No maids in the pool

Imagine you’re a domestic worker who, after six days of working full-time, decided to head to the beach for a well-deserved day in the sun. You purchase a ticket to enter,  find the perfect spot, but then, right as you’re about to jump in the pool, the resort manager approaches and tells you to stay out of the water because “people are not used to the sight of workers swimming.”

Such discrimination is the rule rather than exception at beach resorts in Lebanon. African and Asian domestic workers are usually allowed into beaches only when accompanied by their employer, and even then they are denied access to facilities.
In the rare instances when a foreign domestic worker taking the day off is given entry, generally because they are accompanied by Lebanese friends, they are made to feel different and unwanted.

Kawkab Tessaye, a 27-year-old Ethiopian domestic worker, says she has been to the beach a couple of times in Lebanon, but the experience left her feeling uncomfortable. The looks on peoples’ faces told her she was “different” and “out of place.” 

“I once went to a resort in Batroun, and even though I was with Lebanese friends, I felt unwanted because of my color,” Tessaye says.

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.

Given how dire conditions are for many foreign domestic workers in Lebanon – employers often restrict their movement, give them no time off and pay them next to nothing – going to beach is often the least of their concerns.

Lebanese labor law does not cover the basic rights of these workers, let alone their right to enjoy leisure activities. Even though a new employment contract between agencies and employees, recently approved by the Ministry of Labor, gave workers the right to a full day off, it fell short of giving them permission to leave the house during this break. Furthermore, the contract is rarely respected by agencies or employers.

To make matters worse, there is no anti-discrimination law in Lebanon. The Lebanese constitution refers to discrimination under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but there is no separate law to counter discriminatory practices.

“We are aiming to expose this discrimination by publicizing it and getting people to talk about it,” said Nadim Houry, HRW’s Beirut director. “We need to start facing racism. It is not unique to Lebanon, but we haven’t started tackling the problem yet. Many unacceptable things are tolerated and embraced here.”

Houry is hoping the future Lebanese government will pick up on the campaign and work toward enacting and implementing a real anti-discrimination law.

Any such steps, however, will take a long time to realize. Until then, the country will likely continue to deny foreign workers the most basic human rights, like enjoying a day at the beach.

  • tony

    Lebanese people are the best on the earth!! thats all what i can say

    January 16, 2012

  • Allan Smith

    (...) Lebanese (...)are a third world country with no proper running water, no political standing in the international arena, no military power and many more things which would take me a day to pen down. Having the unfortunate experience of working with Lebanese in Dubai i find them extremely lazy and incompetent.

    December 12, 2011

  • Kasia herz

    Probably its not about rasizm ,but any way.My son learns swim in a Rocket club.We dont have a membership,but we take swiming courses,there was a women complaining about water on the floor shower room(in my opinion its normal to have a watery floor in shower room and in public place.But we have been told not to use that shower room because its only for members.We can use other room wich doesnt have even a hanger for towel .And when i told them about my disagrement menager of the club told me i,m sorry mem you know our Lebanese women they are different.I know people who has a membership they have priveleges but i didnt know those priveleges in shower room and because they are Lebanese Really i found lebaneese people are very different and i m surprised that they think they are better than other.Please show your hospitalityand respecr to others .

    March 7, 2010

  • Stef

    Lebanese are the most superficial, stuck-up and arrogant people on the face of the earth. How about showing some of your famed hospitality to the underdogs?

    January 13, 2010

  • David

    I read some of these comments and I must say, it sounds like racism to me. The maids can come from Europe or elsewhere as Arabs (or lightskinned looking Arab people) and they would not be treated this way. To say otherwise is a lie. No Arab or European domestic worker is checked at the door. No, it's racism, typical "lightskinned" racism. And to hear these excuses. How would you like it if your Arab relatives come to America and are treated this way? I am so tired of reading about how black people are mistreated in the Middle East. What can we do to change it? THey have been treated like slaves for 1500 years.

