Category Archives: Critiques

Anthony Bourdain’s Beirut Episode Is Even Worse Than I Thought It Would Be

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I watched last night the season finale of CNN’s Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain which was shot in Beirut, and I hated every single bit of it except for the short interview with Joumana Haddad. I really had high expectations for that episode, but I lowered my expectations after seeing the comments on Facebook and it turned to be even worse than I thought it would be and did not reflect the words Bourdain used to describe our capital. In fact, if I didn’t know Bourdain, I would have thought he’s some clueless foreign reporter who’s visiting Beirut for the first time and still thinks we are at war. All he talked about for nearly 45 minutes was Syrian & Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, ISIS, Hezbollah, bombings, ISIS, 2006 war, recent suicide bombings, ISIS, the 1975-1990 civil war and more ISIS.

Let me just start by telling Bourdain that ISIS is far from Lebanon and its borders, and the map (shown above) does not reflect ISIS control in Syria, nor its threat to Lebanon. The Lebanese Army and Hezbollah are not even fighting ISIS on the borders but Jobhat el Nousra.

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Moving on to the full episode, I went through it minute by minute and took notes along the way. The episode kicked off with the cliché mosque and church contrasts, and then of course showing veiled women walking next to lingerie shops or billboards. We are proud of this co-existence of course but it gets boring when someone mentions it 10 times in the episode and randomly shows pictures of the Virgin Mary or Jesus or a mosque.

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Bourdain then took a ride with the Harley Davidson Lebanon chapter and they visited a snack shop in Beirut (Broasted Rizk) which I’ve never heard of before. They barely mentioned the food there and talked for about five minutes about the civil war, the war of the hotels back in the 1970s, thee Holiday Inn and other war-related stories.

Afterwards, Bourdain kept talking for few minutes about explosions and the civil war before he got to Burj el Brajneh camp in Beirut and continued his war talks by covering Syria, Palestinians, ISIS and wars in the region. He visited poor families and children and had Syrian food inside the camp. They also showed gruesome pictures of war victims which weren’t really necessary.

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Bourdain moved back to Raouche, showing people dancing the Dabke and then ISIS fighters somewhere in Iraq or Syria I don’t know. He then mentioned that you can swim and ski on the same day in Lebanon, and headed to Ras Beirut to have lunch with his security guard in Beirut, who thinks that Lebanon looks a lot like 2006 now (Don’t ask me how). In fact, all they talked about over lunch was war, explosions and the terrifying ISIS. Of course after lunch, we got another cliché church-mosque-night club constrast.

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Radio Beirut was next on Bourdain’s to-do list and it was a short but fun act. He met with Chino and Lebanese Rapper Hussein Charafeddine who was once arrested and mistaken for a suicide bomber.

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Moving on, Bourdain then had dinner somewhere in Beirut’s suburbs in a Hezbollah area. Food looked nice but the guy had a machine gun in the kitchen for some reason along with Hezbollah posters all around. Needless to say, everything they talked about was the 2006 war and ISIS and of course Hezbollah.

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Bourdain was meeting Lebanese Journalist and activist Joumana Haddad but he made sure to include more cliché pictures of sexy Lebanese women, then a Virgin statue, a Chanel store and the reflection of a mosque, because Lebanon is the only country in the world where you will find conservative religious women, women in bikinis, a chanel store and a mosque (ma hek?).

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Joumana’s three-minute interview was by far the best part in this episode and Joumana impressed as always with her opinions and take on things. She explained to Bourdain that it’s not “awesome not to have a president for a year”, and that the chaos that we are living in is not something you’d want to experience for over a year and she’s right.

I then skipped the part with Elefteriadis because I don’t think he’s the right person to talk to about Lebanon or Beirut as a whole. I love Music Hall and I admire the things he has done to improve nightlife in Lebanon but he’s a self-proclaimed emperor who lives in an imaginary kingdom. That’s all I have to say here. Bourdain finished the episode by visiting a cafe which I haven’t heard of as well and that is managed by Syrians and Lebanese.

All in all, “Parts Unknown” is an American travel and food show where Anthony Bourdain is supposed to go around the world and uncover lesser known places and explore cultures and cuisine. That said, coming to Beirut and visiting camps and war-torn areas is definitely not the right way to explore cuisine and culture and the way he portrayed Beirut to the whole world was a rather negative one. It’s as if we are living in constant fear of a new civil war or of ISIS invading the country which is far from the truth. We trust and believe in our Lebanese Army and we’ve always stood as one against terrorism and hopefully always will.

