Tripoli’s Massive PR Crisis: Beer Ads Banned In The City

Tripoli Beer ads

It must be tough being from Tripoli lately, or at least tougher than average for the people of a city long forgotten by successive governments, left to its own accord to make do with the little it has.

It wasn’t enough for people from Tripoli to have to deal with the fact that the other Lebanese, quick as they are to judge and believe their views are scripture, believe them all to be undercover members of ISIS or ISIS members to be.

It wasn’t enough as well for those unfazed by the ISIS threat (yet) to deal with the fact that their city has become synonymous with mayhem, sporadic fights, mini wars and hating the Lebanese army. No amount of tweets, Facebook posts or mini gatherings on the street and billboards in support of the army or in condoning the behavior of some of the city’s men would change that perception

It also wasn’t enough for those living in lala land, adorable as they are, to have to deal with the fact that being from Tripoli has also become synonymous with them having people like Kabbara, Khaled el Daher and Mer’ebi as their representatives. Granted, the latter two are not from Tripoli per so but who’s really looking at specific representation districts these days?

Keep in mind that all of this is to the background of destitute living conditions, severe social inequality, horribly poor development, high illiteracy rates and Lebanon’s highest poverty rates, just to name a few.

No, today the people of Tripoli have to deal with yet another facet to the growing saga of their city: their very own mayor being hellbent on turning the city into what it proclaims to be: Lebanon’s prime Muslim city.

When Ramadan rolled around, that mayor decided that breakfasts in the city should not be allowed. People tried to defy that order for a while but it only took him igniting the fire for the dormant Islamists, few as they are, to act on poor elderly having breakfast at one of Tebbane’s cafes, probably out of necessity to take medications. Soon enough, if you happened to be in Tripoli before iftar during Ramadan, you’d see most cafes closed to customers, afraid to make what little money they make with the circumstances reigning over their city currently.

No, banning breakfast was not enough.

Today, Mr. Ghazal is back with a vengeance. It wasn’t enough for most of Tripoli’s restaurants not to serve alcohol for customers, understandable as it is given the city’s demographics. However, the new rule of law in Tripoli is to forbid alcohol ads as well to be spread around the city, starting with beer. اجتنبوه has been modified by Mr. Ghazal’s fatwa-prone mind to include media items as well. Who knew one’s morality can be ruined by a picture of Almaza’s new low-end lager tier?

Apart from the fact that it’s probably illegal to ban such ads in his city when there are no regulations pertaining to it on a national level, Tripoli remains, even today, a city that is not actually demographically unicolor, where one of Lebanon’s biggest Christian orthodox communities resides and where the majority of the Sunni population is actually moderate, not ISIS-prone as they are portrayed by everyone.

What Mr. Ghazal seems to be entirely unaware of is the fact that his regulations are putting his city on an even faster track of regression to stone-aged times that make it incompatible with the vision most of its inhabitants want for it: a modern city with a sustainable economy, not a fertile terrain for the Islamic State. He also seems to have forgotten that his city has existed for a very long time with beer ads spread around its billboards without any sort of problems whatsoever. What gives in August 2014? Is the rise of the angry Sunni getting to his head as well?

Some people of the city decided to take their anger on social media, setting up a “Tripoli Loves Beer” Facebook page, posting pictures of them holding or drinking different kinds of beer to counteract Ghazal’s decision. However, is it enough?

The problem with Lebanon’s Tripoli goes beyond the repercussions of it being poor, left alone by governments as is the case with the entire North, ruled by factions that belong to borderline illiterate politicians, as is the case elsewhere in the region too. There’s a tangible PR problem with how the city is presenting itself, at times like these, to the rest of a country that is beginning to freak out from calls to ban alcohol, stop breakfasts and rising army hate, over-exaggerated as it is.

Tripoli’s downtown, for instance, is centered around a roundabout with the word “Allah.” Underneath Allah is a slogan proclaiming the city to be the citadel of Muslims. All around the roundabout are black لا اله الا الله flags. Welcome to Tripoli indeed.

