The Mankousheh Culture: Lebanon’s Zaatar W Zeit Launches World Mankousheh Day

 

If there’s anything I miss about Lebanon, apart from my friends and family, it’s the food. Say what you want about the country – and after living in the U.S. for around half a year, I can definitely tell you I still have a lot to berate where I come from about – but the food is just something else. Not only is our diet healthy, but it’s also extremely tasty. I’ve come to appreciate that after my many months in America.

As far as I can remember, a hallmark of a Lebanese breakfast has been the mankousheh. My school had a small store in our common area that sold them whenever we had recess. My dad’s aunt was a baker and for as long as she lived, I remember her tiny black dresses with Zaatar stains on them from the mankoushes she used to bake and sell. Then, when we grew up and moved to cities, we moved to more “sophisticated” iterations, with whole wheat, and the like.

The fact remains, however, that Lebanon is a country of the mankoushe culture. And frankly, would you have it any other way?

On November 2nd, Zaatar w Zeit, whose rise to prominence among Lebanon’s diners was because of its take on the mankousheh (I mean, just look at their name), is announcing World Mankousheh Day to celebrate our heritage when it comes to this item that’s quite literally synonymous with every Lebanese growing up, to further potentiate the Lebanese identity of such a traditional meal.

In recent years, the mankousheh has gone through many changes, be it with ZWZ or other chains that produce it: different types of doughs, different toppings, etc… On World Mankoushe Day, however, the celebration is about going back to the basics of it all, the mankousheh that we all know, and that I believe was the first for all of us: zaatar, zeit and fresh out of the oven.

Cheers to our heritage, whether it’s men l forn or 3al saj or any other variety.

I commend ZWZ on such a great move. Here’s to further celebrations in Lebanese cuisine to further cement their identities in an ever changing world.

PS: If you’re in Lebanon, ZWZ is offering free mana’eesh all day today! 

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Beirut: A Major Hollywood Movie With Jon Hamm & Rosamund Pike Will Be Released in 2018

Cringe moment incoming, or at least I hope it’s not.

Coming in April 2018 is a major Hollywood movie from director Brad Anderson who’s known for movies such as The Machinist, The Call, and Transsiberian is going to be releasing a new movie featuring Rosamund Pike and Jon Hamm titled “Beirut.”

Rosamund Pike’s breakthrough role was most recently in “Gone Girl” for which she received an Oscar nomination, whereas Jon Hamm is known for his role in Mad Men and most recently in the great “Baby Driver.”

Jon Hamm is Mason Skiles, a former U.S. diplomat who returns to service to save a former colleague, whereas Rosamund Pike’s role will be a CIA field agent working undercover at the American embassy who’s tasked with keeping Mason alive and ensuring the mission is a success, as per Wikipedia.

The movie is also written by Tony Gilroy who’s responsible for movies such as The Bourne Trilogy, Star Wars: Rogue One, Nightcrawler and a lot of episodes of House of Cards.

There’s not much information available about the movie as of now except that it’s about a former U.S. diplomat who returns to service in order to save a former colleague of theirs who happens to be in Beirut from the group responsible for the death of his family.

The project has been in the works since 2015, and was filmed during 2016 in Tangier, Morocco, which has me assuming their portrayal of Beirut is going to be less of how the city actually is and more like a Qandahar war-torn desert city, far from its current reality, especially if the movie is another perpetuation of the civil war reputation surrounding the city.

Ironically, the movie is set for release on April 13th – the memorial day of Lebanon’s Civil War. Coincidence is probably not the case here.

Regardless, I hope the movie ends up entertaining and thought provoking enough. Given the people behind it, I am hopeful it will be the case though it being released so early in the year next year means it’s not really geared towards awards consideration, as much as they want it to be a money grabber.

I bet this movie will also be a hit in Lebanon as people flock to theaters to watch their own capital memorialized in film. I just hope whatever product Hollywood ends up giving does it justice, albeit doubtful.