    December 2, 2009

  • waleed abu nassar

    Racism' claims at Lebanon beach clubs By Andrew North BBC News, Beirut Thursday, 13 August 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8200001.stm Social discrimination is a by nature a global pandemic, transcends religion, color and race. In Lebanon, You belong to either, a social elite, a bourgeoisie or the populace. The issue of racism as addressed in the BBC article written by Andrew North, a bigot and a racist par excellence is a despicable attempt by a failure of a reporter to discredit The Sporting Club Swimming Center, in Beirut, Lebanon by claiming that the Club enforces racial prejudices against Black and Asian migrant workers because of the club's policy of not allowing workers on their premises. North, firstly assumes that migrant workers can obviously only be black or Asian, a repulsive suggestion & a racist statement in itself. Without this stupid argument North has no article to write. The Sporting Club's member list and patrons which counts in

    September 12, 2009

  • rita

    I'm disgusted & disappointed. We as Lebanese, who so often get treated as second class citizens in other countries, need to be the example of humanity and equality. Instead we have racist resorts whose love of money is priority to love of human kind. There is NOTHING gross about the maid swimming. In fact she's the one cleaning after the lazy slobs in our country. If anything she's cleaner than you racist dirty idiots!!!!! How can Lebanon ever move forward with backward thinking. These women have left their homes to WORK! They are intelligent, beautiful, hard working, & loving people who endure so much from our Bourgeoisie wannabe, nose jobed, lip injected show offs (and I can say a lot more). Look in the mirror & see who you truly are before you judge!

    September 1, 2009

  • George

    Racism or not, Lebanon has always been unique! Let us not get carried away.. what if and not; these beach resorts are business people who work very hard and like every business, customer services is priority one; if that's how Lebanese mentality, is at present, then these businesses are likely to lose out on the competition, everything else follows suit, reputation, class, etiquette, values etc... While the argument, Lebanese do not behave so outside the Lebanon, very unlikely to believe... Lebanese people wherever they are in the world, are natural snobs. No maids in the pool, where Lebanese hang around, may be have hideaway pools for maids only, of course should Lebanese allow it. A country is beautiful, because its people make the country beautiful... . They need to be awaken, its their path and choice to make.

    August 15, 2009

  • re

    what about Barack Obama,do you think he can enter in that kind of area?

    August 11, 2009

  • Joy

    I have been in Lebanon for 3 months for professional reasons and cannot put in words my disappointment and disgust. I am an African who has lived in Europe and the US so I have some experience with racism. I have noticed the Lebanese disrespectual attitude towards blacks but that quickly changes when they realise your position. I cannot help but think they are not only racist, they are also opportunist. My family will not stay longer than the time required for my assignment

    August 11, 2009

  • edward

    Dania said: "It is not a matter of racism rather than each having a specific role!!! This is why you deserved the Syrian treatment." I am a visitor to Lebanon and would liek to know what is the meaning of "the Syrian treatment"? The question of whether it is racism is only semantics. it is clear from Dania and some others, some people here do not believe people are created equal. That is rather shocking to a Westerner. The point is not about role in society but that some members of the priveledged class think the lower classes cannot spend their hard earned money but in certain ways. Again, shocking that someone has worked for six days, endured curses, haughty looks, and who knows what else and then theri money is no good if they want something and you don't want them to have it. Of course, it is a very good thng to see that the majority of comments are ashamed, outraged and want to work for a better world. Peace, Ed

    August 11, 2009

  • Tariq

    Dania, it's people who have your same "1-dimensional" way of thinking that make this world a worse place than it has already become. Who the hell said anything about them being served. FUN is a right to all human beings, no matter what role, color, gender or age! If this train of thought applies to you, then that would make you a hypocrite if you ever have lunch or coffee with your boss at work, because heaven forbid that "servant" sits and eats at the same table with the "lord" AND gets "served".

    August 10, 2009

  • Kholoud

    We were in a swimming club, and next to us there was a handicapped teen ager who depended on a latin American nurse to help him swim. They live abroad and they came all the way with the nurse to enjoy summer vacation in lebanon. The life guard prevented her from swimming and when his sister went to the administration to object, they told her that the nurse is not allowed to get into the pool because of the colour of her skin since Lebanese get disgusted!!!!

    August 10, 2009

  • Ortanse Jabre

    You think this is shocking? well listen to this! I was at (....) with my kids and our maid. My 2 years old son was playing in the waves pool when our maid was watchig over him and I was busking in the sun couple of meters away and staring at them. suddenly the life guard approached and asked me to remove my maid from the pool untill she removes her feet fluff since one of the ladies felt disgusted from that sight! :)

    August 9, 2009

  • Jawal

    Who do Lebanese people think they are? Who are they to deny people access to food, fair wages, fair treatment and public spaces, just because they look different? Day after day, I see proof that we are a racist, classist people, and this is inexcusable, unjustifiable. I'm very disappointed in my people. I take no pride in calling myself Lebanese.

