Most of you have probably heard about “Beit Beirut” or the Barakat building in Beirut, but only few know the woman who worked for years to save this iconic building and prevent Beirut’s municipality from destroying it. This amazing woman is called Mona el Hallak and she was just awarded a French medal of honor–the “Ordre National du Merite” by the French Ambassador in Beirut. Mona is an architect and an activist who has worked tirelessly to save Beit Beirut which will be turned into a museum, with help from French institutions. Mona began to campaign after she saw workers destroying parts of the house, she reached out to the media at first, then to politicians then to the Beirut governor Nicolas Saba at the time who froze the demolition process. She got Minister of Culture Fawzi Hobeish to suspend the demolition as well, tried to locate buyers for the buildings, compiled a file on the building and sent copies to architecture institutions around the world, made an appeal on the Cyberia website and spent years taking groups mostly foreigners to tour the site.
Once opened, Beit Beirut will be closest thing Lebanon has to a public war memorial, knowing that the house was a strategic spot for snipers during the 1975-1990 civil war. Fighter-built walls and other war traces will be kept and incorporated as part of the house.
I’ve been following up for years now on this project and the completion date has been changed twice already in 2013 and 2014. I have no idea why things are taking this long and I can only hope that it will be completed this year. In all cases, congrats to Mona and I hope her dream will come true very soon.
If you want to read Mona’s speech, check it out [here]. Check out as well this awesome read on Mona’s story with Beit Beirut.
The revamped Barakat building will connect to a new edifice built on an adjacent lot through a large spiral staircase, with both structures boasting state-of-the-art solar power systems. Just as the Lebanese themselves should be, says Haidar, the building will look firmly into the future while paying tribute to its past. “We are dealing with the building as if it is a war wounded that is starting to heal again,” says Haidar. “These traces cannot be erased, they are like scars.” The museum will have an auditorium for lectures and workshops for young people on issues relating to memory, history and war- issues Haidar says have not been addressed at all in Lebanon.
Members of the Syrian delegation assaulted Fadi Saad, a Lebanese lawyer, after he spoke against the Syrian army and the Syrian regime during the 23rd conference for Arab lawyers that was being held in Egypt. You’d expect lawyers to be the last people to resort to violence but then again everything is different in the Arab world.
PS: It seems Miss Israel photobombed Sally’s selfie by taking her own selfie. This calls for a new hashtag #Incelfie
I just noticed people have been tweeting all day at Miss Lebanon Sally Jreij because of a selfie that included her and Miss Israel. I looked a bit and found that Miss Lebanon’s manager issued a statement where she says that she was being harassed by Miss Israel and that Miss Israel photo bombed her picture. If this is really the case, then the organizers should have taken action and avoided this whole mess.
In all cases, I think the statement Sally is pretty clear and she should report the picture and have it removed if it’s going to cause her trouble. Until then, let’s focus on more serious issues we have in Lebanon, like the two Lebanese army soldiers that were injured after Israeli troops tossed smoke grenades in Aita el Shaab today.
Update: Here’s what Sally told her fans apparently:
“To all my supporters and Lebanese citizens, I would like to thank you indeed for your continuous support of Miss Lebanon at the Miss Universe contest …The truth behind the photo: Since the first day of my arrival to participate to Miss Universe, I was very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel (that tried several times to have a photo with me).
I was having a photo with Miss Japan, Miss Slovenia and myself; suddenly Miss Israel jumped in, took a selfie, and put it on her social media. This is what happened and I hope to have your full support in the Miss Universe contest”
Update: Check out this amazing tribute by Magda Abu-Fadil from The Huffington Post.
Faten Hamama, an iconic Egyptian film star and the “Lady of the Arabic screen” has passed away yesterday at the age of 83. Faten Hamama lived in Beirut and London between 1966 and 1971 as she was being harassed by Egyptian intelligence during that time. She was awarded the “Al-Arz” decoration by the Lebanese President in 2001 and got an honorary doctorate from the American University of Beirut in 2013.
The above work is a tribute by my friend Corinne Martin, a Lebanese-Texan artist currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You can check out her work [here].
Here’s an excerpt from an old movie showing Faten Hamama and Omar el Sharif:
Update (20/01/2015): It appears that the government won’t be fixing any prices and the prices will drop by more than 1,000 Lebanese Lira tomorrow.
Gas prices have dropped by over 13,000 Lebanese Liras from last year until now in Lebanon, and they should normally continue to drop since oil prices are plunging worldwide. However, it appears that the Lebanese authorities and the concerned ministries want to put an end to this drop and set a minimum price for the tank. Moreover, there are talks that they might re-introduce a fixed amount that is related to internal distribution and governmental taxes and that was abolished by Gebran Bassil a couple of years ago.
Knowing that the prices are related to international market fluctuations, I don’t think it’s fair for the government to set a minimum price. If they want to compensate for the oil companies and gas stations’ losses, they should also set a maximum price and relieve the Lebanese from high fuel bills. If the government wants to take action and help oil companies by fixing the price of 20 liters of gas at 22,000, they should also prioritize the average citizen and set a maximum price.
On another note, I wonder if the drop in gas prices has anything to do with the increase in traffic lately.
I had posted back in September that Forever 21 is set to open early January and today is the official opening.
The UN announced last week that Syrians have overtaken Afghans as the largest refugee population (aside from Palestinians) as they’ve fled to over 100 countries to escape war in Syria. They are more than 3 million refugees as of mid-2014 with almost 1.1 million registered refugees in Lebanon. Lebanon’s population has grown by nearly 25% ever since the war in Syria began in 2011.
Fortunately, Lebanon has started to impose visa restrictions earlier this year and I am hoping other measures will be taken to organize this whole mess and regroup the current refugees in decent camps.
Picture via Rania el Khatib
People are apparently upset with the above Nutella billboard because it shows Christian names with the English version and Muslim names (Except for Sarah which is not Muslim) with the Arabic one. I don’t know if all the billboards are like this one but I agree that the way the names were depicted in this one is wrong, even if it wasn’t done intentionally. I wouldn’t make a big fuss out of it though but whomever did this should have been more careful.
It is worth noting that it’s common in Lebanon to have billboards in Arabic for areas like Tripoli and the same billboards in French and English in areas like Jounieh and Beirut.
Update: Here are all the Nutella billboards I found on my way to work today. I couldn’t find the one posted by Rania (shown above) and as expected, there are many versions in both Arabic and English. I am checking now to see where that billboard was spotted.
I first thought it was Elie Saab until I re-read and noticed it’s Saba not Saab. However, I’m almost sure Elie Saab had the same logo with the same font and different thickness for the first and family name. Too bad I couldn’t find it online to compare the two as it must have be long time ago.
Spotted in Zahle.
Kalam Ennas showed yesterday exclusive footage from inside Roumieh’s Bloc B and I can easily say this is one of the biggest scandals in Lebanon’s history. A whole building inside Roumieh’s prison that contains an operations room, servers and hubs, a library and a coffee shop, a school to train terrorists, LCD and LED TVs, drugs and women clothes etc …
I am glad that Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk ended this mess but someone should be held accountable for it so that it doesn’t happen again. After all, the prisoners are still there and corruption among officers as well. If you want to know the kingpins of the Islamist Floor inside Roumieh’s prison that were identified by the ISF, check it out [here].