The entirety of the coverage over Tripoli, when it actually happens, is centered around the “Allah” roundabout aspect, the ISIS flags on some sporadic balconies in destitute neighborhoods, serving as a magnifying glass on the illiterate brain-washed militants ruining their city’s reputation with each passing day. The details of how that reality came to be are irrelevant at this point. What Tripoli needs today is a gigantic shift: will it remain the city that surrenders to extremism again and again despite most of its inhabitants being against it? Or will it be the city to make sure that “the citadel of Muslims Tripoli” rhetoric exists no more?

With people like Ghazal as its mayor, with people like Kabbara as its parliament representatives, I don’t see the former happening anytime soon – even with its people fighting as hard as they can to try and change perspectives and with people on Tripoli’s side who advocate again and again to give the city a chance. We are all aware that this isn’t how the city truly is, that a couple minutes away from the “Nour” roundabout are numerous bars in Al-Mina that would readily serve you alcohol, that parties flourish and that women can dress scantily too. We are aware as well that the majority of the people in Tripoli are more terrified by what’s happening to their city and the possible repercussions than everyone else.

But all of that is put on hold with those looming ISIS flags beginning to prop around the city with politicians who are probably happy about that, and I have to wonder: till what ends can I tell people there’s nothing to worry about in Tripoli when I’m the one finding the current scene to be foreign in a place I’ve known since I was a child?

Until then, Tripoli likes beer, and the people who like Tripoli do too.

Tripoli beer


#LB4Gaza: What Was The Point?

Behold the greatness of Lebanese media. All eight of our TV stations decided to unite yesterday for Gaza in one news broadcast that has people talking about it today still, beating the typical Lebanese news cycle lifespan of a few seconds. Talk about influence.

About 24 hours later, I am here wondering if the dust has settled enough for us to look objectively at what was accomplished yesterday or if it’s too early for us to question the actual point of yesterday’s broadcast, at the cost of being branded unpatriotic Lebanese who don’t care about Gaza, although many of the kind do exist.

It goes to say that the only oddity about yesterday’s united news broadcast was seeing MTV’s news anchor with Al Manar’s logo above her head, or Al Manar’s news anchor on MTV. It was a chuckle worthy moment as they went on and on about Gaza, expressing their utmost sadness at the situation there with heartbreaking pictures of people that are dying too soon in a culture that is, maybe just maybe, beginning to value the importance of a life – but I could be foolishly optimistic here.

The news broadcast, cute and fluffy as it may have been, was akin to yet another Arab League meeting: full of promises, and as hollow as an empty barrel. It was us preaching to the choir, in one perfect news circle jerk, to people who are already troubled by the Gaza conflict, to people who already care about Gaza, telling them that we should care more somehow.

It is an act of solidarity, sure, for Lebanese media to stand the way it did with Palestine. What it is not, however, is groundbreaking: our news stations already have enough common ground amongst each other regarding the Palestinian matter to be able to agree to such a broadcast. The result was an empty broadcast that was full of sensationalism but low on depth, as is the typical Arab handling of the Palestinian matter. It is 2014 and they still have not learned that just saying Israel is a big bad monster doesn’t cut it anymore. We all know Israel is bad, now what will you do about it?

24 hours after the LB4Gaza news telecast is done, what was accomplished apart from a sporadic increase in discourse about the issue among a Lebanese populace that is already knee-deep in its own problems as it is and a quirky Exotica ad just to jump on the bandwagon? Wouldn’t it have been better for Gaza if, instead of failing to have a high-level discourse about the issue, all 8 stations organized a telethon that helped raise money and resources to actually help the people of Gaza beyond empty words?


It is hypocritical for Lebanese TV stations to look at Gaza in solidarity when Palestinians in our own country live without rights, without safety and in living conditions that are detrimental to their well-being, with their voices squashed beyond measure. It’s also easy to assume greatness in such a broadcast, but it is also telling that such a broadcast can only happen towards Gaza and Palestine. Could it be because having a differing opinion on the matter is illegal?

