Monthly Archives: August 2012

It’s not just hate or poverty: Tripoli needs better media coverage

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I’ve been following up on the situation in Tripoli and the deadly clashes between various factions there and I have to say that the media is playing a very negative role in their coverage. I agree with Mustapha that the events in Tripoli are not the outcome of stark poverty and wretchedness in that miserable part of Lebanon, and with Habib as well that we need to know the actual details in this grand scheme and the groups and individuals receiving and distributing these bullets and guns, but I also think local TVs should be handling those events in a more professional and responsible matter.

Check out this video published by LBCI today for instance. We all know children living in Tripoli and its surrounding are going through a rough time but that doesn’t make them Children Fighters or imply that they want to form military factions. All kids like to play with toy guns and those in Tripoli are no different from the ones in Beirut or Saida or Jounieh. What’s the big deal if they are carrying toy guns? or made a silly video?

I ask LBCI and all Lebanese TVs to stop making a big deal out of silly things just to get attention and focus on extracting the truth out of recent events.

Is the smoking ban law good or bad for Lebanon?

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The smoking-ban law 174 goes into effect on September 3 and will affect all Lebanese restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs. Now we all agree that smoking is bad, but that doesn’t give the government the right to deprive smokers from specialized places to go to.

Added to that, while I agree with Mustapha that the government can enforce the ban easily, I don’t see how Shisha cafes will be able to implement such a law, because it’s like asking night clubs or pubs to stop serving alcohol or playing music. By putting this law into effect, you are indirectly asking them to close down their business and fire their staff, which is easier said than done.

In an attempt to assess Law 174 and point out its flaws, figures and infographics have been prepared by The Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants in Lebanon and are part of a study conducted by Ernest & Young in Lebanon. You can check it out [Here].

Here’s also a brief interpretation of the E&Y report and a nice analysis of the smoking-ban law and its impact on the Lebanese economy posted by Mohammad Hijazi.

Issues with the current legislation
– The current Lebanese legislation is drastically restrictive in comparison to effectively implemented smoking bans in developed and progressive nations such as Germany and France, as well as in comparison with effective regional models such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
– The greater flexibility of the legislation in the above countries correlates with their successful implementation.
The severity of the Lebanese legislation renders the law unrealistic to implement in full. This critical flaw is execrated by the fact that Lebanon ranks low in terms of law abidance.
– The current legislation opens the door for increased corruption at the local level, due to selective implementation.
– In order for a law to be effective, it must be fair and equally implementable. An Ernst & Young study on the issue has found that the current legislation will be unequally implementable, particularly in areas and regions where the state lacks authority.
– This is detrimental not only from a legal standpoint, but also in terms of the intended health benefits which should benefit the entire population equally.
– The current legislation is set to have a significant negative impact on the Lebanese economy, namely at the level of revenues, unemployment, tourism spending and tax collection. This impact is likely to be more accentuated given – the current political turmoil and tensions in the country.
The Lebanese government lacks the ability to ensure successful and equal implementation. As a result, the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs &Pastries in Lebanon constitutes a valuable partner to help and cooperate. However, the syndicate favors a law it deems complete, implementable, beneficial and economically viable.

Recommended legal amendments
– Minor amendments to just 2% of the current legislation will increase its successful implementation.
– This will increase compatibility with the Lebanese tourism industry and put the legislation on par with some of the most effective anti-smoking legislation executed internationally.
– The recommended amendments restrict smoking in all closed public spaces, work areas and public transport. The syndicate also recommends enforcing this restriction on all restaurants, pastry shops, sandwich outlets and other establishments where food accounts for the main business.
– However, the syndicate is hoping to regulate these restrictions so as to exempt establishments that may be labeled as restaurants but whose predominant business is not food but instead alcoholic beverages and entertainment, such as shisha cafes, clubs, bars and pubs.
– This exemption however would not exempt the above entities from fulfilling technical requirements, such as:
– Installing proper cooling and ventilation systems.
– Restricting entry to minors under 18.
– Placing clear signage outside establishments cautioning that smoking is permissible on premise.
– These proposed amendments would put Lebanese legislature on par with effectively implemented and progressive legislation internationally, such as in Germany and Qatar.
– With proper regulation, the law can also be applied uniformly so as to safeguard the intended health benefits in areas with strict state control as well as those outside of it.

Key facts
– Lebanese restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs generate $735 million in revenues per year.
– The current legislation will generate a drop of roughly $282 million in revenues, representing 7.1% of GDP in the hospitality sector and a significant blow to the Lebanese economy as a whole.
– It will also affect the Lebanese restaurants, cafes, pubs and nightclubs revenue by 25% overall with cafes seeing the biggest slump in revenues.
– The current legislation is also expected to affect tourism spending by $46 million and lead to a loss of about 2600 full-time jobs.
– To top it all, according to commissioned survey studies the public has poor faith in the current legislation with approximately 71% of surveyed believing the law will be poorly implemented and 82% of them believing it will be an opportunity for more corruption.

