On Christmas Day, the International Space Station (ISS) wanted to show a different side of the region where Christmas came to be. For a place known to be war-torn, with blood-filled conflicts taking place every day, the astronauts at ISS wanted to show the world exactly how peaceful we looked from up there on a day that is all about peace, a time that is about anything but.
The pictures in question have been around for days now but they haven’t made the round yet. One explanation could be the caption with which they shared the pictures was the following:
Israel – completely clear – on Christmas morning from the International Space Station. Astronaut Barry Wilmore woke up early on Christmas to reflect upon the beauty of the Earth and snap some images to share with the world.
Obviously, that’s a big no-no around these parts. But seeing as how small the region is, a picture of space cannot contain one country alone, and I thought the way Lebanon looked on Christmas day from space, peaceful as it it, is always something nice to look at, which is quite is ironic given the situation and the additional rage we got from hellish traffic during that period.
For those who aren’t familiar with Lebanese geography, in order to find Lebanon just spot the snowy mountains. We are the only country in the region to have them. Those are the Cedar mountains in the North of the country. I’ve said over and over again that our best winter resorts are up there, but Beirutis just don’t believe me. Now you have proof.
Our country is the area around those mountains, with the very crooked coastline, from the Akkar in the North to the Naqoura tip in the South. The Eastern part is tougher to delineate.
You can also see Palestine, the Dead Sea, as well as parts of Syria.
The ISS has made it a habit of sharing wonderful pictures of Earth from space. A few weeks ago, upon a request from a Lebanese Twitter user, the ISS shared with him a picture of Beirut from space:
You can check out pictures of other places on Earth on their Facebook page.
I’ve been to quite a few places in the past few years. Some were enjoyable, others were underwhelming. But there’s one place out of them all that stands out, completely and irrevocably drawing me in every time I think of it: Paris.
Paris is the city of the streets that might as well be museums, the frisson that sends shivers up your spine as you get lost around the city marveling at wonder after wonder, the metro that closes at who knows when leaving you stranded and walking back to your hotel at 2 AM, the lovers huddling at Pont Des Arts kissing to a Parisian sunset, the artists singing around Montmartre while you slither your way around winding roads taking you up to Basilique du Sacré Coeur.
Paris is the city of the monuments that you had thought were cliches but can’t really appreciate until you’re standing at Trocadero, looking at the Eiffel tower shining as the sun behind you dies down at 10:30 PM or when you buy an impromptu lunch and sit with your best friend on the grass that is really greener there, under the Eiffel Tower.
Paris is the city that convinces you to splurge on the food that makes your mouth water at the mere mention of it, the ice cream that tastes like the fresh fruits from which it was made. It’s the city of you walking up the Champs-Elysées slightly tipsy from the wine that flows down smoother than water.
Paris is the city which, after two visits, I’ve yet to get enough of. It’s the city that makes me both happy and nostalgic at the thought of it. It’s the city that quickly turns into a main discussion between the people who have been to it. It’s the city that has charm in every step of its sidewalks.
Is there anything more beautiful than Paris? I don’t think so.
I finally had enough time on my hand to visit one of my favorite places in Lebanon: the Cedar mountains. They are probably the most underrated locations in the country and are nowhere near as visited as they should be because, quite frankly, very few places in this country can rival them in sheer landscape beauty.
Using my iPhone 5’s panorama feature, I was able to capture what I believe are pretty decent shots of the drive up to the mountains, the town of Becharre with its snowy mountainous backdrop, the Cedar Mountains themselves and part of the Kadisha Valley known as Qozhaya on the way back.
These locations may be far from Beirut – about 130 km – but they’re worth every single minute spent driving and every dollar spent in gas. I think I’m lucky that I live nearby and only need about 30 minutes to get there.
The slopes are superior to those of Mzaar/Sectarian-Kfardebyan and while they are less taken care of, they’re much cheaper and you will be able to get your full money’s worth out of them. The people are a whole lot friendlier as well.
So while many Lebanese are overjoyed that some international publication (click here) has chosen Beirut as the #1 city destination of the region – as if that’s a very hard thing to pull off – I felt like I ought to highlight something in Lebanon that is so ahead any form of “best of” competition in this region that it’s #1 always.
