The Day I Was Followed By A Secret Agent In Beirut

The Day I Was Followed By A Secret Agent In Beirut

By |2016-10-01T19:26:21-04:00May 7th, 2012|Lebanon, Travel Tales|107 Comments

Followed By A Secret Agent - Beirut, Lebanon
Standing at the reception desk of the shabby, low-budget Al-Shabaa Hotel in the Gemmayze neighborhood of Beirut, there was little I could do when the hotel owner informed me that the single room I had booked was no longer available. He apologized several times as he explained that due to the Eid al-Adha holiday, the city was overflowing with travelers and as a result, he was forced to turn all of his hotel rooms into dorm rooms in order to accommodate as many people as possible.

My options were to stay in a dorm room with three other people or to sleep on a thin mattress on the roof of the building, where twenty other travelers had already set up their ‘beds’. Considering that there were also people sleeping in the hallways and even two people sharing a narrow bench inside the kitchen, I happily agreed to take a bed in the dorm.

And so my stay in Beirut, Lebanon began…

For the first two nights, I shared the room with the same three people, two British travelers and a Jordanian driver who was driving a French couple (who was staying at a much nicer hotel) around the Middle East for a few weeks.

All was well in that room. Everyone got along just fine and in the evenings, after we had each spent the day doing our own thing (which in my case was exploring a neighborhood or two of this fascinating city), we would all walk over to Gouraud Street and eat dinner together.

Followed By A Secret Agent - Al-Shabaa Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon


My third day in Beirut started off just like the previous two. I woke up at 9:30am (everyone else in the room had already gone out by this time), I went into the hallway and waited in line for a shower and I then returned to my room to get dressed.

But when I returned to my room this time, I noticed that a new guy had apparently checked into the hotel while I was in the bathroom. He was a normal-looking fellow, possibly from a Middle Eastern country, with a thin beard and shiny brown shoes. He was sitting in a chair in the middle of the room with his feet up on the metal frame of the bed that the Jordanian driver had vacated earlier that morning. His small backpack leaned up against the wall at the foot of that bed and he had placed a packet of cigarettes on the pillow.

And while this new traveler did seem to give off a friendly vibe, I couldn’t help but notice that he appeared to be waiting for me when I had walked into the room.

After shaking hands and sharing pleasantries, ‘Dave’ told me that he was from a small town in Texas, something that wasn’t too surprising once I heard his strong Texan accent. He then continued to tell me more about himself as I started putting on my clothes…

This was his first trip abroad. He was planning to travel around the world indefinitely and Lebanon was his first stop (odd choice of a first destination I thought). I asked him if he had family in Lebanon and he said he did not. He told me that he was nervous about his trip, that he only spoke English, that his family didn’t approve of him leaving the US for such a long period of time and that he never wanted to return to his hometown again.

And then he informed me that he really wanted to visit Iran.

He asked me if I had ever visited Iran and I said ‘no’. (I have not.)

Followed By A Secret Agent - Corniche, Beirut, Lebanon


As I finished getting dressed, Dave invited me to tell my own story but, as I was eager to start exploring Beirut again, I just gave him a brief, one-minute version. However, this proved to be less than sufficient as suddenly, Dave was asking me an endless stream of questions.

Have you been to Indonesia? Have you been to Bangladesh? Have you been to the United Arab Emirates? Have you been to Syria? Have you been to Pakistan? Have you been to Afghanistan?

My answer to all of those questions was ‘yes’ of course, and once he finished, I was somewhat confused. It was as if he already knew that I had spent time in these countries.

He then asked my why I have not been to Iran. I told him it is almost impossible for a US citizen to get an independent tourist visa from the Iranian government. He pressed me further, asking if I knew of any way to get around the Iranian visa rules or if I knew of any Iranian Embassy or Consulate where it might be easier to obtain a visa. I simply informed him that I had once heard about an Iranian Consulate in the far eastern region of Turkey that apparently sometimes issued independent travel visas to US citizens.

He continued asking me, over and over again, if I planned to try and visit Iran in the near future. He then began asking if I planned to return to Indonesia, Bangladesh, UAE, Pakistan, Syria or Afghanistan. Starting to feel uncomfortable, I replied with a quick, “I don’t know.”

At this point, I was all dressed and ready to go outside and when I informed Dave that I was leaving, he practically demanded that he tag along. Not sure how to handle this situation, I reluctantly agreed and out of the hotel we went, walking off in the direction of the Hamra neighborhood.