Picture taken from BeirutSpring

TeleLiban to shut down?

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There are talks circulating around that TeleLiban will be shutdown soon and that the TV’s workers are not getting paid, but Lebanese Information Minister Walid al-Daouq is denying such rumors and saying more funds will be allocated to TeleLiban and staff members will be paid on time. [Report]

Rumors are saying TeleLiban will be closed after it completes its exclusive coverage of the 1972 Munich Olympics on September 10. (I made up this rumor)

The Lebanese government has already shutdown TeleLiban back in 2001 and I wish they had kept it this way. Chef Antoine el Hajj will be missed though. [Link]

St. Elmo’s Seaside Brasserie

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I’ve been to St. Elmo’s four times already, twice with friends, once on a tweet-up and the last time on a personal invite and I’ve enjoyed my meals and drinks every single time. I was planning to review the place earlier but they have so many items I wanted to try that it was hard to post about it after a single visit.

Located on Beirut’s Zaitunay Bay, St. Elmo’s owes its name to St.Erasmus of Formaie, the patron saint of sailors, and is decorated with nautical vintage stuff to offer a retro-urban seaside setting [Taken from Website]. The restaurant is divided into three parts, one outdoor area overlooking the Zaytounay harbor, an indoor lounge/pub area overlooking a more formal dining area suitable for lunch and dinner.

Before you order any food, there is a long list of drinks and cocktails that you can choose from, ranging from a rich selection of white/rose/red wine, beers and champagne to Sangrias, Mojitos, Bloody Marias and House Elixirs. I am not a big fan of Bloody Marias but one of my friends had the Bloody Mess (see below picture) and he loved it. I recommend trying the Sangria Pitchers, Lynchburg Lemonade (Sour drink), and the Caribbean Shrub.

You can check out the list of drinks and cocktails [Here].

BLOODY MESS: Vodka, Elmo’s clamato juice, giant shrimp & fresh oyster

Moving on to the starters and salads, I recommend the fresh Summer Rolls, the Black Carpaccio (see below picture), the Grilled Calamari and the Tataki Tuna Nicoise salad. All are healthy and delicious choices. The Smoked Salmon Bagel is a must-try in the Sarnies section. It’s a real shame that we don’t have any bagel shops in Lebanon, or at least none that I know of. The only one I used to go to was Euro Deli on Bliss Street during my AUB years but last time I checked, it was closed.

If you want to start with something rather unhealthy, I recommend you go for the Mac & Cheese as a starter. Just don’t have it by yourself because you won’t have any space left for the main dishes.

BLACK CARPACCIO :Cold-cured Black Angus Tenderloin topped with arugula, fresh artichoke hearts, fennel & shaved parmesan with truffle oil

Speaking of main dishes, St. Elmo’s is the place to visit if you are a Fish & Chips or Lobster fan. I haven’t tried the Poached 750g Nova Scotia lobster yet but heard good reviews about it, but I can assure you that the Fish & Chips are the best you can have in Lebanon. The dish is big enough for two people and is awesome! For those of you who don’t drink alcohol, watch out though because they are beer-battered. (All items that contain alcohol are pointed out in the menu).

Fish & Chips: 275g of Beer battered Mediterranean bass served and our home-made tartar sauce & parmesan fries

Last but not least, the desserts offered at St. Elmo’s are the perfect ending to your lunch/dinner. If you are feeling full, order an apéritif and take a small break because some of them are not to miss, especially the Chocolate chip cookie and Nutella Cheesecake.

SOFT CENTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE Oven baked & topped with vanilla bean ice cream

All in all, St. Elmo’s is Beirut’s only English SeaFood Brasserie and is located at the most suitable place, the Zaytounay bay. It’s a new concept that I encourage all Lebanese to try and is rather affordable given its location and when compared to some restaurants around it. (30-50$ per person for a full meal)

If you wish to read more about St. Elmo’s:
[St. Elmo’s Facebook page]
[St. Elmo’s website] [Menu]

The outdoor area overlooking the yachts and boats

PS: St. Elmo’s also serves brunch from 10am till 1pm, check out their brunch menu [Here].

Lebanese Government to open Klaiaat Airport?

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We’ve been hearing calls from several parties in Lebanon, including myself, to re-open the Klaiaat airport and have an alternative to the Rafic Hariri international airport.

