Category Archives: Lebanon

Five Ways To Reduce Waste Until The Garbage Crisis Is Over

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The Naameh landfill is still closed, Sukleen stopped working, garbage is invading our streets and some idiots have started burning trash not knowing that it’s very dangerous for their health and the environment. The government failed today to reach a decision which is not surprising because the solutions offered are not feasible and Minister Mashnouq should have thought of a contingency plan before reaching this stage.

Everyone is blaming the government for the garbage crisis but I will not waste my time pointing fingers because 1) our officials are all useless and 2) we don’t need more waste. Of course tweeting and nagging online about garbage is also sort of useless, but what we can do is spread awareness and help people take action by reducing waste and not make things worse.

To begin with, I advise everyone NOT to burn trash and REPORT anyone who does that to the police because it adds to air pollution, create an unpleasant smell especially when burning plastic, rubber or painted material and can produce a range of poisonous compounds. Moreover, fire can spread to buildings and trees and damage public properties. Yesterday, several Ogero units got damaged because of these fires and Beirut’s Fire Departments stated that it “doused more 140 fires set on dumpsters across Beirut since Monday”.

How to reduce waste?

I know Lebanese will not start recycling all of a sudden but there are ways to reduce waste, so please read them carefully and try to apply them as of tomorrow morning.

1- Bring home less stuff, Buy only what you need and buy in bulk
Next time you head to the supermarket, think about what you need and how you plan to use it before you buy. Avoid buying unnecessary products or stuff that you know you will end up throwing away. Avoid individually wrapped items and buy in bulk the items (preferably recyclable) that you use regularly to save money and reduce waste.

2- Stop ordering food:
I know this will upset many restaurants but avoid ordering food for now. Cook your own meal, prepare your own sandwiches or ask your mother to cook for you. You will end pleasing your mom, eating healthier food and reducing waste.

3- Use clothes instead of paper towels in the kitchen, go paperless at work:
Whenever you’re cooking in the kitchen or cleaning, avoid using paper towels and use instead cloth rags. As for work, try to reduce the amount of papers you’re printing and use every side of a notebook. Reduce the amount of unwanted mail you get and choose to have your statements and bills sent to you by email.

4- Avoid plastic cups, bottles and bags.
You’d be surprised by how many plastic cups you throw away every day. Get your own mug to work and avoid using plastic cups. Also whenever you are shopping for stuff, try to buy a recyclable bag and avoid using plastic grocery bags. It won’t cost you a thing and some supermarkets offer them for free. As far as water is concerned, try to buy reusable water bottles instead of the plastic ones you throw away.

5- Give away or sell the stuff you don’t need
Don’t just throw stuff in the garbage. Check to see if anyone is interested in buying things you don’t need and seek NGOs and organizations that collect trash and recyclable stuff. I will post on all the companies that recycle in Lebanon to help you out.

The above steps don’t require a government decision but individual efforts from each and every one of us. I will start implementing these tips and I hope you do the same to help reduce waste, encourage recycling and protect the environment and Lebanon for the generations to come. Recycling can be achievable and I’m asking around to see how we can help municipalities start recycling the soonest.

Update: Here are the companies in Lebanon that recycle with all the information you need. Please make good use of this list and share it with all your friends.

Most of you are already familiar with Ziad Abi Chaker’s Cedar Environmental Initiative. You can read more about it [here] and contact him at the below numbers:

Office Phone: +961 1 389404
Mobile: +961 3 293222
e-mail: info@cedarenv.com(contact person Ziad Abichaker)
Address: Cedar Eco-Industrial Park, Abou Mizane, Bickfaya – Lebanon.

Here’s the full list that is being shared online:

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Review: BRGRCO, Still My Favorite Burger Joint, Now Open At ABC Achrafieh

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I often brag about Brgrco and recommend it to all my friends but I’ve never done a proper review of that place surprisingly, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to do that especially that Brgrco just opened its third branch in Beirut at ABC Achrafieh. Brgrco has been my favorite burger joint in Beirut for almost 4 years now and I have yet to find a better place even though I’ve tried many, if not most of the burger places in town.

So what makes Brgrco so special?

