Category Archives: Middle East

The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud

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Burj hammoud via OldBeirut

Bourj Hammoud used to be a huge garden back in the 1920s before thousands of Armenian refugees began arriving in Beirut and settling in refugee camps on the outskirts of the city. What began as a tent camp soon turned into an urban center and later on in the 1950s an independent municipality.

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Burj Hammoud is one of the most densely populated cities in the Middle East and has been neglected for years by the authorities. Fifteen years ago, several houses and shops were torn to build a bridge right across the overcrowded city. As a result, hundreds of households are now living in detrimental conditions under the bridge or right next to it.

The below video by Joanne Nochu is a leader for a 90 minute film on “The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud” and has received support from the Wenner Gren Foundation.

Here’s a brief on the project:

This project established a filmmaking workshop for young adults living in Bourj Hammoud, Lebanon. Bourj Hammoud is a diverse, densely populated, working-class suburb of Beirut that is dominated by Armenian social and political institutions. Earlier dissertation research in Bourj Hammoud looked at the ramifications of various urban planning initiatives as well as infrastructures and social service institutions on the formation of sectarian identity. Using videography and photography, the grantee documented how people obtained much-needed services and resources, like education, medical care, electricity and water. The presence of the grantee’s camera elicited great interest among several of interlocutors and enabled unexpected conversations as grantee and interlocutor filmed the urban landscape of Bourj Hammoud together. The engaged anthropology project established a filmmaking workshop with some interlocutors.

The Narrow Streets of Bourj Hammoud from Joanne Nucho on Vimeo.

Beirut’s Raouché Rock Lit Up with Lebanese & Belgian Flags

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Raouceh

The Raouché rock in Beirut was lit up with the Lebanese and Belgian flags, in solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks that hit Brussels few days ago. Beirut’s Pigeon Rock was also illuminated to condemn terrorist attacks back in November 2015 following the Burj el Brajneh and Paris attacks.

Now we’ll never hear the end of it. Why Belgium and Paris and not Egypt or Ankara? Or Baghdad? In fact right now we have a repeat of what happened back in November 2015 whereas media is talking about the Ankara attacks that took place before Brussels and were barely mentioned in the news. There’s also the horrible suicide bombing that took place in Baghdad yesterday inside at a football match and killed at least 30 people.

I don’t want to get into this debate because it’s a useless one. Some argue that bombs have become the norm in our region while they have yet to become the norm in the West, while others insist that global media gives more importance to the West but what matters to me is that terrorism is on the rise, innocent people are getting killed and we are not doing enough to combat extremism.

Lebanese Finally Agree On Something: Thank you Ahlam!

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I’ve been reading for the past half hour the replies to Ahlam following her ill-mannered tweets against the Lebanese media and people and I can’t stop laughing! That’s not the first time she insults Lebanese and she totally deserves this bashing.

For those who aren’t aware of what happened, one of A7lam’s fan, also known as Halloumi (Halloumiyeen bil jame3) tweeted at Adel Karam after he mocked the Emirate “singer”, so she retweeted it and insulted the Lebanese media by saying:

“This is a video for the beggars in the Lebanese media who have insulted their queen. A poem from my country responding to them.”

Then she replied to another post and said:

“I’m telling the beggars so they won’t keep on talking about their mistress and queen. Let them prove they love their country and pick up the garbage from their streets.”

I love how all the Lebanese online agreed on bashing her together. The hashtag #منع_احلام_من_دخول_لبنان has been viral for two days now. What’s also surprising is that Adel’s video on A7lam was funny, check it out:

عادل كرم يسخر من "الملكة" أحلام !#هيدا_حكي

Posted by ‎Neswa cafe نسوة كافيه‎ on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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People in Lebanon Getting Happier

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2016 happiness

The 2016 World Happiness Report is out and Lebanon has surprisingly gained 10 spots. “GDP per capita” is still the most important explanatory variable in determining national happiness, followed by healthy life expectancy and social support for Lebanon.

