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Sarah Lynch

Still no maids in the pool

When two Lebanese customers and their maid tried to enter the Sporting Club Swimming Center in Ras Beirut last month, they were greeted by a disheartening response.

“I do not allow maids in,” said a man at the entrance. 

Though unwelcomed, the reception was not unexpected, as discriminatory practices are quite common in many local institutions. To educate the public about racist and classist policies in action, IndyACT’s Anti-Racism Movement recorded the Sporting rejection on a video that quickly went viral in the Lebanese blogosphere and beyond.

Many other activist organizations are also taking a stand on this issue. Hibr Lubnani, a citizen media outlet, called 36 beach resorts in Lebanon last week and asked about their policies regarding domestic workers. The organization found that three of the 36 resorts forbid access completely to domestic workers, while 14 allow them inside but forbid them from using the pools. Five resorts allow them inside but won’t let them swim at all, even in the sea. Fourteen of the 36 beach clubs give full access to domestic workers and allow them to swim in both the pools and the sea. 

Although nonprofits and journalists have shined a spotlight on a number of local businesses, the increased attention has yet to change any policies. In fact, Sporting Club’s public relations manager defended the establishment in a statement following the release of the IndyACT tape.

“The Sporting Club swimming Center has a standing policy of not allowing in ANY maids, nannys, escorts, body guards, [or] personal assistants,” Waleed Abu Nasser wrote in an online letter that stirred the blogosphere. He did not provide a reason for the rule.

Spokespeople for other resorts explained. “We hire people to take care of the kids who come to our resort,” said Rita Faddoul of the Riviera Beach Hotel and Resort, one of the three destinations that forbids access to domestic workers. “Our pool is so packed that the workers would just be sitting there in their clothes.”

Faddoul said that workers would be admitted if they came on their free time and not with their employers. If they can afford the price of admission – 40,000 LL on weekends – they are welcome, she said, noting that domestic workers, like anyone coming to the resort, would also have to “look decent.”

A manager of Achrafieh’s Les Creneaux, which also forbids entry to domestic workers, gave his reason for the policy but not his name. “We don’t have space in our club for domestic helpers,” he said. “I mean, domestic workers—will they participate in the gym activities?”  

Unlike the Sporting Club, Riviera Beach Resort and Les Creneaux, 19 of the 36 questioned resorts allow domestic workers entry, but either forbid them from swimming, or only allow them to swim in the sea.

Some resort managers say they are simply appealing to their clientele, made up of mostly Lebanese or tourists from the Gulf countries. "Hotels and resorts are based on meeting and exceeding the expectations of our clientele," said Rana Younes, marketing manager of the Coral Beach Hotel and Resort in Jnah. "Our guests are mainly from the GCC countries and get bothered from the presence of foreign domestic workers with them in the swimming pool. Thus, we have to respect that, as guests always come first at hotels."

Abbas Talhini of Al Jisr beach resort in Damour, which forbids workers from using the pool, gave a similar response. “I personally recognize that this is racism and this is wrong, but we are catering to society,” he said.

Several beach resort managers NOW Lebanon contacted avoided giving a reason for their policies. A manager at Samar Beach in Maameltein hung up the phone when NOW Lebanon inquired about their policy. Other resorts never returned NOW’s calls.

“How would a Lebanese person feel if they go abroad and they are denied entry into a club or beach because the owner or bouncer happens to not like Arabs, or Lebanese?” Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch Beirut, said. “I’m sure all Lebanese would hate that.”

Houry and other human rights activists argue that catering to customers’ tastes is not reason enough to enforce what they say are racist and classist policies. “When a client’s position goes against basic human rights and fundamental decency, institutions, be they public or private, have an obligation to counter these desires,” he said. “Otherwise, all societies would be catering to the whims of racists.”

“[The managers] say people are not comfortable with domestic workers swimming. Well, make them comfortable with it,” Houry said.

But institutions have no legal obligations when it comes to admitting or denying guests, or putting restrictions on who can swim. With the lack of a national anti-discrimination law, beach resorts and clubs can, and do, legally turn people down at the door as they please.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to Hibr Lubnani as Hibr Journalists. The change was made on August 25, 2010.



  • Lionbar

    What about not allowing guys in in most lebanese beaches/pubs when there are no females in the group? I don t think it's a race thing, it s a prestige thing they call. If a hot rich black woman comes in with her friends they would allow her for sure. IT s discrimination for prestige that is spread not only in Lebanon but in the entire world, that people need to address

    May 22, 2016

  • Asab

    One funny incident related to racism happened a year ago in the swiming pool of the Golf Club, the wife of a some fareastern consular was swiming in the main pool and she was forced to leave the pool because MAIDS were not allowed to swim.

    May 17, 2012

  • Eileen

    Discrimination on any level is unacceptable. Keep educating people on their rights as children of their God. We are all equal!! Thanks Sarah for the enlightenment!