It’s been three years since the Syrian war, whose effects have been much more catastrophic to Lebanon, and we didn’t just not have a unified news broadcast, the entire country doesn’t even have a unified foreign affairs stance regarding the Syrian war. While our news anchors wept their fake tears over their Arab brethren, Bashar el Assad and the Islamic extremists were still killing innocent people who probably warranted such a broadcast to talk about their strife.
It’s been also several days since the Christians in Iraq were evicted from their homes, had their property taken from them, had their homes branded with a derogatory ‘N’ for ‘Nasrani’ to denote their blasphemous religion in a country where they’ve become, in 2014, people of Dhumma again. Isn’t the destruction of millennial communities and eradicating them from their own country also worth a discussion?

What’s even more heartbreaking is that after all this time, the only hashtag – gasp – that wasn’t used is #LB4LB. Out of all the countries at hand, the only country that can actually benefit from a unified news cast is our very own Lebanon, with the level of discourse in media and among our officials sinking to new lows every other day, akin to the times when the country was in an actual full blown war, at times of theoretical peace, in a country at the brink of disintegration.

Such a broadcast, however, will never be used. Explosions are in the eye of the beholder. Assassinations are up for interpretation. The worth of our lives is not uniform but is a variable affair that fluctuates in quantity across regions, sects and differing TV stations. Hezbollah is the antichrist on MTV. Sunnis are the big bad evil coming to eradicate those who are different on Al Manar. This is the rhetoric that will be resumed a few hours from now on those same TV stations that, a few hours ago, had been so unified in a cause that is, whether we like it or not, alien to them and of a lesser importance than what’s taking place in their own backyards. #LB4LB will never be used because it’s always [insert your favorite party/sect/whatever]4LB. And that’s how it will always be.

Either way, what our media did is commendable in its own rights. If only evil and crimes against humanity had not been, to them, only clear when they involve Israel only.

5 Reasons Why You Should Go To Ellie Goulding’s Concert in Beirut

Ellie Goulding Lebanon Beirut Biel

Disclaimer: I was provided with concert tickets by MixFM for my personal use; this, however, came after a friend and I had already purchased tickets for the concert, albeit lower-priced ones. 

The “it” concert of the summer, which was almost threatened to be canceled at some point as our security situation degenerated, is Ellie Goulding coming for her Halcyon Days tour. Personal taste in music aside, the concert is to be a summer highlight, with it generally being an oddity for someone who’s actually “in” right now to come to Lebanon for a concert.

The ads promoting the event have been extremely tacky so far, however. Between telling us that Ellie is brave for venturing here and asking us to show the world how Beirut is truly like, I don’t know what’s sadder: the fact that coming to Lebanon is now an achievement in itself or that that rhetoric has become advertising prone or that the entire joie de vivre in Lebanon point of pride is actually still used.

In spite of that, I figured I’d come up with a few reasons why I want to go to Ellie Goulding’s concert.

1) The song “My Blood” is gorgeous, and the acoustic live version is even better than the recorded version.

2) Goulding’s song “I Know You Care” was used as the UK’s Song for Syria in order to raise money to help the children of the war-torn country.

3) She covers indie acts often and does a good job at it. Her cover of  Kodaline’s “All I Want” is brilliant, as is her cover of Alt-J’s “Tessellate.”

4) Goulding writes most of her songs and with several hits under her belt, many of which were unexpected given them being an oddity with the sounds popular at radio, she has proven not to be a one hit wonder. Her album, Halcyon, cannot be summarized by “Burn,” but has many great songs on it.

5) She’s a great live performer with a voice that stands out among her peers, as well as an awesome accent to boot.

The concert is on Wednesday July 23rd, at Biel.

Bringing Up Your Kids in Lebanon: How To Successfully Assault “Lesser” Foreigners 101

“Faith in humanity abolished” is what everyone’s been speaking about today as they circulate a video of a Lebanese child beating another Syrian child at the request of the Lebanese’s parents. The video is the following:

Certainly, the above is an abomination, a disgrace and whatever word can be inserted to describe the horror of the event at hand. But I have to wonder: why is anyone remotely shocked or even surprised?