Apparently, and as mentioned in Annahar today, the government has plans to re-open the Klaiaat airport for strictly economic reasons. I want to believe that it’s gonna happen but I highly doubt it. [Article]

Meet German footballer Dani Schahin

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Dani Schahin is a Germany Footballer who currently plays for Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga. I am not sure whether he’s of Lebanese descent or not though, as Wikipedia mentions his father is Palestinian of Lebanese descent while other websites mention he’s Lebanese. [] []

Eitherways, he is very talented striker who could make his way through to the national team if he keeps his great strike rate and strong performances. In his first appearance in the Bundesliga, Schahin scored two goals.

Sean Paul cancels trip to Lebanon, Red Hot Chili Peppers to do the same?

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NRJ Lebanon posted the below message yesterday on their [Facebook page]:

Due to unforeseeable circumstances, regrettably Sean Paul will not be performing as planned on Aug 25 at the Edde Sands Beach Resort. Sean Paul sends his deepest apologies to his fans and will look to reschedule his trip to Lebanon in the future. GET YOUR TICKET REFUNDED STARTING WEDNESDAY 29TH FROM ANY VIRGIN BRANCH

I heard rumors that RHCP might cancel their upcoming concert in Lebanon but nothing’s confirmed yet. The Red Hot Chili Peppers will be performing on September 6th at Beirut Waterfront. [Event]

The concert I am looking forward to attend is Keane on October 13 at the Forum de Beyrouth. To know more about the concert and buy tickets, click [Here].

Naziha’s trip to the police station

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Knowing that every ATM in Lebanon has a security camera attached to it, they could have at least identified the criminal and surrounded him quickly and probably arrested him if they wanted to, but the district attorney could not be bothered as he was finishing Iftar. It’s all about priorities after all.

Three weeks ago, my car window was smashed and my belongings stolen while I was at the beach in Batroun. Horrified as I was, I decided to go to the Batroun police station to file a complaint.

My aim was to have a written report not to have my possessions returned (for I had no faith in having any of the stuff back), but I simply wanted to facilitate the process of having to reapply for a new ID and a driver’s license at the local Serail.

I will spare you the boring details, but suffice to say that my idea of the police was an archaic and inefficient institution could not have been any truer. The first thing the policeman (whom I shall not name) asked me was: “You came all the way from your town [Saida] to our town to swim? Don’t you have beaches in Saida?”

Naturally, I wanted to tell him we’re still in the same country; that I was free to go wherever I liked; that we should get over the sectarian mentality, but I didn’t. I wanted to get the report and be done with it. The number of useless questions the policeman proceeded to ask were many, most notably whether or not my male friend (who was nice enough to come with me to the police station) was with me at the beach and whether or not he’s Lebanese, which he wasn’t.

After refusing to give me a copy of the report (because apparently procedures state that a report of theft must remain open for 48 hours), we were left in a room for two hours. The policeman later explained that we were waiting for the district attorney to finish his Iftar so as to figure out how to proceed.

During our wait, my sister was able to figure out that my credit card (which was reported stolen at that time) was used in Shakka at 5:30 p.m. at the BLC ATM machine. Thrilled, I ran back into the building to inform the police officer of my findings and to have him add that to the report. He didn’t.

He later acknowledged that there is no way for them to find the thieves, and that “anyway, we’re in Batroun and they’re in Shakka. We have no authority there.” So the police in Batroun doesn’t coordinate with the police in Shakka?! I was dumbfounded.

By 9:00 p.m., the policeman took pity on us and said I should come back in three days to pick up a copy of my report and to bring him copies of the car license, since he couldn’t find a place to photocopy my documents. They didn’t even have a photocopy machine, a thing they probably need every day. Argh.

I left frustrated and angry. Very angry. I had never set a foot inside a police station until that day due to my own presumptions. Yet when I turned to the police, I was proven right. The incident was the last straw, and as I marched out of the police station, I heard a little voice in my head say: “It’s time to leave. This is no longer home.” [NowLebanon]

Racism at Lebanese beaches (Elie Mchantaf’s Cyan)

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I didn’t like the way Al-Jadeed is trying to portray Elie Mchantaf as being the racist guy out there. He did answer in a wrong way at first but then corrected himself and made a relatively good point. From a strictly business perspective, he will lose money if he allows everyone in while other beaches disregard the law and ban migrant domestic workers. However from an ethical point of view, and given the PR he has and the role-model/hero/captain figure he represents to many Lebanese, I believe he should set an example for all other beaches and resorts to follow at the expense of some financial losses.

This being said, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism to make sure ALL beaches and resorts allow migrant domestic workers and penalize those who don’t let them in. Recently, the Ministry issued a memorandum banning discrimination in the country’s private pools and beaches but that’s not enough. We need to have tourist police members at every resort making sure no discrimination is taking place; otherwise all those reports and videos are pointless.

Thanks Dany for the video!