Lebanese Mothers Who Make Lebanon Proud Today

Like every year, when Mother’s Day turns up, your social media channels get flooded with pictures of your friends with their mothers, Facebook statuses to announce unending love and gratitude (before they go piss off their mother the following day), and endless messaging among siblings to find that perfect gift.

I’ve written many of those posts on this blog before. You can check those here and here in case you feel like it. This year around, however, I figured the best way to increase the relevance of Mother’s Day is to highlight Lebanese mothers who have shaped the country as we know it today.

The list is not extensive nor is it exhaustive.  The following women are from different domains and are on this list for different reasons, but they all share something in common: they’ve proven that motherhood serves to add, not define who women are, especially in a region that tells them the former is all they’ll amount to be.

Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad

Around these parts of the world, it is usually believed that a woman getting married and having children signals the beginning of the end of her productivity as a person. That’s what social norms say, but not if you follow the Gospel according to Joumana Haddad. One of Lebanon’s leading women when it comes to public opinion, she never shied away from controversy. She defends the sexual liberation of women, their right to do whatever they want, sleep with whoever they want whenever they want. She defends the role of women in societies. She abhors the effect that religious establishments have on women rights in our societies. She was very recently considered by Bahrain to be worse than terrorists as they banned her entry for being an atheist. And for that, she can’t not be on the list.

Lena Gebrane

Lena Gebrane

She may not be a household name, but the NGO that she founded certainly is. Following the death of her son Hady in 2006 at the tender age of 18, Lena Gebrane turned her grief into action and pioneered the way to create one of Lebanon’s most prominent NGOs “Kunhadi,” which has worked tirelessly since its creation to create awareness over road safety in Lebanon, especially among its youth. Her goal is to not let any Lebanese mother feel what she has felt. Sadly enough, many still do. But how many mothers today owe their family’s wholeness to Lena Gebrane’s sleepless nights? She has shown that being a mother extends beyond just having a child.

Dima Sadek


Dima Sadek

Dima Sadek is the kind of women who make it look all too easy. She manages to host LBC’s news, arguably the country’s most watched. She also has her own daytime political talk show where she has never shied away from talking tough stances and getting her guests to listen to a healthy dose of truth, even if it means them storming out. Good riddance. She has also managed to become a fashion role model for many women across the country in the very brief time since she became a household name, all while being a great role model to the young girl she’s raising.

Mona Abou Hamzeh

Mona Abou Hamzeh.

She hosts one of Lebanon’s most watched primetime shows. It is as such not because of its “light” nature, but because of her. She made “Talk of the Town” into what it is today, a viable competitor to the veteran show “Kalam Ennas” at the same time-slot on a different TV station. A woman running a TV show solely on primetime is not a rare thing in these parts of the world, but to have a show as successful as Abou Hamzeh’s is. Her demeanor, charm and presentation skills aren’t the only reasons she’s great. The bravery with which she handled her husband’s falling from grace over the past year as well as the support she provided her family while their entire status changed showed how strong Mona Abou Hamzeh is as a woman and as a mother. She didn’t succumb to the scandal that caught her off guard, like society usually asks of women here, but braced through it and emerged victorious.

Nancy Ajram

Nancy Ajram

She sells out arenas, conjures one chart-topping hit after the next, produces one music video after the next, churns out super-selling albums every other year, and still finds time to support the Lebanese army, women and children across the region through various charities, be the regional ambassador for several brands, judge on Arab Idol and be the Arab artist with the most video views on YouTube, ever. Long gone are the days of Nancy Ajram being synonymous with sultry. Many wondered if Ajram’s motherhood would stop her upward trajectory of fame. She proved them wrong by continuing to be one of the region’s most influential and well-known singers, as well as a full time mom to two gorgeous young girls.

The Mothers of Lebanon’s Kidnapped Soldiers

I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for a mother to lose a son, but to have her son’s life be stuck in the balance of a political game for months now and still manage to get up in the morning to tend to the rest of her family must be a whole other level of achievement. They’re not famous. I don’t even know their names. But I know they’ve been working tirelessly to try and get their children to safety, to get our government to do something, anything, even as news kept becoming more and more dismal. And for that, Mother’s Day cannot pass without saluting those mothers too.

