroun Baka

The biog

Age: 59

From: Giza Governorate, Egypt

Family: A daughter, two sons and wife

Favourite tree: Ghaf

Runner up favourite tree: Frankincense 

Favourite place on Sir Bani Yas Island: “I love all of Sir Bani Yas. Every spot of Sir Bani Yas, I love it.”

Tips to keep your car cool
  • Place a sun reflector in your windshield when not driving
  • Park in shaded or covered areas
  • Add tint to windows
  • Wrap your car to change the exterior colour
  • Pick light interiors - choose colours such as beige and cream for seats and dashboard furniture
  • Avoid leather interiors as these absorb more heat

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

The BaaS ecosystem

The BaaS value chain consists of four key players:

Consumers: End-users of the financial product delivered

Distributors: Also known as embedders, these are the firms that embed baking services directly into their existing customer journeys

Enablers: Usually Big Tech or FinTech companies that help embed financial services into third-party platforms

Providers: Financial institutions holding a banking licence and offering regulated products

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024


Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).


Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).


Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Most Read
Top Videos