Yesterday I was in Syria. And before yesterday too. I liked how at the Syrian customs they have a poster of Imad Mughnieh that’s the size of Bashar Assad’s portrait, with Nasrallah stickers here and there on the windows that separate employees from the travelers. I also noticed that they have sidewalks in Damascus unlike in Beirut. And most of the Arabic language books they print in Beirut are sold there at half their original price because Lebanese are mostly busy reading in French and English.
But what I liked the most was this: On our way back they stopped us at the Lebanese customs and asked us to open the trunk of the car. I explained to the soldier that the bags he saw were musical instruments so that he does not go crazy and starts opening them randomly. After a short glance, the guy says that it’s ok and that I can go, but then all of a sudden another guy jumps from behind him and starts mumbling about the fact that we had to declare our instruments when we were leaving the country and that because we failed to do so, we should pay (the other guy who stayed silent the whole time) a little something and he’ll let the matter pass. So I told him that we had our bags checked on our way out and nobody told us anything about declaring. The guy answered that “maybe they thought you weren’t coming back”… But what kind of lie was that? I did not realize at first. So my friend who had no patience to argue took out a 10,000L.L. bill and paid the guy (who stayed silent). Very pissed, I looked at him and said “shame”.
But I wanted to know how things worked. So I went to a superior and I asked about the declaration and he said that it exist as a legal requisite. So, actually, given the fact that the custom officers that were there when we left did not ask us for anything although they knew we were coming back (we had to fill special papers of ‘return’), did that on purpose so that we fall in this little trap and pay a little ransom…
Anyway, a short while later once we finished checking our passports, the taxi driver comes back with the money and says that the officer returned it to him for some reason. We spent the drive back home questioning ourselves on the possible causes that prompted the guy to return the 10,000L.L. bill. We soon had a flat tire after falling in an enormous hole in the road (you know how it is), that took 2hr (I’m not exaggerating) to remove because the wheel was stuck.