Category Archives: Middle East

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 …

#UpForSchool: Three Brothers Rapping To Help 1 Million Refugees Go To School

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We are currently witnessing the world’s worst refugee crisis in decades and the victims are first and foremost the children. Millions of refugee children are unable to attend schools and end up on the streets leading a catastrophic lifestyle which poses many risks on their physical and mental well-being.

I never tire of repeating that any form of education is better than no education especially for refugee children and education remains the best weapon against extremism and terrorism. Providing a safe environment for these kids is essential to help them grow up normally and focus on acquiring a good job and building a happy family rather than resorting to violence and extremism.

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There are plenty of ongoing campaigns to help these refugees get the education they need and the latest is a pretty cool one as it focuses on three talented young brothers, Samir, Abdulrahman and Mohammed, who arrived in Lebanon four years ago and love rapping. They’ve been rapping about their struggle and the Syrian People’s struggle and are sending out a message that every child has potential but it cannot be realized without an education.

The campaign aims at giving hope Syria’s Young Talent by signing the petition at upforschool.org or even taking action if you are willing to.

Check out the video, sign the petition and help spread the word!

PS: The petition will be taken to world leaders at the the Syrian Donors Conference in London in February.

[YouTube]

Queen Rania’s Spot-On Reply To Charlie Hebdo’s Racist & Tasteless Cartoon

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A lot of people, including myself, condemned the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo in the name of free speech, but many people were against using the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag simply because this magazine’s views do not represent them, and a clear example of that is Charlie Hebdo’s latest cartoon about Aylan Kurdi and sex attackers.

The French satirical magazine suggested that Aylan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian kid whose tragic picture made headlines worldwide, would have grown up to be a sex attacker, in reference to the recent mass sexual assaults that took place on NYE in Cologne. I thought the cartoon was racist, disgusting and distasteful to say the least and I honestly don’t care what message they were trying to send through this drawing and whether they were misunderstood or not, you just don’t do that with the memory of an innocent dead child.

A lot of people were outraged by the cartoon, yet the best answer came from Jordan’s Queen Rania who responded with a sketch of her own, where she posted “Aylan could’ve been a doctor, a teacher, a loving parent…”. I thought the reply was spot-on and I will also add to it “Aylan could have been from Lebanon, France or any country going through war”, so let’s put ourselves in every refugee’s shoes and stay away from hateful and racist statements. Just like I said last week following the graphic images of death and starvation that emerged from the Syrian town of Madaya, you can easily ignore what’s happening around you if you don’t feel concerned, but making fun of other people’s misery makes you a sick person.

Ghena Bou Hamdan: The Young Syrian Girl Singing For Syria’s Children Of War

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Back in the late 70s and early 80s, famous Lebanese child singer Remi Bandali captured Arab hearts by singing “3touna el toufouli” and “Imani A7la Iman” to a war-torn Lebanon. Over 35 years later, Ghena Bou Hamdan did the same by bursting into tears while singing Bandali’s “Give Us Our Childhood” song on the new MBC show “The Voice Kids”. Ghena was carrying a message of peace and hope for her home country and singing for all of Syria’s Children of war. Syria has become the toughest and most dangerous country in the world to be a child and the Syrian War has left millions of children deprived of their rights to survival, health and nutrition.

There are over 14 million children who can’t go to school because of wars in the Arab World, and a lot of children are unfortunately losing their innocence due to the war. We see hundreds of them begging and selling flowers on the streets instead of being in school, others are being sexually exploited or even recruited to become child soldiers.

These kids are the forgotten victims of the horrific war and they need every help they could get. I hope Ghena’s performance will help shed more light on this situation and get these innocent children much-needed assistance.

[YouTube]

UNESCO Adds Arabic Coffee To “Cultural Heritage” List

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coffee Source

UNESCO announced the new additions to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list last week and the tradition of making Arabic coffee was among the 20 new traditions.

Quoting the UNESCO report, “Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies and considered a ceremonial act of generosity. Traditionally, coffee is prepared in front of guests. The most important or oldest guest is served first, filling a quarter of the cup, which can then be refilled. Common practice is to drink at least one cup but not exceed three.”