The Mountains from the village of Qnat
The view from Hadath el Jebbeh
Becharre (on the right) with its mountains behind it
The drive up to the Cedar Mountains
Some of Lebanon’s Cedars – not the main forest, obviously
Panoramic view of part of the mountains
Part of the Cedar forest
The drive to Qozhaya
The view from St. Anthony of Qozhaya convent (on the left) – part of the Kadisha Valley
Lebanon’s weather was all over the place this past week. The “Bride” storm (Or Georgette or Olga as some have called it – we sure can’t agree on a storm name as well) is ending and it was one of the biggest snowstorms to hit Lebanon in years. Torrential rain and snow, including some accumulations on the Lebanese coast, have all been documented. The joke for the first days of the storm went: Skiing and swimming at the same time are now much easier because the storm has brought the sea to your home. For the next few days, the storm brought the snow to your sea.
Many casualties have fallen to the storm, notably young infants of Syrian refugees who died of the freezing cold. Many Lebanese have had their houses completely ruined in the Beiruti neighborhood of Hay el Sellom due to the nearby river flooding.
I have reverted to the following Facebook page (here) unless otherwise specified in order to collect as many pictures as I can and include them here.
Don’t you just love how Lebanon looks after a decent blizzard? I sure do.
View of Beirut
This is Batroun’s beach
My hometown Ebrine
Aito, in the North
Hasroun – Picture from the Daily Star
Ein El Mraysseh – Picture from the Daily Star
This is a picture in the Jbeil caza
Dhour el Choueir
Hay el Sellom – Picture by the Daily Star
I spent the month of August discovering the gorgeous city of Lille in Northern France. I went there for a clerkship at one of the city’s hospitals and I absolutely fell in love with its culture, its people and everything it had to offer. Lille is one of France’s biggest cities and yet it still has this rustic feel to it – especially in its older streets, aptly called Vieux Lille.
I made a lot of memories in that city. I won’t go down memory lane and enumerate them for you because I’m fairly certain you couldn’t care less. But I am thankful for getting the chance to go there and meet the people that I met and make those memories that I cherish now.
Xavier & Camille, our amazing French hosts and friends that made us feel at home – literally – for the entire month that we spent there, this is for you. Thank you for everything.
Here are some of the many pictures that I took of the beautiful city of Lille. I’m not a professional so these are not meant to be impeccable – but I do hope my love for the city comes across in them.
Palais des Beaux Arts
Another old street in the city
A parc bench in the city
Rue de Bethune
The city’s opera house
The view from our apartment
A statue next to Palais des Beaux Arts
A war monument
One of the city’s cathedrals
Welch – one of the city’s specialities
Inside one of Lille’s cathedrals
A mural found in one of Lille’s subway and train stations: Lille Europe
One of the specialties of the North
Beer, another specialty
Another street in the old parts of the city
One of the streets of Vieux Lile
The opera house
The city’s heart – place du General De Gaulle also known as Grand Place
Lille doesn’t like Sarkozy
Another street in old Lille
These pictures were taken using a Nikon D5100 and edited using my iPhone 5’s Camera+ app.
Buzz Feed has recently published a set of 45 pictures that they’ve called 2012’s Most Powerful Pictures. And the least that can be said about these pictures is that they’re chilling. Some of them are haunting, others will bring tears to your eyes. And they are all supremely striking.
A Greek woman’s suicide attempt as she’s told she would be laid off work
A woman from Bangladesh defies the police
A little Palestinian girl tries to punch an Israeli soldier
A Syrian father trying to save his daughter’s life after his city, Aleppo, was shelled by regime forces.
A father from Myanmar begs a border control officer from Bangladesh not to deport his family back to Myanmar
An American woman mourns her son on Memorial Day
Check out the rest of the brilliant pictures here.
It is common knowledge that the most shared types of pictures of Instagram are those of meals. Be it their lunch, dinner or breakfast, people just love to snap pictures of their food, apply some filter on it and share it for the whole world to see. I don’t have a problem with that but it has become a running joke with many.
But there’s a new type of “food” that’s making its way around Instagram. And you’ll know what I mean once you see this picture:
I guess we can say someone has been all tied up in the matters of breakfast.
This makes my Instagram pictures (example 1 and example 2) look very mundane. I don’t post much but I cannot begin to fathom sharing any sexual exploits there. I guess I’m too conservative for that. But whatever floats one’s boat.