Beirut To Break The Record For World’s Longest Continuing Party At 56 Hours

At a time when the biggest plates of hummus and biggest lemonade reserves aren’t enough, Beirut seems set to do what Beirut does best, and that’s throw the biggest party out there – literally this time.

In 2 weeks, between August 28th at 7PM and the dawn of August 30th, and under the patronage of Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism, Lebanon will try to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous party, at 56 hours. The previous record was held by Dublin, Ireland and was set at 54 hours.

The attempt to break the world record will take place at Nurai, which is located in Monot. In order to accomplish this task, Guinness will be monitoring the place for the set duration of time to make sure it’s continuously in “party” mode.

To help accomplish the task at hand, a bunch of artists, live bands, singers and DJs will be continuously performing for the duration of the party. The Ministry of Tourism will also be providing transportation to and from the site of the event.

I may not be there to participate and I sure am not the go-to person for any partying-related advice (God forbid), and I may also hate the notion of Beirut being synonymous with parties all the time but that has become as part of the city’s identity as its other more traditional landmarks. Is it a bad thing? Perhaps when it’s blinding the Lebanese masses from further critical thought of their own societies as long as Beirut is featured on some list somewhere as a Phoenix rising from the ashes party town.

The world record breaking attempt may not fix the horribly broken sectors that are maiming this country, but it is a good step from the Ministry of Tourism to further boost Beirut’s image as a go-to destination for party goers of the world, especially given that Lebanon hosted one of Tomorrowland’s live events a few weeks ago in July.

It’s especially beneficial at a time when Lebanon’s summer tourism season is seeing a boost with the political calm the country is experiencing and with Arab Gulf citizens slowly but surely returning to their habits of visiting the country to spend their summer vacations. Such an event will also contribute to setting Beirut apart from other cities in the Middle East when it comes to such lifestyle aspects, and – at least momentarily – help airbrush the country’s image, if only for those who are still susceptible to that.

Either way, I hope the event is a success. I hope those who do attend have a good time, and I sure hope the event’s organization is at the needed level for such a massive undertaking.

H/t Adeela.

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Lebanon Appoints Dr. Amal Mudallali As First Woman UN Ambassador


To break away from the horrific news of how some fascist and racist Lebanese want to beat up Syrian refugees, enforce taxes on them for breathing, force them into slavery, among other things, one piece of good news emanates from the country today in the form of Amal Mudallali, who was just appointed as our U.N. ambassador.

Picture via Dyala Badran


With her appointment, Dr. Mudallali now becomes the first woman ever to be apppointed to such a title in Lebanese history. 

Dr. Amal Mudallali is a Lebanese-American CEO of Bridges International Group, a contributor to Foreign Policy, and a former global fellow for the Wilson Center from 2012 till December 2016, with projects centered around the Arab Spring. 

Her major publication for the Wilson Center was about the history of the UN and Lebanon, as well as the resolutions that have shaped the country between 1958 and 2007. The Woodrow Wilson Center for scholars is part of the Smithsonian Insitution Act, and is considered to be a highly respected think tank, among the world’s top ten. 

Prior to that, she was the Washington Correspondent for BBC where she covered U.S. Policy towards the Middle East.

Such a positive first step in Lebanese diplomacy should be encouraged, especially that it comes at the heels of statement by our minister of foreign affairs during which he said that married women should not be permitted to go through diplomatic missions or become diplomats.

That level of misogyny, albeit it’s quite common for a country such as Lebanon, is not something we can tolerate – at least when it comes to such stages that represent us in front of the entire world.

I hope Dr. Mudallali lives up to her credentials and represents the country well during her tenure at the U.N. In such tricky times, we need all the diplomatic skills we can muster. 

Lebanon’s Government Is Using Syrian Refugees and Fear To Kill Democracy and Pass Its Agenda

Tensions in Lebanon are at an all-time high as political rhetoric against the refugees seems to have found its way to a union the like of which we haven’t seen before, bolstered by public support that’s near-unanimous, fueled by pro-Army rhetoric that’s become so intense it’s bordering on worrying.

The Lebanese Army has been engaged in a courageous fight against ISIS militants who have embedded themselves in refugee camps in the Beqaai border town of Arsal. The details of the fight, which is still ongoing, have become known for most. The gist of which, however, is that despite Lebanon’s army advancing against the militants, some transgressions against civilian refugees have taken place, with some of them dying during captivity prompting questions of torture.