Unfortunately, Dave didn’t let up with his questions and this time, he seemed very interested in how I earned an income. Thinking that I could easily brush this one aside, I just said, ‘I work on board cruise ships’.

It didn’t work. For the next fifteen minutes Dave tried quite hard to find out whether or not crew members on board cruise ships ever participate in illegal activities such as smuggling drugs between ports. Many times he tried to pry some information from me with such statements as, “Come on, surely you’ve seen some illegal stuff on board ships.”

All I said was, “I don’t transport drugs and I have no idea what others do”. And this is when I finally reached the conclusion that there was no way Dave was just another ordinary traveler.

He then changed the subject and starting asking me if I had any contacts in Dubai, anyone who could help him with some business ideas he had. He told me he needed to find someone who knew how to ‘get things done’, whatever that meant. When I said I knew of nobody that could help him, he asked if I had any contacts in Kuwait or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, at which point I shook my head and stopped talking altogether.

As we reached Bliss Street a short while later, Dave suddenly stopped in front of a small shop, told me he was going to buy a bottle of water and asked me if I wanted a bottle of water as well. I said ‘no’ and continued walking.

But after taking another ten steps or so, I realized that I was indeed feeling a bit dehydrated and so I turned around and entered the shop as well. And that’s when I saw and heard ‘Dave’ speaking with the man behind the counter in fluent Arabic, despite having told me earlier that the only language he spoke was English and that he had never been to the Middle East before.

I immediately backed out of the shop and walked to the next corner, but within a minute, Dave had caught up to me. And this is when I told him that now was the time to part ways because I wanted to check my email at an internet cafe. But, not surprisingly, he replied by stating that he would like to check his emails as well.

Followed By A Secret Agent - Mosque, Beirut, Lebanon


Five minutes later we were inside of a large, dark internet cafe and thankfully, the woman at the desk assigned us to two computers that were on opposite ends of the room. I sat down and opened my inbox and I spent the following forty-five minutes replying to emails without paying any attention whatsoever to Dave.

After I had cleared through most of my inbox, I then did what I do a few times every day…I went to crack my neck. However, when I turned my head to the right just before giving it a good solid crack, out of the corner of my eye I noticed another person not too far away. I quickly turned around and sure enough, there was Dave, sitting in a swivel chair only four feet behind me, staring straight over my shoulder at my computer screen.

And that was enough for me.

I logged off the computer, paid the woman behind the counter and told Dave that I was going to meet a friend. I then shook his hand, as if to emphasize the fact that this time I was indeed going without him.

Dave finally accepted our parting of ways, although, he still asked me if I wanted to meet him back at the hotel in the evening so that we could grab some food together. I said, “We’ll see” and I walked off, heading straight up some unknown street to meet a friend I didn’t even have, looking back over my shoulder every few seconds, wondering if I was still being followed around Beirut.


So, such a story might seem strange but perhaps the details have yet to convince you that I was actually being tracked or spied on by some type of secret service agent. Maybe Dave was just some weird character in the end.

But what about this…

When I returned to the hotel in the evening and I walked into my dorm room, ‘Dave’ was nowhere to be found. His bag was gone, his bed was occupied by someone else and nobody in the room claimed to have seen him.

And then, when I asked the owner of the hotel about this bearded traveler from Texas, he also told me that he had absolutely no idea who I was talking about and that nobody fitting the description had checked into the hotel that day.

So what do you think? Was I followed by a secret agent or just a strange traveler?

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  1. […] blood rushing stories about each country he’s visited. Follow him on his journey as he shares the day he was followed by a secret agent in Beirut or the traumatic time he saw a headless man in India. His posts aren’t always suited for the […]

  2. Salah January 23, 2014 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Hey Dave,

    I know this might be late, but I think I can help with what you think was a spy following you. As a Lebanese person who truly knows their government from top to bottom, I can tell you, it was NOT a government agent. The official Lebanese government doesn’t have that sort of a program or have those types of resources. This was, as mentioned from before, probably a man linked to international arms and drugs trafficking or just a strange traveller. The government, and I say this with all sincerity towards the government, is too lazy and preoccupied with their own interior issues. I truly do love this country. But it gets so predictable after a while. I guarantee that if you stayed longer than two weeks, you’d be thinking the same thing.

