Unmarried couples not welcome in Lebanese hotels…unless they’re foreign

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October 25, 2010 By Paige Kollock

Want to embark on a weekend getaway with your significant other?  Remove yourself from Beirut’s traffic, smog and horns, and relax on the terrace of a mountaintop resort?  Well, if you’re Lebanese and not hitched, you are probably out of luck, as a predominant number of Lebanese hotels forbid unmarried couples from staying together in a room.

While most hotels don’t force you to show a marriage certificate, leaving open the possibility of fibbing, travelling somewhere only to potentially be turned away is anything but relaxing. Lawyers say that, contrary to many hotel managers’ assertions, there is nothing in the Lebanese penal code about unwed couples staying together in hotel rooms, but it is forbidden by what’s called “family law.”

This issue, according to Dr. Khalil Khairallah, a professor of law at the Lebanese University, falls under the religious laws of cohabitation.  Lebanon’s three main religions - Christianity, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam – all forbid cohabitation, which is defined as a male and female living or staying together outside of marriage.  For cohabitation to be legal, says Khairallah, the couple would have to have an official marriage certificate.

If you should try to feign marriage when checking in, and the hotel was to check up on you, you could get a slap on the wrist.  “When it comes to punishment, technically, the hotel could file a complaint against you,” says Khairallah, for “disrupting public decency,” in which case, the police could fine you or mark your record, but that is about the extent of it.

While unwed Lebanese are denied the pleasure of enjoying a hotel room at one of Lebanon’s more than 700 hotels, unwed foreigners are welcome because the cohabitation law does not apply to them.   Hotel staff NOW Lebanon spoke with also said they have “an understanding” for the wayward practices of Europeans and Americans.

“If the guests are not Lebanese, they can book a room,” said Nasrine Jabado, a front desk agent at the Quality Inn in Tripoli.

“If they are coming from abroad, it’s ok,” said an employee at an upscale hotel in Beit Mary who preferred to speak off the record.  “Usually, in Arab countries, that’s hotel policy.”

Not so say foreign couples NOW Lebanon interviewed, who have been turned away at Egyptian and Libyan hotels for lack of a marriage certificate.

Should a “mixed” couple (one Lebanese and one foreigner) try to book a room at a hotel in Lebanon, they too are turned away, if not for the cohabitation law, then certainly for reasons of social norms.

“We don’t like it,” said a manager at one seaside hotel in Beirut. “You don’t like what?” NOW Lebanon asked.  “Couples with different nationalities, or a Lebanese mixing with a foreigner.”

At Monte Alberto Hotel in the Bekka Valley, the self-proclaimed “hanging paradise over the Berdawni River,” where rooms go for around $88 a night, the employee who answered the phone adamantly assured NOW Lebanon that the hotel does not allow unmarried Lebanese couples to stay there.  As for “mixed” couples, “yes….um…no.  Maybe each one can get a room,” he said, insisting that their policy is for “security measures.”

“This is a respectable hotel with a reputation, so we will abide by what General Security asks us,” he added.

In South Lebanon, the famous Rest House hotel, situated on the Mediterranean, is vigilant about the marriage policy.  “We ask for proof,” said Rigian, a hotel employee who would not give her last name.  “If you want to book a room, when you are checking in, I ask for all of the IDs and take a copy of the marriage certificate.  It’s the Lebanese law."

Other hotels, like the one in Beit Mary, say it’s a matter of judgment.

“The cases of obvious prostitution, we don’t allow, but it’s not common as we usually we have families and married couples.  Ultimately, it’s a matter of the couples’ behavior, their length of stay, etc,” said the Beit Mary hotel employee.

Such matters may be handled by the so-called “vice police” in Lebanon, the department of the ISF that deals with drugs, prostitution and public sex, among other issues. But an officer there, who did not want to speak on the record, said the police would never crack down on hotels unless someone specifically called in a complaint.

“We are mainly preoccupied with enforcing the law against prostitution,” he added.

Laws in other Arab countries are similar, though most are more vigilant than Lebanon in confirming a couple’s marriage status.  According to one travel Web site, police in Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates, have been going door-to-door to check on unmarried couples staying together.  If found guilty, the offense could be punishable by a year in prison.


Written by

Paige Kollock

1 Review



To be honest, I've heard it was like that tens of years ago in Lebanon but didn't think it is still the case. But why foreigners are allowed?? either both allowed or both not welcome!

October 2010

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