Posted by: sean | November 30, 2008

Ethiopia takes the day

Today was a good day for Ethiopia in Beirut. The annual marathon was held, and I ended up downtown right as the winners were announced. For the men, first and third places went to Ethiopian runners, while second place was awarded to a Kenyan. And for the women, all three awards went to Ethiopians.

There was a crowd of a few dozen Ethiopians all sporting their home country’s flag or hats with Ethiopia’s national colors on them. It was a pleasure to see people who get such a raw deal in Lebanon and throughout the region enjoying a little bit of national pride, especially since most people in the region see little to no value in Ethiopian culture. (The Middle East is the only place I know of where there’s a sizable Ethiopian diaspora but no upscale Ethiopian restaurants.)

I was a little taken aback, but probably shouldn’t have been, when I heard that the organizers of the marathon had decided to make a special catagory for Lebanese runners. So while the Levantines had their asses handed to them by African runners, the Lebanese decided that they should still get prizes. So there were first, second and third place prizes for men and women, given exclusively for Lebanese runners. While the announcer made light of it by saying, “this is because we can’t compete,” it’s clear that it’s just unacceptable for some people to be schooled in a marathon by their maids and menial laborers.



  1. Hmph. That probably explains why it was more expensive for non-Lebanese to register for the marathon. $50 instead of $15 for the 42km and $25 instead of $10 for the 10km.

    On the other hand, there was talk of flying over Masai Warriors from Tanzania to participate. Only exotic when at a safe distance.

  2. Wow, I had no idea that the registration was more expensive if you weren’t Lebanese. (Stay classy, Beirut!)

    The Masai warrior thing would have been great. But knowing how things work here, they probably would have been swindled into working for Sukleen after the race.

    One detail that I forgot to mention: when the first place winner from Ethiopia was accepting his prize and kissing his native flag, they were playing Eye of the Tiger.

    Rocky + Ethiopia = awesome!

  3. are there many african refugees in lebanon?

  4. There are more migrant workers than refugees, I’d say. Most are from Sudan and Ethiopia… (unless you count Egyptians as African).

    There are also some refugees, but I think the bulk of Africans here are migrant workers.

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