We are a country to be pitied. Our houses are filled with maids, all of whom are Sri Lankans despite the fact that most are not, who clean after us in miserable working conditions and for minimal pay. If they ask for a raise, we ridicule them for wanting too much, but who of us would work more than 12 hour days, every day, for $100 a month?

Our injustice does not stop there. We beat those women whenever they try and speak up. We ridicule them in media if they dare to stray from the well-defined line that we’ve set up for them, and our kids observe as we bully them into mental oblivion, every single day until their contract is over and they’re free to go back to their families, mere shells of their former selves.

We are a country of hypocrisy. We’ve been ridiculing Syrian refugees for the past year, calling for them to be sent back home or to have their already miserable living conditions over here demoted even further. Multiple arguments are used and regardless of whether those arguments are correct or not, one thing is clear: when it comes to the Syrian refugees, humane we are not.

We teach our children to stay away from the Syrians around us. We tell them they are filthy. We tell them they are disgusting. We tell them they are to be feared. We tell them they are thieves. And somehow, we pretend not to be doing anything wrong about those people… until there’s a video, of course.

Many of those Syrian refugees do not get the “privilege” that the boy in that video got: to have their struggles recorded. Most of them do not get to be seen getting beaten by Lebanese who use the only superiority they get in their own country: to overpower powerless people who just want to survive.

Only yesterday, Ziad Fares – a twitter user who goes by the handle @ZiadFares1 – witnessed a similar act in a much more public location. At Sassine’s Starbucks shop, he saw a male teenage employee kick a young Syrian girl just because she was selling chocolate in the vicinity. The girl wasn’t bothering people nor was she insiting they buy her unica bars when they decline. The girls stood there, asking the employee why he hit her with him only barking at her to leave. Of course, no one caught it on video for it to become the next “it” viral sensation that Lebanese will use to absolve their conscience regarding their many shortcomings towards all those “lessers.”

Before you begin to be outraged just because it’s what everyone else is doing, take a moment and think: when was the last time you were the bully to a Syrian, to an Ethiopian or any other nationality we’ve come to associate with our unfounded arrogance as of a “lesser” breed? When was the last time you failed to stand up to an injustice to those people taking place around you, forbidding them from having your voice speak up to them when it was the only voice they could have possibly had?

We teach our children to be hateful, to despise those who are different, to feel superior to those we tell them are less important, to beat those who are weak, to take what is “rightfully” theirs by their own hand because no one’s there to fight for their “rights.” We teach our children that it’s okay for their fathers to beat their mothers when they misbehave, fully knowing that they’ll get away with it every single time, and somehow we’re shocked that those children end up becoming parents who teach their own children to beat up unsuspecting children, who can take pleasure in filming such acts on video and who laugh as those children weep in front of them? What a load of bullshit.

That Syrian kid will get justice thanks to that video. I hope for that typical Lebanese man to be thrown in the deepest pits of any given Lebanese jail for his actions, and by the looks of it he might. But I also wish the same for countless other Lebanese who have done even worse to other foreigners here and who have gotten away unscathed.

Your faith in the Lebanese humanity should have been abolished a long time ago.

Update: the father of the child named Abbas in the above video has been reportedly apprehended by the police.

Those Worthless Lives Of The Middle East


Those worthless people of Gaza. How many have died since Tuesday? It doesn’t even matter but I’ll list the number anyway: 154, and those 154 people don’t matter. Some will chant praises to their martyrdom and others will lament how their lives were lost, but they are but a number in a conflict that won’t end, a number to be buried deep in the Arab subconscious between seasons of Arab Idol, Ahla Sot and Elissa’s albums. Gaza was still an open air prison a few years ago and it will remain an open air prison a few years from now. It’s just only remembered at specific instants when their going gets slightly tougher. We get infuriated at the hypocrisy that Israel killing Arabs includes when its entire existence can be taken back, in one way or another, to Western guilt over the Jewish holocaust. But when you come to think of it, are Arabs even entitled to be sad for the people of Gaza who are dying, whose homes are being demolished just so muscles can be flexed and whose deaths are being ridiculed on certain TV channels just because they don’t fit with the rhetoric of the axis currently ruling the world? How are the people of Gaza dying exactly? Is it Israeli planes? Or is it the Arab oil fueling those planes? Or is it the Arab silent towards Israeli plans? Or is it those Arabs making sure their borders with Gaza stay closed, securing that open air prison until who knows when? Or is it the Arab slumber that only finds mild wakefulness sporadically, in Twitter or Facebook hashtags, never trying to speak out against their own regimes, in bed with those killing the people of Gaza, because they are providing them with the biggest mall on Earth and a great shopping experience to boot?