    August 8, 2009

  • Naji

    I am just disgusted to see how people can even treat others like that.. then Lebanese people complain others are being unjust with them and treat them differently.. they deserve it .. I wish people would come to the States and see how everyone is treated EQUALLY regardless of their race, gender and sex.. I think this type of behavior towards other humans is just shameful to even be defended by anyone.

    August 7, 2009

  • J.

    This is really shameful. As a Lebanese-American, I am ashamed to talk about life in Lebanon in front of my African, Asian or Indian friends. These people come from beautiful countries and have amazing cultures. The Lebanese in Lebanon live in an 18th century bubble. We need change now!

    July 30, 2009

  • Fouad

    it is helpful to allow for the possibility that srilankan, ethiopian, and other workers really look down at us - if not all of us, at least a large class of lebanese people. they might think that our tastes, our habits, our view of the world, are abominable and displeasing.

    July 30, 2009

  • Fouad

    thank you Diana for elaborating my point. i tend to think it is not genuine racism but rather a desire to be "white" and to have a false sense of ourselves. we simply refuse to come to terms with the idea that we are a non-western people and that we are not very special as we like to think. now, if we like to characterize ourselves as a hospitable people, let us not insert this quality in the "white" complex and use it to exercize power over others, for when we fail and we realize we only have the illusion of power, we usually lose our minds and become violent...

    July 29, 2009

  • Lamis S. S

    What I read reminds me of the many cases I am dealing with at the UN level of other Arab countries and the treatment of domestic workers. This attitude is not a reflection of the Lebanese society or ideals but the lack of legal enforcement and respect for human rights both at the national and international level which never appealed to the average Lebanese mind. Those women are entrusted for our kids, yet they are abused every day. Labelling, dehumanizing, creating nicknames, yelling scorning, and even letting them eat only when the whole family is off the table is worse than slavery itself.. At least slaves had their food together with people they associated with. I call for more civil and civic activism to raise the awareness to the legal and implementation levels. Our kids have to learn that sometimes this foreign workers does much more in parenting than the busy mother. It has to start bottom up, scrutinize the agencies, and send watchdogs to make sure that employers are providing

    July 29, 2009

  • Neil

    you're so right midland, nade. It's a real SHAME, It exists in Lebanon and we have to do something tochange that, I was in lebanon last year, in Jounieh, and iranian women went to swimm in the swimming pool with their clothes: is normal?? higienic?? Maid are human. When lebanese people trust them to care of their children, to care of their houses, to cook, and to clean, cant understand ho they dont let them swimm. It's so stupid.And we call that: racism. Just, please, let's try to not forget that there are more 12 millions of lebaneses abroad, and all these are not millionaires. So many are working, as any other man or woman, And abroad, they have the same rights.

    July 29, 2009

  • Nade

    This is making me sick and ashamed of this behavior of the Lebanese people. And we call ourselves modern and civilized? Shame shame shame… and we want people to vote for our Getta grotto? As a one of the & wonder of the world?.. We might as well hide ourselves and vote against it so no one will know about our treatment of domestic workers.. I am very ashamed to be Lebanese.

    July 29, 2009

  • walid

    Is anyone surprised by this! If you are then get out from under your bell jar and look around, maids/domestic helpers in the middle-east are treated no better than slaves, beaten, starved, no days off (under the excuse that they might go out and come back pregnant), locked in the houses, raped and the list goes on to end with killed. Even people you think you know as civilised mistreat them. In Jordan even though there is a law for a minimum wage for a domestic worker people still underpay them, where there is clearly stated that they have to have a day off it is ignored (sometimes if they're lucky they get the day off but they have to take the kids along!). There are several laws protecting domestic help but they are ignored by the police even, cause the employer is a big-shot/Wasel/ has a Wasta (the arabic word for connections)! This is just a prime example of people having no clue how to treat a fellow human being, they treat them like machines, its both disgusting and abh

    July 29, 2009

  • Neil

    Dania, go and work some days in a country, where u dont understad the language as a maid, let's people where u work take your passeport, leave you without holiday, working from 6 oclock inthe morning till 1 oclock in the night. Try that to put urself in the place of these people, u'll be crazy and u could suicide. wish u live an experience to understand what really are HUMAN RIGHTS dear.

    July 29, 2009

  • Hamed

    Dania - what about Lebanese who go and work in foreign countries? Should they be forbidden from going to public swimming pools because their 'role' is to work? Your justification of this revolting treatment of dark-skinned foreign workers is truly sickening.

