#ThisIsLebanon: Showing The Beauty Of The Country We Come From & Trying To Keep It

 

Lebanon is a gorgeous country. It takes an effort – at least for me – to try and see that in absolute value sometimes, but I can’t deny that there are instances where I can’t but marvel at the beauty of the country we call home.

To drive this point home and to encourage us to keep this country as such, or even make it better, Rani Nasr and Samah el Kadi, two aspiring Lebanese filmmakers, decided to do what they love best and make weekly videos highlighting beautiful landscapes in the country.

They just released the first video in the series, filmed in the Chouf mountains:

The next videos are filmed in various other locations in the country such as Tannourine, Ehden, Chahtoul, The Cedars, etc. As mentioned previously, they will be released in a weekly manner on this Facebook page (link).

Making the videos, however, was not as easy as just holding a camera and roaming around a beautiful forest or mountain. Due to Lebanese people being as they are, Rani Nasr informed me that he had to personally pick up garbage from entire landscapes just to be able to show how beautiful the place was and take a decent shot of it.

Not only is the nature we have left endangered by rabid urbanization, but also by people who can’t appreciate how beautiful it is and think that throwing their garbage wherever they may be is the way to go. You see, we are not victims of living in garbage. It is our choice. We chose for years to be a populace that litters all around, damaging the environment, helpless animals and ultimately ourselves. We also chose not to go back to what we know, our politicians, instead of what we need, a new system, when Beirut was drowning in garbage. We also chose to turn a blind eye to where the garbage filling Beirut’s streets is now being thrown.

He also told me about hunters roaming those areas just to kill deer and wildcats, either for BBQ purposes or to collect trophies on their walls. I had no idea Lebanon’s forests actually had deer, but it seems they do.

The biggest threat to our nature is us. How about we change that? Two things you can do that would help immensely are the following:

  1. Don’t throw your garbage anywhere and everywhere,
  2. Don’t kill harmless animals just because you’re bored.

I asked Rani if they intend to turn the #ThisIsLebanon movement into a #LiveLoveBeirut or #LiveLoveLebanon-esque entity, and he said no: it was just them doing what they loved, movies, to show what they loved, Lebanon’s nature. As such, they will not be monetizing off of it.

What they hope to accomplish is for their films to inspire people to want to see more of their country, to want to preserve the beauty and take positive steps in that direction: visit Lebanon’s natural reserves and help to preserve the forests by supporting them, not litter everywhere you go, marvel in the beauty of the country you live in and share it with whoever wants to see.

To end this on a more positive note, I figured I’d share a few pictures of the beauty of this country, with or without the hashtag #ThisIsLebanon, to drive the point home. The instagram accounts of the corresponding pictures will be mentioned in their caption, as well as their respective location.

You can follow the accounts here:

There’s a lot of beauty in the country beyond the confines of everyone’s Beiruti comfort zones. Go explore, return with beautiful pictures and change yourself and the country one beautiful landscape at a time. #ThisIsLebanon, and it’s worth discovering.

 

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Incredible Pictures of Lebanon From 1976, At The Start Of The Civil War

We’ve all seen those pictures of the Syrian war: devastation in Homs, irreparable damage to the souks of Aleppo, blood-soaked streets in Douma…. And even though Syria is a stone’s throw away, those pictures always remained an element with which we interacted with shock, grief and sadness, but they were still pictures of a distant country, as if Lebanon hadn’t produced similar footage for years and years.

It’s been 40 years since the Lebanese civil war started and those who were part of it are beginning to forget how it was.

It’s been 40 years and the same politicians who fought the war are still around, still unable to govern, still contributing to instability and still fighting among each other without weapons, but with weapons sometimes.

It’s also been 20 years since the war ended, and the newer generations that haven’t lived any phase of the war “remember” how it was. How old were you when that battle happened, you’d ask in clear sarcasm at their staunch bravado. They reply: it doesn’t matter, I was told of how things were.

Because we don’t have a history book, because footage of the Lebanese civil war is yet another taboo in the country, and because our only path to information is through stories that are more often than not subjective, devoid of facts and relying entirely on the perspective of the person telling them.