There are so many things that Bourdain missed out on and that could have made this episode a much better one:

– Uruguay Street, Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael, Badaro and Hamra’s nightlife.
– Beirut’s rooftops and open venues.
– Authentic Lebanese snacks and restaurants in Beirut. Since when is broasted chicken part of our culture?
– Zaitunay Bay, Beirut Souks and Solidere as a whole.
– Beirut’s beautiful graffiti murals and art scene.
– The dozens of cultural and artistic festivals happening in Beirut.
– Shawarma, Falafel, Manakish, Knefe, Lebanese sweets, etc …
– A walk around in old Achrafieh and Hamra streets.
– A close look at certain NGOs and their awesome work (ex: LiveLoveBeirut ).

I’m just talking about things to do in Beirut here and I’m sure there is tons of other stuff as well. If Bourdain wanted to see how Lebanese are reacting to ISIS threats, he should have visited Tripoli and seen how vibrant and peaceful the city is right now. We are not living in denial, we know we have a lot of issues to deal with, but that doesn’t mean we need to live in constant fear of war and stop enjoying our everyday life.

That’s what Bourdain should have focused on instead of reviving the civil war and the 2006 war in his report.

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Ramez Galal Plane Prank Is F*cked Up And Should Be Stopped!

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ramez

Egyptian Prankster Ramez Galal thought it would be funny this year to invite celebrities to a fake opening of a hotel in Dubai, fly them on a private jet and trick them into believing that the plane is going to crash and that they need to jump in parachutes. His latest victim is Lebanese TV Presenter Nishan who totally lost it and start beating the guy next to him. To be honest, this is a sick joke and he’s gone too far this time, and the fact that the plane is actually in the air makes things even worse.

It’s like this guy is waiting for something terribly wrong to happen before he stops. He has already tricked in previous year Haifa Wehbe, Maya Diab and Cyrine Abdel Nour but this prank is the worst ever.

Someone needs to stop this show once and for all.


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Leaked Footage Showing Roumieh Prison Inmates Being Tortured

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tor

Two videos were leaked today showing security forces beating and torturing Roumieh inmates. The incident took place when the ISF raided the prison back in April to quell inmate riots. In one video, two officers are seen beating two half-naked prisoners on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs. Needless to say, nothing justifies beating and torturing prisoners no matter what they’ve done and these officers should be arrested and reprimanded.

Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk has already condemned these brutal acts and assumed full responsibility for the mistake. He vowed to take all legal measures against those found guilty and two guards have been arrested so far.

Unfortunately, torture is still quite common in Lebanese prisons as around 60% of prisoners are tortured according to a report issued by the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) last year. The same report stated that 52% of women arrested by the Lebanese authorities in 2013 and 2014 were subjected to severe torture.

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Is This Picture Fake Or Real?

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isf Via WhatsupLebanon taken originally by Fady Bechara

I shared the above picture yesterday but I decided to take down the post and wait for the ISF’s clarification. They did end up tweeting around midnight that they couldn’t verify the picture or the motorist, and then they shared a picture of another motorist standing on his bike during a rehearsal for a military parade and that roads were exceptionally closed for these rehearsals.

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The sure thing is that the policeman in the original photo is on the highway not a closed road, but I still can’t confirm if the picture is fake or not but it does look real and I even googled it and got no other hits. I even asked the guy who first shared it if he took the picture or not but he didn’t answer yet. I hope they investigate this further because there’s absolutely no way to justify a policeman standing on his bike on the highway, unless it was all closed but if that’s the case who took the picture?

On another note, I’m glad that the ISF is listening and engaging with the online community.

Update: The ISF is now saying it’s an old picture.

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Dog Poop Is A Serious Problem In Achrafieh

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Back when bombings were unfortunately common in Beirut, I jokingly told my friend once that I’m more worried about dog poop than car bombs in Achrafieh. They are everywhere and you can’t walk around anywhere without looking down and making sure you are not stepping on dog poop. It’s gross and disgusting and Achrafieh residents are mostly to blame for that, specially those who are too disgusted to pick up their dog’s poop but don’t mind polluting the street and their neighborhood.

I’m glad Achrafieh2020 and Sukleen have teamed up to clean Achrafieh streets from dog poop and I love their slogan but I doubt that it will change anything. I honestly believe people who don’t pick up their dog’s poop should be fined just like everywhere else in the world, or even better, someone should track them down pick up their dog’s poop and put it on their front door.

Until then, let’s support this campaign by reporting any poop spotted on the streets, and let’s hope it will be followed by an awareness campaign aimed at dog owners.