    July 28, 2009

  • Jonah

    Why are people so surprised? This is not new; it has been an ongoing reality for decades. The Lebanese are at their core a racist people.

    July 28, 2009

  • Miumiu

    .Dania got a point which I'm sure we understand, but if the maid is 'off duty' then she have the right to go anywhere she can afford, but what will the rule be if she is 'on duty' & got to swim with the kids to keep an eye on & have fun with the KIDS ??..note with the KIDS & for the KIDS then the Madam will be happy to allow her, right ?..Lebanese got an image issue, u see when u go out, 99% pretend what they are not BUT want,at ANY cost, to be..at the end of the day, you fooling nobody but yourself...as we say, spread your legs to the length of your bed..!

    July 28, 2009

  • to Dania

    It is not a matter of racism rather than each having a specific role!!! This is why you deserved the Syrian treatment..

    July 28, 2009

  • Eri

    Hi, I'm Italian and I love Lebanon, but the condition of maids is SLAVERY! According to International standards of human rights, a maid has to behave as a maid while she is working (for instance, in Europe: 5 days a week, 8 hours a day) in order to receive a salary in exchange, but in her spare time she can do whatever she wants, of course, and attend the same places of other people. Why there should be a difference? Racism is the only reason. Apartheid and slavery have been abolished in many Countries. It's time to do the same in Lebanon. Most of your comments are very interesting. For those like Dania who don't distinguish work from slavery, I wish them to never find themselves in need of working as servants. We're all human beings. Money comes, money goes.

    July 28, 2009

  • Dania

    I don't know why you're making a big fuss about this issue. It is not a matter of racism rather than each having a specific role. It is normal not to allow maids to swim with their bosses. We bring them here to work and help us not to have fun! It is understood that they should be treated well and like humans, but they have a role to serve not to be served!

    July 28, 2009

  • essam

    This isn't just a Lebanese problem,its also in the 3rd & emerging World (ex USSR..etc)..its an issue that should be addressed from School & home at a very young age...we tend to cover things up & not face & correct them, but how far can we keep dressing things up, not just racism within our society, but also disrespect of the Law & Order, disrespect of the trust that we have been given at work, in the public or private sector, corruption & fraud (the more u commit the more respect u tend to earn in our society ) !!...Time to start the clean up.

    July 27, 2009

  • diana

    I also totally agree with Fouad... Lebanese people living in Lebanon tend to forget that a large (very large) number of lebanese living abroad, especially in Canada and the US, work as "maids"..yes, they clean houses every day in order to have an income and yet, they are allowed to swim in the pools... I have a canadian friend who always tells me "maybe we should start treating you like you treat domestic workers..maybe then, and only then, you people will wake up". I think he makes a point. Lebanese, in general, have a superiority complex. This complex is being translated by an outrageous behavior towards people with dark skin color..I think it is their way of convincing themselves that they are "white"...they need help...

    July 27, 2009

  • sam

    Lebanese people need a reality check,,,we still have a long way to go ,,,stop racism and start behaving like human being .

    July 27, 2009

  • halim

    Fuad is definitely right... the lebanese should start hearing what the others think of them... and this is not flattering at all...

    July 27, 2009

  • Mv.Rima

    Completely outrageous!! Many Lebanese need a reality check...they need to know that on the global map, in the grand scheme of things, and even the not-so-grand scheme of things, we the Lebanese are simply NOTHING...

    July 27, 2009

  • luka

    am not shocked at all...ive seen this over the years in most of the leb resorts..This is our truth, or the truth of some of us.and Fouad is right: we think so highly of ourselves, we consider ourselves so unique so considerate & we go on accusing the west..our society is z worst lie. why do they take their maids with them from the 1st place if they'll have to face similar humiliation...and anyway why do we have to have a maid from the 1st place..typical leb...we did get it all wrong:)

    July 27, 2009

  • Miumiu

    Treat others the way u like to be treated....all comes down to lack of respect of each others & lack of education...and the love of image, they have a job to do but they aren't slaves...they don't have to share a pool to be respected, but they like to have their 'days off', their salary paid on time, limit on their working hours, medical cover, and to talk to them as human being with PLEASE & THANK YOU...etc, using the pool is their 'last' of their worries..lets face it, we discriminate against out r own relatives (wealthier got invited more !!, right ?..so, we are all have a guilty part, buy we use it in a different way..bless

    July 26, 2009

  • Alexis

    None of you knew? what about the Lebanese employers who lock their maids inside the house when they go out? what about the Lebanese employers who beat and torture their maids? what about Lebanese citizens who DON'T have a maid but still discriminate against Asian and African workers? and what about East Europeans? Sure, we let them swim in our pools only because of the stereotypical belief that they they bring in more customers? What about the religious / sectarian discrimination among Lebanese themselves?!?! what about women's rights in Lebanon? What about gay rights? WAKE UP!! It's not our laws that are screwed up! WE WROTE THEOSE LAWS! WE ARE SCREWED UP! WE ARE THE RACIST WAKE UP! We need a revolution!