    September 18, 2010

  • d

    I have a vietnamese/american friend who went with her lebanese husband to Lebanon for the first time. she was asked to leave the pool in front of her kids and friends! just because she's vietnamese! not that it matters but she's a doctor in the U.S.!

    September 6, 2010

  • Leb Can

    This is yet another example of racism in Lebanon. While i am not shocked with this story, i am dissapponited. The lebanese within Lebanon are racist to each other so one can only imagine how they treat outsiders. As a lebanese person living in Canada, i never experienced racism until i visited lebanon

    August 26, 2010

  • Jen

    I am a new visitor here from Canada. I love Lebanon and it's people, but this makes me sick. Whoever pays admission and wants into a beach club should be let in. End of story.

    August 25, 2010

  • Wendy Burrows

    I have recently visited Lebanon and I saw that most people do not respect rules and laws, including some of the Lebanese who lived in north America and Europe and presumably are educated. Any government policy there will be useless without enforcing penalties.

    August 25, 2010

  • Ex-pat

    As one of the very few ex-pats in this country who is African, & surprise, not a domestic worker/nanny as unfortunately most Black women have to be in Lebanon, the content of this report comes to no surprise to me. Fact is in Lebanon a very harsh form of classism is being practised. Guess the problem is not necessarily only straight-out racism, but rather discrimination based on different social classes. I have visited a few beach clubs here, luckily for them, I have not been refused entry yet (believe me, if this were to ever happen solely based on the colour of my skin, I would be the first to complain BIG time & demand for management). Many do stare when I enjoy myself at such beach clubs as they do, as some are not used to the concept that there is another world out there in which Africans or Phillipinas do not scrub floors or look after their snot-nosed kids. But hey, who knows maybe they are just checking out my deep tan which they will never get. I actually always amuse myself.

    August 25, 2010

  • LINA

    "This is racism, but we're catering to society" Pathetic, though 100% true. Does all the blame go to the Resort Managers? Or is it the clientele itself responsible for this social discrimination? Maybe we should start thinking about re-educating our society. It's about time.

    August 25, 2010

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    Thanks Now Lebanon for listing access policy to domestic helpers for our beach resorts. Any resort denying any civil rights to domestic helpers should be taken to court and require the resort's owner and manager to testify in court in a publicly televised session. Personally, my favorite resort was (...), I will not go there until their policy is changed and domestic helpers are allowed in the pool. Thanks Sarah and please give regular updates of the list.

    August 25, 2010

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    Thanks Now Lebanon for listing access policy to domestic helpers for our beach resorts. Any resort denying any civil rights to domestic helpers should be taken to court and require the resort's owner and manager to testify in court in a publicly televised session. Personally, my favorite resort was Edde Sand, I will not go there and would advise my friends against going there until their policy is changed and domestic helpers are allowed in the pool. Thanks Sarah and please give regular updates of the list.

    August 25, 2010

  • RJB

    To start off...I am 100% NOT racist...but I am realistic. Imagine a small club in Ashrafieh (les crenaux) which is almost always packed by the pool...also allowing nannies in...people have paid to become members...and until a nanny applies for membership and gets turned down, there's no point in calling it racism! I think nannies, bodyguards, etc shud be let in ONLY if they have fairly paid entrance like everyone else...

    August 25, 2010

  • Ghassan Haddad

    we need to teach human rights at our schools first. racism is a big hindrance to every society's evolution. it is a cancer that needs be cured.

    August 24, 2010

  • GN

    Being racist is one thing. What bothers most expats in this country is the apathy of Lebanese (majority but not all) being ignorantly arrogant. Arrogance if based on some virtue may be accepted. But the ignorance of the locals is just outright laughable. Some one boasted to me once that they have a lineage going backs thousands of years. Unfortunately he had nothing to show for it.

    August 24, 2010

  • SG

    Don't forget to list the military beaches.

    August 24, 2010

  • Josef V.

    No wonder Lebanon is a mess and will stay a mess! Be ashamed!

    August 23, 2010

  • Mirey

    i think we are stuck in "feudalism" era maybe we should look at how other countries managed to get out of their "misery" and maybe we can just modify it to be fit to lebanon and use it

    August 23, 2010

  • zk

    Perhaps some (emphasis on some) of these resorts don't allow 'maids' in because they don't believe that people should bring their private servants to the resort to work for them there. I'm sure some resorts in 'developed' countries wouldn't allow private servants acess in such a manner. It may not all be not racism - perhaps if the 'maids' tried the resort while off-duty (with or without their employer) they may be let in as normal, non-working customers from a different country. Maybe. There's also the story of a wife of a certain ambassador being asked to leave the pool of a certain resort because they mistook her for a 'maid'. Now that's racism!

