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 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.

Roy Hamouche’s Murder Is Horrific, But Calling For The Death Penalty Isn’t The Answer

 

The barbaric murder, at the hands of Mohammad Ahmar and this two friends, of Roy Hamouch, a 24 year old architect, has quickly trumped all other discussions taking place in the country as the entire nation reels from the state of lawlessness we’ve reached. The sad reality is that Roy’s murder isn’t the lone event we all want it to be. It’s become part of a pattern we have in this country, with lack of gun regulations and unbreakable wastas.

With some people being always above the law, and helping those that propagate their agenda be above the law with them, can we truly hope for justice to be served in any of these murders that are becoming more frequently?

As I said in my blog post on the issue yesterday:

In this land they call a country, rule of law does not exist. Some people here can do whatever they want – even kill – and still get away with it through the help of the many Lebanese that are always above the law, on whom there’s no accountability, who never face consequences for their actions.

How many times is the exact same scenario supposed to be repeated before we realize that the way they’re forcing us to live in this jungle is not acceptable anymore, that our lives are not at the mercy of airheads who are bolstered by the power of their wasta and the barrel of their gun.

As such, the more people talked about the horrific killing of Roy Hamouch, the more I’ve seen people demand for the death penalty to be reinstated in Lebanon. So I asked the following question, with a poll, on Twitter and – so far – I’m surprised to find that over 60% of people approve of the death penalty in Lebanon:

The main justification I got for people voting “yes” was that in this lawless nation, the only way to make sure Roy’s killers receive the punishment they deserve is through capital punishment. Some are even calling for reinstitution of public executions. But is calling for a death penalty when emotions are high and reason put on the back-burner the answer to such scenarios?

I’d be lying if I said that question hasn’t conflicted me. You see, my family was touched more than 18 years ago in a murder in the vein of Roy’s, which was all over the news for 3 days, and had everyone talking and coming up with all different kinds of conclusions.

While on a hunting excursion in my hometown, my uncle and his friend encountered an acquaintance of theirs who got out of his house and opened fire on them both. What followed was a night-long stand off with the Lebanese army, the Red Cross unable to collect the bodies of my uncle and his friend, and – ultimately – a call from then president Emile Lahoud to kill the man because capturing him had proved to be immensely difficult due to his Civil War training with a Northern Lebanese political party.

I’d like to think that if my uncle’s murderer hadn’t been killed back then, I wouldn’t want him to receive the death penalty today. Partly because I think death is the “easy” way out for people like him, and partly because I firmly believe that death penalty is a political ploy that serves no purpose and wouldn’t have brought my family closure.

To say the death penalty is a fair and unbiased punishment is delusional. For context, the last time an execution happened in Lebanon was in 1997, and even then the three men who received the death penalty were divided according to sectarian lines: one of them was Maronite, another was Sunni, and the third was Shiite. This is to say that even in such matters of punishment, our sectarian system interferes to make sure that sects don’t feel particularly targeted. Does that translate in a fair punishment when those who receive death are chosen based on how they pray?

The fact of the matter is, unpopular an opinion as it is, the murderers of Roy Hamouch are also victims of the Lebanese condition, as we all are: a country ruled by warlords who propagate this tribalism through allowing people like those who killed Roy to do what they do, and be protected in the process. They keep them poor, uneducated and helpless, with the only hope of a “decent” future for them being them under the wings of some patron as they do his bidding.

The simplest example to that is that Mohammad Hassan Ahmar, the murderer of Roy, being from a poor village in the Baalbak caza named Iaat. He has been in and out of the Roumieh prison before, and has a few more warrants against him. Our system has failed Mohammad. He is a victim of his own conditions, not that that justifies what he did in any way.

We can’t hope for a developed and civil country when we’re advocating for horrific punishments for equally horrific crimes. It’s hypocritical of us to complain about Lebanon not being “civilized” enough when we’re calling for “uncivilized” punishments.

The death penalty has been proven not to deter from horrific crimes, but is actually a tool used by governments to oppress. You can be certain that any Lebanese who receives it is one who doesn’t have a strong enough wasta to protect him from being hanged or shot or receive a lethal injection. Can you imagine the son or daughter of a politician who does as horrific a crime as the murder of Roy Hamouche receiving it?

