I wrote a couple of posts on having a baby in Beirut when Isla was just a few months old. Even though they are a few years old, they are still some of the more popular posts on this blog… the result of many Google searches about traveling to Beirut with a baby.
While I still wouldn’t recommend Beirut as a great travel destination for families with small kids, I do see the city as a bit more friendly towards babies than I did two years ago. Part of that may be my growth as a parent, part is likely that I am much more familiar with the city and its culture, and a part of it is how this place has grown and changed since Isla was a baby.
There are still no car seat laws. You will see small babies sitting on their daddy’s lap as he drives the car, or wedged between mom and dad, weaving in and out of traffic on their motorcycle. So getting around the city without a car can be tough. Taxis are everywhere and cheap, but it means holding your baby on your lap with a driver who is not likely to be extra careful because of his precious cargo. We have a car now, and seats for both the girls, so I don’t feel the tension as much as I did when Isla was a baby and a taxi was the only way we could get across town.
We do still walk more than we drive. And the city hasn’t gotten much more stroller friendly. Dodging cars, huge holes in the sidewalks, and stores and restaurants that aren’t stroller accessible make pushing a stroller feel like a full contact sport. Add to that a walking two-year old… and you can see why I’ve become an ardent baby-wearer. Definitely the way to go walking around Beirut! This also comes in handy if you aren’t comfortable with your baby getting lots of kisses from strangers!
Nursing in public is still not really done here… I’ve actually never seen anyone breastfeeding in public except for friends at our play groups. But, I’ve discovered that as long as you are discreet, no one really blinks an eye. It helps that Ruby is a super efficient eater… ten minutes and she’s done with her meal. (And as a side note, there is also a great network of support now – La Leche League and a few other groups. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding in Lebanon and stumbled across this blog, check us out on facebook!)
Lebanon still has a super high rate of smokers, but there is actually a law going into effect this fall banning smoking in public places! As a result, a lot of restaurants have already either gone smoke free or have divided the restaurant into smoking and non-smoking sections. This was not the case at all a few years ago, when you were pretty much guaranteed a side of second hand smoke with every meal.
Speaking of restaurants, I’ve only seen one that had an actual changing table in the bathroom. Which means you change your baby on the seat where you are eating (gross!) or the floor of the bathroom (grosser!). Actually, Ruby is still pretty small, so sometimes I’m able to fit her on the counter if there is one next to the sink. I guess if you have a stroller you could change baby’s diaper there. The Beirut Souks downtown as well as the malls have changing tables in the bathroom, which is nice.
So, is Beirut a baby friendly city? Eh, not really. But, if you are here and you have a baby, there are ways to make it work!
Now, toddler friendly? That’s another story altogether! :)