  3. Scott March 17, 2013 at 1:57 am - Reply

    As a former officer in the U.S. Military who spent some time in a few places you’ve “vacationed” my read is that, “Dave” was likely linked to a drug or arms trafficking operation and not a secret agent. To be sure, there are clandestine agencies and operatives in those regions—I crossed paths with a few that left me scratching my head—and if they wanted information from you, they’d surely get it. I would guess that “Dave” was not an American and faking the easiest of all “American accents” (Southern, Texas, John Wayne). Somewhere along the way, he was tipped off about your arrival and saw an opportunity to recruit a mule he could strap some of his products too; one that would certainly draw less attention than himself and his colleagues. Heck, he might be following your blog! And yes, cruise ship employees are big targets for these guys. Love the website, and I must say, cab ride in Afghanistan? You’ve got big brass ones!

    • Wandering Earl March 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm - Reply

      Hey Scott – That’s an interesting take on it and definitely not something I considered. But it certainly does make sense. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me here!

  4. Erik June 16, 2012 at 11:14 am - Reply

    I had a similar experience in Singapore…”Dave” was definitely a cop of some sort…and not a very subtle one. Haha. Can’t believe he was over your shoulder reading your emails!!! What a douche canoe!!

  5. Kevin May 30, 2012 at 7:17 am - Reply

    Just want to add..

    no offence to people who really are called Dave.

    But they’re genuine Dave’s, not pretend ones! 😉

  6. Kevin May 30, 2012 at 7:10 am - Reply

    From your description Earl I’d say this guy was almost certainly some kind of surveillance agent. For the following reasons:

    1. the way he appeared at the hotel and then suddenly disappeared with no trace.

    2. the fact that he spoke fluent Arabic, yet claimed to be from Texas.

    3. the detailed questioning about the countries you had been to. Plus the probing about Iran – which is on the USA’s official list of naughty countries right now.

    4. and the name he used: “Dave”. It’s just so obviously fake. Kind of neutral generic, don’t you think? ~def not his real name of course. Might as well put on a plastic nose, specs and a fake moustache with a choice of name like that.

    5. the fact that you’ve encountered this kind of thing before. Plus the fact that single males travelling long term tend to appear on the radar of these paranoid state intelligence services as potentially suspicious versus if you’re travelling with your girlfriend/wife or whatever.

    I don’t know whether he was specifically part of CIA or a Middle East service, or some sort of contractor for a combination or alliance of them, but my guess is that he was definitely carrying out some kind of monitoring for one or more of them.

    • Earl May 31, 2012 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Hey Kevin – Your points all make sense and that’s why I tend to believe the same thing. I’d love to know the real story but I guess it will always remain speculations in the end, unless it happens again, in which case I will ask more questions!

  7. Alina Ciabai May 25, 2012 at 3:07 am - Reply

    In any case you’re lucky your e-mails didn’t contain some coded spam messages because I think the e-mails were the reason he finally let you go. Would’ve been cool if the Texan accent was fake too.

  8. Megan C. Stroup May 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Sounds like he could have been some sort of intelligence officer, but if that’s the case, he’s a very bad “secret” agent! 🙂

  9. Randy May 17, 2012 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    Very Odd. I’m sort of with the other commenters. If this wasn’t some sort of brief psychotic episode you were definitely being checked out. I agree you showed remarkable restraint but then again that’s probably a good thing in Lebanon. I’d prolly got pissed when I decided he was CIA and made up some story of traveling to Iran under an assumed identity just to yank his chain. Then I’d been whisked off a la extraordinary rendition to a secret prison and never heard from again.

    • Earl May 18, 2012 at 6:30 am - Reply

      Hey Randy – Let’s assume it wasn’t a psychotic episode 🙂 And if it were to happen again, I probably would try and mess with the agent’s mind and maybe as a result I would get hired as an agent myself! Although I might refrain from using your Iran method as prison is not on my list of things to try!

  10. lozintransit May 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    All I know is that Dave makes for a terrible spy. He’d make a great ghost though.
    It makes for an interesting story and that what life is all about.

    • Earl May 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm - Reply

      @lozintransit – He definitely wasn’t the world’s best spy at all.

  11. Erica May 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Good lord man. You seriously have the craziest experiences. Hope verything is good on your end!