I have colleagues in medical school who have told me how much they’re “itching” to fight, to hold weapons and go to war. I have acquaintances who have expressed desire to hold arms again. I have people in my hometown who, at one point last year, actually held up arms to defend the town against the non-existent dangers of those veiled strangers.

20 years later, the country is without stability, without a president, without any form of democracy. And what’s more dangerous than all of that is that the collective memory of the nation towards that dark, dark phase of our history is weakening by the day.

You don’t need April 13th to remember “to remember and not repeat.”

I stumbled on a gorgeous gallery of pictures uploaded to Reddit by user u/dob3rman. At almost 100 upvotes on Lebanon’s subreddit (link), it’s one of the most popular threads there. That user is now yet another expat whose father left the country way back when to seek a better life. Lately, he stumbled upon the pictures that his father took in 1976 and decided to share them with all of us to see.

Because these pictures are important, and because they should be engrained in our memory as a country I have decided that spreading them is vital, that being aware of of the devastation of 1975-1990 is crucial.

In the years since, Lebanon has been greatly rebuilt. We now have Solidere, Zaitunay Bays and endless projects taking place mostly in Beirut (link). Let these pictures serve as a reminder of how easy it is to destroy, and how difficult it is to rebuild and regain normality after war, a normality we haven’t seen yet 20 years later.

 

Paris – The Most Beautiful City I’ve Been To

I’ve been to quite a few places in the past few years. Some were enjoyable, others were underwhelming. But there’s one place out of them all that stands out, completely and irrevocably drawing me in every time I think of it: Paris.

Paris is the city of the streets that might as well be museums, the frisson that sends shivers up your spine as you get lost around the city marveling at wonder after wonder, the metro that closes at who knows when leaving you stranded and walking back to your hotel at 2 AM, the lovers huddling at Pont Des Arts kissing to a Parisian sunset, the artists singing around Montmartre while you slither your way around winding roads taking you up to Basilique du Sacré Coeur.

Paris is the city of the monuments that you had thought were cliches but can’t really appreciate until you’re standing at Trocadero, looking at the Eiffel tower shining as the sun behind you dies down at 10:30 PM or when you buy an impromptu lunch and sit with your best friend on the grass that is really greener there, under the Eiffel Tower.

Paris is the city that convinces you to splurge on the food that makes your mouth water at the mere mention of it, the ice cream that tastes like the fresh fruits from which it was made. It’s the city of you walking up the Champs-Elysées slightly tipsy from the wine that flows down smoother than water.

Paris is the city which, after two visits, I’ve yet to get enough of. It’s the city that makes me both happy and nostalgic at the thought of it. It’s the city that quickly turns into a main discussion between the people who have been to it. It’s the city that has charm in every step of its sidewalks.

Is there anything more beautiful than Paris? I don’t think so.

Paris - 27 Paris - 34 Paris - 38

Paris - 18

Paris - 45 Paris - 9Paris - 30

Paris - 17

Lebanese Blogger Gets Assaulted In Beirut’s Downtown… For Taking A Picture

Habib Batah, a professor at LAU and blogger at The Beirut Report, got physically assaulted today by a bunch of henchmen at Downtown’s soon-to-be-constructed District S… because he dared take a picture of the ancient ruin inside the property which they were busy dismantling.

After being forced to delete the pictures off his phone, Habib tried to complain to Lebanon’s police who dismissed him with their typical “nothing to see here.” Again, we’re only paying our police so they can have Malek el Tawou2 for lunch or dinner. Protecting us or trying to keep our rights, the simplest of which is us being able to take a damn picture at a construction site of our heritage, is just too mainstream to be included under their umbrella of duties.

You can read the full story here (link).

In this occasion, I believe a series of thank yous are in order.

  • Thank you Solidere for your beautiful work in Downtown Beirut. It’s perfectly understandable that ancient ruins aren’t business-centric. The Khalijis sure don’t like them. 
  • Thank you Lebanon’s Ministry of Culture. Your continuous efforts in making sure there’s nothing about this country’s history that  isn’t history are much appreciated.
  • Thank you Lebanon’s Ministry of Interior. You’re just too busy not looking at those self-enforced anti-Syrian curfews and not working on elections for you to get your police to do their job.
  • Thank you Lebanon’s police. I feel safer every single day you tell me to “forget it.”
  • Thank you to every single entity in this God-forsaken country that makes me hopeful and happy and content into what I’m being offered every single freaking day.