As it is in Lebanon, of course, even mildly thinking about criticizing our army’s practices, or wanting an investigation to take place in the death of those civilians, is equal to high treason. It seems that everyone is supposed to accept that the army does what the army wants, without any repercussions. Except that that is how dictatorships are made, and last time I checked the country was not as such.

The moment we start compromising on basic human rights, regardless to whom those rights belong, we are beginning to give a blank check to authorities to extend the same treatment to us at a later point in time. What’s to stop Lebanon’s armed forces, army or otherwise, from – eventually – doing the same to Lebanese citizens who may or may not be suspects in something that people are unanimous in opposing?

The army is not to be above reproach or criticism. The more we put our army or our security forces on pedestals, the more we’re giving them way to break our necks, and whatever they want, just because we’ve let them. It’s a slippery slope between being thankful to being blindly adoring and, consequently, approving of anything and everything someone with a military title does.

Yes, it’s beautiful to be thankful for their efforts and sacrifices in fighting for our safety. But that doesn’t make them holy. And it doesn’t make the mere possibility of civilians, regardless of nationality, being killed under torture or suspicious conditions okay.

Naturally, and because trolls on Facebook are quite rare to find, a pro-Syrian refugee and anti-Lebanese army page sprung up on Facebook. It was started by a 24 year old Syrian residing in Ain El Helwe who was just arrested for enticing violence and hatred against the Lebanese Army. That Facebook page soon became the medium through which many Syrians, and some Lebanese I dare say, expressed their undying hate to Lebanon, its people and its army.

The reply to that was in a surge of anti-refugee rhetoric, with a political discourse that’s unanimous in wanting to send all the refugees to Syria’s safe spaces. The culmination of the social media wars translated through calls for two protests: one pro-refugees, organized by a Lebanese socialist club, which was later branded as anti-Army, prompting hundreds of Lebanese to change their Facebook pictures ones with army support frames, and calling for a protest to oppose the previous one.

Naturally, our Ministry of Interior affairs banned all protests as a result. Keep in mind that parliament is planning a tax hike coming later in the week, and banning all protests in the country under the guise of “security” is a mere ploy to silence people against such governmental steps in taking away more of our money, stripping us of our constitutionally given right of expression and making sure they create the illusion that the country is in turmoil.

It seems odd that, after more than 6 years of the Syrian War, today is the time that all of our politicians seem united in the way they want to deal with the Syrian refugees. Add that to the list of massive short-sightedness that’s become synonymous with the way they handle things.

We’re a tiny country, that’s 1/10 the size of Syria with about 1/5 of the population. And yet, over the course of the past 6 years, we’ve received about two million refugees, the impact of which over the country could not be brushed under the rug. We have no functioning infrastructure, no social structure to support them and – simply – no decent means to support them. Our borders, however, remained open. We had next to no regulation of the influx, near non-existent regulation of the border. The problems at hand could have been prevented had we been slightly more aware of the impact of suddenly adding two million people to your population, which feels like quite the normal realization to get to. Unless you’re a Lebanese politician of course.

Not all refugees are bad people, however, and using some of them to put the entirety of them in the same box in non-sensical. The majority of Syrian refugees in the country don’t agree with the posts of Facebook page that’s causing all the outrage against them. The majority just want to live and let live, make ends meet, provide for their families and count the days until they can return home – their actual home, not safe spaces inside what was once their country. And yes, many are thankful for being given homes in our country, the same way you’ve been demanding them to be grateful as if our government has provided anything for them other than allowing them to build tents in fields no one uses.

What’s mind numbing is the hypocrisy of it all. Picture this: you, as a Lebanese, being labeled as a terrorist because one Lebanese was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Or you as a Lebanese being targeted systematically by police in countries you’re an immigrant in because some segments of your country’s nationals are drug dealers or criminals. Imagine Lebanese Australians or Lebanese in Dearborn, Michigan being cracked down on by authorities in the United States or Australia for reasons as silly as them being “guilty” by virtue of them having Lebanese in ethnicity. Wouldn’t you be outraged? Wouldn’t you be up in a fit, cry racism and xenophobia?

Today you’re left with a country where manifestations of free speech are banned, where people do not allow you to even think about criticizing the army, where sympathizing with refugees is beginning to get closer to becoming treason, where our politicians are literally using those refugees to fuel hate and fear in order for them to pass all of the agendas they want, under the radar, in plain sight of everyone.