Your Mother, Too

This can’t end without a section about your mother as well. Once a year, the country stands to salute our mothers, which is something it should do every day. By being proud of us in spite of our faults, they push us to be better and strive for better. By raising us the best way they can, they are the catalyst towards a, hopefully, better future for the country and for ourselves. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough food at the table, would rather you eat while she goes to bed hungry. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough money, would rather you get new clothes than replace her worn out shoes. She’s the one who, despite being incapacitated beyond belief through one illness or the next, would still get out of bed to prepare you lunch. She’s the one you call “weinik/ak” on your phone, the one who’s always first to comment on your picture with “to2borne/to2brine nchallah,” who gushes with joy whenever she thinks about you and whom you won’t be able to repay.

Yes, this is to your mother, too.

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Racism & Slavery: The Perfect Gift For A Lebanese Mother

Mother’s day is coming up and the mass hysteria surrounding the perfect gift to get our mothers is on an upward trajectory all this week. Should I get her a new home appliance, or would that send the wrong message? Should I just get flowers, or would that be too tacky?

Well, it seems that the answer is easier than you think. Why don’t you just get a bunch of “help” to your mother, discounts guaranteed?

Posted on Kafa’s Facebook page today is the following screenshot of a text message that a woman named Rola Koubaissy received:

Isn’t that such a good deal? They have special offers on Kenyans and Ethiopians. How is that not even a bargain?

Lebanon isn’t a country where sensibilities towards those of a different skin color are respected. Racism is widely present, sometimes unintentional and sometimes fully intended. All of the country’s migrant workers, especially the darker their skin goes, are victims of racism, horrifying lack of basic human rights and dismal salaries that many even find are “high” to pay for such “creatures.” But we’re paying them too much, a Lebanese woman would say about her maid’s $200 salary, as she clutches the bag she just purchased somewhere for about 10 times that amount.

You see these people who risk everything to come to this country of ours and get called dumb, stupid even when they learn our language and our ways from scratch. You see them being told off in public. You see them being placed on separate tables in restaurants or kept standing holding a purse while the family eats. Their passports are hijacked, they are imprisoned in our homes but few are those who find anything wrong with that.

And because all of that wasn’t enough, there are companies now that are publicly discounting them based on their passport. What’s sadder is that the people that sent the above text have no idea how unacceptably racist, horrifying and utterly disgusting their action is.

Housekeeping is not a profession to be ridiculed. Offering discounts on people just because they come from a certain country is not only nauseating, it’s a symptom of a greater problem in a country that sees people who are different as nothing more than commodities who can be exchanged for money, who divides them based on racial categories, the darker you are the cheaper you get maybe?

I tried to call the number in question but there was no answer. I contacted Roula Kobaissy and she said she had absolutely no dealing with that office before. She was unaware others in her area have received such a message as well.

Welcome to the country where modern-age slavery is advertised by text messages.

Update:

They apologized, which goes well with my point that they didn’t even know it was racist to begin with.

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 Update 2:

The Ministry of Labor is closing down the bureau according to LBC (Link).

On Fathers’ Day

When my mother suggested I’d get a flower for my father for father’s day, I looked at her like she had gone crazy. “But it’s a nice gesture,” she said.

Flowers is just not something you do on fathers’ day. And you know what, I don’t know why’s that.

Among the days specified by some unknown entity for us to remember our parents, fathers’ day takes a backseat for the more “important” mothers’ day. Even companies don’t bombard you with the same quantity of ads and you don’t even feel as guilty for not worrying about what gift you’d be getting your father.

It could be that fathers are always less emotional than mothers and you’d therefore assume they don’t care as much about their day as mothers care about theirs. But a gift must be bought!

I actually have no idea what gift someone can get their father for their day. What sort of gift would make your father transiently happy?

Then I remembered something. My father is prouder of me than my mother, if that’s even possible. And while I hate it when I find myself in a social setting and he starts bragging about what a son he has, I can see exactly how much that means to him.

With each passing day where my brothers and I make my father proud, we’re turning his day into father’s day.

God Bless my father. God Bless all the fathers whose influence over our lives is very under-appreciated. And may all of the people I know who have lost their father find solace on this day.

