Have You? Could You? Would You?

Not long ago our family had our first day at the beach of the 2011 season. I'm glad it's already here.

We went to the public beach, which is what it sounds like--a public strip of coastline. It's not the cleanest, not the nicest beach in Lebanon, and it lacks facilities like showers and toilets. But its proximity can't be beat, it's free, and it's open. We still have a month to go before our favorite private beach opens for the season.

Beaches are great for people watching, great for quietly noticing what everyone else is up to. And, for me, noticing what everyone is doing and wearing.

Children can wear whatever they want. Little boys and little girls were wearing bathing suits, and some were in street clothes. Even the ones in street clothes got into the water, and in the past I've seen kids swim in their underwear without incurring any social censure.

Men also wear a wide range of clothes.   They'll sunbathe, play ball games, etc. in anything from tiny Speedos to full street attire.

Women are another matter.  Lots of women spend their time at the beach covered from head to toe and some even swim that way.   On our most recent visit to the public beach there were dozens of women there, but I saw only two women in sleeveless shirts and shorts--not totally covered up, but also not a bathing suit, not by a long shot. 

I'm not sure why this is.  It's not that Lebanese women don't wear swimming suits.  Many of them do.  You see them crowding the many, many private beaches where women's swimwear is, if anything, MORE risque than in the US or Germany (my two points of reference).   So why aren't they wearing them at the public beach? 

Maybe you, my dear reader, can help me figure this out.  Women of Lebanon, or women who are familiar with Beirut's public beach--Have you ever worn a bathing suit there? Would you ever do it? What would it take for you to do it?  Leave a comment because I'm dying to know.


  1. Interesting beach posting! I can't wait to get my pale Scandinavian skinned body out on our local beach in my swim trunks. I gave up my Speedo after the high school swim team days!

  2. Yes, I want to know too.
    I have an Italian friend coming to Beirut in October to celebrate her wedding to her Lebanese beau. I thought of you.

  3. A shame that people wouldn't feel comfortable dressing however they like at the beach ... 'nuff said...

  4. I've also been down to this beach several times, as it is the only real sand beach I know of in Beirut (although some will not touch it with a 50ft pole, and I've never been able to entice anyone to join me (ewww! is the typical reaction.)

    To answer your question, here are the 2 main reasons based on my observations:

    - It is safe to say that a high percentage of those who frequent this beach are of the lower income bracket- this is not a generalization, its simply a fact. It's why this beach has the 'stigma' that it does. And this is not surprising- it's free, open, and 'unfiltered'. These people obviously would not be able to afford frequenting a private beach, and in many cases nor would they want to. Now, as another generalization, these people also tend to be more conservative, specifically in regards to women. I'm not going to go into the socio-religious dynamics of why this is- but it just is. They tend to be more religious, and more conservative. Thus it's rare you're going to see women in bikinis at this beach.

    2. Unlike most other private beaches where the population is almost always majority women, this one is the opposite- you'll almost certainly find more men that women- partly for reasons of pt. #1. Now, obviously this would decrease the comfort level of women who'd like to dress a particular way- to know that the majority of the beach will be oogling them. I don't know many girls who would be comfortable with this, especially when all other women @ the beach would be showing less skin. Some may be comfortable with this- but the vast majority would not. Also, they may be looked upon disparagingly by many there, who like to being their families that the beach because its 'safe' from sights of women showing so much skin.

    When it comes down to it, I think the situation it's only natural. At the end of the day, most women who go to the beach with a bathing suit/bikini to tan etc would much prefer a private beach, for quite a few reasons stemming from the above, as well as the fact that this beach has absolutely no facilities to speak of.

  5. Thanks for writing, M. I'd assumed your points in #1, unflattering though they are. #2 is really interesting to me because of your last sentence--the idea that the public beach is where very conservative families can go without the risk of being surrounded by hordes of women in swimwear.

    Perhaps they should rename it the "very conservative beach for men and children".

  6. For me, the reason I've only been to that beach a few times, never for the purpose of swimming or tanning, is as simple as it being too open. Everyone can come in, people watching over from the manara.. I just don't feel comfortable wearing a bathing suit, even though the amount of people watching you in private beaches is much higher. As the above commenter has mentioned, the fact that people who go there are more conservative makes it even harder for me to wear a bathing suit there.

  7. The only sand beach in Beirut? Where did all the sand go?
    Are there any officially gender-segregated beaches anywhere?
    I'm glad my city has no body of water, so we are spared this problem.

  8. A lot of Beirut's coast is rocky, some is given over to ports and harbors, and then you have to consider that Beirut isn't a very big city--so that explains why there's only one beach inside city limits. There are many to the north and south.

    There's women-only beach too, but I've never been to it.

  9. Unlike M. I like public beaches for swimming and lying in the sun and people watching, much more than private beach clubs which have such a limited cross-section of visitors. The facilities of a beach club are so convenient, yet for me a day at the beach is an excursion into nature, not into more concrete. But like threadofdesire, I wouldn't want to be the only one in a bikini, knowing that in that case men are bound to come and ogle, an effect which is much diluted when there are lots of other bikinis around!

  10. public free beach with bikinis or fully dressed is acceptable in Sour Tyr maybe because it is really big and you can have a spot of your own.
    too bad it is an hour and a half drive!