5 Year Old Mounir Is In Coma After Being Hit By A Stray Bullet

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ll

A 5 year old kid was hit and injured by a stray bullet from a funeral gunfire in Beirut’s southern suburbs. Mounir Hazini was shot in the head and is still in coma while two others were slightly wounded. Of course the story didn’t get much attention because 1) the boy is a Syrian kid living in a camp, 2) we got used to assholes emptying their machine guns and RPGs in the air and 3) because the authorities can’t or don’t want to do anything about it.

Every time I tweet or post about the dangers of stray bullets and the need to ban celebratory gunfire in Lebanon once and for all, I get replies from people telling me that all party leaders, specially the heavily armed ones, have already asked their followers to stop shooting guns in the air, BUT they can’t control them unfortunately. If that’s really the case, which I doubt, inform the authorities about these guys and let them be arrested. How hard can it be to spot a guy emptying his machine gun in the street or on the roof? Why doesn’t anyone film them and sends them to Tony Khalife or Joe Maalouf? Why aren’t TVs doing anything to investigate further on such incidents?

Celebratory gunfire is stupid and dangerous and whomever does it is unintentionally trying to kill innocent people and should be labeled as a criminal. Mounir could have been anyone’s kid and just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. We cannot and should not get used to such incidents and the Lebanese Army and ISF should take stricter measures when these things happen.

There’s nothing stopping them from doing so (not that I know of) and I am quite sure not a single party in Lebanon would want to cover for brainless members accidentally killing and injuring innocent people.

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I Used My “Wasta” Unintentionally This Weekend

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I hate wasta, I never used it to finish any paperwork or get things done in Lebanon and I still refuse to do so. I’m one of those people who wouldn’t mind waiting for hours if that’s the right way to do things and I’m proud of that. Moreover, I’ve never bribed anyone in my life and I don’t intend to do so anytime soon. I still feel bad that I somehow ended up using my “wasta” on Saturday but it was unintentional.

Here’s what happened:

I needed a certain document from the notary public and I didn’t know any in Keserwan so I asked around and I was given the name of one so I headed there on a Saturday morning. Once I got there, it was chaotic just like you’d expect it to be and I couldn’t really tell whose turn is next so I just waited till the lady in front of me finished hoping that no one would cut me off.

I told the officer there what I needed and he asked for our IDs then our home address. When I gave him my new address, he told me that I need to go there and do the paper as it’s illegal to do it here, so I turned to my wife and told her it’s weird because my “wasta” which I won’t name told me we can do it here and he’s done it before. At that moment, the officer overheard me and he was like “Oh you’re related to Mr X” and I’m like “Yes why?”.

Everything changed at this moment, as if I used a secret code or something. He started smiling at me, told me to sit down and relax and the paper will be done in no time. He even took us to his private office and closed the door. I wasn’t really comfortable with the way things were going so I told the guy that I don’t want to proceed with it if it’s illegal, but as it turns out, it’s not but it’s preferable to do it in the town you’re living in. I eventually got my document in 5 minutes and got a discount on the fees as well. How can you give discounts on preset fees? He even offered me coffee lol!

What’s funny and sad about this story is that the lady who was there before me had to wait for an hour to get the same exact paper done, only because she didn’t have a wasta. Of course I’m glad I didn’t waste half a day for some stupid paper, but the last thing I wanted to do is use a wasta to get things done quickly.

Adel Karam Apologizes To The 63 Year Old Man Presenting His Brevet Exams

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Adel Karam issued an apology few hours ago for disrespecting a 63 year old man who was presenting his brevet exams after the story went viral online and Elie posted about it. Needless to say, it’s a shameful thing to mock an old man for wanting to complete his brevet exams at the age of 63 and he should be praised instead and even though it’s too late to apologize now, I’m glad Adel decided this time to do so instead of blocking those who are attacking him and ignoring them (which he did earlier on Twitter with a separate incident).

More importantly, I hope Adel and his team will learn from this mistake and try to focus on positive stories worth sharing instead of hosting dumb guests and updating us on Kim Jong-un. What happened with Fares Karam few months back was also unacceptable as he handed Adel a loaded gun live on TV.

I still think Adel’s show is a decent one and he does make me laugh from time to time, but it can be much better than that in my opinion.

Update: Never mind the blocking remark, it seems he did block few tweeps who attacked him. I think this is a silly move (from him or whomever is managing his account) that will only backfire on him.

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Justice For Issam Maalouf But Don’t Close Down Hospitals!