No trailers for the movie have been released yet.

How A Tweet Launched A Mini Regional Crisis: Mossad Launches #TelAvivLovesBeirut, and Beirut Responds

As part of an article on rising travel destinations, Forbes Magazine listed both Tel Aviv and Beirut as some of the locations that Americans are becoming increasingly interested in visiting. As such, an Israeli investment manager called Mark Leibowitz tweeted in celebrating, inadvertently tagging Beirut.com’s twitter account thinking they were the official representatives of the city.

As such, Beirut.com replied from their twitter account that they wanted to be “excluded from the narrative” echoing the ever wise Taylor Swift circa 2016 with her reply to the Kanye West/Kim Kardashian drama. It’s also a narrative they did not choose to partake in in the first place. What they meant was that they wanted their official twitter account not to be associated with such a thing given they’re not representatives of the city in any way. What Mark Leibowitz understood of it was an act of aggression over the statement he made.

Of course, Beirut.com’s reply was not taken on too kindly by the Israeli twitterverse that responded aplenty:

And, naturally, the Mossad intervened.

Of course, such silly hashtag by one of the world’s leading intelligence agencies regarding a country they’re at war with and have been in active conflict with nearly 11 years ago did not sit well with the Lebanese populace on in Twitter.

It hasn’t been a year yet since these threats were made by Israeli politicians against the Lebanese people:

Some of the Lebanese replies though are as follows:

Another day, another drama.

It’s fortunate that hashtags and Twitter wars remain as online media through which people can vent without actual damage being done, or at least damage in the literal sense of the word of what usually takes place when Lebanon and Israel clash.

It’s immensely silly that the Israeli Mossad tried to brush away years of conflict between the two countries with a hashtag as silly as the one they came up with, or that some of the Israelis responding were not aware there’s more to the conflict between the two countries than what began 71 years ago when their country was founded.

If Tel Aviv truly “loved” Beirut, they would refrain their politicians from launching threats at Beirut whenever they want to give a boost to their political credentials, and own up to their own record of attacking Lebanese civilians, admit to the countless war crimes they’ve committed in Lebanon – and that’s for starters. But of course, watch them blurt out Hezbollah as a response.

I may not support all facets of Lebanese censorship or prosecution when it comes to Israel-related entities, but I cannot also stand and watch my country’s own destruction be washed off under a meme.

 

“West Beirut” and “The Insult” Director Ziad Doueiri Arrested in Beirut Because His Last Movie Was In Israel

Pity the nation that insults its people as other nations honor them.

Ziad Doueiri is probably the most essential contemporary Lebanese cinematic director. His movie “West Beirut” is probably the most renowned Lebanese movie for the past 2 decades and his latest “The Insult” just made its debut at the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews and a best actor win for Kamel El Basha, starring as Yasser in the aforementioned movie.

And yet, here we are, with such a Lebanese pioneer being arrested because his prior movie, The Attack, was set in Israel even if it did not show the Israeli state in a good light.

I had the chance to watch The Attack in 2013 when I was with a friend in Paris. That same movie had been banned in Lebanon because it was set in Israel. Understandable, given the country couldn’t even handle a movie where the main actress was Israeli. And even though I was not a fan of that movie at the time, I was still able to commend the fact that it commanded a discussion. Be it with the other Lebanese who watched it with me, or the French people in that theatre who were wondering about what the details the movie discussed actually meant.

“The Insult” opens in theaters in Lebanon in a few days. Local movie reviewers such as Anis Tabet have given it a glowing recommendation. But that seems not to be on the same wavelength of the Lebanese state that’s arrested Mr. Doueiri at our airport for “dealing with the enemy.” He was coming here prior to the Tuesday premiere of his movie.

It’s horrifying to see how narrow-minded we can be and how despicable our levels can sink when dealing with the people of our country that help raise our voice on international levels, such as Mr. Doueiri, because of convoluted measures that have no reflection whatsoever on reality: a person filming a movie in Israel does not mean they are in bed with the enemy.