Those worthless people of Syria. How many Syrians have died in the past 3 or so years? How many digits has that number reached by now? As is the case with Gaza, this too doesn’t even matter, but I’ll list it anyway: 170,000. That six digit figure comprises entire families, men, women, children who will never have the future that a few years back was rightfully theirs. The biggest injustice, however, towards those Syrians isn’t just that their death, in the grand scheme of things, might not actually matter, but the fact that their deaths are also not an absolute truth among the Arabs infuriated by Israel’s actions. How many of those crying over Gaza now actually cared as the toll in Syria rose from one digit to the next? How many of those crying wolf over ABC, BBC, CNN or MTV Lebanon actually watch TV stations that do the exact same thing to those people of Syria? Those six digit lives are nothing more than a bargaining chip in a conflict that is greater than they’ll ever be individually. Those lives don’t fit with their grand political scheme of choice and are a mere tool in the attempt to stop the big bad Sunni monster.

Those worthless people of Lebanon. There’s no estimate of those that died between 1975 and 2014. Our parents had hoped way back when they decided to stay in this country that things would get better for us, with all the lives lost to fight for causes that they believed in. But things are still the same. Young men and women fought for causes and died only to have the people they fought for forget them the moment a glimpse of power flashed in front of their eyes. And things are still the same today. From one explosion to the next, from burned flesh on Beirut’s asphalt to spoiled breakfasts in Tripoli, to acts defending the country against armies now killing innocents in Gaza, the lives of our countrymen being lost are also simple digits that will keep on adding up until who knows when because we never learn.

The causes are not similar, and the conflicts are not the same. But the people involved are dying with one thing in common: their deaths only serve to escalate numbers without changing anything. How many had to die in Gaza before the collective Arab consciousness decided to budge, before the Arab league figured it should convene or before Egypt figured it should come up with a ceasefire plan with their BFFs? How many more have to die until it is realized that the current status quo regarding the region’s countries and regarding the attitude towards Israel does not simply work? When will Arabs learn that building the world’s tallest structure, biggest artificial island and hosting the World Cup aren’t what really matter when their own people are being slaughtered like sheep right on their doorstep as they sit around and eat their fancy iftars on this bloody Ramadan?

I am a 24 year old Lebanese who lives in a country of violence in a sea of even more violence, and I do not know how to be violent. I do not believe violence is the key to any solution for this region, but I am one of very few voices in a culture that sings weapons in song, brands them on flags and salutes the world with them as they chant takbirs for everyone to hear, a culture that, for instance, doesn’t really want to see Palestine free as much as go to heaven as martyrs for that purpose.

There are a lot of things that we are not allowed to do towards those countries. We can’t do like that Norwegian doctor and visit Gaza to help in whatever way we can. Protesting the regimes of the countries filling this region has also become a dangerous matter even though those tyrant regimes do much worse to their own people than possibly even Israel, regardless of whether such a notion is even entertained by people of the region or not. The only thing we are left with is our voices and platforms to express those voices and try to change perspectives, but does the region even have a clear plan towards using modern day media in order to fight the Israeli rampage? Is there a way for us to get a clear message across when we can’t even agree on what that message should be? Are we not also losing the war of information and misinformation that, in this day and age, has become as tactically important as rockets and blasts and tanks especially with the looming threat of treason over our heads when the message we need to get across is to those whose existence we are not allowed to acknowledge? Is there a way for us to make the lives lost in the countries of the region slightly less worthless than they are as we remain completely and irrevocably lost, unable to do anything about it but be angry about biased media reporting, portrayals of the people dying as terrorists and the blindness of a world that never really had sight to begin with?

