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People relaxing in downtown Beirut's Nijmeh square, one of the few car free public spaces in the city. Image Credit:

Beirut: The UAE will lift a ban on its citizens travelling to Lebanon from Tuesday. Once the news was out, it started trending on social media and became the talks of town in both countries.

The decision to lift the ban was announced late Monday by the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at a time when Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri’s visit to the UAE.

In his Monday address at the UAE-Lebanon Investment Forum, Hariri called on UAE businesses to take prime roles in investing in Lebanon’s utility, telecom and energy sectors.

Lebanon has been going through an unprecedented economic slowdown. The UAE’s decision to lift the travel ban is being seen by a cross-section of Lebanese business people as a move that will help prop up the economy.

Wissam Shehadeh, CEO of Adonis Spices, welcomed the move. “Just like other nationalities, once Emiratis start visiting, this will result in more work at restaurants. As a result my company will work more as we sell spices to restaurants.” Shehadeh said the decision encourages traders to import Lebanese products. “Definitely, it’s a positive move that will impact many sectors.”

Samer Al Abdullah, CEO of Review Properties in Lebanon, feels that the decision was long awaited and proves Lebanon remains one of the best countries to visit and to invest in. “The essential boost in the short term can be seen from the dollar inflow into the country, and increase in spending in Lebanese pounds. This point alone will lift the inflow of foreign currency, especially dollars, as the UAE’s Dirham is pegged to the dollar” said Al Abdullah.The decision comes at a crucial time, and is “critically important to the Lebanese economy”, said Lebanese businesswoman and owner of ‘Door to Soul’ travel agency, Maya Chatila.

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The Beirut skyline. The UAE’s decision to lift the travel ban is being seen as a move that will help prop up the economy.

“Emiratis have always been amongst top tourists visiting Lebanon. The decision is a savior and economic booster. It’ll be a great initiative to welcome Emirati traders, investors and businessmen, too. After the lifting of the ban, trade and business exchange between both countries will increase,” Chatila told Gulf News.

Humanitarian worker Abdo Sa’ad said the decision is a remarkable indicator about the upcoming period that it will be lead to better economic prospects. “This comes as a hint that the economic woes we have been going through will gradually come to an end. Since our economy relies highly on tourism, the decision reinforces trust in Lebanon, too. It’s a boost,” Sa’ad said.

Security risks?

Lebanon is the only Arab country that blends European and Middle Eastern aspects, according to Emirati lawyer Eisa Bin Haidar, who elaborates that Emiratis visit Beirut ‘to enjoy its natural beauty, hospitality and weather since the 70s’. “I don’t believe that there are any security risks that jeopardize our safety. Since 1999, I’ve been a frequent visitor to Lebanon, where I own property. I have never felt unsafe or targeted. The Lebanese are very sociable and regularly welcome tourists. Had there been any dangers, people wouldn’t have invested in Lebanon,” Bin Haidar told Gulf News.

Emirati lawyer Diana Hamada, founder of Diana Hamada Attorneys at Law, thanked the UAE for the decision.

“As a UAE national, I never felt that the relationship between Lebanon and UAE has ever been an issue of concern. Travelling to Lebanon tops my agenda. As far as security is concerned, it may be a risk but where ever we go now around the world, taking risk is part of it,” she said.

Emirati media specialist Samia Ahmad said her countrymen love the friendliness of Lebanese people.

“I’ve been waiting for the ban to be lifted for a long time to take my daughters to Beirut. I have no safety fears, whether it is to Lebanon or any other country. Our officials took that decision as precautionary measures to protect us. Now it’s been lifted, so I feel safe to go,” Ahmad said.

Salem A. an Emirati entrepreneur said: “I have already booked [my tickets] and I am heading to my beloved Beirut end of this month.”