Even though the countries mentioned in the report are the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, making Arabic coffee is also part of our Lebanese culture and is served in all occasions. The most common type is the Turkish coffee that you will find in most cafés in Lebanon. Street coffee sellers are also still popular in some areas like Tripoli.

Coffee-making begins with the selection of beans, which are lightly roasted in a shallow pan over a fire, then placed into a copper mortar and pounded with a copper pestle. The coffee grounds are placed into a large copper coffee pot; water is added and the pot is placed on the fire. Once brewed, it is poured into a smaller coffee pot from which it is poured into small cups.

Europe’s Refugee Crisis In Comparison To Lebanon

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We have 1.5 million refugees in a country of 4 million people. That’s the equivalent of:

– Germany hosting 20 million refugees.
– America hosting 80 million refugees.

We are all aware of the situation but it’s very hard to compare the situation in Europe vs Lebanon. When Germany plans to welcome refugees, they allocate the needed resources to integrate them and naturalize them on the long run, while in Lebanon refugees came in because our borders were open for political reasons and no matter how long they stay here, we will always consider them as foreigners (look at the Palestinians).

On the other hand, saying that Syrians are fleeing to Lebanon for economical reasons is bull shit and claiming that they are taking our jobs is a myth. In fact, we’ve had a major shortage of Syrian skilled workers ever since the Lebanese authorities decided to impose visa restrictions.

I honestly have no idea how the country has survived economically this huge burden but what worries is that the Syrian crisis is getting worse and Europe will eventually stop receiving refugees (if they haven’t stopped already) which means that more will be coming our way. No one knows who’s fighting who in Syria anymore and every time a new country starts bombing, more civilians have to flee their cities.

original via KarlRemarks

I doubt any of the Syrian families want to stay in Lebanon living in shitty conditions, sleeping on the streets and begging for food and water. Even Lebanese are dropping their passport and trying to flee the country. No one wants to stay here but there’s no place to go.

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Alicé Anil’s report is a good reminder of the current crisis in Lebanon and that we need a lot of help from the Western countries but the comparison is a bad one in my opinion. The countries that should be ashamed of themselves for not welcoming Syrian refugees are first and foremost Arab countries.

Check out the report [here].

Lebanese Car Makers W Motors Just Launched A Second SuperCar: The Fenyr Supersport

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Three years after launching the world’s most exclusive super-car, the Lykan Hypersport, with only 7 units produced, Dubai-Based W Motors has just unveiled at the Dubai Motor Show yesterday their second super-car: The Fenyr Supersport.

The Fenyr Supersport won’t be as exclusive as its predecessor as 25 units will be produced and the price tag will be around $1.6 million but that’s not confirmed yet. The car is powered with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter flat six-cylinder engine and develops almost 900 horsepower (vs 770 hp for Lykan). The Fenyr Supersport can get from 0 to 100 in 2.7 seconds (vs 2.8 seconds for the Lykan) and has a top speed exceeding 400km/h or 248 mph (vs 245 mph for the Lykan). The whole car-body “is crafted out of carbon fiber and complemented by a tubular light-weight aluminium chassis”.

The Fenyr looks awesome but I hope we will get to see it perform on a track, unlike the Lykan Hypersport which we’ve only seen in pictures and flying through buildings in the last Fast & Furious movie.

Here’s how the Fenyr compares to other super-cars:

Fenyr Supersport: V6 4.0 liter 900hp 0 -100: 2.7s top speed: 400 kph
LaFerrari: V12 6.3 litres 963hp 0-100: Less than 3s top speed: 350 kph
Bugatti Veyron: W16 8.0 litres 1,001hp 0-100: 2.7s top speed: 407 kph
Lamborghini Veneno Roadster: V12 750hp 0-60: 2.9s Top Speed: 355 kph

Here are few exclusive shots that I took at the Dubai Motor Show yesterday right after the official unveiling. The interior wasn’t revealed yet by the way.

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And this is a picture of the old Lykan, the closest thing to the Batmobile.

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