May all those people’s pieces rest in peace.

When Lebanon Fails Its National TV Station: BeIN Sports Suing Tele Liban


Breaking news: BeIN Sports, formerly known Al Jazeera Sports, the Qatari TV station that has bought the rights for every single major sports tournament till kingdom come is suing Tele Liban over it broadcasting this year’s World Cup games.

Soon after the 2014 World Cup began, Lebanese people found themselves unable to watch the tournament. The government had failed to kiss up to Qatar enough to get the World Cup for free. Talks with Sama, the major Lebanese politician-owned company with exclusive rights for BeIN sports in Lebanon, failed to go through. We reverted to either buying the World Cup subscription, which did not work most of the time because the service was abysmal, or to managing with Turkish, French and, well, Israeli TV stations in some parts of the country.

But the Lebanese government wouldn’t have it, of course. How could Lebanese people have their God-given right of watching the World Cup taken away from them? So our government paid $3 million to Sama to make sure such a thing does not happen. The ramifications of that payment were as follows:

  1. Cable owners in Lebanon would be able to broadcast the World Cup to their subscribers using BeIN Sports, TF1 or any other station at their disposal,
  2. Tele Liban, the TV station the government is in charge of, gets screwed over as the government completely disregards it in favor of those cable owners,
  3. Sama nets in pure profit for their exclusive rights,
  4. The Lebanese politician in charge of Sama gets a whole lot of money while pretending to do the Lebanese people a favor.

Tele Liban, however, wouldn’t have it, so it decided to broadcast the games anyway outside of the $3 million deal. The first day of its defiance was literally Turkish before they had their very own commentator. In doing so, Tele Liban managed to fill the huge gap in World Cup viewing that the government’s deal made, especially in rural areas where cable owners have not set ship yet and where a World Cup deal would be the most beneficial.

As a result of its defiance, Tele Liban – with its minimal capacities and reach – is now finding itself in a lawsuit by BeIn sports because it broadcast the World Cup games over which BeIn has copyright in Lebanon. I guess we have our government to thank for failing to do the minimum and make sure its very own TV station is protected in this matter.

Instead of paying $3 million to make sure Tele Liban gets to broadcast the games, our government has effectively made sure Tele Liban is in the tough spot it is now. Those $3 million are definitely badly spent. Should we have paid it? My answer is a definite hell no. Those $3 million could have done the following:

  1. Equipped our security forces against the current rise of terrorism,
  2. Provided districts such as Akkar with much needed infrastructure to prevent its sons and daughters from dying on Indonesian rafts,
  3. Enhance the living standards of people in Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen,
  4. Contribute towards the fiber optics project to improve our internet,
  5. Go towards water-centric project to prevent the typical summer drought in Beirut,
  6. Go into public transport programs that could prevent people from being randomly attacked by taxi drivers,
  7. Tighten our grip over our border and therefore increasing our security,
  8. Work towards slightly fixing our electricity crisis,
  9. Improve the non-existent roads in my home district,
  10. About three hundred other thing that could come to mind.

Watching the World Cup is not the right our politicians want to fool you into believing it is, just so you can ignore their gross shortcomings in every other regard. That expenditure, however, could have been at least slightly conceivable hadn’t it gone to the benefit of cable owners, SAMA and BeIN, at the expense of Tele Liban, which spent a whole lot of resources in rebranding because it was promised it would broadcast the World Cup.

What will happen to Tele Liban now? Odds are it’ll get stuck in a mess of legal troubles, which it probably can’t handle against the Qatari onslaught coming its way. I doubt our government will take any measures to protect it. Do they want to upset Qatar? What a joke. Can they go against the politician running Sama’s influence in Lebanon? Let’s not be foolish. They threw Tele Liban under the bus once, watch them as they leave it to get squashed by a tank.