On a happier, less depressing note, check out this very poignant comic by Sareen Akharjalian whose blog is full of awesome and funny material (check her blog here):

Cheers to Our Mothers

“Do you remember when you and your brothers were kids?” My mom asked me today as she was cooking meghle. “You used to hover around me, waiting for me to finish pouring it so you can eat whatever remained in the pot. It was so much nicer when you were kids…”

Behold my mom's meghle. There's also 3adas b7amod in the background.

Mothers have this thing to them. They can nag your head off and they can worry until you start worrying about yourself. Some people are said to be motherly. Some see that as a pejorative connotation. Perhaps they are right. But the way I see it, being motherly is what this world might just be lacking for us to have more compassion towards each other.

When it comes to moms, we all think ours is the best. And the truth is ours is the best. Somehow superlative comparisons between mothers fall short of truly grasping the magnitude these creatures have on your life. Their care  towards you as a baby can change the wiring of your brain. Their love makes you who you are as a person. Even the most “unfit” of mothers, as we tend to judge them, try with all their power to care for their offspring – even above their own health and sanity sometimes.

Their nagging and worrying becomes obsolete. They are doing this because it is unnatural for them not to be caring about their sons and daughters. It is unnatural for them not to feel protective. It may be debilitating sometimes but think where you would have been if they hadn’t stayed up nights and worked through days to care for you? Have you ever thought where you would be if you hadn’t deposited your fears, hurts and worries all your life in your mother?

If you’re waiting for Mother’s Day to let your mother know you love her, then you’re doing it wrong. If you’re waiting for Mother’s Day to call you mom and give her a sentimental talk, which you’ve been putting off for a long time, then you’re doing it wrong. If you’re waiting for Mother’s Day to bring your mom a gift and make her feel special, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re waiting on annual nudge for you to remember your mom, then you are doing it wrong too.

The greatest gift any mother can get is you being around, be it physically or spiritually. The greatest gift any mother would want on Mother’s Day is not an extravagant object which will make them happy for an hour or two. The most simplistic of approaches is, perhaps, the one mothers cherish most. Sometimes telling them the words “I love you” along with a hug to show them truly how much you appreciate them can be the cure they need to get through any day, making every day for them Mother’s Day.

And when I think that such ideas are, well, overly sentimental, I stop and ask my mom: “what do you want for Mother’s Day?” She looks at me, smiles warmly, then says: “Nothing. You being here is just enough.” And you know she’s being perfectly truthful.

The greatest things mothers have done are the ones even you don’t know. You owe them all that you are and hope to be. But they will never collect. They are kind, they are smart, they are beautiful, they are the most important. And even though my mother might probably never read this, I cannot but tell her on her day that I unconditionally and irrevocably love her – the kindest, most heart-warming and sincere person I’ve ever known.

“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” – William Makepeace Thackeray

Cheers to our mothers.

On Mothers’ Day…

It is the vernal equinox. And it is also Mothers’ Day in Lebanon.

So naturally, everyone starts saying how their mom is the best. Well, all moms are the best. The idea of a superlative comparison when it comes to motherhood becomes void. Why? because of all the creatures that walk this Earth, your parents, and specifically your mother, make you who you are. And they do so by giving it their all.

Mothers are your mentors, friends, guides, your light. They put up with you in situations when no one should – or no one can. They know you sometimes better than you even know yourself. And even though you bring them down on way too many occasions, they still look up at you smiling, embracing you because you are the light that shines in their lives.

I was not going to post anything for this occasion. But a combination of Marcel Khalife’s lyrics and a mental image of my mother drove my fingers on the keyboard. The lyrics of that song describe a man who misses his mom, her coffee, her bread…. He adores his life because he’d be ashamed, in case he passes away, of every tear that trickles down on his mother’s cheeks. He asks her to cover him with grass that was made holy by the sole of her feet. I can only imagine the day when I’m going to be abroad, on Mothers’ Day, thinking I’d rather be for a few hours in my hometown, with my mom.

Yes, we all have mothers. And we will never forget our mothers. So today, let me say to my mom that you are the most amazing my eyes have seen. You are the light that shines in my days and mom, I adore you.

And speaking of Mothers’ Day, check out this great Kunhadi ad with a great message.

And for those interested, this is Marcel Khalife’s song: