Posted by: sean | August 10, 2009

Jim Crow on the Mediterranean

selma pool segregation - smallStrom Thurmond, as a Dixiecrat candidate for president in 1948, once said in opposition to integration:

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there’s not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.

It seems that the concern with having people of a different race swim in their pools shown by southern whites during Jim Crow segregation is shared with many Lebanese:

According to the watchdog organization Human Rights Watch, 17 private beaches (out of a nation-wide total of 27) do not allow African and Asian domestic workers into swimming pools. HRW first investigated the matter last summer, but has yet to test the resorts’ policies on the ground. At the initial stage, HRW contacted 30 resorts and received 27 official replies.

A number of resorts claimed to offer “designated areas” where workers can wait while their employers relax at the beach. One manager at a private beach said workers were not allowed as guests because, according to the resort’s rules, “maids come in for free.”

Others said they charge foreign workers less at the door.

A free or discounted entry may encourage families with children who want to go to the beach and bring their maids for help, but don’t want to pay for an additional ticket.

In at least one resort Asian and African workers are allowed to swim in the sea but not in the pool, because “not all people like maids to swim with them in the water.” At another, they are not even allowed to wear bathing suits, according to HRW.

Upon reading this article, I was curious to know which places allowed domestic workers in the pool and which didn’t, so I made  a couple of calls. I called Lazy-b in Jiyeh, Eddé Sands in Byblos, the Riviera Hotel in Beirut and the Jiyeh Marina.

Lazy-b: Neither nannies nor children are allowed in the pool, which is by the restaurant, because, “we want it to be calm.” If the nanny wants to swim in the sea, that’s fine as long as she pays an entrance fee (25,000 LL or $16.66).

Eddé Sands: Entrance is free for nannies, and according to the women I spoke to, there is no problem for them to swim in either the pool or the sea.

Riviera Hotel: Admission for nannies is apparently free, but they cannot swim in either the pool or the sea. When I asked if my imaginary nanny could swim if I were to pay her entrance fee, I was told that it wasn’t a problem.

Jiyeh Marina: For admission purposes, nannies are “considered as children,” and they are allowed to swim “if they have a swimsuit,” but according to the woman I spoke to, “we prefer them not to.”



  1. ehhh… that’s my Lebanon. I don’t think we should be surprised. If anything, this reflects the classist racist society we are living in.

    Great post man..great one.

  2. well looked at it as a matter of nanny or maid helping out the children and not paying the fee, maybe we can disregard not allowing them to swim, however paying the entrance fee as any other normal (normal?) Lebanese person, they shouldn’t forbid anyone to swim with anyone… inno bleh… but in a nutshell, us Lebanese are racist in general. you should hear the Lebanese talk about African American in the US masalan. shi ktir 7elo

  3. and btw nice post shedding the light on such a subject, and having the jalad to make these calls

  4. To add to your information: I asked in La Guava (close to Saida) and they said the nanny can either go in for free, as a caretaker, in which case she is not allowed to use the pool nor lounge chairs etc., OR she can be a paying guest like anyone else and use chairs, pool, etc.

    But this is all theoretical, of course. I mean, I’ve never seen a maid in the pool there, nor on a lounge chair.

  5. you should see the lebanese in the US discuss asians.
    shi bishareef.

  6. bg, oh that i didn’t have the pleasure, but it’s funny how us Lebanese pretend to be a superior race while we’re abroad. people who were there for decades, still look at other people and look at them from above, while we, ourselves, know the feeling of being looked at from above.. akid fi exceptions.

  7. Well, I’ll be…
    First the BBC picked up on the topic of your post. And today al-Akhbar had a piece on it.

  8. Qussa: Dank je wel for the info on La Guava! I imagine since these stories have started coming out, they’ve been instructed to be more diplomatic on the telephone when asked about the policies.

    Hah, Ms. T. While I’d like to think that I’m getting aped by the BBC and al-Akhbar, given my page hits, it’s probably more likely that they were following up on the Now Lebanon post.

    Liliane & BG: I remember last year before going on a two-month trip to East/Central Africa, people kept asking,

    !لش بدك ترح علأفريقيا؟ في بس عبيد هنيك

  9. just wanted to point out that you received an interesting response to your post over on . . .

  10. […] owner responds to pool policy The other day, I wrote about discrimination in Lebanon’s swimming pools, adding some more specifics to the generalities of what I called Jim Crow on the Mediterranean. All […]

  11. […] the second is in the current edition of The Executive, and is a longer more substantive piece on domestic workers in Lebanon called, “Serve but don’t […]

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