The safety of Lebanese and the dignity of Syrian refugees are not two mutually exclusive entities. We have been led to believe they are by politicians who are using us in order for them to be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and put it under the guise of the country’s best interest.

A banana republic? It’s time to find a new fruit. Everyone needs to sit back, take a deep breath, stop jumping to conclusions every thirty two seconds and realize that this path is exactly where they want you to be.

Justin Trudeau’s Government Rejects Request For Direct Flights Between Lebanon and Canada

Remember that Trudeau fellow whose PR-smart maneuvers have made him one of the world’s, if not the world’s most loved politician? From his quirky socks, to his cheeky videos that celebrate everyone, it seems that this politician’s new views are as restricted as his predecessors, at least when it comes to the hope of finally advancing the aviation sector to allow direct flights between Beirut and Montreal.

In a petition started in 2016, by one of Trudeau’s own MPs, Lebanese-Canadian Eva Nassif, the request for direct flights to be started between Beirut and Montreal was made. The petition garnered 4000 signatures and made its way along Canada’s formal political tracts, up until it seemed that there would tangibly be – at least within the next two years – Air Canada flights that work non-stop between those two destinations.

A source in MEA had indicated that for the first two years after the approval of that flight, Air Canada would have had exclusive rights with MEA selling tickets on its airlines, followed by our national carrier being allowed to fly the route later on – 2019 was a presumptive date.

All of this, however, will now not take place as Justin Trudeau’s government has rejected Air Canada’s request for a direct flight, as mentioned in a tweet by Air Canada executive Duncan Bureau:

The refusal was once again cited to be related to security reasons. This is not the first time this happens with a Canadian government. In 2003, Air Canada had begun selling tickets for its inaugural flight between Beirut and Montreal when, at the last moment, the Canadian government pulled the plug on such a flight, citing yet again, security reasons with a senior government official saying it was to safeguard Canada against terrorism.

Direct flights between Beirut and North America have been banned since the 1985 after the TWA plane hijacking in the airport. Of course, 1985 was prime civil war time in Lebanon and it’s been more than 30 years since, but the only amendment to the ban for American airlines to land in BEY and for MEA to fly to the US has been through U.S. president George W. Bush who allowed American governmental planes from landing in Beirut if they need be.

Canada’s fear towards allowing a direct flight from Beirut to its airports are unfounded. Lebanon has not witnesses the airplane terror attacks that, say, Egypt has witnessed only recently and Cairo’s passengers can still fly directly to Montreal. Air Canada also has direct flights to risky areas around the world, such as Tel Aviv, Istanbul, among others.

However, according to the Huffington Post, it seems Canada’s decision is less about its own security woes, and more about not pissing off its southern neighbor, the United States, which maintains – and would probably not alter it anytime soon – the ban against flights entering its airspace, coming straight from Beirut. You’d think that a PM as anti-Trump as Trudeau would at least oppose Trump in more than just empty speeches, with actual action that would serve about half a million Lebanese-Canadian who could use such flights, but no dice.

The story of Lebanese woes with Canadian airports doesn’t stop with direct flights. It transcends it to the fact that we need transit visas to do layovers in their airports, something that many don’t realize until they’ve booked a flight to or from the U.S. by way of YUL, only to be denied boarding in their airport of origin.

Perhaps it’s time that the Lebanese-Canadian lobby pushes for much needed reform to the way their governments are dealing with Lebanon and its people in regards to this particular issue. After all, such flights and ease on transit restrictions are in the economical interest in both countries, and would go a long way in showcasing a Canada that puts its money where its mouth is, instead of empty speeches and cute socks.

The Day I Lost My Grandfather

It never crossed my mind, as I kissed you goodbye on the forehead in that ER room on that last day I was home, that that would be the last time I touched your skin, that my promise of seeing you again in 3 weeks, in which I was whole heartedly convinced, would end up as broken as the heart of the body whose hands are typing these words, as nothing engulfs me but emptiness.

How do you feel, they ask me, as my consciousness tries to process the idea that my grandfather and I do not share the same world anymore. I hate being away. I hate not being able to see him one last time. I hate not being there to somehow make it all okay. I hate not being there for my grandmother, whose broken voice over a broken FaceTime call broke my resolve not to break today. I hate not being there for my father whose tear-soaked words were: “It’s the end of the story.”

But Barbar Fares’ story does not end there. It is but the beginning.

