So based on the feedback I received in my previous post I got myself an MTC Touch line the day I arrived to Lebanon. I also subscribed to their 500MB package for $19 which is slightly less then what I pay back in Kuwait for the same amount of bandwidth.
My experience didn’t start positively. I got the line and subscribed to Mobile internet at 6PM but I only had my internet activated the next morning. Then I only had EDGE not 3G. I called up customer support and found it very frustrating.
First of all it takes a few minutes of redialing to actually connect to 111. Then when you connect you are FORCED to listen to all the menu options. You can’t skip by pressing the number you want, it doesn’t work that way. You need to hear the automated machine read out ALL the options and only once she is done you can select an option. So what should be a 10 second process is suddenly a minute long. I spoke to customer support 3 times and it was frustrating all 3 times since they couldn’t solve my issue. One guy said I should wait till its 24 hours since I signed up, another said to call again after 24 hours and they would register a complaint, another said I should visit the service center. When I asked for the APN information one guy told me he didn’t have it and I should visit their website. Actually one guy refused to file a complaint even because according to him the service was working since I got EDGE. I told him aren’t you guys advertising 3G? Aren’t you guys advertising the fastest mobile internet? My phone works with 3G and I’m only getting EDGE not the 3G you promised so the service is NOT working.
Anyway finally after spending around 20 minutes on the line mostly on hold a guy got back to me after discussing it with one of his IT guys. This is how I was able to activate 3G on my iPhone 4s based on their instructions:
– Go to network settings and choose Alfa as my operator
– Then after I do that I should swap it back to automatic
– Turn off and on the iPhone
– Voila, 3G is now active
I thought that was strange but hey, it worked and that’s all I cared for. If the guy told me to stand on my foot while shaking the phone over my head I would have done that if it meant getting 3G working.
And yes, 3G on the iPhone is great. It’s fast and I love it. Earlier I went and parked under this old railway track in Jounieh and got online with my MacBook while tethering to my iPhone and the connection was great. I used to hate coming to Lebanon because of the terribly slow internet connection but now it’s suddenly become a joy. I also have 3G up in my house in Seheili (around 10 minutes after Jeita) which is also great. So right now I’m extremely happy with my 3G on MTC Touch.
The MEA pilots are still on strike even though the strike was supposed to end yesterday. My wife went to the airport today and turns out her flight out of Beirut Airport was canceled and she was stranded there along with hundreds of other passengers. I managed to book her on a Jazeera Airways flight back to Kuwait but I have no idea if MEA will refund her ticket or not.
I didn’t have a problem when the pilots were delaying all the flights by two hours. I actually was effected by their strike and they had my full support on it. But completely canceling flights that’s a completely different thing. While a two hour delay is a hassle, canceling flights is a life changer. It has a much bigger effect on everyone. Imagine you’re on vacation somewhere around the world and your flight back to your home has been canceled. I’ve never been in that situation and I hope I would never have to. They had a lot of support from passengers and people when they were delaying flights by two hours but by canceling all the flights I believe they’ve lost all the support they had including mine. I was with the pilots before, but I’m not anymore.
Note: It’s interesting that I couldn’t find any news on this strike neither on Naharnet nor Daily Star.
I’m currently at the Beirut Airport and my flight is being delayed because of the pilot strike Najib posted about below.
Until a few moments ago no flight was showing as delayed. If you had called the airport before arriving to check on your flight they would have told you it was leaving on time. If you asked the employee at check in if your flight was delayed they would have told you no. If you entered Duty Free past the immigration desks and checked the screens your flight would have also shown to be on time. I only realized my flight might be delayed because of the Naharnet article Najib linked to. Even then I checked the Beirut Airport website and the departure screen in the lounge and it still showed I was leaving on time so I figured my flight was affected. Only when it was nearly boarding time and I was about to leave lounge did I find out my flight was delayed. On my way out of the lounge I asked an employee if my flight was taking off on time and she told me no it was delayed by 2 hours.