    August 23, 2010

  • henri harpier

    The owner of Sporting club responded to the allegation by writing on his blog his views. It's a blog that worth checking out. He starts by saying that "it's a crime mixing between racism and social discrimination. The thought made me laugh. It's the sort of gibberish pseudo-intellectual phrase that's worthy of bumper-sticker philosophy. It's sad after all, especially that Sporting club used to be known, and I was a regular of this club as a teenager back in the 70's during the civil war, that it's not affiliated to any religious or political movement, nor right, nor left, nor rich nor poor. It won lots of sympathy because we used to say, it's a beach club set apart. Unfortunately, he just joined the rest of the other beaches that sees no distinction between racism and social discrimination.

    August 23, 2010

  • jenna

    If Lebanese weren't racists,those sects wouldn't exist,TRUE they are racists and fanatics to the bone culturally,religiously and politically.

    August 23, 2010

  • Miumiu

    Minister Harb & Minister Baroud can solve this problem by making it illegal and conditional of the resort's license to allow ANY one of any colour/physical/nationality..etc in to enjoy the full facilities of the resort ...would love to see if my Indian friend,a Phd holder & the son of one of the wealthiest men in the World not allowed in..!!

    August 23, 2010

  • Sunflower

    Everybody is guilty here: The Lebanese government that allows such practices, the embassies that never stood by their compatriots while giving full control of employers over helpers, and most of all, THE EMPLOYERS THEMESELVES who graciously give in to such racism and still take their helpers to these resorts to look after their kids…. while knowing that they are not allowed to swim.

    August 23, 2010

  • kk

    not shocking, as everything about the Arab world is a hypocrisy! they live with us and we give them full responsibility to take care of our kids but god forbid we should swim together what is this? this is so backwards unfortunately and racist it's sad that we as lebanese would like to think of ourselves as more European then the other Arab countries, unfortunately like everything in Beirut it's all a show when it comes to the latest fashions and handbags, we are the first to jump on the Wagon, but when it comes to human right (the most basic of all) we turn a blind eye, we even think it's OK to be like lebanese people and Arabs are just disgustingly racist!

    August 22, 2010

  • Sarita

    it is very sad to read this kind of news, because this is a sample how one specific society is full of complex, even it is living in 2010. people who loves margin and reject other for economic status, also must spend time to create the same rule about bathroom use,at end people make the same in them, independanat of his bank account, but maybe, with their closed heads, they can find the difference, all is possible, PRACTICE THE GOLD LAW, DONT MAKE TO OTHER WHAT YOU DONT WANT TO RECIEVE, people must remember it when they make this kind of act, and they recieve surprise at abroad, what they are not ready to understand

    August 22, 2010

  • JD

    It is sad that some people are still behaving like that, but remember not all Lebanese or Arabs are the same. Lebanese and Arabs are very resilient people despite the huge stressors they are facing and you cannot expect all of them to have a progressive way of thinking amidst all the chaos in this region. So the comments that were just posted are racist comments as well. There should be a policy by the government to prevent such behavior however and there should be campaigns to educate the public about such important matters.

    August 22, 2010

  • georges

    I think this article missed a major point. The practice is that they don't allow people of color. That is true racism. Especially that the Lebanese themselves were declared 'not colored' as recently as 1962 by the British. Otherwise, I find it very funny that people are getting hyped up and angry with these private clubs for not allowing hired help to enter. Next thing you know we will hold street protest to demand our 'maids' to swim.

    August 22, 2010

  • Filthy Maids.

    I thought it was hilarious

    August 22, 2010

  • Bobsam

    What a shame!

    August 22, 2010

  • Winksi

    Shame! Shame on these beach resorts who are at the mercy of the racist GCC tourists! Shame on these Lebanese who pretend to be modern and up to date with the world but are still totally racist! And on this government for not having anti-discriminatory laws! You don't deserve to be Lebanese. Nor anything in fact. You deserve no nationality. No right of being. I, myself, have decided to ban the beaches that are discriminatory, hoping that other people will react in the same way.

    August 22, 2010

  • Adnan Aboukhalil

    You don’t have to travel too far, or look around too far away to realize generally that Lebanese are amongst the most unscrupulous people anywhere on this planet. Lebanese tend to analyze, criticize, and even pontificate about what others act or do. For one, being conscientious almost to a fault, I can’t deal with such an old –fashion chauvinistic society, which represent the embodiment of corruption and racism - Such reality gets on my nerves. It is morally reprehensible to discriminate against your fellow human being, let alone hiring one to work for you as a domestic worker, even if he / she chooses to do so. Knowing what I already know about the Arabs, I wasn’t surprised to learn that they were the first to promote the slave trade. If you grid them to a hole, they are all the same, whether they are Arabs or Lebanese – I’m trying to be proactive since someone from somewhere will be quick to make claim to unfounded distinction. ‘

    August 22, 2010

  • Miumiu

    Lebanese & Arab Snobbery at its best....racist to the bare bone !

    August 22, 2010