Forever young, you are my pride and joy in everything I do. People mistake me for your son. I smile, correct them, but revel at the idea that your legacy is that perpetual. Those deep blue eyes hold the tales of lifetimes in them: from war-torn trips to far away countries to make ends meet for your growing family back home, to seeing your family disperse all over the world, each of your sons and daughters making a name for themselves that resonates across oceans and entire worlds.

And then there’s me, the first grandson you’ve met.

The one that was glued to your hip, tagging along to your card games and rooting for you in all that you did. The one who smiles at the thought of you chanting those Christian prayers in a voice as off-tune as a voice could get. The one you refer to as sheikh el shabeb when you’re asked about. The one you think anyone in a white coat in a hospital room would know. The one you think is the best doctor who knows everything there is to know, even though he’s not.

The one who is worlds away but always has you in his heart, with whom your daily encounters were at first to complain about something hurting before your ailments somehow disappearing and you reverting to being entirely engrossed in what you’d have for lunch.┬áThe one who won’t be there at your funeral tomorrow, because I never thought – in any way possible – that today would be something that would happen.

I can picture it now, that event that shall not be named. Priests fielding altars, going about a routine act that doesn’t befit a man of your greatness, and that eulogy spoken by someone who will never truly know you, colored by numbers from the pre-existing sample they paste onto every passing over. “He founded a good Christian family, raised on nice Christian principles. He was a good man.”

My grandfather isn’t just good. He is among the greatest people to exist in this world. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who had the pleasure of encountering that beautiful face, and those who didn’t. I am humbled and honored to be carrying you in my heart and in my body, to be carrying your last name and to hopefully honor it in all the ways it can and should be honored. I am humbled to have had the honor to meet someone as kind-hearted and warm-spirited as you, for there are no kinder people in this world and tonight, everyone sleeps in a colder place with you not being there anymore.

There’s nothing I can say that can pay justice to a man as great as Barbar Gerges Fares. What I can promise is for me to make you as proud as you’ve always been, and then some, in everything I do. From being that grandson who gives you a headache with the “mess” I get into online, to that doctor saving lives hundreds of countries and thousands of miles away, you are there with me in every step that I take.

Barbar Gerges Fares. That is the name of my grandfather. I refuse to refer to him in anything other than present tense because my grandfather is and will forever be present in every fiber within my body, a perpetual echo shaping every decision I make and every breath I take until I am no more. I will carry you with me, till I see you again.

The Day I Immigrated: There Are Homes Better Than A Home in Lebanon, Which Is Why Lebanese Expats Are Expats

Today is the day I become a Lebanese expat and my country of residence, in all those forms that we have to fill, becomes something else than the home I’ve known for all of the 27 years I’ve existed so far.

On my possibly last drive to the airport as a Lebanese citizen permanently living in his home country, I was thinking about how sad my mother was next to me, as she prayed her rosary, probably for me to have safe travels and a beaming future in the United States, the country that’s offering me a home.

I was also wondering if, in the upcoming few months, I’ll be one of those Lebanese whose entire purpose in life is to sell the country they’ve left, hiding away all of the flaws that made them leave it. Then I realized, I’m probably already the target of those videos, such as that Byblos bank ad that went viral about two days ago, titled: There’s No Home Like a Home in Lebanon:

I will miss my grandma’s cooking, but most of all I will miss her and those sweet teary eyes that bid me farewell, in a hospital room this morning, as I said goodbye to my sick grandfather before heading to the airport.

I will miss that man’oushe, those Sunday lunches with my family, road trips to areas I haven’t yet discovered with friends who mean the most to me.

Yes, this is the country where I was born, where my family and friends live, where I’ve had my first kiss and my first heartbreak, and in whose airport I’m currently writing this post as I look on a whole bunch of other people like me leaving, in planes carrying my national symbol.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tearful and grateful for what I’ve been offered as I write this. But on that last drive to the airport, I realized once more that emotion and reason can’t mix in determining the future that we ought to demand for ourselves, starting with myself.

There comes a time when hummus and man’oushe over sensational music isn’t enough anymore to sell a country, no matter how many times the same disc is spun. I’m sorry to say, that disc is broken – nay, it’s shattered and there’s no coming back from it.

In this past week alone, a 24 year old named Roy Hamouche was killed in cold blood because some guy was angry. Another person was also attacked by a police officer because of road rage.

In this past week, a physician coerced the judicial system into helping him commence the cover up in a possible malpractice lawsuit, and we can’t but sit by and watch.