How much more shit are we supposed to take before someone out there decides to do their bloody job? How many more people need to be assaulted because they tried to stand up to their constitutionally-given rights? How many more of our rights are we supposed to forsake because of well-connected people everywhere? How many people need to become victims before someone out there wakes up and realizes that this – all of it – is downright unacceptable?

 

Lille, France

I spent the month of August discovering the gorgeous city of Lille in Northern France. I went there for a clerkship at one of the city’s hospitals and I absolutely fell in love with its culture, its people and everything it had to offer. Lille is one of France’s biggest cities and yet it still has this rustic feel to it – especially in its older streets, aptly called Vieux Lille.

I made a lot of memories in that city. I won’t go down memory lane and enumerate them for you because I’m fairly certain you couldn’t care less. But I am thankful for getting the chance to go there and meet the people that I met and make those memories that I cherish now.

Xavier & Camille, our amazing French hosts and friends that made us feel at home – literally – for the entire month that we spent there, this is for you. Thank you for everything.

Here are some of the many pictures that I took of the beautiful city of Lille. I’m not a professional so these are not meant to be impeccable – but I do hope my love for the city comes across in them.

Palais des Beaux Arts

Palais des Beaux Arts

Another old street in the city

Another old street in the city

A parc bench in the city

A parc bench in the city

Rue de Bethune

Rue de Bethune

The city's opera house

The city’s opera house

Vieux Lille

Vieux Lille

The view from our apartment

The view from our apartment

A statue next to Palais des Beaux Arts

A statue next to Palais des Beaux Arts

A war monument

A war monument

One of the city's cathedrals

One of the city’s cathedrals

Lille France Street

Welch - one of the city's specialities

Welch – one of the city’s specialities

Lille France Restaurant Comptoir 44

Inside one of Lille's cathedrals

Inside one of Lille’s cathedrals

A mural found in one of Lille's subway and train stations: Lille Europe

A mural found in one of Lille’s subway and train stations: Lille Europe

One of the specialties of the North

One of the specialties of the North

Beer, another specialty

Beer, another specialty

Another street in the old parts of the city

Another street in the old parts of the city

One of the streets of Vieux Lile

One of the streets of Vieux Lile

The opera house

The opera house

Gargoyles

Gargoyles

The city's heart - place du General De Gaulle also known as Grand Place

The city’s heart – place du General De Gaulle also known as Grand Place

Lille doesn't like Sarkozy

Lille doesn’t like Sarkozy

Old Street Lille vieux Lille France

Another street in old Lille

These pictures were taken using a Nikon D5100 and edited using my iPhone 5’s Camera+ app.

Pictures from Old Beirut

Have you ever wondered how the Lebanese capital looked before it got turned into the concrete maze it is today? Well, I blogged a while back about Lebanon in its golden age. Since then, I’ve found many pictures of Beirut that precedes the rabid urbanism of today.

Beirut – 1900

Bourj Hammoud, circa 1930

Raouche, around 1925

Martyr’s Square, 1930

AUB, 1930

Martyr’s Square (Previously Bourj Square) – circa 1898

Ain el Mraysseh, 1930

Koraytem, around 1945

Gemmayze – 1900

Nahr el Mot, 1965

Place de l’Etoile – 1950

Ramlet el Bayda – 1974

Ain el Mraysseh – 1972

Some of the Most Powerful Pictures Ever Taken

The power of a picture can be changing. It can change perceptions. It can alter ideas. It can even ignite movements. Some pictures will even bring you to tears.

I recently stumbled on a post online that had a selection of 40 pictures deemed as some of the post powerful photographs ever taken. By the end of the scrolling through those 40 images and reading the captions, I was amazed.

This is a picture of three sisters, posing for the same picture, years apart.

This is Harold Whittles, hearing for the first time ever in his life.

This is a photograph by Marc Riboud, showing young pacifist Jane Rose Kasmir planting a flower on the bayonets of one of the Pentagon guards during an anti-Vietnam war protest.

These three pictures are but a fraction of a series of equally haunting images that you can check out at this link.