Calling for death sentences means that we think the people in question are non-redeemable human beings who are not worth being given a chance at trying to better themselves – even if that occurs in a life sentence without parole. This is why reforming our prison system is paramount to enable people, like Mohammad, who have been incarcerated before to actually have a shot at rectifying their lives when they’re released, and not fall back on the only thing they know: being criminals.

Nothing can give back Roy’s family the precious person they lost. The death of my uncle’s killer wasn’t the healing closure that you’d expect in mending the gaping wound that his horrific death left in our family. We need to be more humane humans for us to maybe start healing.

Until then, rest in peace Roy Hamouche. May your parents find solace in you becoming a part of every Lebanese household, and touching the hearts of everyone in this country.

Justice for Roy: When Lebanon Is A Full Blown Jungle, Not A Country

Welcome to the jungle, where you can die because some brainless goon, empowered by his wasta and the guns he has around his waist and in the trunk of his can, will shoot you for upsetting him or for talking down to him. Today Roy Hamouche was that jungle’s latest victim.

Picture this. Roy, an architect, had just finished celebrating his 24th birthday with his friends when he got into an altercation with 3 guys in a windows-tinted BMW. When the immediate altercation ended, those 3 criminals chased Roy and his friends around Beirut until they surrounded their car and forced Roy out.

One of them held out his gun, pointed it to Roy’s head and shot him dead. They tried to shoot Roy’s friend, Johnny Nassar, who managed to narrowly escape them and get wounded in the process.

Today, Lebanon adds yet another victim to the growing list of innocent civilians who are being killed by the horrible state of lawlessness that our politicians have permitted to infest, prosper and permeate in all facets of our society.

It hasn’t been a month yet since Sara Sleiman was the victim of a stray bullet because a known criminal, and a henchman of a very influential Lebanese political party, couldn’t take being stuck because of a car-accident outside a pub in Zahleh.

It hasn’t even been two years since Georges El Rif was chased down by one of the bodyguards of one of Lebanon’s most important banks, and knifed in broad daylight in the middle of Achrafieh. The politician who hired that bodyguard is currently working on acquiring a bank in the United States.

And it’s been slightly more than two years since Yves Nawfal was shot dead by Charbel Khalil, after a similar altercation in Faraya, right after Yves’ 26th birthday. Khalil was also protected by one of Keserwan’s prominent politicians, and was arrested after the immense outrage following Yves’ death forced that politician to relinquish his attempts at protecting the criminal.

The common denominator to all of these murders and horrific acts is one: we live in a country where the people who killed Georges El Rif, Yves Nawfal, Sara Sleiman, Roy Hamouche and many others can do so freely because they are protected by the same establishment whose job is to make sure that Georges, Yves, Sara and Roy can go home safely or celebrate their birthdays and be certain that party won’t be their last or even cut off someone on the road and not find themselves in coffins, their names in a hashtag being circulated across the country.

What’s certain is this: those criminals that chased down Roy, forced him out of his car and shot him in the head are empowered by their wasta that allows them to parade around in an illegal car, filled with firing power, to kill whoever pisses them off in whatever processing power their tiny brain can muster.

Roy Hamouche is not a victim because he got into a fight with the wrong people. He is a victim because our country allows those people to exist, and because if we don’t turn every single horrific murder like Roy’s into a matter of national emergency those very same criminals will soon be forgotten, as whichever politician protecting them goes back to doing what he does best, and they become free to kill and terrorize other people again.

In this land they call a country, rule of law does not exist. Some people here can do whatever they want – even kill – and still get away with it through the help of the many Lebanese that are always above the law, on whom there’s no accountability, who never face consequences for their actions.

How many times is the exact same scenario supposed to be repeated before we realize that the way they’re forcing us to live in this jungle is not acceptable anymore, that our lives are not at the mercy of airheads who are bolstered by the power of their wasta and the barrel of their gun. Many in Lebanon keep weapons and knives in their cars. They roam our streets, threaten our security and our lives, aware that their threats will never be faced with any repercussions. But let our security forces be happy they apprehended someone with a funny license plate, because that’s definitely keeping us safer.

Until then, may Roy Hamouche rest in peace. Yet another person with so much future ahead of him taken way too soon by this lawless land. I hope his family finds solace in having the criminals that took his life be apprehended and dealt the worst of punishments, but NOT the death penalty.