Monthly Archives: May 2011

Um Sharif Restaurant in Beirut

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I’ve been planning to try out a new restaurant in Beirut called Um Sharif, but the two times I called, the place was fully booked, last time being yesterday.

It is not very common for a place to be booked on a Wednesday night in Lebanon, knowing that it’s not cheap at all. Indeed, you are bound by a 35$ formula for lunch and a 60$ formula for dinner excluding beverages and arguile.
There’s also a live show (Derbakke, 3oud etc ..) every night that starts at 10:45 pm.

I tried looking up the place on Google and found on Naharnet directory having the same number a place I’ve never heard of called Paris New York located in Beirut. [Naharnet]

I am curious to know if the place is truly worth paying that much money, so I would appreciate if anyone who’s been to that place shares his experience on the blog.

Beirut I love you

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I don’t really enjoy watching Lebanese movies or TV shows because I always have the impression that they’re shot using cameras made for home use with bad lighting, horrible sound and really unconvincing actors. I feel there is always an echo, and to add to that, almost all the stories are the same: guy and girl are in love, girls parents refuse to acknowledge that, guy and girl need to find a way to make it work. Sometimes there is a drunk uncle who ends up killing the guy or the girl.

Let’s not talk about the acting… every actor has the same look in every scene. They all look like they’re really thinking veeeeeeery hard.

A couple of weeks ago I started watching a series on YouTube called Beirut I love you [Link]. It’s a series of short films (~2 to 4 minutes) and the story revolves around the lives of a group of friends who live in Beirut.

I really enjoy the way the clips are shot. For a team of amateurs, I think they do a better job than the pros we have in Lebanon. The two main actors also write and direct the show.

You might recognize the main actor, Cyril Aris, from a recent bank commercial for car loans. My Dad loves that commercial, he laughs every time he sees it. Can’t find a clip online though. It’s the one where a girl asks a guy to drop her off after a party, and the guy agrees and stops a service and opens the doors for her. He says he has a dentist appointment and ends up going home on his mobilette.

The clips are in Arabic with English subtitles.

Here’s a link to the YouTube account of Orange Dog Productions, which produces these short films [Link]

Stupid Lebanese Driving Laws

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When you read this piece of news, you’d think the driver who hit the 59 year old person and left him to die is immoral and an asshole, but the truth is you might want to do the same thing if you ever hit a person with your car in Lebanon.

Why is that? Because of our rotten and archaic laws that blame the driver under any circumstances, even if one throws himself/herself in front of your car. Indeed, looking at the place of the accident, this highway is one of the most dangerous in Lebanon yet people insist on crossing it and not having a bridge is not a good enough excuse to risk your life and blaming the government afterwards.

I remember at some point there were beggars throwing their children in front of cars to get some money out of it and there was nothing you could do about it except driving away.

Even people passing by might not want to call the ambulance because they could be dragged for interrogation later on. I personally saw someone lying on the road on my way up to Mansourieh few years back and did not hesitate to call the ambulance yet luckily did not receive a call afterwards, probably because it was a foreign worker and no one reported him as missing, or officials just ignored the whole thing.

Beirut the Band not the city

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I never realized there was an American band called Beirut until today. The name however has nothing to do with their music as it is a mix of Eastern Europe, and Balkan folk with Western pop music. [Link]

I tried looking for the reason behind that name but could not find anything which is pretty weird. It would be interesting to know why he chose the name? Maybe we should email him about it.

You can listen to some of their songs here. [Link]

Trip to Kobayat (Day1)

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As I’ve posted two weeks ago [Link], I headed during Easter to Kobayat, one of the biggest villages in Akkar District North of Lebanon. The village has over 15,000 inhabitants, most of them being Christian Maronites.

I was told that the road to Kobayat is long, tricky and dangerous but the reality is the road from Tripoli to Halba is the only one worthy worrying about. The road is awful at night, there’s no lighting and apparently a lot of thefts and crimes occur over there. Also, that’s basically where the Lebanese army clashed with the Islamists of Fath el Islam few years back. Nevertheless, you just need to go there during day light and all will be fine. Moreover, once you reach Halba, the road from there is in great shape and well lit.

The only stop we made was at Kasr el Helo [Hallab] in Tripoli where we had the famous Sfee7a Baalbakiyye and Halawit el Jeben. It’s pretty amazing how every time I’ve been to
Al Hallab, the place despite being huge is crowded.

Once we’ve reached Kobayat around 8:30 pm, we headed to the chalets we had rented, rested for a bit and headed to a restaurant at the extremities of the town. On our way there, I thought I was passing by Gemmayze street on a Saturday night. Pubs, restaurants and cafes were full and there was traffic everywhere. The only difference was that not only young people were filling the places, but also grown men and old people sitting outside, drinking Arak or beer and playing backgammon or cards.

The restaurant we were going to was practically in the middle of nowhere, yet was crowded and fully booked. Added to that, the food (Arabic food) was surprisingly great, the atmosphere was fun, and people kept dancing until 3 am. Don’t ask me how to get to that restaurant because I have no clue how we got there. All I know its name was Tilal el Sahar or something like that. On our way back, people were still partying and having fun and there was an ongoing party in the resort we were staying in.

I am not sure if it was because everyone was on vacation, but Kobayat was alive and kicking just like Beirut on a Saturday night. That pretty much covers Day1 of my trip to Kobayat.

For those wishing to learn more about Kobayat, their website, despite its lousy design, has tons of information about the town. They even have pictures of every house in the town with the name of its owner [Houses from Kobayat], with the most impressive one being Dr.Ernest el Haj’s house. [Picture]

Beware of fake Darak Officers

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Picture from Plus961

The video Mark posted on the “Dancing Darak” made me ask around to see whether this guy is for real an ISF officer or not, and reminded me of the incident I had once while driving.

Apparently, there are two plausible options here:
1- The officer is really in the Darak (ISF) but I doubt he’ll last until the end of this week before getting fired.

2- The officer was a part-timer in the ISF (on a contractual basis) and did not give away his suit back upon the contract’s expiration.

According to a friend of mine, there are a lot of Lebanese enrolling on a contractual basis with the ISF and keeping the suits afterwards. What they do is that they wear the suits, pretend to be real officers and offer drivers to pay bribes instead of receiving tickets.

Few weeks back, one of those fake officers was caught after it turns out he was involved in major car thefts with some friends of his in the Maameltein region. He would stop a car for talking on the phone or not wearing the seat belt and then some friends of his would storm the drivers with weapons and steal the car.

Question is how can one detect those fake officers?
- ISF officers do not usually hide in the dark and come out of nowhere to surprise you.

- ISF officers rarely are alone but rather work in groups and there’s always a car or a motorcycle next to them.

- Most of the times, there’s a checkpoint involved when ISF officers are distributing tickets.

If anyone has further tips on how to avoid those fake officers, please feel free to share them.

PS: I think the ISF or Minister of Interior should issue a PR warning to Lebanese citizens on those imposters.

Two Lebanese on My New BFF

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Paris Hilton has a reality show called My New BFF which for this season is based in Dubai. Two of the girls on the show are Lebanese, one girl is Christiane Zeitouny (above) and the other is Angel Arbid (below). Angel already got kicked off the show but Christy is still there. I just thought I would share this very important bit of information. [Link]