    • Earl May 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Hey Erica – As long as these experiences keep on turning out okay, I’m more than happy to rack up a few more. All is well over here in Bucharest and hope you two are still surviving on the road as well 🙂

      • Erica May 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm - Reply

        We’re at home right now working and saving money for our next leg. Shaun said he wanted spies to follow him since it would make him feel more important.

  12. Sergio Felix May 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Hey Earl,

    I was picturing the whole thing and I think I would have endured up until you caught him speaking in fluent arabic.

    Exactly in that moment I would have freaked the heck out of my mind.

    Thank God you got out of that one well man.


    • Earl May 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Hey Sergio – I’m quite happy I got out of that one without any problems as well. I was freaked out a little but since it was the first time something like this had happened to me, I didn’t really know how to react.

  13. Caz Makepeace May 15, 2012 at 8:34 am - Reply

    I enjoyed this just as much as when you told it to me over a drink in Sydney. I remember glancing over in the bushes to make sure there were no agents spying on us then!
    What a life you lead Earl! It all makes for a great story in the end. You are a very important person

    • Earl May 15, 2012 at 10:10 am - Reply

      Hey Caz – As I might have said in Sydney, maybe you and Craig were the agents 🙂 And I’m not sure if being important to any government is the kind of important I want to be! Hope you guys are all doing well!

  14. Sam May 12, 2012 at 10:16 am - Reply

    Glad you decided to post this story, Earl. As I was reading, I was thinking it sounded familiar, then I remembered that you told me most of it when we met in Aleppo, as you’d just arrived there from Beirut. I don’t remember the last part, however; that “Dave” had disappeared and no one had seen him once you returned to the hotel. Quite creepy, though in all honesty, I suspect that if this had happened to me, it would have at least partly appealed to my vanity: that I must be interesting enough to spy on would make me feel a little special!

    • Earl May 13, 2012 at 7:45 am - Reply

      Hey Sam – You were definitely the first person I told this story to! And good point you made there at the end. I guess I should feel somewhat special that someone actually took the time to send someone to follow me around. Although, now I’ll feel upset that it doesn’t happen more often!

  15. Angela May 11, 2012 at 2:27 am - Reply

    Beirut is packed with Mossad agents, nothing strange he was one. Although, after the first two questions, and my totally made-up answers, I would have told him to leave me alone.

    • Earl May 11, 2012 at 7:44 am - Reply

      Hey Angela – Not sure if it was a Mossad agent and I guess I’ll never know.

  16. Chrissy Travels May 10, 2012 at 11:37 am - Reply

    Crazy story! Beirut is on the top of my travel list. I am going to think twice now about going it alone. Whoa!

    • Earl May 11, 2012 at 7:40 am - Reply

      Hey Chrissy – Don’t let this story put you off…there are plenty of foreigners in Beirut and apart from this incident, I didn’t have a single issue while in that country. And I’ve yet to meet any other traveler who has had something similar happen so I’m sure it won’t happy to you, unless you’ve been to ‘suspicious’ countries as well 🙂

  17. Ryshia Kennie May 9, 2012 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    I agree that was creepy. But wow – what a story. Kind of leaves you hanging. What was he really about? And you’ll probably never know what event or suspicion sent him briefly on your trail until he discovered he was off course and disappeared onto a trail straight into the underworld. Okay, okay, I’m done but you sure got my imagination going.

    • Earl May 11, 2012 at 7:35 am - Reply

      Hey Ryshia – No idea what he was really about! And you’re right, I won’t ever know, so the only thing to do is wonder about the many, many possibilities….

  18. […] I immediately backed out of the shop and walked to the next corner, but within a minute, Dave had caught up to me. And this is when I told him that now was the time to part ways because I wanted to check my email at an internet cafe. But, not surprisingly, he replied by stating that he would like to check his emails as well… (more)” […]

  19. Barbara May 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Sounds like Communist times… in the present. I’d watch my back, Earl. Sounds like the authorities are suspicious of you. Yikes!!!! (My thought — DO NOT be intimidated. That’s part of the importance of what we do as travelers.)

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:31 am - Reply

      Hey Barbara – I’m not intimidated at all and I think in the end that with a little research, anyone would discover that I’m just a travel blogger and of no risk to anyone 🙂

  20. OMG I have goosebumps! What a crazy, scary experience!!! Glad he finally left you alone.

  21. Emily in Chile May 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Whoever he was, he certainly managed to be creepy!

