Weekend travel

Why I packed medicine and 6 kg of flour for my trip back to Lebanon

Why I packed medicine and 6 kg of flour for my trip back to Lebanon

Packing your suitcase before heading abroad can be a daunting task for any vacationer.

Do I really need to bring that extra crime thriller to read lazily on the beach, and will cramming half my wardrobe into my suitcase end up breaking my baggage weight allowance?

But planning a return trip to Lebanon raises more pressing questions for expats like me as the country grapples with economic crisis.

My homeland is plagued by chronic shortages of imported medicines, wheat and flour, and inflation is causing food prices to skyrocket.

My packing decisions therefore focus on what prescription drugs to take and how many bags of bread and how much flour I should bring.

Around 22% of Lebanese households are food insecure, according to the World Food Programme.

Long early morning queues often snake around bakeries and grocery stores as customers rush to buy limited quantities of subsidized bread before the shelves empty.

Bread, flour and medicine were therefore my main priorities before flying out this week.

Having endured and survived the Lebanese civil war that lasted 15 years, my whole family learned to be resilient and adapt to any challenge.

But with my aging dad due to have surgery this week, the purpose of my visit was to make his life easier and to make sure he at least didn’t have to join the anxious crowds looking for the essential.

Bread has a short shelf life, up to seven days at room temperature. With frequent power cuts, what has become a precious commodity can so easily be wasted.

I packed six bags of bread, 6 kg of flour, as well as yeast, crackers, pancake mix, over-the-counter medications and vitamins.

PCR tests, a first aid kit and painkillers were included in my luggage, as I was also looking to limit the need to travel due to rising fuel prices.

Lebanese traveler Liz at Dubai International Airport.  Photo: Liza Ayach

Help at home

My experience, of course, is shared by many other Lebanese returning home from all parts of the world.

Rabih Al Sayed, 35, decided to surprise his parents, who live in the Bekaa, by visiting them.

Mr. Al Sayed has lived in Canada, where he has run his own beauty salon, for nine years.

“The purpose of my trip is just to visit my family,” he said. “They don’t know I’m coming. I want to surprise them.

“I didn’t want them to worry about how my trip was going as many flights were canceled in Canada earlier due to the pandemic.

“I packed over-the-counter drugs for my parents and neighbors. These might be in stock in Lebanon, but I bought them so they didn’t have to spend their money there.

“Sometimes my parents struggle to get bread, but they always find a way to get it.”

Liz, who asked that her surname not be used, was on her way back to Beirut after visiting a friend in Dubai when she spoke to The National.

“I came to Dubai for two purposes, to get my medicine and to visit a very close friend,” said Liz, a graphic designer.

“To kill two birds with one stone, I have my medicine with me and my family’s medicine because I’m afraid that we won’t find a stock in Lebanon or if it’s affordable or not in Lebanon.

“Every time the prices change.”

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