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Ella

I’ve been closely following on Ella’s story and I’ve refrained from posting anything about it so far because I’m not qualified to do so and I don’t agree on the way this story was handled from the start. The doctor should not have been arrested that way and the media should not have exploited what this girl had to go through the way they did. More importantly, the Lebanese syndicate of doctors should not have issued a work stoppage order to its 12,000 members to protest against Maalouf’s arrest.

The order of physicians has every right to protest until Maalouf was released but why close down hospitals? Who closes down hospitals and stops receiving patients except for emergencies? Who will determine what’s urgent and what’s not and how is this going to help Maalouf or Baby Ella? Moreover, who will be held responsible for patients who are left untreated and die during this strike? I have a friend who got admitted to the ER a week ago and was supposed to do further tests and an MRI today but it got postponed until further notice. He may not be in a critical condition but that’s not an excuse to cancel appointments and leave patients anxiously waiting.

Since the matter is between Lebanon’s state prosecutor, the Health Minister, the media and the syndicate of doctors, they should treat this matter legally and sort things out without having to call for a strike. Last but not least, medical malpractice is a serious and growing problem in Lebanon and I’ve had (and heard about) plenty of bad experiences with doctors which I chose to ignore because it wasn’t an urgent matter and I had no clue how to report them. This being said, the syndicate and the health ministry should sit down and figure out a way to tackle these matters in a more professional way and avoid what’s happening right now.

Gino wrote about this earlier today and I agree with most of what he had to say, check out his post [here].

Tony Khalife Has Got It All Wrong On Domestic Violence In Lebanon

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I’m not really sure what is Tony Khalife’s deal with NGOs that are working against domestic violence but he has gone too far this time and his last two interventions on this issue are, according to my humble opinion, utter nonsense. Even more, he’s damaging the reputation of respectable NGOs and turning the public against them without having any scientific proof to back his claims. When he was covering the Sarah el Amine story, he was throwing false claims all over the place and even had a Sheikh on the show who kept undermining the work of NGOs. I won’t go back to this episode but focus on his latest intervention during his appearance on Al Hayat TV where he attacked once again NGOs concerned with domestic violence against women.

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You can watch the 4-minute long video above and here are my thoughts on it:

– Claiming that some NGOs and lawyers are interfering in internal family affairs and pushing women to file lawsuits against their abusive husbands is complete nonsense. When a man abuses his wife or his children or vice versa, it’s no longer a family affair but a social issue and NGOs are here to help these women speak out and not suffer (or die) in silence.

– Claiming that certain NGOs get paid for every woman that dies due to domestic violence is a serious accusation that needs to be backed by clear evidence. If that’s not the case, he should apologize to the NGOs in question for harming their reputation.

– Claiming that NGOs have caused an increase in the number of domestic violence victims is also a serious accusation that has no scientific evidence. If anything, these NGOs are shedding the light on more and more cases everyday that no one used to hear about them before and I’m glad Mona Abou Hamze disagreed with him on this statement.

– Refusing to admit that men are the dominant group in our society is like refusing to admit most of the Lebanese are still sectarian. We are still way behind in terms of women rights and even human rights at this point.

– Claiming that women speaking out in public in front of their sons about their abusive husband is more humiliating than their husband beating them at home in front of their kids is probably the worst thing Tony said on that night. NGOs and organizations have been working for years to help women break their silence and speak out against their abusive husbands and seek protection from the authorities and society. By asking them to keep things in the house, these women and their children will suffer in silence just like what happened with Sarah el Amine.

Moreover, being an educated and respectable person has nothing to do with domestic violence. We’ve seen how a lawyer was beating his wife in public the other day and was almost bragging about it on public TV and on your show as well. Therefore, if you come back home and you find the police waiting for you, it must be for a good reason not because NGOs and lawyers are pushing women to file random lawsuits. Last but not least, an NGO that is working to eliminate all forms of exploitation and violence against women is not entitled to report cases of domestic violence against men. If Tony Khalife feels there are a lot of men being abused by women, he should start his own NGO then and report these cases and organize demonstrations and everyone will gladly support him if he’s right.

I think it’s quite ironic that Tony Khalife is running a show to help shed the light on important topics and is criticizing at the same time NGOs that are helping shed the light on domestic violence cases and supporting women being abused by their husbands. If he feels certain NGOs are not doing their job well which is properly the case, then he should prepare a show to evaluate their work and not just throw random accusations at them. Also, he should reconsider some of the cases he’s talking about and whether they helped or harmed the people involved as well.

All in all, I think it would better if he invests more time and effort into spreading awareness on domestic violence and on ways to support the victims rather than get into a pointless war with NGOs and organizations, specially those that are closely working with the authorities.