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:32 am - Reply

      Hey Emily – He definitely did know how to be creepy…that seemed to be his strength.

  22. Scott May 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    Absolutely police or a government official investigating what your doing. Holy crap! Did you have any problems leaving the country?

    As a side note I’d switch your email passwords to something much stronger. If he was secret police he probably has screen captures / remote monitoring of your email systems. In fact, I’d change all your passwords.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:30 am - Reply

      Hey Scott – No problems leaving the country at all. They did take 30 minutes at the border with my passport, telling me they had to ‘check something’ but that was it and I don’t really think it was anything significant. And I have switched passwords by now…after the incident I went through all of that stuff just to make sure.

  23. Pamela May 8, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

    OMG! I would have freaked out. You are so patient. That is just plain creepy. I’d say he was definitley attempting to get some “dirt” on you. So very, very strange.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:00 am - Reply

      Hey Pamela – Creepy indeed and I think I was only patient because I was so confused!

  24. Diego May 8, 2012 at 11:48 am - Reply

    Could a secret agent be so obvious? If he actually is an agent I think his behaviour wasn’t that professional. Weird story. Where you afraid in any moment?

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:00 am - Reply

      Hey Diego – You would think that a secret agent would be much better at his job but at the same time I wonder if he really did know what he was doing in the end. And I wasn’t scared at all…it was just strange but not scary.

  25. patrick May 8, 2012 at 10:24 am - Reply

    hi earl,
    glad you made it out of ol beiruit in one piece.
    well this one is pretty obvious. of course he was an agent and since beirut is basically an extension of the assad regime you are quite lucky to have gotten away without a minimum of some beatdown or maybe even another kidnapping and possible end to your life. if i was you i would stay the hell away from the middle east including israel. there is too much insane ancient evil feelings and customs.
    they have not come too far in the past 5000 years so its best to let sleeping dogs lie, as the saying goes.

    • Earl May 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      Hey Patrick – I actually don’t think this person was an agent from any Middle Eastern country. First of all, there are thousands of Americans living in Beirut (including hundreds of students at the American University there) and so it’s not as if I stood out. And second, no Middle Eastern country has any reason to be suspicious of me at all. As for not visiting the Middle East, I’ll have to disagree with that one. There are many rewarding places to visit in that region and for the most part, it’s perfectly safe for foreigners.

  26. Someday I'll Be There - Mina May 8, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Are you sure you weren’t hung over or something?:D it’s weird that no one else, even the hotel manager, has seen him! 😀 it’s a pretty weird story and it would’ve sure got me worried…

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:03 am - Reply

      Hey Mina – Haha…I definitely wasn’t hungover and I’m quite certain that this story actually happened 🙂

  27. Amanda May 8, 2012 at 10:01 am - Reply

    What a crazy story!! Whether he was actually some sort of (bad) secret agent or not, it certainly is more fun to think that he was!

    • patrick May 8, 2012 at 10:33 am - Reply

      i donnt thonk that was funny to think that this guy was someone affiliated with hezbollah or iran…plenty of folks have been killed and kidnapped in recent years in lebanon. its just how thry do things in that part of the world. 100s of marines were murdered i 1983
      colonel higgins a cia station chief was hanged in 1985. an american photographer died recently under mysterious circumstances in lebanon.
      all reasons not to head to that part of theworld. my advice is if you do decide to venture there…please, please dont show an american passport. this hotel guy tipped off the cops to earls stay and thats why he didnt see the other guy. he might even have been paid to report tourists especially americans. one jewish american guy named weinstein is currently is being held captive by the taliban. the will most likely kill the guy as we dont deal with these folks. i pity any american that has to to travel to that area for work or pleasure.

      • Earl May 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm - Reply

        Hey Patrick – Showing an American passport is no problem over there and I’m quite sure the hotel owner didn’t tip anyone off. Again, there were at least 20 Americans staying at the hotel and thousands more living in the city. It’s not as if the presence of Americans in Beirut is anything out of the ordinary.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:04 am - Reply

      Hey Amanda – I’m sure we all dream about being caught up in some secret spy story at some point!