The entire problem when it comes to the World Cup and other tournaments is with Al Jazeera (now BeIn) having basically unlimited copyright over Lebanon. Have no doubt, such an ordeal is to be repeated every single football tournament. Watch as we forgot how difficult it was for us to watch this World Cup come Euro 2016 time. Then watch as we forgot that as Russia’s 2018 World Cup rolls by. FIFA is a greedy entity, sure. But there’s a definite slacking in securing our own broadcasting rights. Till when will our government sit by as that Qatari company sustains its hegemony over Lebanon’s broadcasting rights? Why is our country lumped under the auspices of BeIN sports – and subsequently at the mercy of a company like Sama – for every single major tournament? Why can’t we do as other countries do: just tune in to any of our TV stations and watch the World Cup game?

I forgot that this is Lebanon and it’s always, always complicated. Forza Azzurri! Oh wait.


Where To Have Breakfast In Tripoli This Ramadan

With Tripoli’s Mayor hell-bent on turning his city into the Lebanese version of Qandahar, which years of constant fights didn’t do, with his recent request to effectively stop publicizing breakfasts within the city’s municipal bounds, I figured I’d compile a list of my favorite places to have an awesome breakfast in Tripoli.

Ahwak Cafe

This place is an absolute delight. It is the liberal hub of the city. I’d go on and on about that bathroom but you can get lost in the debates on its walls for hours. No wonder this place gets hammered, in one way or another, whenever push comes to shove in Tripoli. That same bathroom has atheists express their lack of belief in God on those walls. Those same atheists converse with believers who keep an open mind on its rustic tables while they enjoy the delicacies offered.

Ahwak makes awesome cakes. I love their Oreo cheesecake (Roadster could take notes of the recipe if they ever venture beyond Jounieh) and their Carrot Cake is still by far the best I’ve ever had. Their coffee is also entirely based on the “Tafesh” brand, which is known to be excellent.

By having breakfast at Ahwak, you’d also be supporting this place against the constant religious and political persecution affecting it, from Islamists who want to ruin Tripoli with an image that it isn’t befit for, and politicians who believe its youth’s open mind is on its way to ruin their city, necessitating such memos in the first place.

Ahwak is located in the hip “Dam W Farez” area of Tripoli, full of newly built cafes and restaurants that have managed to withstand the economic stagnation that befell their city due to the security situation and economic neglect over the past few years.


It goes without saying that Hallab is always a must visit place in Tripoli and it’s not because I’m friends with Zaher Hallab. The place has character which is something you won’t find at other Hallab locations now that they’re expanding across Lebanon. Sit in “Le Palais” section and look at the great building facade, observe Tripoli’s “Ebrine Road” (I had to put in my hometown’s name) and its bustling life. There are many options for you. You can go sweet with “knefe” or other delicacies or you can go with Hallab’s “lahm b’aajine.” Either way, the only regret you’ll be having is about your delusion of a diet. They also offer cakes and beverages. And it’s all very affordable. Bye, bye Beiruti expensiveness.


If you’re in the mood for a traditional Tripoli breakfast, this is the place for you. It takes quite a bit to get to it and a local is advised to guide the way. In order to get there, make your way to the Tel area and ask around. The place is extremely known to the people there and should be known nationally if you ask me. They make so many different varieties of humus, each of which is great. They also offer awesome “fatte.” Order as much as you want. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed. And I can also assure you that you won’t end up paying more than 10,000LL per person. Yes, Akra is that cheap but more importantly Akra is so good that it has turned me into a person who craves hummus for breakfast. You can thank me for the recommendation later.

Coffee Pot:

Near Al Salam Mosque, which was destroyed last August in one of Lebanon’s now 22 explosions, lies a nice breakfast spot called Coffee Pot. They offer a set of omelette with toast, American coffee and pancakes for less than $10. You can also have separate options if you don’t feel like going all out. It’s quiet. They offer indoor seating as well as a terrace overlooking the busy street, though I would assume that wouldn’t be too favorable with this heat. Service is very friendly too.

Fasting Ramadan

It is an insult first and foremost to the Muslims fasting to have a mayor, sheikh or whatever other entity believe that them fasting Ramadan should be met with a whole lot of “kindly forced” consideration from everyone else.