1- Simple Burgers, Prime grain-fed Angus Beef & High-Quality Ingredients:
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Brgrco is all about the meat. The patty is 100% grain-fed Australian Black Angus beef, cooked on real charcoal grills without any sauces, spices or artificial flavors. The bigger the patty is, the juicier and more flavorful it is. All burgers are served medium and a couple of signature burgers are best served medium-rare. When I order Hussein Haddid’s signature burgers like the Butcher’s Cut, I don’t even ask for cheese on top and as I just want to enjoy this thick piece of meat served on its own. If you don’t like your meat medium or medium-rare, you can always have it well-done but you’d be ruining the burger and the whole Brgrco experience in my opinion. Of course you can add whatever you want to the burgers (pork bacon included) but I’ve never asked for anything except cheese on top.

2- Fries, Cheese Fries, Parmesan & Truffle Fries:
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Not every potato makes it to be Brgr.co fries. I don’t know how they pick their potatoes but their fries are quick amazing and the cheese they use on top makes them even better. Parmesan and truffle fries are a must-try!

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3- Redefining Gourmet Burgers & Always New Menu Items:

Every now and then, there’s a new exciting gourmet burger at Brgrco. The ones that I know of are The Raclette BRGR which is served during winter, the “Café De Paris” Burger, which consists of a fat and juicy medium-rare patty topped with a special butter-based complex sauce with over 12 ingredients and a fresh soft bun with a bit of Dijon mustard spread on it, The Falafel BRGR, the Truffle BRGR which I’ve never tried and the newly introduced Stroganov BRGR. My favorites are the Raclette and Café De Paris.

Café de Paris BRGR

Aside from burgers, Brgrco introduced last summer lobster rolls imported from Maine and Nova Scotia and boiled on a daily basis. It’s the perfect add-on to your main dish and it’s also the best lobster roll I’ve tried in Beirut.

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4- The Desserts:
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Make sure you always leave room for dessert when you’re eating at Brgrco. The Cheesecake pudding, The Banoffee cream cheese pudding, the toffee date pudding and the malted rich soft chocolate ice cream are all great choices. My favorite right now is the malted rich soft chocolate ice cream.

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5- The Atmosphere, The Service & The Friendliness of the Staff
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Every time I’ve been to any of the Brgrco branches, the staff was friendly, the service was impeccable and our food was ready in less than 15 minutes. More importantly, the quality and taste are always the same. The venues, especially the ABC Achrafieh one, are also very cozy, the music is nice and the cleanliness is showing. I remember having two minor complaints over the past 3 years which were resolved quickly and on the spot. Also, smoking is forbidden inside. Price-wise, some may argue that the place is expensive but if you truly compare the quality of meat and service that you are getting vs popular diners and fancy restaurants that serve gourmet burgers, you will realize it’s pretty much the same if not less.

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Let’s not forget the cows of course, which are showcased in all BRGR.CO restaurants and are pretty cool. There’s also a small cow that I decorated and that is on display at Brgrco Sodeco branch. If you ever go there, check it out as there’s BlogBaladi written all over it.

All in all, these are the reasons why I appreciate Brgrco and why I keep coming back there. I have friends who fell in love with the place and others who just didn’t like the idea of having medium or medium-rare burgers. For me, burgers are all about the quality of the meat and I’m not interested in bulky burgers with burned patties, or low-quality meat topped with a zillion ingredients.

Brgrco is now located in L3 at ABC Achrafieh.

Lebanon Among The 15 Most Billionaire-dense Countries: One Billionaire For Every 586,000 Lebanese

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Someone crunched the numbers from Forbes’ 2015 billionaire list and came up with a a list of the most billionaire-dense countries. Lebanon made the list with 7 billionaires for a population of 4,104,000, which equals one billionaire per 586,286 Lebanese. The Mikati (Najib & Taha) and Hariri (Saad, Ayman, Bahaa, Fahad) families are basically Lebanon’s billionaires in addition to Robert Mouawad. It is worth noting that the Hariri and Mikati families are originally from Saida and Tripoli, two of the poorest areas in Lebanon.

The only other Arab country that made the list is Kuwait with 5 billionaires. I expected to see the UAE on the list but they only have 4 billionaires according to Forbes.

Check out the full list [here].

billio via Forbes

Seven Sisters: Beirut’s Newest Nightlife Venue Is Opening Tonight!