Following his arrest at the airport, Doueiri’s Lebanese and French passports were both confiscated. He is scheduled to stand trial in front of Military Court tomorrow at 9AM, Beirut time. Meanwhile, his movie “The Insult” has been selected by the Lebanese Ministry of Culture to represent Lebanon at the upcoming Academy Awards.

Bipolarity much? Not only are they arresting him five years after he had been in Israel and after multiple visits back to Beirut, but you can’t also arrest a director for “treason”, and then use him to propel you on the international cinematic stage. You can’t arrest a Lebanese citizen and then use his work to wash away the many failings that constitute your modern republic.

The arrest of Ziad Doueiri comes after a complaint lodged against him. Expect the campaign against the director to go into full blown mania soon.

It’s not just the lack of consistency that’s horrifying, it’s the absolute carelessness of our basic rights as citizens, and the fact we are at the whim of some entities that have nothing better to do.

The entire notion that Military Court can judge civil issues is abysmal. It’s even worse when you realize that Doueiry was in Lebanon to film “The Insult,” even spending two weeks doing so at the country’s highest court.

The question therefore becomes: why now? What prompted them to realize just before his movie’s Lebanese release that he has a troublesome past?

I bet some people in Lebanon would be happy to see Mr. Doueiri foresake his Lebanese citizenship. After all, the bar at which some label others as traitors seems to fluctuate depending on whether their existence is essential or not. At the rate we’re going, he wouldn’t be mistaken to do so. After all, we have no issue with any other foreigner who’s visited Israel to come into the country as long as their passport doesn’t have a stamp.

Utterly despicable. Here’s hoping the Prime Minister and our government see through this bullshit.

Update: he’s been cleared by military court.

Lebanon, The Only Country With A St. Charbel, Celebrates Having The Biggest St. Charbel Statue In The World

A 26 meter St. Charbel statue made its journey from Jounieh to Faraya. If that’s not enough of a Keserwan dose for one day for anyone, I don’t know what is.

The problem is it doesn’t stop there. The problem is that this huge statue is being celebrated as some kind of national achievement, à la the giant plate of hummus we made to beat Israel as they continuously attempt to appropriate our national food.

Except there’s really nothing to prove to the world or to ourselves or to even Mar Charbel himself here, and there’s no other society on Earth today that’s setting out to beat us when it comes to how big we can make a Mar Charbel statue. Why? Because there’s no other country on Earth that has a Mar Charbel to begin with, and no other country celebrates this particular saint as much as we do.

I’m beginning to think St. Rafca and St. Hardini are beginning to get jealous at the amount of attention Maronites put towards St. Charbel while completely ignoring the fact they have a bunch of other saints to indulge with endless veneration. But please don’t get any more ideas for 26 meter statues.

The fact of the matter is this St. Charbel statue is not a national triumph. It’s not even a religious triumph. If anyone knows any inkling about the life of St. Charbel, they’d have known that his entire life was centered around that which is humble. His pillow was a wooden log. His mattress was a thin layer of cotton on the floor. His entire life was a celebration of what it is to be a human who knows that pride is not how you heal your soul.

And yet here’s a 26 meter statue of him being paraded around as some form of victory. For whom? For him? He’s probably nauseous at the site of it wherever he is. For Maronite pride? It’s pitiful if that entity needs a 26 meter flag for validation. For Keserwan to have some claim to being a religious pilgrimage site for the country as it boasts to being the beacon of Maronitism while every saint in this country lays elsewhere?

This 26 meter St. Charbel statue is yet another example of a practice that we as Lebanese excel at: the art of vanity. Even in prayer and religion, two acts which should be as subdued and restricted to one’s person, we have to get out of our way to prove – no idea to whom – that we can do it bigger, flashier, and better.

