Help Out Lebanese Band “Adonis” in Pepsi’s Band Slam

Lebanese band Adonis is participating in a competition held by Pepsi that’s bringing together bands from the region and getting them to compete in order to become the band that would open up Pepsi Night, which will conclude the Dubai Music festival.

Adonis are late for the competition – they’ve already missed one day out of the 4-day competition, because, as I’m sure you have guessed by now, they faced visa issues in traveling to the UAE.

Adonis Lebanese band Pepsi Band Slam

 

In order to vote, go to the following website (link), click on Rate The Band and vote for Adonis.

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Comparing Beirut To Dubai

An American writer for the Huffington Post wrote an article today titled: “Thank you, Beirut. Your Friend, Dubai” in which she basically paralleled the rise of Dubai to the gradual decline and possible near-demise (never ever?) of Beirut.

The writer’s opinion of the Lebanese capital was favorable – even favorable of the go-to Lebanese scarecrow for Americans Hezbollah, trying to explain its popularity among many Lebanese and the reason for its increasing political strength.

In typical fashion, Lebanese across the internet have been sharing the article fervently. It’s about Lebanon. It’s about Beirut. It’s by a very prominent publication. Click, click away.

However, the question I want to ask is the following: is comparing and contrasting Beirut to Dubai warranted?

I, for one, think drawing similarities between the two cities is comparing apples to oranges for the following reasons:

1) Beirut was never made out of money. When you talk about Beirut, you don’t talk about an economical hub for a region or a city made entirely because they discovered oil beneath its soils. You talk about a city which made itself by itself and who, when the factors leading to its prosperity are affected, undoes itself by itself.

2) Beirut has never had poured into it the same amount of money going into Dubai daily. The Lebanese economy – even in its heyday – has never been as strong as the Emirati economy is (or was if we’re accounting for the recession). Up until a few years ago, we didn’t have oil. We won’t see any benefits from that oil until 2018 at the most optimistic expectations (link) and I’m sure the economy driving Beirut won’t be nowhere near comparable to that of Dubai anytime soon.

3) Beirut and Dubai have two entirely different experiences to give their visitors. The joke goes “I’ve never been to Dubai but I’ve been to Zaytounay Bay.” Many moguls are sure trying to turn Beirut into a new Dubai. But I believe their attempts will end up futile. They can build as much malls as they want and spend copious amounts of money into flashy projects that pale in comparison to any developments in more developed countries. They can build the fanciest hotels and the most hedonic of night clubs. But the fact of the matter remains, and it shows in the point the article’s author tried to make: Dubai is for show and Beirut is for heart, however tacky that might be. Can you compare both?

4) By comparing Beirut to Dubai, the comparison can be extended to the countries holding the two cities. Is the “Lebanon” experience of tourism compared to the “UAE” experience? I highly doubt it.

5) The governing bodies behind Beirut and Dubai are highly different. On one hand, you have an iron-first ruling with a twist of enough liberalism not to step on bigger political toes. On the other hand, you have a state barely keeping it politically together as everyone fights for a piece of the Lebanese cake.

Beirut is a city with woes. There’s political instability at every turn. Civil strife can erupt at any moment. The city is that of 18 sects trying to live together while working for their communitarian benefits, some of which are mutually exclusive with those of others. But don’t you think that for a city as chaotic, with a serious lack of infrastructure and urban design, to be compared to Dubai at every point is poignant enough to tell which city has more promise? And If Dubai’s oil reserves ran out tomorrow and its economy started going down the drain and the expats in it decided their futures better be spent elsewhere, would it still be the mega-brilliant city everyone makes it out to be today?

Jennifer Lopez, The Lebanese Flag and Silly National Pride

It took Jennifer Lopez holding the Lebanese flag at her Dubai concert for some Lebanese to feel proud about their country’s independence day. They thought it was her way of wishing our country a happy independence day. And they ate it up.

Soon enough, everyone was talking about exactly how genuine a person Jennifer Lopez is and how honorable it was of her and how proud they are as Lebanese that their – our – country was recognized this way. Well, they thought wrong.

A friend of mine who went to the concert in Dubai told me that when she grabbed the Lebanese flag, Jennifer Lopez shouted “Dubai!” which meant that she thought our flag was that of the United Arab Emirates. I’m surprised no one bothered bringing that up till now actually.

It is always customary of artists going for concerts abroad to hold the flag of their hosting country. Jennifer Lopez didn’t bother with the UAE flag. Isn’t that an insult to the country that actually paid enough to bring her to sing on its grounds? And what makes Lebanon so important that she’d rather hold our flag at a concert not even held on our land?

Our sense of fake chauvinism knows no limit it seems.

Lebanon has its flaws. It’s a hopeless place to live in sometimes. It has a lot of shortcomings and I’ll be the first to point them out as I’ve done many times (here’s a sample). But I don’t need Jennifer Lopez holding my country’s flag for me to feel overwhelmingly happy about the country I live in. And frankly I find it sad that some Lebanese need this “validation” coming from a pop star of their country for them to feel some ounce of national pride which so ironically happened to be on a national day that they are too willing to dismiss as absolutely useless.

Jennifer Lopez doesn’t know what Lebanon’s flag looks like. She probably doesn’t even know we exist. The whole flag debacle is all mere irony. Now how’s that treating your silly national pride?