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The hottest nightlife destination this summer in Beirut is Seven Sisters and it’s opening tonight. I passed by the venue yesterday for a sneak peek visit and it’s a pretty cool concept at an ideal spot in Beirut Waterfront next to O1NE and Garten. Seven Sisters is basically an outdoor garden, a sort of green island in the skyscraper-packed capital where you can enjoy sunset drinks, listen to loungy music or a live-band, party on the weekends or even enjoy a good Sunday brunch.

Speaking of food, Seven Sisters are very keen on the food they are offering and the owners told me they will have an international menu, live cooking with Chef Danny Khairallah and a BBQ station, a show kitchen as well as a Sashimi station by Le Sushi Bar. They want their Sunday brunches to be memorable and they are working hard to achieve it.

I think this place has a lot of potential and I’m in love with the concept. It’s always a great idea to add some grenery to the city and I’m glad they are focusing on the food as it’s usually a weak point in most nightlife venues. I unfortunately missed out on the opening tonight but I’m going there for drinks sometimes this week and I’m definitely trying their Sunday brunch.

Here are few sneak peek pictures to show you how the venue looks like:

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Sound of Monte-Carlo will be playing on Sunday at Seven Sisters. You can check out more info [here].

Celebrating Eid In Tripoli: Crowded Souks, Great Food, Clowns For A Cause, Flying Lanterns & Happy Children

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Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, is a very special time of the year for Muslims worldwide. Every country has its own traditions and in Lebanon, every city celebrates it in its own way. This year, I decided to head to Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city and one of its poorest, to share their traditions and join Tripolitans in their celebrations.

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My first stop was at Furn el Saadeh, a popular oven located in Al Tall area that sells Ch3aybiyyet, Kafta and Lahm Baajine. The place was tiny yet packed and we ended up standing outside and having our breakfast on one of the parked cars’ hood but it was quite amazing and totally worth it.

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Tripoli may be a poor city, but it’s rich in diversity and is a beautiful city to explore. There are always new places to visit and new things to do and a sense of community in the city. Locals come up with new initiatives every year to help out those in need and put a smile on their faces. Here are some of them:

Flying Lanterns (نور دربن) on Maarad Street:
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This year marked the third edition of this event, where Tripolitans welcome the holidays by lightening Tripoli’s ski with lanterns and collecting money to put less fortunate children back in school. The atmosphere is quite amazing as more and more people are joining the event every year to light up Tripoli skies and brighten up a child’s future.

Clowns for a cause:
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Eid is an occasion for children to celebrate and reunite with their loved ones but unfortunately that’s not the case in Tripoli where a lot of children have to work to provide for their families. The number of children aged between 7 and 15 and already working is quite staggering in Tripoli and they are easily noticeable especially in Bab el Tebbaneh. Fighting child labor is a long process but a lot of NGOs and locals organize small gatherings in the old souks and deprived areas and invite clowns to entertain the children and celebrate Eid.

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One of these events was organized by the Old Souk Development Committee in the old souks right underneath Tripoli’s citadel where they had set up inflatable games and brought clowns and cartoon characters. Another event was being held in the streets of Abi Samra by The Lebanese Center for active citizenship and a third one in Jabal Mohsen’s neighborhood. Children were dancing, playing, singing and having a great time just like they should be on Eid. Sadly though, I spotted at every event a couple of kids working and selling stuff to the audience while trying to enjoy the show.

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Haret el Tanak – (Tin Neighborhood)
In addition to these events, a friend of mine brought my attention to clown flash-mob performed in one of the most underprivileged parts of Tripoli, which has little-to-no infrastructure and is known as Haret el Tanak (Tin neighborhood). Journalists, engineers, students and activists came from all over Lebanon, dressed up as clowns and spent the whole day celebrating Eid with families there.

clowns Picture via Natheer Halawani

I ended the day by touring Tripoli’s citadel and taking panoramic shots from the highest point in the city.

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The Real Problem In Lebanon Is The Lack Of Recycling

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zz Picture via Imad Bazzi

Sukleen’s term has expired on July 17th and the company is no longer collecting garbage, the deadline set by the Naameh residents expired yesterday and the road to the landfill is closed once again, Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq still has no idea on what to do next and has informed the municipalities that they will need to handle their garbage until further notice. The proposed solution is to designate new landfill locations to replace the Naameh one but all municipalities are refusing this option because they simply don’t want to end up with a landfill as big as the Naameh one. At the same time, Naameh residents are fed up and they have every right to close the landfill, noting that it was originally supposed to operate for 6 years only yet has become the country’s primary landfill (65% of the Lebanese garbage) for 17 years now.