I wonder, what does Faraya have to do with St. Charbel in the first place? He was not from there. His town Bkaakafra, in the heart of the North, is long forgotten in this equation. He was not buried there – Annaya, Lebanon’s top pilgrimage site seems not to be part of this. The only reason why such a gigantic statue would be placed in a town whose entire economy revolves around tourism can be summed up with one word: boasting. It’s a “mine is bigger than yours” country.

Picture this from now: visit Faraya, home of Lebanon’s most visited slopes… and the biggest statue of the country’s most famous saint.

What this statue does is further numb the masses to the many failings that their politicians have dealt them by giving them the opioids they crave most: look at how big we can make your religion look. It’s only a matter of time before the region’s and other Maronites politicians rise to the mantle of declaring themselves responsible for such a statue. Remember this come Election time, for they will remind you of it.

For a saint whose entire existence was to get his fellow Christians to rise beyond their idolatry, this statue is the biggest insult one can deal him. You’re not doing St. Charbel proud by erecting a 40 ton statue of him. You’re not making him proud by boasting about this being the world’s biggest, a foolish claim to say the least. We’re not proving anything to the world except how unfocused and deluded our priorities are as a nation if we go gaga over a statue whose purpose is to boost someone’s ego.

I wonder, as a closing thought, what this statue cost. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on a statue of a saint that could have been spent in donating money to the Monastery where that saint’s body resides or, better yet, to his village to better its infrastructure or, even better, actually help the needy societies – Maronite or otherwise – of this country, for that is what Charbel would’ve wanted.

Until then, enjoy the traffic.

In Battle Against ISIS, Lebanon’s Army Pays Tribute To Spain’s Terrorist Attacks Victims


As Lebanon’s Army General Joseph Aoun tweeted the commencement of operation “Fajr el Jouroud,” which translates to “the dawn of the mountains,” Lebanon’s Army has started its full blown assault at the remaining entities of ISIS that are still plaguing the mountain regions of Al-Qaa and Aarsal, on Lebanon’s Northeastern Border with Syria.

I am confident that our army will be victorious. In only 24 hours, they’ve captured lands that were controlled by the terrorists and have planted their flag, as well as the Lebanese flag, on many hilltops that had been – up to that point – controlled by the cancerous entities that had tried to spread among Lebanese society without fruition.
This assault at ISIS in order to push them back from where they came and secure our Northeastern Border is a moment of triumph for the country against everything that ISIS is and that it has done.

Today, remember the Lebanese victims of Istanbul’s attack on New Year’s Eve. Remember the suicide attacks of Borj Al Barajneh that killed over forty people in 2015. Remember the many bombings against the Army in Arsal. Remember the suicide attacks in Qaa that killed 5 people. Remember the Jabal Mohsen attack in Tripoli. Remember every single victim in this country whose entire future was wiped away by these people whose entire cause revolves around making everyone else afraid of living.

In the midst of this assault on ISIS, Lebanon’s Army didn’t forget that its sacrifices and struggles against the terrorists are not only restricted by the borders of the country it’s fighting in. In fighting ISIS, Lebanon’s Army is going international in the fight against ISIS, and this is exemplified by the above picture of an army solider planting the Spanish flag on top of a liberated hill along with the Lebanese flag.

As such, this battle against ISIS in Lebanon is a triumph for the world too. It’s for the multi-national victims of those terrorist cowards in Spain. It’s for the victims of the attacks in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin, Istanbul, and Egypt’s Copts. It’s a triumph for those people whose only “fault” was being of a certain country, at certain locations, of certain religions, of being people whose entire existence frightened those terrorists and their message.

I hope Lebanon’s Army plants more of our flags on more hills as they fully liberate our lands from such pests. I hope Lebanon’s people stay united behind the army in such tough and dark times, as we try to move forward as a country towards more secure borders, in synchrony with how important such measures are for the entire world.

Fuck ISIS. 

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.