  28. Katrina May 8, 2012 at 9:04 am - Reply

    I read too much science fiction not to consider the “I see dead people” option. 😉

    Honestly, though, I don’t know how you tolerated the prying as long as you did. I think I would have stopped him after a handful and been pretty clear about not wanting company. Probably would have asked him point blank why he was asking so many questions, too. But then, I’m sure if someone wanted to spy on me, they’d just do it in a different way. *shrug*

    Yeah, sounds freaky. The next question is who was he working for?

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:05 am - Reply

      Hey Katrina – That’s always a possibility that I was seeing things I guess! I should have asked him more questions but he was so annoying that by the end I just preferred not to talk to him at all. As for who he was working for, that is indeed the question and I have no idea who would want to follow me around.

  29. Financial Conflict Coach May 8, 2012 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Did he say what the name of the Texas town was? I take a minute to look up people’s hometowns when I meet them.

    I’d definitely say you were being questioned. But for what- not enough information to say.

    If I was asked that many questions in such a short period of time, I’d start asking my own questions.

    No matter who he was- you have an unforgettable story to keep telling about your trip.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:07 am - Reply

      @FinancialConflictCoach – I don’t remember if he mentioned the name of the Texas town but given my lack of knowledge about Texas towns, if he did, I wouldn’t have recognized it or even remembered it most likely. And at least it turned out alright in the end and nothing worse happened…

  30. Sara May 8, 2012 at 5:44 am - Reply

    Great story indeed. I reckon an agent who knew your past travel history and wondered what you were doing there. But…fancy saying it was his first trip abroad – derr. Wonder what he thought when you caught him speaking Arabic, he must have eventually realised he wasn’t getting anywhere and you weren’t ‘high risk’…so ‘checked out’!

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:08 am - Reply

      Hey Sara – He didn’t know that I caught him speaking arabic as I backed out of the shop before he noticed me. And that does make sense that he realized I was no risk at all and so he decided to just ‘abandon mission’.

  31. Soph May 8, 2012 at 3:58 am - Reply

    Wow that would freak me out! It definitelly looks like he was some kind of agent or secret policeman… Scary….

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:08 am - Reply

      Hey Soph – Definitely not what we expect to encounter while traveling!

  32. Earthdrifter May 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    That’s some mierda loca. I can’t see how thecia could possibly accuse you of espionage just cuz you’ve visited a lot of Muslim lands. That’s just ludicrous. If they examined your site a bit they’d realize that you’re a new-media travel writer who doesn’t have an irrational fear of the arab world / fall for that xenophobia crap.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:10 am - Reply

      @Earthdrifter – That’s what I always think, if anyone just looked at my site they would realize that I’m not up to anything but traveling and writing about it.

  33. Melissa Anderson May 7, 2012 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    It’s a sad world we live in. If you visit the middle east it’s suspicious; if you’re from the middle east you are categorized as an “Islamist.” If you do end up in some American/Lebanese/Israeli jail it’s going to be hard to blog, so try to stay out of trouble!

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:11 am - Reply

      Hey Melissa – Good point and that’s enough motivation to keep me out of any jail in any part of the world for that matter!

  34. Dean May 7, 2012 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Wow that would freak me out. Are you sure he wasn’t an imaginary friend you didn’t know about? 😉

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 3:36 am - Reply

      Hey Dean – I’d like to really believe he wasn’t an imaginary friend or else I should probably stop traveling and check into a clinic 🙂

  35. Helen May 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Great story!!

  36. Dalene May 7, 2012 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    I think he had a crush on you. 🙂

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Hey Dalene – I guess that’s another possibility that I never thought of 🙂

  37. David May 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    The accent is from Chicago and all I wanted to do is be your friend. 🙂

    Okay, kidding aside, I think you imagined the whole thing, that you’re not a traveler or a travel writer and that this whole thing is a dream inside a dream. You will wake up in the year 2093. That is all.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Hey David – Haha…although, now I’m suspicious of everyone so maybe you are the real ‘Dave’.

  38. Ava Apollo May 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Sounds like a total scam artist who has probably followed your blog. Actually, I really don’t know, but his cover’s blown now.

    I would have told him to f**k off before even leaving the hotel! You’re very patient.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:09 pm - Reply

      Hey Ava – I definitely gave him the benefit of the doubt in the beginning, thinking ‘how bad can this guy really be?’. Oops…I guess he turned out to be much more annoying than I thought 🙂

  39. Matthew Karsten May 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

    How’d they know where you were staying? Followed you from the airport? Freaky shit. They’ve obviously been reading your blog, and I bet they’ll feel pretty foolish after reading this post! Some secret agent. 😀

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      Hey Matthew – I don’t know how they knew as I didn’t even arrive via plane. I crossed the border from Syria in a shared taxi, which would have been even more difficult to track.

