The number of passengers during the first four months of 2015 reached a record high of 1,969,222 passengers and showed an increase of almost 10% when compared to the same period last year. Similarly, Lebanon’s hotels (four and five stars) witnessed an increase in occupancy from 42% last year to almost 54% this year according to an Ernst & Young study. Doha, Madina, Abu Dhabi and Dubai all ranked higher with an occupancy rate of over 75%. As far as room rates are concerned, the average room rate in Beirut rose from $163 in 2014 to $173 this year, vs $303 in Dubai and $227 in Abu Dhabi. I wish they added a breakdown by nationalities to see if we are getting more Arab tourists this year or not.
In all cases, summer is looking good so let’s keep our fingers crossed that everything will stay calm inside Lebanon and on the borders.
LBCI News Anchor Dima Sadekremoved a post she wrote on Facebook few days ago after her mother received threats and insults on her phone. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a journalist is harassed in Lebanon whether online or through abusive phone calls and these people won’t stop even if you removed a controversial post or picture. May Chidiac was and is still being harassed on a daily basis and nothing is being done to track down these people. Moreover, there are a lot of people who have nothing to do with politics and get harassed on a daily basis and are unable to do anything about it, and I’ve already raised this issue two years ago when one of my friends was being harassed.
I think it’s time for the ISF and cyber crimes bureau to investigate this type of harassment and bullying and try to track down who’s behind it. We also need to track down all these apps that can get you someone’s personal information based on their license plate and that are still available for download. Cyber-stalking, cyber-bullying and online harassment are crimes that should be punishable by law and treated more seriously in Lebanon.
I met Ziad Sankari back in 2012 as we were both speakers at TedxLAU. I remember very well sitting right next to Ziad and asking him about CardioDiagnostics as it was a brilliant idea and by far the most interesting talk we had that day. Ziad has been relentlessly working on his idea since then and his efforts finally paid off as he got invited to the White House two days ago as one of the emerging young entrepreneurs from around the world. Ziad Sankari’s work was recognized by US President Barack Obama who introduced Ziad to the whole world (Yup you heard me right!) and explained how CardioDiagnostics, a heart monitoring technology, “is improving the way we respond to cardiac attack incidents which will have enormous ramifications not just in places like Lebanon but potentially all around the world”.
Being recognized by the US president is a huge deal as it provides a unique opportunity to attract investors and I am positive that Ziad will go very far with his idea and I wish him the best of luck!
If you are still wondering who is Ziad and what’s CardioDiagnostics, here’s the full story:
Ziad Sankari started CardioDiagnostics in 2012. Ziad lost his father to a heart attack when he was seventeen and his family lacked access to proper healthcare. He decided to pursue his studies in understanding the electrical activity of the heart and how monitoring and analyzing that activity can save lives. Today, the company uses FDA-approved wearable devices that are 24/7 GPS-enabled heart rate monitors allowing for heart monitoring centers to communicate diagnostic and preventive information to patients in the United States, where the center has over 40 employees, and in Lebanon. In 2008, Ziad attended Ohio State University on a U.S. Fulbright scholarship. After returning to Lebanon, he was selected to pitch his idea at the 2011 Global Innovation through Science and Technology’s (GIST) Tech-I competition where he won first place. Through GIST, a U.S. Department of State funded initiative, Ziad received his first round of seed funding and traveled through various U.S. cities to expand his network, learn how to negotiate, and connect with mentors. Given his experiences, Ziad sees education as essential to successful entrepreneurship and to combat rising issues of poverty and extremism. He hopes to support other startups and build a high-performing educational system in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East that leverages U.S. expertise and connections to open a world of opportunities to younger generations. [Source]
Homosexuality is not a trend nor an illness and people don’t choose to become gay. Blaming People for Being Gay is Like Blaming Them for Being Left-Handed.
IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia) is a long day event organized and hosted by Proud Lebanon. During this day, various activities will take place in order to address the issues related to this cause. Your participation is highly appreciated and required, so you can contribute to promote our cause and fight against Homophobia.
The minimum wage in Lebanon was increased three years ago from 500,000 ($330) to 675,000 ($450), yet a lot of people here still think it’s not enough and that it should be drastically increased. There’s no doubt that you can barely live with $450 in Lebanon given how expensive things are now, but that’s not a reason to increase the minimum wage as this could lead to serious economic problems (there are other ways to improve living standards).
I will not dig into this issue as it’s a very complicated one, but I was reading yesterday a chart published by the OECD, Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development, showing the minimum wages in 34 different countries and I thought it would be a nice idea to see where Lebanon stands on that chart. Since the chart is showing the cost per hour after taxes, we need to compute the cost of 1 working hour in Lebanon according to the Labor Law.