Here’s the complete ranking list for Arab countries:
28- UAE (Down 8 spots)
34- Saudi Arabia (Up 1 spot)
36- Qatar (Down 8 spots)
41- Kuwait (Down 2 spots)
42- Bahrain (Up 7 spots)
67- Libya (Down 4 spots)
80- Jordan (Up 2 spots)
108- Palestine (No change)
112- Iraq (No change)
120- Egypt (Up 15 spots)
147- Yemen (Down 11 spots)
157- Syria (Down 1 spot)

Syria remains the least happy country in the Arab world and in the world right after Burundi.

You can read more about the report [here].

Google is Celebrating Iconic Arab Poet Nizar Qabbani

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nizar-qabbani's-93rd-birthday-4-hires (1)

Google is celebrating Nizar Qabbani’s 93rd through a series of four different doodles. Nizar Qabbani, considered the titan of Arab literature, is one of the most revered contemporary poets in the Arab world. The doodles depict different periods in the poet’s life during which he wrote some of his most celebrated works, one of them being Beirut of course.

The illustrations are also inspired from Nizar Qabbani’s poems; such as the jasmine flowers from his garden in Damascus and the palm trees that lined Baghdad during his time there. Arab nationalism, love and feminism were among the most popular topics he wrote about, noting that he worked as a diplomat.

Qabbani had a special passion for Beirut and established his own publishing house here. He left it in 1981 after his wife, an Iraqi woman named Balqis al-Rawi, was killed in an attack on the Iraqi embassy in Beirut.

For those of you who haven’t read any of Qabbani’s poems, you probably heard them in songs as many were incorporated into lyrics by some of the most renowned Arab singers such Fairouz, Abdel-Halim Hafez, Majida el Roumi, Um Kalthoum, Kazem el Saher and others …

One of his most popular Beirut poems is “يا ست الدنيا يا بيروت” that became a post-war hit song by Majida al-Roumi.

[YouTube]

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The Week Middle East: Is Lebanon Sinking?

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Lebanon sinking

The Week Middle East featured our PM Tamman Salam on its cover page with the title “Is Lebanon Sinking?” in reference to the ongoing garbage crisis. I tried looking for the magazine but couldn’t find it at Virgin or anywhere so I looked it up online and bought the issue as a souvenir haha!

The article on Lebanon’s garbage crisis is on page 6 and it says “River of Rubbish: Lebanon’s inability to act”. It pretty much sums up how messed up the country is recently. Let’s hope (it won’t happen) all our ministers, not just the Prime Minister, wake up once and for all and smell the coffee or the garbage in that case.

My worry at this point is that they agree to export the garbage and end up dumping it in the sea. After faking the papers to the Russian company, I wouldn’t be surprised anymore if they do that.

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Tripoli’s Fayha Choir Won “Choir of The Year” in Dubai

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choir Photo Credits: Natheer Halawani

The Fayha Choir, from Tripoli Lebanon, won during the weekend “The Choir of The Year” award at the Choir Fest Middle East 2016. ChoirFest Middle East is an annual festival in Dubai that features performances by choirs of all musical traditions. Its aim is to “nurture the choral scene of the Middle East by recognizing and supporting the music of both non-western and western choral traditions and providing wider public access to choirs from difficult or inaccessible locations.”

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The Fayha Choir was founded in 2003 and is composed of nearly 50 members, Tripoli and suburbs citizens. The choir is conducted by Maestro Barkev Taslakian and its program includes Lebanese, oriental, as well as French, English, Latin, Armenian and other songs.The Fayha Choir has performed in more than 10 countries so far, including Abu Dhabi, Armenia, Poland, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, France, Canada and others. They have also won 2 first prizes at the “International Warsaw Choir Festival 2007: Best choir & Best conductor and are officially part of the “International Federation for Choral Music” (IFCM).

Congrats to all members of the Fayha Choir!

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Here’s an exclusive video showing one of the performances by The Fayha Choir at the Choir Fest. The song is Philemon Wehbe’s Sanferyan.

[YouTube]

All pictures and the video were taken by Natheer Halawani.

Lebanese Expats are Being Punished By The Lebanese State, not Saudi Arabia

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fears via AlAraby

Saudi Arabia decided to freeze the delivery of nearly $4 billion of grants to Lebanon last week, then it warned its citizens not to travel to Lebanon, followed by Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar. Next thing you know, there are reports of Lebanese working in Saudi Arabia getting sacked for their alleged links to Hezbollah. None of the reports of Lebanese families getting deported were confirmed but it happened before and it might happen again.

Who’s to blame?
A lot of people are blaming Saudi Arabia and making fun of Gulf countries, others are blaming regional politics and the Syrian crisis but the truth is the Lebanese authorities are the only ones to blame. I stopped caring about politics a long time ago and I don’t believe what’s happening is strictly related to politics. What’s happening is the result of years of staggering incompetence, unparalleled corruption and dependence on the other. We cannot sit down and talk without bringing in representatives from half the Arab world, we cannot fix the simplest things without begging for money from Saudi Arabia or others, we cannot achieve anything without asking our neighbors for advice, or even worse, to step in and do things on our behalf.

When our Environment minister is attending environment conferences while garbage is all over the country, when our Education minister would rather close down schools every time it rains rather than properly equip classrooms, when your Prime Minister refuses to acknowledge a 6-month old garbage crisis, when your Justice minister wants to pursue a group of Lebanese burning an ISIS flag, when your Police is too busy protecting the Grand Serail from peaceful protesters, when no one asks about kidnapped army soldiers for months, when no one gets arrested for sending official fake papers to the Russian authorities, when the Military Tribunal is too busy questioning an 8 year old and lets a criminal like Michel Samaha walk away, when Lebanon’s most wanted drug lord is giving TV interviews left and right, then your problem is not a political one. Moreover, Lebanon stopped being a regional political player years ago and no one really cares what’s happening here.

I could go on and on but the end result is on: the Lebanese state is punishing Lebanese here and abroad and it’s the only party to blame. Needless to say, if you are still dumb enough to follow ANY of the political parties here, then you are also to blame and if you were expecting political freedom in Gulf countries, then you are also to blame. More importantly, if you still think Gulf states need us and you can outsmart them, then you are terribly wrong.

I think the solution is quite simple: Since Lebanon officially adopted a policy of “self-dissociation”, let them implement it and stick to it. We no longer have a role to play regionally and we can’t change anything on the ground, so let’s stick to our own problems and clean our own garbage (literally).

All in all, The Lebanese State is to blame, we are all to blame so let’s stop pointing fingers or apologizing to others because it will only make things worse.

72% of Lebanese Think Torture is Justified

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Picture Showing Roumieh Prison Inmates Being Tortured

72% of Lebanese think that torture is justified according to a spring 2015 Pew Research Center survey of 38 nations. The question asked was as follows:

“In the period following the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S, the U.S government used interrogation methods that many consider to be torture on people suspected of terrorism. In your opinion, were these interrogation methods justified, or not justified?

If the (survey country) government used torture against people suspected of terrorism to try to gain information about possible attacks in our country, do you think this could be justified or could not be justified?”

Lebanon had the second highest percentage after Uganda. In regards to other Arab countries surveyed, I could only find Jordan and Palestine where less than 50% were in favor of torture. Overall, a median of 45 per cent of people said that torture was never justified, and a median of 40 per cent said it could be in specific cases to learn information about future terrorist attacks. The view that torture may be justified was least common in Latin America (a median of 25%).

The countries with publics most likely to say that torture is justified were:
Uganda (78 per cent)
Lebanon (72 per cent)
Israel (62 per cent)
Kenya (62 per cent)
Nigeria (61 per cent)
USA (58 per cent)

To be honest, it is surprising to see such a high percentage in Lebanon but it would have been interesting to compare it to other countries threatened by terrorism like Iraq and Egypt, as well as other Arab countries like KSA, Qatar, Bahrain etc …