Locals, like most people, tend to like it if you say nice things about their country, so I said (honestly), in Arabic, "Oh, it's the best place to study. There are good programs, and it's very nice for a poor student like me." I beamed.
"No, it's not," the man said flatly. "Lebanon is much better, and very beautiful. You should go there."
Lebanon? I looked at my interlocutors a little more carefully. They were about twenty, excruciatingly attractive, with designer Italian clothes and hair that must have taken an hour to spike just-so. Some Damascenes dress in a similar way, but only the Lebanese can be that fruity and that macho at the same time and somehow have it work. If they were Lebanese, as I now suspected, then I'd really put my foot in it. It's like telling an Armenian that actually, I think Turkey's a much better place than your little country, thankyouverymuch. I tried to backtrack by throwing some compliments.
Read the whole thing.