I’m leaving a country as a 27 year old citizen who was never allowed to vote, and whose voice has to always be self-censored as to not face the wrath of the multiple sensibilities we have to consider in saying what’s on our mind.

I’m leaving this country as a doctor who has to fight a mammoth of a system entirely geared at making me feel like I’m always a bug up the echelons of my career, no matter how much I try to thrive.

I’m leaving a country whose beaches are dirty, whose sea is toxic, whose forests are being dismantled, whose elderly are being turned down at hospital doors, whose mothers and their children are being evicted from houses and forced to live in construction sites even in the heart of Beirut, whose garbage can’t be sorted or addressed, and whose people – most of them at least – are still ready to offer their necks to the same politicians who have turned this country into what it is today, as they drool over any video or international article that says their country is a nice vacation site, and whose children are forced to beg in the streets to make ends meet.

A nice holiday destination doesn’t make a good index of life.

I’d love to say there’s no home like a home here. But the truth is that is far from the truth. There’s a reason why Lebanon has expats who visit every once in a while and return to countries they’ve chosen to turn into their homes.

It’s because in the republic of wasta, you can only make it as far as your strongest connection. It’s because in the republic of waste, you breathe cancer.

It’s because their children can die for angering the wrong person on the street, because this country ranks among the highest in corruption, the weakest in passport strength, and is on the lower side when it comes to international indices of life.

Remember this when you support sensational bank ads or articles or lists of why this country is the best ever. Remember that falling to delusions of grandeur will never advance this country, and that being content with what we have will never give us what we need.

Never forget where you’re from, but always remember why you left. I love it here. Correction: I loved it here. But today, I pack my life in 3 suitcases, and leave all of it behind because here is not where my future lies.

In Lebanon, You Can Get Away With Murder, But Naming A Doctor Is Rare & Difficult

 

It’s beautiful, isn’t it, to be so influential and connected that you can get the judiciary branch in Lebanon to limit everyone’s freedom of speech in order to make sure whatever’s left of one’s reputation remains unscathed.

If you’ve ever thought that one might be able to go through living an abundant life in this country without being a wasta-full creature, you’ve thought wrong: a good wasta can literally subdue the constitutional rights of every single Lebanese citizen if it’s strong enough. And this has happened when a judge in the Metn area issued a ruling whereby mentioning a certain doctor’s name or the case in which they’re involved can render you broke.

Welcome to the country where you can get fined over $30,000 for mentioning a name or a case because that person involved is mighty enough to bend any law to their will. It’s an understatement to call this country we live in the Republic of shame.

In our daily saga of civil rights violations, not only are our bodies prone to become victims of murder, but so can our minds and our intelligence by systems that haven’t yet adapted to the fact that, in 2017, the truth will be out no matter what they do or who they try to suppress.

Shame on the judge who decided that a person’s ego is more important than a victim. Shame on the system that allows such creatures to prosper, perpetuate and stomp over everyone and everything in their wake, as they keep on rising in power and breaking everyone who’s threatening them.

Perhaps our legal system doesn’t know that such measures are a little too late. We all know what took place. We all know the cover ups that were attempted and that are still being attempted. When will our judges and this broken system we’re in learn that we are not the stupid helpless creatures they make us out to be, and that our intelligence will surpass their attempts at suppressing our voices?

You can try and rationalize such a judiciary decision as trying to prevent media from coming up with conspiracy theories or whatever. The fact remains that if it hadn’t been for that media, no one would have known about the case in question in the first place, and the doctor in question would’ve gotten off the hook.

In lawless lands, it is that media that keeps everyone in check. Forcing them to be silent will only lead to further degradation of our rights, as any semblance of laws are thrown out of the window of the highest and most equipped bidder.

People with non-medical backgrounds may not understand the details surrounding this particular topic, but it’s still their right to be informed. It is not the right of any doctor to issue a gag order against anyone who bad-mouthes him. This is not North Korea, and that plastic surgeon is not Kim Jong Un.

Do they really think that censoring us plays in that plastic surgeon’s favor? That it shows them in a better light? That it factors into their innocence?┬áThe only thing it does is show everyone how guilty they are.

In this banana republic, the murderers of Yves Nawfal and Georges El Rif have not yet had their trials take place, and yet this doctor has managed to secure an order that shuts everyone up about who they are and what they’ve done.

In this land they call a country, Annalise Keating would be out of a job because the system does her job for her. But being able to name a plastic surgeon is an extremely rare and difficult event.