New Apple Based Knefeh & Maamoul: How Tripoli’s Hallab Is Helping Lebanon’s Apple Farmers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, which I have for the past few weeks, you’d know that Lebanon has added yet another crisis to its list, with the latest being that our Apple farmers have no one to buy their product.

In short, the situation in neighboring Syria caused the export market of our apple produce to stagnate, leading to our farmers being unable to liquidate everything they grew during the season. Couple this with the fact that European countries are wary of importing Lebanese apples because of the use of insecticides, as well as very lax Lebanese governmental regulation towards the import of apple from other countries into Lebanon, and you have a crisis on our hands.

Over the past few weeks, Lebanon’s apple farmers have been protesting in an attempt to get the government to buy their products, even if at a loss to them, in order to offset their losses. The problem will remain, however, as long as our government doesn’t regulate the import of foreign goods that have an equivalent counterpart that is locally produced: why the hell do we need to import apples from France if we’ve got thousands of tons of Lebanese apple residing in warehouses across the country stagnating?

But I digress.

To help the struggling farmers make ends meet, Lebanon’s top sweets producer, Tripoli’s Abdul Rahman Hallab figured the best way to do so was to use our country’s apples into new sweets. It’s a win-win situation for both the farmers and Hallab: on one hand, having their products sold is what the farmers want and need, and on the other hand Hallab would be able to add new items to their menu that aren’t present in other Lebanese sweets manufacturers.

Earlier today, after taking my cat to the vet in Tripoli, I met up with my friend Zaher at Le Palais in order to try out their new “lahm b aajin,” except now it’s no longer just lahm with the advent of the soujouk and chicken varieties. I loved them, and recommend you try them.

Over the past few weeks, and in secret in their Tripoli HQ, Hallab bought over a ton of Apples as a trial phase and worked hard on coming up with new sweets that would at first be available exclusively in Tripoli before being distributed their other branches across the country over the coming weeks.

The sweets are as follows:

  1. Knefeh b teffeh: this includes three kinds –> one with apple and ashta, the second with apple and cinnamon, and the third with apple jam.
  2. Apple pie: not your usual apple pie as the crust is the one you’d typically find in Arabian, not Western, sweets.
  3. Apple maamoul: also not your typical maamoul-like entry, but the texture is very similar.
  4. Apple baklava: this comes in addition to their new chocolate based baklava.

I tried the first 3. The Apple baklava was not available when I was visiting. To say the new desserts are phenomenal would be an understatement. Granted, I like apple-based sweets. Apple pies are always awesome. But there’s something about merging apple with traditional Lebanese/Arab sweets that makes the combination extremely good, and I highly recommend it.

My preference is as follows:

  1. The knefeh with apple and cinnamon,
  2. The knefeh with apple and ashta,
  3. The apple pie,
  4. The apple maamoul,
  5. The knefeh with apple jam.

You can’t go wrong with any of them though, as they are all just wonderful.

To note, this is not a paid post. I’m writing it because I thought the gesture towards the farmers is beautiful and it has culminated in new takes on traditional Lebanese food entries that are worth noting. It’s not every day that we can talk about apple based knefeh or maamoul, and based on what Hallab told me those items will run for a limited time as well.

Here’s hoping Lebanon’s farmers find their footing soon. Other companies that are trying to help them include McDonald’s, Spinneys and Classic Burger Joint. I hope others follow suit soon. Until then, make sure you visit Tripoli for the awesome new knefeh (or be lazy and wait until they arrive to a Hallab near you).

 

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Apple to Lebanon: You Are Irrelevant

Even though 4G has launched in Lebanon back in May, Lebanon must get a stamp of approval from Apple in order for users to be able to use 4G on their iPhone 5.

With very few phones available in the market able to use 4G, the need to get the iPhone on board seems like a pressing matter to get the service to truly take off with customers. For instance, the Galaxy S4 doesn’t support 4G even though it was released recently.

Several months after the launch of 4G, where is Lebanon from getting its networks approved by Apple?

Well, according to an interview with Alfa CEO Marwan Hayek in the latest issue of Cloud961, our ministry of telecommunication and our telecom operators tried to get in touch with Apple who were less than responsive, telling Lebanon’s concerned sides that Lebanon “doesn’t exist on [their] map.”

Apple Lebanon 4G

As for Apple, and in order for the 4G LTE service to run on their devices, they have to certify you as a mobile operator and acknowledge Lebanon as a mobile market on their map. We had been in contact with them for that purpose and even the Ministry of Telecom did contact them, but they were very slow to reply to us. We have recently signed an NDA with them which should enable the ball to start rolling.

Until only few weeks ago, they didn’t see Lebanon as a serious market and they tell us “you don’t exist on our map”. 

How better would life be if some Lebanese can grasp the concept that Apple introduced regarding our telecom market and extrapolate it, rightfully so, over the many other facets in our country? Maybe then we’d be able to get out of this constant mess we’re in. 

Will 4G LTE Work On The iPhone in Lebanon?

As of writing this post and as far as I know, the only device in the Lebanese market that is capable of running 4G/LTE is the iPhone 5. LTE enabled android smartphones have not been imported yet and the current ones in the market do not contain that functionality.

However, there is one hurdle that I’m not sure if the ministry of telecommunication is familiar with regarding actually getting 4G to work on the iPhone 5.

No, I’m not talking about the iPhone 5’s model, something I told you about many times before, being the first blog to tell you to buy model A1429 (click here). I am referring to the following:

“Apple’s power over operators is often overstated, but for the first time, a carrier has confirmed that the company conducts its own tests on an LTE network before deciding whether to enable 4G services on iPhones and iPads for customers of that company.

