Zaatar W Zeit’s Act of Kindness

I was walking around Beirut the other day, in neighborhoods I hadn’t been to in a long time, only to find streets that have drastically changed. The most poignant moment of my walk was when I saw an old woman, sitting by the corner of the road crying. She had her mattress next to her. She had nowhere to go. The walk up to that woman was full of people like her. Things are getting tougher and there’s nothing to make them easier.

As a rule of thumb, it can be said that Lebanese restaurants are very disassociated with the general security of the country. As things get tougher, their prices get higher. I’ve rarely, if ever, heard of stories like the one below. But it is one of those rare instances that take you a few minutes to believe. 

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Of course, Zaatar w Zeit didn’t advertise this. It was simply an act of kindness on behalf of their branch in question. We all barraged Zaatar w Zeit for not serving alcohol at one of their branches this past year. It only felt fitting to highlight an act of kindness on their behalf towards those who are less fortunate in the midst of this non-festive holiday season.

Great job Zaatar w Zeit. Hopefully other restaurants follow suit in trying to make things easier for those who are overwhelmed by the harsh conditions of life in Lebanon.


When AUB Students Mourn Their Homeless Ali Abdallah

Ali - AUB

R.I.P. Ali, 7aram Ali, di3anak ya Ali, I gave him a banana once – these are all things that I saw AUB students say now that their seemingly favorite homeless person passed away.

Ali Abdallah was supposedly an AUB Math professor. He’s also a diagnosed schizophrenic. All of the notions about Ali Abdallah’s life are irrelevant right now. What is sure, however, is that most AUB students mourning right now not only ignored Ali when they passed by him on Bliss Street, they were also disgusted by the fact that he was there: a mad man, always unshaven, always unclean, always there.

How death changes things, right? He’s no longer the figure they can’t wait to look down on as they pass Dunkin Donuts or Abu Naji. He’s “their Ali of Bliss Street” – their homeless mascot whose presence they had gotten accustomed to. Until their mascot was gone.

I will not mourn Ali Abdallah because I, like the absolute majority of AUB students in a state of depression now, never spoke to him, never bothered to know him and never considered him “our Ali of Bliss Street.” I feel sorry for the way he died – out there, alone in the cold, leaning against a cold Beiruti wall.

Some are citing natural causes for Ali’s death. Well, those natural causes are freezing to death in the midst of the worst storm of Lebanon’s recent history. How many of those mourning Ali ever thought about giving him a coat or money for a place to stay or ever tried to help him out? I highly doubt they are many.

For those of you who are touched by his death, there’s another homeless woman on Bliss Street that you’ve been ignoring for many years now. Perhaps it’s time to give her a second glance so you don’t feel sad when the homeless woman you ignored day in, day out ends up dead as well due to the freezing cold.

My thoughts go to all the people of my country who don’t have a roof over their heads in these though times, no one to care for them and no government to provide them with shelter.