As far as Sukleen is concerned, they did their job and are not too worried about what happens next. Beirut Municipalities, on the other hand are not prepared to handle this task and they are already panicking and setting up temporary dump sites in inappropriate locations, noting that most municipalities are indebted to Sukleen.

How do we get out of this mess?
The problem is a political one as is always the case in Lebanon, and Minister Mashnouk can’t really do anything until all parties agree on a new company or on renewing Sukleen and setting up new landfill locations, but we could have avoided all that if the authorities started years ago recycling campaigns and encouraged municipalities to invest in recycling instead of wasting all their money on Sukleen’s services, noting that we are currently paying almost $170 per 1 ton of garbage between sweeping, cleaning, sorting, packing and dumping, which is a relatively high amount.

Given that at least 60% of our solid waste is organic in Lebanon, the most effective solution is to implement an adequate strategic waste management plan and encourage recycling. It is in every municipality’s interest to invest in recycling and promote environmentally friendly solutions to save money, protect the environment and more importantly their own residents. Take for example Sweden where people recycle almost 47% of their waste and use 52% to generate heat; I’m not saying we will achieve that in 1 or 2 years but things have been dragging for 20 years now and the worst thing we could do right now is repeat the Sukleen and Naameh experience, add to that the illegal landfills in Saida, Tripoli (Baddawi) and Tyre.

If some municipalities are too corrupt or don’t understand the benefits of recycling and waste management, why doesn’t the government force them to spend 30 or 40% of its budget on recycling instead of paying debts to Sukleen? Why doesn’t the ministry give them long-term credits to encourage waste management and incentives based on the results achieved? Just like the electricity problem in this country, I believe municipalities need to take personal initiatives like Zahle did and force it on the authorities.

Until then, enjoy the smells :)

IMAX Finally Coming To Lebanon

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IMAX-screens-get-smaller_ via digitaltrends

Three IMAX theatres will be added to VOX locations in the MENA region, including one in Beirut, marking IMAX’s entry into that country. VOX Cinemas are expected to get IMAX by end of this year based on what I’ve been told, but the date hasn’t been confirmed yet. I’ve been to an IMAX theater once and it’s quite an amazing experience. The technology and architecture makes you forget you’re in a theater and makes the movie so freaking real!

I will keep you posted if there are any updates but this is very exciting news for myself and all movie-goers in Lebanon.

IMAX Corporation (NYSE: IMAX) and VOX Cinemas, a leading exhibitor in the Middle East, today announced an agreement for three IMAX® theatres to be added to VOX locations throughout the region. IMAX theatres will be added to existing complexes in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and in Beirut, Lebanon, marking IMAX’s entry into that country. In addition, IMAX’s next-generation digital laser projection system will be launched as part of a completely new development of their flagship VOX Cinema, located within the landmark Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, UAE.

“Moviegoers in the Middle East want only the best cinema technology and movie watching experiences when visiting our cinemas and IMAX is a brand that is regarded as the best among our guests in the region,” said Cameron Mitchell, CEO of VOX Cinemas. “Our commitment to delivering a customer-focused cinema experience is a perfect fit with IMAX’s cutting-edge technology and blockbuster film slate. As we continue to expand our circuit throughout the Middle East, IMAX will serve as an anchor attraction that we are confident will be embraced by our guests. [Source] “

Two New Road Signs To Be Introduced In Lebanon

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CKVpN8TUsAAc-e3 Poster done by Bob Kastoun from Ma3roof

If you spot the first sign, quickly take ur right and let whomever is behind you pass, otherwise you might get beaten up or even stabbed to death. As for the second sign, it will deployed in the next phase of the new traffic law to help drivers avoid specific potholes that were listed as historic sites and are being preserved by the concerned ministries and Goodwill Ambassador Zein el Atat.

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Ten Things The Telegraph Didn’t Know About Lebanon

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leb via LiveLoveBeirut

It’s not always a good thing when Lebanon is promoted as a touristic destination by international media as the way they perceive things is sometimes highly inaccurate. Of course you can’t really blame them because of the current situation on the borders and in neighboring countries but it wouldn’t hurt to double check on some facts before publishing them.