Swiss operator Swisscom admitted that was the case to mobile-focused website Telecoms.com, confirming an Apple policy that many had previously believed to be true. A Swisscom spokesperson told Telecoms.com that the company “only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator’s live network.” (source)

In order for LTE to be enabled on the only LTE phone in the Lebanese market so far, Apple needs to personally verify that the Lebanese network is up to par. Have we received any Apple technicians in the country to test out the 4G network ahead of the pilot phase and subsequent commercial launch in April?

The iOS 6.1 update brought LTE functionality to a multitude of European and Middle Eastern countries. The functionality is not via activating the chip in the phone, it is enabling the toggle which allows an iPhone’s user to access their carrier’s LTE network. In order for us to receive this toggle in Lebanon, we will require another iOS update. Will Apple do one specifically for us and possibly other smaller markets in case they come and test our upcoming 4G LTE networks?

Seeing as much more important markets, especially European ones, had to wait months for the 6.1 update, I doubt.

This is the current state of the network data settings:

LTE toggle iPhone 5 - 2

 

And this is how it should be:

LTE toggle iPhone 5

I am writing this because I’m not sure if this issue has been brought up to those who are concerned with launching 4G in Lebanon. Having LTE work on our iPhones is not as simple as having the service activated on our sim cards and it also involves much more than simply having a functional network in the country’s main cities.

Lebanese iTunes Store Launches Movies Section

Who doesn't love Wall-E?

Who doesn’t love Wall-E?

Apple seems to be adopting a very aggressive strategy rolling out new iTunes services to international markets. Only days after Lebanon got the music iTunes store added to its already existing AppStore, the country’s iTunes Store now has its own bonafide movies section, albeit the selection isn’t that extensive.

Here are the current top-selling movies at the Lebanese store:

Lebanese iTunes Store top movies

The prices range from $9.99 for the Disney bunch to $18.99 for new releases such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Each movie is more than 1.5GB of downloads in SD format and about 4GB in HD, which makes you wonder: how are the people buying these movies actually downloading them?

Lebanese iTunes Store movies

There’s also a separate section for Arabic movies which currently contains a pitiful selection of obviously horrid Egyptian movies.

All in all, this is a nice improvement for the store. The music section seems to have decent enough sales to have a top 200 ranking, although most of those are not Lebanese music which discredits the idea that Lebanese expats would be the store’s main clientele.

Hopefully a books section gets launched soon and the Lebanese iTunes store would become complete. Now let’s instill the mentality in people’s heads that buying online using a debit or credit card is okay, secure and that trusted companies are not out there to get you.

Apple Launches Lebanese iTunes Music Store

iTunes Music Store Lebanon

This should be interesting. Apple has launched iTunes’ Music Store in over 56 countries yesterday, one of those being Lebanon. In addition to the AppStore which Lebanese customers had for a while now, they’ll be able to – yes you guessed it – buy songs and albums online, however far-fetched that happening might be.

In addition to Lebanon, Apple’s iTunes Music Store has launched in other countries of the region such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain as well as Israel. This means it’s the first time the region gets a legal alternative for websites such as Nogomi which allow free downloads of music.

I personally buy most of the music I listen to off the American iTunes Store. Some Lebanese have called me crazy for doing so. So I wonder how many Lebanese are actually willing to leave their music piracy ways behind and start paying for the music they listen to? I’m sure it won’t be many.

iPhone 5 in Lebanon: The LTE “Issue”

Many people have been asking which countries they can purchase an iPhone 5 from and have it function normally in Lebanon.

The confusion is because the iPhone 5 will support different frequencies of LTE depending on the country you get it from. For a full list of those frequencies, click here.

What many Lebanese users are forgetting is the following.

  1. We are not getting LTE in Lebanon anytime soon. I have it from trusted sources within Alfa and MTC that it will be a few years before LTE goes out of trial phase in Lebanon, which obviously makes sense. I mean it hasn’t been a year even since 3G was rolled out.
  2. By the time LTE becomes available in Lebanon, Apple would have released iPhone 10 and odds are you would have given up on your iPhone 5 by then and upgraded.
  3. The iPhone 5 keeps the same frequencies the 4S and the 4 used to connect to 3G and older cellular generations and as we all know, older generation iPhones work well  – or as well as a smartphone can work – in Lebanon.

What does it all mean?

It means that you can buy an unlocked iPhone 5 from the US, France, Italy, Australia – any country basically – and have it work in Lebanon. Your only problem remaining is to find a nano sim. Good luck with that.

iPhone 5 in Lebanon: The Nano Sim Problem

20120917-104841.jpg

With Apple unveiling their new iPhone 5, a problem has surfaced for Lebanese users who want to purchase the phone and it is the SIM card that the phone uses.
Ditching the micro sim that was made popular by the iPhone 4, the iPhone 5 uses a new generation of SIM cards called nano sims.
The standard was only approved a few months ago so it’s still not available in many countries and the iPhone 5 will be the first phone to use this standard.

20120917-105201.jpg

Unlike micro sims, you can’t cut a bigger sim into a nano sim which is how most early iPhone 4 adopters managed before the microsim became available in early fall of 2010, almost 3 months after the initial release of the iPhone 4.

Alfa has issued a statement that it will be getting nano sims soon. But that’s soon in Lebanese standards which might mean a few months. So for those who rushed to pre-order their iPhones already and expect to have them in Lebanon in the coming weeks, you’ll be stuck with your older phones until an “unconfirmed” date.

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But hey, at least you’ll have that gorgeous device to keep you busy until then. Right?