  40. Cindy Thistle May 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm - Reply

    I believe that his really happened to you. You just can’t make this stuff up. You’ve got much better things to do. I do love the knack you have for telling a story and believe he was either from the American Embassy or like someone else mentioned a shady character looking for someone to unsuspecting transport something somewhere for him.

    Keep the adventures coming….


    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      Hey Cindy – I definitely didn’t make it up as I wouldn’t have even been able to come up with this on my own 🙂

  41. Tam May 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    I am curious to know why you didn’t confront him, mostly as a learning experience because i am a new traveler. Was it safer to avoid confrontation?
    Crazy story!! It definitly seems like he was sent to ask you questions!

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm - Reply

      Hey Tam – It was more confusing than anything in the beginning and I certainly didn’t think that this guy was a secret agent from the start. My reaction was ‘why would someone follow me around?’ because it’s not as if I’m a suspicious person (at least in my opinion). And at the end of the day, I’m not much of a confrontational guy, especially when I’m in countries where I don’t know the people I’m dealing with and I’m not very familiar with the culture either. Seems wiser to just get out of such a situation as peacefully as possible.

      • Erik June 16, 2012 at 11:25 am - Reply

        I totally agree. Your smile is your best weapon when traveling abroad. Nothing worse than spending some time in a foreign jail or worse.

  42. Tim May 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Earl, I suspect your on a watch list somewhere. With the adventures you traverse, plus the website, you could have perked interest somewhere or somehow. I know only what I read about drug trade, but a guy that travels as much as you do could be a courier or an agent yourself, in the mind of ???? or ????. Why would a native Texan speak fluent Arabic? Just points to ponder…….
    Great read, Thanks

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:19 pm - Reply

      Hey Tim – Actually, I have been questioned in Europe as well, but it was by airport police who thought I was indeed a drug smuggler. And it is because I almost always fly on one-way tickets and my flying pattern is all over the place. So I can see how I might be suspected of such activity but you would think someone would have caught me by now if I really was doing anything illegal for the past 12 years!

  43. Steve C May 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    All things considered, this is a real “Who done it?” You certainly wove a good tale with all the hints of him being something other than just another roommate. Starting with you being the truth teller, the fact that he spoke Arabic makes him highly suspect of just being another weird traveler from Texas. But, “on the other hand”, I know from all your posts, that you are a very good story teller and that you may have just posted your best story to date, in an attempt to pry similar stories from fellow travelers. Either way, you did a great job!
    If all is true, put me in the camp of agreeing with you that he is definitely a secret agent!

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:22 pm - Reply

      Hey Steve – I think the fluent Arabic was probably the thing that convinced me he was probably some kind of agent. But, I guess I’ll never know unless ‘Dave’ leaves a comment on this post explaining what he was really doing!

  44. Talon May 7, 2012 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Wow! What an experience. I’m not sure Secret Service, but I’d definitely vote for him being some sort of agent. Way too bizarre. I’d be kind of unsettled after that, but after all your experiences does it just seem like an another memorable event?

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      Hey Talon – It does just seem like another interesting event. Nothing really surprises me these days (not sure if that’s a good thing), although I do tend to treat everyone I meet with a tiny bit more suspicion than before this incident.

  45. Patricia GW May 7, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Wow Earl, you have a lot of patience to have let this suspicious character tag along so long. If a strange guy kept asking me all those questions, I would have threatened to have the police remove him. Are there generally officers in Lebanon that would have helped in that way?

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:46 am - Reply

      Hey Patricia – I think I was just too confused to do anything about it at first. And I don’t know if there were officers there who would help. There were normal police officers and plenty of soldiers around the city so I’m sure someone would have offered assistance had I thought about it!

  46. Scott May 7, 2012 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Sounds very odd, but I don’t think a spy, or secret agent, etc would be so obvious…I am thinking perhaps he was looking for someone who travels internationally who could “help” him with his business, which was probably illegal to begin with. Frankly you were a lot nicer than I would have been…The minute the red flags went up I would have dumped him…I’ve found, as I am sure you have in all your travels, that if it’s does;t feel right, it usually isn’t.