I’ve seen a lot of people lump all of Lebanon’s Muslims into the basket of people who agree with what Tripoli’s mayor did. The truth is that the mayor’s ideological representation is so limited that it only spans very few people whose voice is only being augmented because that voice is what’s “in” right now. It was Muslims who were the first to make fun of the “no breakfast” memos. It was Tripoli’s Muslims who told me about their municipality’s decree, who asked me to try and express their anger at this shameful attempt to repress not only the freedom of others but their very own in the city they call home, but you don’t hear those voices as often as your hear that mayor.

The courtesy that those fasting Ramadan should receive is not something that can be bestowed upon them by a municipal decree, emanating from an Islamist Council. Such a courtesy is a mere manifestation of being considerate and being aware of how difficult it is to remain without food and water in this heat for such long hours and to be aware of how much dedication such an endeavor entails. Illegally and unconstitutionally enforcing a twisted version of “tolerance” defeats the entire purpose of Ramadan. Those sheikhs and mayor should have known better than to tarnish such a month in their city like that.

Ramadan is a beautiful time. I’ve only been massively exposed to it recently when I became friends with Muslims who – gasp – happen to be from Tripoli. Those people were kind, hospitable and so kind-hearted that they’ve shown me – a stranger and an outsider – the ins and outs of their holy month. I attended more iftars than I could remember. I went to s’hours, heard the tarawih, walked the city as it bustled with people leaving prayer. And it was all beautiful.

To that family in Tripoli and almost every single Muslim I know, be it from Tripoli or elsewhere, fasting Ramadan is an act to bring them closer to the God they believe in. It is not something they proclaim to the world. I haven’t heard any of my friends nag that they’re fasting. I haven’t heard them nag that people around them are eating. They know that while fasting that month is a religious duty to them, it remains a duty that is exclusive to them and should not be generalized upon everyone else. They don’t need anyone telling them it’s not their right to force it upon anyone. It’s innate knowledge to them. On the contrary, they find it honorable when they share their iftars with people who hadn’t been fasting and who had breakfast and even lunch.

Tripoli is a city that has been literally screwed for the past several years by downright negligence. We’ve all seen the capacities of our security forces with the recent explosions overdrive taking the country. Those same capacities were never applied to that city as the country left it to be burned alone, an island in a sea we quickly judged as full of Islamists that should perish with it. Tripoli’s mayor and some people who have his mentality are hell-bent on turning their city into the different-phobe version they believe is the best for its Muslims population, but Tripoli’s people – Muslims and not – know better and they’ve stood up to him.

They are the people who won’t let their city get turned into what’s been planned for it, who won’t let their own reputation be tarnished and turned into that of people who hate those who are different, even when it comes to meals, forcing restaurants to cut down their businesses according to someone with authority’s version of what God said, and who know that fasting Ramadan does not mean you are entitled for preferential treatment by any municipality or government. It is a personal act that remains as such. The Quran has told them, after all, “لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ.”

That mayor’s actions are a mere ploy for increasing popularity at a time when he assumed such a memo would resonate with the people in his city, bringing him accolades and newfound fame. The only accolade and fame he found were those of mockery from the same people he governs. He believed current times necessitate such a decree. He was wrong. There won’t be a time when Lebanon needs wishes upon restaurants to refrain from publicizing or even serving breakfast. Contrary to popular belief, such memos will never find their ways to fruition in Lebanon, be it in Tripoli or elsewhere, not now and not in the future. Why so? Because regardless of how downright despicable religious practices can get in this country, there are people who are aware enough to stand against them, people who managed to turn down that memo in mere hours after it was published. Those people are not Lebanese Christian-born activists who were appalled at a time when their breakfast options could be limited; they were Tripoli people born and bred and mostly Muslim.

Tripoli will not be Qandahar, not now and not in a future that many believe is upon us. Not when it has Muslims like the ones I know, friends and almost-family, who make sure you don’t leave their house on a Ramadan morning without them serving you breakfast.

Ramadan karim to everyone concerned.