As mentioned above, the minimum wage is now 657,000 LL or $450 and most people work 5 days a week and 8 hours a day, which amounts to 168 hours in May for example. If we take Saturdays into consideration the total number of hours would be 188, so the cost of 1 working hour is between $2.4 and $2.7. This means that Lebanon ranks somewhere in the bottom between Hungary and Estonia. Australia and Luxembourg top the list with wages over $9 an hour each, while the US stands in 11th position with $7.25 per hour. As far as Arab countries are concerned, there’s no data available for Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia’s minimum wage is of $720 per month for the public sector while it’s $268 per month in Jordan, $175 in Egypt and between $176–$266 in Syria,
The new traffic law is still the hottest topic in Lebanon right now and is even being mentioned in foreign media outlets. The Financial Times shared an article on the traffic law (classified under “Syria crisis” for some reason) last week and The National shared a story entitled “Lebanon attempts to impose order on its traffic jungle” on the same topic today .
I got interviewed by Josh Wood from the National and here are the key points I mentioned regarding the new traffic law:
– All previous attempts of implementing the traffic law started almost identically and all failed.
– People are driving more slowly and carefully at night and wearing their seat belts because the fines are huge, or simply because there are fines just like in previous attempts.
– Policemen are still breaking the law and should be punished more severely when they do so as they are role models for others to follow.
– I’m worried about bribes and recommend we automate the whole process by setting up a platform like this [one].
– The idea from the new traffic law should be to help people become aware of the traffic law and care about their own safety, not just fine them and send the money elsewhere.
– Lebanese should know that the fines they are paying are going somewhere to improve the infrastructure.
On a last note, we have to stay optimistic every time someone tries to implement traffic laws and the current minister of interior is a rather pragmatic person so let’s hope for the best! You can check out the full article [here].
I was actually surprised to see all parties sitting on one table to protest against the Zouk power plant on April 25 but I soon realized it was all nonsense when they started talking about forming committees. I know it’s too early to judge but no one had a serious proposal to end the Zouk Power Plant problem and it doesn’t look like we will get rid of it that soon.
What’s even worse is that the posters that they hung on every street and road are all still there and one of them almost fell on my car on the highway. So now the posters against the pollution in Keserwan are effectively polluting the city as well, noting that most of the area’s municipalities were involved in the protest. Cheghel ndeef wou 3al lebnené!
Update: WalkBeirut is not organizing walks at the moment.
One of my favorite things to do in Beirut is walk around and discover new streets, old houses and hidden spots. I always have people ask me about the location of some of the pictures I take while I’m walking around Achrafieh, Mar Mikhael or Gemmayze and I always thought it would be a nice idea to organize walks around Beirut and let tourists and locals discover the old parts of Beirut like they’ve never seen them before.
For those interested, there’s WalkBeirut, which is run by AUB graduates, and offers guided walking tours of Beirut, and there’s also Beirut Old City Walk which is run by Elie Karam who take tourists on walks and shows them Beirut’s old hidden gems. Elie’s next walk is scheduled for May 24. WalkBeirut is obviously the better choice if you want a professional well-guided tour, but I’ve read testimonials on Elie’s Facebook page and most of them loved the experience and found him funny so I think both of them are worth a try, specially that they cover different areas.
In fact, Beirut old city walk covers Achrafieh and Burj Hammoud areas while WalkBeirut‘s stops are mostly around DownTown Beirut and Kantari area. The ticket prices are respectively $15 and $20 excluding food.
If you know other people or organizations who offer walking tours, I will gladly share them.
Despite everything that’s been happening in the past few years and despite having the worst ranked country in the world in terms of freedom as a neighbor (Syria), Lebanon was still ranked as a partly-free country in the 2015 Freedom House report. Kuwait was the only other partly free country in the Arab World while Tunisia “became the Arab world’s only Free country after holding democratic elections under a new constitution”, and the first Arab country to achieve the status of Free since Lebanon was gripped by civil war. Lebanon scored 4.5 out of 7 in Freedom Rating, 4 in Civil Liberties and 5 in political rights thereby earning the “partly free” status.
Unfortunately though, Lebanon was given a well deserved “downward trend arrow due to the parliament’s repeated failure to elect a president and its postponement of overdue legislative elections for another two and a half years, which left the country with a presidential void and a National Assembly whose mandate expired in 2013”. As far as Arab countries are concerned, Kuwait was also ranked as partly free, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen were ranked not-free, while Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria were ranked among the worst in the world.
Check out the full report [here] and more about Lebanon [here].
The union of Cable providers in Lebanon (I didn’t know they had a union) decided to take down LBCI yesterday as a sign of protest against the decision taken by 8 local TVs to make them pay a fee for broadcasting their shows. LBCI, Future TV, Tele Liban, NBN, Al Jadeed, Manar, OTV and MTV all set new broadcasting rules by asking cable providers to pay 4 dollars for each subscriber, and asking all cable providers to sign official documents that grant them broadcasting rights.
Honestly speaking, I think it’s about time someone regulated this whole process and put an end to illegal cable providers in Lebanon. I rarely watch TV but I remember I had to call the cable guy almost every Sunday when I was at my parents to be able to watch Formula 1 or some football game. The quality of the image is bad, they control what you’re watching and rarely answer the phone when needed. Moreover, the fact that they are able to randomly shut down LBCI just to protest is quite absurd and unheard of.
Some may argue that we shouldn’t have to pay to watch local TVs but they need to monetize to survive in this market and having illegal cable providers rebroadcast all their shows for free doesn’t make sense, specially when there are affordable and legal providers like Econet and Cable Vision.