    • Talon May 7, 2012 at 11:58 am - Reply

      I agree. Earl is a LOT nicer than me with this. I wouldn’t have let this guy tag along or simply would’ve said, look I don’t feel like playing 1000 questions today. Goodbye.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:47 am - Reply

      Hey Scott – I agree with that…and it certainly didn’t feel right, but in the moment I wasn’t too sure how to get out of it. And the thing that I always think about is that if he wasn’t an agent, how did he know so much about my travels and ask only about countries I’ve been to? Very, very weird of course.

      • Tony May 9, 2012 at 2:26 pm - Reply

        Great point. I was thinking drug smuggler, but how would he know the countries you visited? Maybe he had a connection at customs? Seems like a spy would have been better… although this is a pretty inept drug smuggler too. At least you were able to get out of the situation pretty smoothly eventually!

  47. Tish May 7, 2012 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Wow. I probably would have leaned in close and said, “You’re not very good at this.” But then I don’t know what’s good for me.

    • Katrina May 8, 2012 at 9:07 am - Reply

      Hahaha! Love that.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:48 am - Reply

      Hey Tish – That would have been a good idea although I wonder if there was a method to what appeared to be his poor questioning technique!

  48. Gina May 7, 2012 at 10:55 am - Reply

    Is this what my tax money is being used for? To follow and question, in essence, a travel writer? It’s unbelievable how home of the free has been morphed into home of the followed. Dave from Texas a first time traveler in lebanon? Right.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:49 am - Reply

      Hey Gina – Hopefully it’s not where tax dollars are going as it does seem a bit silly to be following me around.

  49. Stewart May 7, 2012 at 10:48 am - Reply

    Earl did you happen to get a photo of this guy ? Your lucky you said all the right things or you could still be in some unknow jail. Or he is a double agent. Or you are a very good story teller either way I enjoyed the read.


    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:50 am - Reply

      Hey Stewart – No photo unfortunately but I can still picture him so clearly. Had I been able to think a little more clearly at the time, I would have taken a photo and asked him some more questions as well.

  50. Nicole ( May 7, 2012 at 10:29 am - Reply

    WOW. that would’ve freaked me out, SO much

  51. Sheila May 7, 2012 at 10:16 am - Reply

    I don’t know what to believe, but that’s a really good story. If he was an agent, he wasn’t a good one. However, I’m a bit jealous it hasn’t happened to me =)

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:50 am - Reply

      Hey Sheila – Well, just travel to Beirut and maybe you’ll meet ‘Dave’ as well 🙂

  52. Idun May 7, 2012 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Must have been a secret agent. Why else would he be that weird?

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:51 am - Reply

      Hey Idun – That’s a good question and I’m not sure why anyone else would act that way or how anyone else would know so much about my travels.

  53. Josh May 7, 2012 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Well you see Earl, you are a threat to national security and that’s why the government has people following you over the world. You advocate that people travel abroad and cleanse themselves of a lifetime of government conditioning and programming, that way when they go back home they are able to look at life with a different perspective. The government can’t have that, they need everybody to blindly accept everything they are told.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:52 am - Reply

      Hey Josh – Ha…let us hope it hasn’t come to that quite yet!

  54. justdorkin May 7, 2012 at 10:03 am - Reply

    with what you presented here he was either a member of some sort of policing agency or,since no one else claims to have seen him, a figment of your imagination.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:53 am - Reply

      @justdorkin – I’m pretty sure it happened but if it was a figment of my imagination, that’s not a good sign at all. Maybe all of these years of travel takes its toll on one’s mental health 🙂

  55. Vlad May 7, 2012 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Wow, quite an experience. That could be both. I think what I would do is actually ask him upfront in a jokingly manner if he was a spy and who he is working for and make a pirate eye and say Arrrrh and see the reaction. If he is a spy, he is a lousy one. If you ever see him again (hopefully never), ask him to show his passport (out of the blue question) however if he is a weirdo or work for someone, you never know which side he is from. Accent is an easy thing to fake too. GGood luck buddy. Stay safe.

    • Earl May 9, 2012 at 2:54 am - Reply

      Hey Vlad – I should have asked him but I just wasn’t able to think clearly. But I’m sure the pirate eye definitely would have worked 🙂 And I agree, he seemed to be a terrible spy, maybe the worst spy on the planet.

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