I just finished reading an article recently published by the Telegraph on Beirut entitled “War is a million miles away when the Lebanese begin to party” and here are ten things they got completely wrong. The first two are related to the outdated pictures they used, while the rest is from the article itself.

chris A Lebanese Christian woman partying after recent elections

1- The last elections took place on June 7, 2009 which is more than 6 years ago and a “Christian woman” drinking champagne after results were announced is not really how we party in Beirut.

diningg Dining out in Beirut’s rebuilt downtown area (Photo: Alamy)

2- I don’t remember the last time I saw people dining in that area of Beirut. I think it goes back to 2003 or 2004. Whomever wrote this article obviously hasn’t visited Beirut in a long time.

Standing on picnic tables, skinny girls in hot pants and crop-tops gyrated to thumping beats, upending bottles of vodka into the mouths of the bare-chested men dancing beside them. An open-top car, Christian Louboutin shoes and a full-time, live-in maid to look after one’s children are all must-have accessories.

3- Are they referring to Rikkyz here? If not where is this place in the Lebanese mountains with skinny girls in hot pants and bare-chested men? I had no clue Rikkyz was for fancy people only.

Beauty is paramount: parents are known to book nose jobs as a birthday presents for their teenage children, and the youngsters wear their stitches proudly, as badges of honour. The average cost of a birthday party among this elite, one event organiser tells me, is $200,000. A wedding is $300,000.

4- Nose jobs for teenage children? Wear their stitches as a badge of honor? Really? And birthday parties for $200,000? Are we talking about Lebanon here? Plastic surgery is quite common in Lebanon but people tend to be discreet about it as far as I know.

It is said that most of the country’s big spenders sustain their lifestyles using bank loans they cannot obviously repay. The phenomenon is often explained as a consequence of the civil war.

5- Bank loans for $200,000 to hold a birthday party and get a nose job? Lebanese families who organize such parties don’t need bank loans. They probably own banks themselves. Moreover, the phenomenon is not a consequence of the civil war as most people tend to overspend on their credit cards. This is a universal problem for all credit card holders.

Society remains divided. Most Lebanese put sect before country. Beirut is a patchwork of separate cantons (in Christian Ashrafieh, the women wear miniskirts, while 10 minutes’ walk east, in the mostly Shia district of Basta, the prevailing fashion is the hijab).

6- Shia District of Basta? Isn’t Basta a traditionally Sunnite area?

The communities rarely interact.

7- That’s true. Christians rarely talk to Muslims and we rarely hang out at the same places. Yesterday I went to Verdun and I was a bit worried that Muslims on camels might attack me there, but then I spotted Christians wearing gold chain necklaces with a cross on it and I felt safe again.

Rushing through the city’s Armenian quarter one night, on my way to the chic downtown district, I was stopped by an elderly man who warned me not to go on. “There are Muslims there,” he cautioned.

8- The Muslims are coming. Beware lol!

A Lebanese businessman told me recently how he had struggled to persuade a British colleague to come to Beirut. For years she refused to visit, until it became a necessity for her work. Convinced she was flying into a war zone, her hands shook with fear as she checked in at Heathrow. On the plane she broke into floods of tears.

9- This passage is quite insulting to the whole British community and to British Ambassador Tom Fletcher. Is it so hard for this young woman to check the British Embassy’s website and understand what’s happening in Lebanon. Ironically enough, the UK travel advice to Lebanon is one of the most detailed and accurate ones.

For now, sadly, even at the magnificent Greco-Roman temples of Baalbek, the tourist touts sit together at a coffee table by the empty ticket hall. A camel, dressed up to the nines, with an embroidered doily resting between its ears and an elaborately carved wooden saddle on his back, waits under a tree, desolately swatting flies with its tail. The businessman’s friend may well have been their last customer.

10- The Baalbeck International Festival is the oldest and most prestigious cultural event in the Middle East and is visited by thousands every year. Last year, the festivals were relocated due to the situation in Syria but they are back this year. Moreover, Baalbeck is almost one of the most impressive and most visited sites in Lebanon.

The only thing that the Telegraph goes right was that the “biggest risk to foreigners in Lebanon is a thick waistline and a stinking hangover”. Here’s a [link] to the full article.

PS: If you’re coming to Lebanon this summer, here’s a list of fun things to do.