Middle East Airlines (MEA) Responds Regarding Flight 427

For the sake of being fair, MEA responded regarding what happened on flight 427, which I told you about yesterday. In a Facebook statement, they said the following:

To our fans, customers and readers alike,

In the past week or so, videos and pictures have been circulated on the web pointing out problems customers have faced on a couple of MEA flights. They included service quality issues such as an out of use seat and a dysfunctional display unit amongst others. These videos and pictures created with the intention of raising awareness about MEA’s customer service, and which have caused others to provide valuable comments and feedback, have been taken on-board whole heartedly.

Anyone who flies regularly will probably have experienced at some time or another that service on an airline can vary from flight to flight. As such, our company’s priority is to strive to deliver a consistent service across the board. The best way to provide this consistency in our view is to listen to customers’ feedback addressing their issues whenever possible, to implement the latest technologies and systems throughout the company as they become available, and finally to undertake all our usual measures to assess consistency through thorough quality control of flight safety, in-flight services, entertainment and overall passenger comfort.

Here at MEA, we feel it is our duty not only to our customers, but to the country as a whole to accurately represent our nation by reflecting our reputation for outstanding hospitality in every aspect of the service we provide as an airline. Currently, our fleet is being expanded as some may already know from our recent campaign “5000 Mabrouk” where we unveiled our brand new A320 aircraft. We’re expecting two more aircraft to be delivered in coming months. We have also finished planning the new cargo center which will be spread over 20,000 sq. m. of land, will contain a hangar with a 5,000 sq. m. capacity for exports and another 10,000 sq. m. hangar for imported goods, in addition to a large parking lot.

In light of the videos we have seen, the comments provided in social forums and the valuable feedback we are receiving online, we are glad to announce that we will be increasing our presence in various social media to provide dynamic interaction with our customer base worldwide. While we encourage everyone to describe their experience on MEA flights through social media and contact us by whichever means available, we’d like to remind our customers that the most direct means of communication for requests and complaints to be handled effectively within the shortest timeframe is by emailing saader@mea.com.lb (Customer Services Department).

Sincerely,
The MEA Team

As I said in my post regarding the matter, I refused to crucify MEA, as some were doing, for what happened on the flight. I’m sure it happens on other airlines as well. But I blamed them on the way they handled things. This is a step in the right direction. I hope they continue with it and it doesn’t become another Lebanese “saff 7ake” as they say.

Based on many emails I got, as well as comments on other blogs that wrote about this story, many have not been happy customers with MEA. If Mr. Dajani’s story, despite some flaws in the way it was handled, has gotten them to be more aware, then I’m one happier person. And in the long run, if MEA truly ups their game, I’m sure they’d be a happier company as well.

In the age of Facebook, twitter and blogging, Lebanese customers need to know that they have a stronger voice than before and that they can speak up in case something out of line happens. Odds are they will get a response. Good job MEA. Crisis averted?

MEA Flight Number 427, Dubai – Beirut: Broken Tables and TVs, Dirty Floor, Bad Customer Service

Hussein Dajani is like any other Lebanese expat who feels a belonging to home. His airline of choice is to go and see his land and family is non-other than his country’s own Middle East Airlines (MEA). Why not support your country’s company that’s supposedly among the world’s top airliners?

Once he boarded flight number 427, taking him from Dubai to Beirut, Dajani felt something was wrong. The scorching heat of Dubai was blowing full force inside the plane. There was no AC. He figured it was a glitch. But when the AC refused to start, he knew something was wrong. As the plane took off, his attention turned to other things. Some of the tables were broken. The entertainment system in the plane was all messed up. He looked around and noticed the plane was seriously dirty. Looking in front of him, he saw a safety leaflet. He opened the safety leaflet and there was a chewing gum sticking it together.

Dajani was outraged. He called for the hostess to see what was wrong. Instead of being calming and reassuring, the hostess was patronizing in typical Lebanese ways “ya 7ayete, ya albe….” So he decided to take it into his own hands. He went around and started to interview people on the airplane. He wasn’t the only one who was suffering on the flight. In business class, he met with minister Jihad Azour who also thought the flight was all kinds of wrong. They exchanged contact information to pursue the matter.

Once he landed, Dajani took it to MEA’s Facebook page. Even though he found response from people who shared his ordeal, MEA ignored him. They eventually deleted his Facebook posts and banned him from their page.

Today, Marcel Ghanem’s Kalem el Neis and MTV’s Enta 7or are interested in pursuing the matter. I’ve decided to help Dajani as well. Why do I want to do that? Because Lebanese companies trampling on their customers needs to stop. We, as people, have become used to horrible customer service that we take it as part of the package. This shouldn’t be acceptable. Buying a product or a service doesn’t mean you need to put up with typical Lebanese mentality of “dabber 7alak” as soon as the purchase is fulfilled.

If MEA didn’t know the plane was in bad condition, the least they can do is issue an apology and a refund. If MEA knew about the plane’s condition, then that’s way worse.

Sure, other airlines experience such problems as well. It is not out of the ordinary. But other airlines assume responsibility as well. I don’t judge MEA based on that flight – after all, they are rated very well. But I judge them on how they handled it afterwards. You cannot simply ban a person who’s complaining from your Facebook page and expect no response whatsoever. You simply can’t offer such horrible service to people and expect them not to talk back.

It gets worse. While interviewing people, someone told Dajani he overheard the crew saying this plane should have been put out of service a while back for repairs and maintenance. Then why wasn’t it? Why was it still used for transporting people if they knew it was in bad shape? Or do the lives of people not matter in front of a money? Or are we seeking another national tragedy to feel relevant?

MEA might have lots of good publicity. But it takes one scandal to put it way back. I’m already reconsidering using MEA for my flight this summer. And no, that doesn’t make me unpatriotic.

I’ll leave you with a few videos and pictures.