Even though my flight is delayed and I have to sit and kill time in our boring airport, I do understand why the pilots are on strike and I stand by them. You don’t dump an employee who has been serving you for over 30 years because he ended up getting cancer. I’m not saying the pilot should continue flying (depending on his condition he probably can’t). What I’m saying is that the pilot should continue to undergo treatment on his MEA insurance and once the treatment is complete if the pilot can continue to fly then he should. In the meantime while being treated they could assign him a desk job or accommodate him some other way. Keep in mind this isn’t a new employee or one just has been with them for a short period of time, we’re talking 30+ years here.
Update: Here is a response from a MEA pilot
First of all i offer our apologies for this delay, and thank you for your support. Believe me when i say it was the only way to get our management to listen. The Lebanese pilots association is not demanding that the captain returns to fly, but they are only asking that this captain get his rights as described by the Lebanese law; receive 2 months full salary and 2 months half salary on sick leave where after that the Lebanese DCA shall decide if he is fit to fly and fully recovered or not. MEA gave him half of what the law says and fired him after 38 years of work during his sick leave in the middle of his treatment (against the Lebanese labor law). Again my sincere apologies and thank you for this support.
I found this place during the summer while walking around downtown Beirut. I think they’ve got the best ice cream in Lebanon easily. My favorite flavors are strawberry, pistachio and hazelnut. 3 scoops came in at around LL14,000 which isn’t bad when compared to placed like Coldstone Creamery and Marble Slab (two franchises I don’t think are available in Lebanon).
Yesterday when I watched the video above and read about how the Police officer was made to apologize to the Saudi Prince I got really really upset. In case you don’t know the story, a Saudi Prince parked in a no parking zone in Beirut, a cop came to give him a ticket and the Saudi Prince insulted the cop and the Lebanese. A crowd nearby overheard the conversation and attacked the Prince sending him to the hospital. The cop was then told to go to the hospital and apologize to the Prince.
As I said, I got really upset at how the cop was made to apologize to the Prince but then it hit me… diplomatic immunity.
Diplomatic immunity is a form of legal immunity and a policy held between governments that ensures that diplomats are given safe passage and are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under the host country’s laws (although they can be expelled). [Source]
How many times have you watched a movie where people with diplomatic immunity in the States commit a crime and the cops can’t do anything about it and most of the time have to apologize to the diplomats. It’s unfair yes, but at least it’s not a Lebanese only issue or a corruption thing. I’m not defending the Prince here but I wanted to highlight that the procedure that was taken in having the cop apologize to the diplomat is one that is required by the host country.
I’ve been using the new iPhone for a couple of days now and these are somethings you need to know if you’re planning on using it in Lebanon.
Siri speaks and understands both English and French but not Arabic. You can’t speak both English and French to it at the same time, you have to decide which language you prefer and select it from the Siri menu.
You also need to have internet on your phone to be able to use Siri, even for simple tasks like setting the alarm. This is where 3G plays an important role since it speeds up the response time for Siri. With a regular Edge connection Siri isn’t as responsive and you won’t enjoy using her.
A big issue I have with Siri is you can’t teach it where your home or office is. For some reason Siri uses Google Maps addresses to learn these locations and Google Maps addresses is currently only available in the US. I don’t understand why Siri won’t learn based on my GPS location. If you’ve been using iOS 5 recently you might have played around with the new Reminder App. In that App you could teach it locations using GPS for example you could set a reminder that once you get home you need to walk the dog or once you get to the office remind me to call a supplier. So why Siri can’t learn locations with GPS is confusing specially if another app already does it.
The iPhone 4S is like the previous iPhone 4 with the biggest differences being Siri, a better camera and a faster chip which you will only notice when running games. If you want to see how better the new camera is download the two images below and compare:
I got back to Lebanon two hours ago coming from Milano. Watching my first ever F1 race was just amazing, the sounds are way better than what you hear on TV and the whole experience just great. The only inconvenient, even though I’ve lost two or three pounds, is the amount of walking you have to do, and I am not saying that out of laziness. I had to walk everyday over 4 hours around the Monza Autodromo to get from the bus to my seat and back, so If you are not used to it, don’t even think of going to Monza.
I leave you for now with this picture where Sebastian Vettel, the race winner, is waving at me thanking me for my support. (Picture taken from my seat at the Parabolica turn)