    July 26, 2009

  • Give

    Fuad has made a very good point indeed...Why do we think so highly of ourselves? We are the first to cry racism whenever anything doesn't go our way abroad, yet our treatement of people of other races and nationalities is nothing short of a disgrace. Time for the Lebanese to wake up to themselves, and get over themselves...

    July 26, 2009

  • Pria

    I do not get it! my adopted daughter is from asian origins, if I go to Lebanon.. this is what she will have to deal with??????? shocking! Beirut will definiltely be dropped from my countries to visit list

    July 26, 2009

  • fuad

    The point is moot. What makes you think that a Srilankan or a Phillipina or Ethiopian woman would like to be in those pools with you? They probably would spend their time in a better way and not mix with you in these sanitized waters...

    July 25, 2009

  • pierre

    the important thing is to keep the cedar revolution alive. all these are minor details. how many syrian workers die every week, how many sirilankan maids commit suicide every week, minor details. lebanon is a light unto the nations, go lebanon.

    July 25, 2009

  • fuad

    it's is very interesting that many comments show a sense of disappointment from ourselves a Lebanese. Why do we think so highly of ourselves in the first place?

    July 25, 2009

  • aladin

    this proves we are far from being a civilsed country we are still TRIBES

    July 25, 2009

  • Hannah

    Shame on you, Lebanon. You are the new South Africa. Thanks anyway to Now Lebanon for focusing on this important issue.

    July 25, 2009

  • Zeina

    Shame on us. We don't want the West to discriminate against the Lebanese when we go abroad, but we discriminate against domestic workers because they are from a lower class and poorer then us.We as Arabs should not complain

    July 25, 2009

  • godspeed

    "In some resorts maids are not even allowed to use a chair for sitting down" i have seen that at ... beach-- A young lebanese woman didn't offer a chair to her maid. it lasted for like 3 or 4 hours, I left..

    July 25, 2009

  • el bandito

    yeah yeah yeah.... i'd cut off my right arm if any of you people would actually get in a pool at those so called "beach resorts" once they open up to domestic workers and the water floods with them and their families...

    July 25, 2009

  • karoume

    What a shame! These attitudes truly make Lebanon a third-world country. It makes me feel disgusted and sick.

    July 25, 2009

  • sayfeddine

    shame! tourist country huh!

    July 25, 2009

  • Penguin

    Shame, shame, shame! Lebanese are good at ctiticising Israeli discrimination, but can't look at their own shortcomings. Any patrons with the sligthest sense of dignity, humanity and respect, should boycot these apartheid beaches unless their staff are allowed the same access as any one else, regardless of their colour. Would they deny a diplomat from an African country, or a "coloured" tourist, access to the pools too? What will they do during the Jeux de la Francophonie with participants whose colours offend them ? Is this the face of Lebanon that they want to advertise to the world? Quelle honte !

    July 24, 2009


    Where are the civil rights lawyers? This is disgraceful!

    July 24, 2009

  • ATME

    TFI 3a heik 3a2lyeh,

    July 24, 2009

  • notaouniste

    God our Creator will have pity on us and our country only when we go back to Him. For as long as we behave that way with immigrants in our country, especially the poor ones, God will just abondon us as we are. Ya 3ayeb el choum 3laynah...

    July 24, 2009

  • Sharl Elias

    when those heartless ... (I can't even bring myself to calling them "Humans" ) .. are unlucky enough to fall into the pit of despair, let us hope for their sake, that the humanity of their maids does not abandon them in their "masters'" hour of need.. shame on them!

    July 24, 2009

  • ELie

    In some resorts maids are not even allowed to use a chair for sitting down. In our racist lebanese society, maids are allowed to raise our children, prepare and serve our food and coffee, and finaly sleeping with the husband . . . But please , no maids in the pool ! . . .

    July 24, 2009

  • essam

    Racism at its best... and we claim we are civilised..Lebanon & Arab World are nothing but full of 'covered' racism. and thats not towards other nationalities, but between all Arabs.

    July 24, 2009