According to Numbeo’s cost of living index, Lebanon is the third most expensive Arab country to live in after Kuwait and Qatar. Lebanon came ahead of UAE even though UAE’s local purchasing power is twice as much as Lebanon’s, which is definitely not a good sign. Moreover, if we look at the quality of life index, UAE is in the top 20 while Lebanon is in the bottom 20. Switzerland and Norway topped the list with the highest cost of living index while Pakistan, Nepal and India were found to be the cheapest countries to live in.
Lebanon was also ranked the 11th most polluted country in the world. You can check out all the lists [here].
As you all know, relations between Israel and Lebanon are governed by two laws, the 1943 Lebanese Criminal Code and the 1955 Lebanese Anti-Israeli Boycott Law which forbids any interaction with nationals of enemy states. Since the topic was brought up again after Miss Lebanon’s infamous selfie, I remembered an old article that NowLebanon had posted with the help of Salim El Meouchi, senior partner and chairman of the Beirut-based law firm Badri and Salim El Meouchi, on this matter.
To sum things up:
– You can’t be friends with an Israeli on Facebook.
– You can’t buy an Israeli publication or product.
– You can’t engage in a conversation with an Israeli outside Lebanon (except maybe when discussing non-threatening issues or a spontaneous talk)
– You can participate in a conference or event where Israelis are present as long as there’s no direct communication.
– You can publish in a journal where an Israeli writes as long as the paper is not Israeli and you don’t engage directly with him/her.
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:
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.
This cartoon was published on the 19th of August 1976 by the French satirical magazine. It translates to “Seedy people knife themselves. Rich people are in Côte d’Azur”. I found this cartoon [here] and I tracked down the source to see if there are other cartoons related to Lebanon or the Arab world.
I couldn’t find Lebanon as a country under “Google Trends” but I remember Executive Magazine once did manual searches on popular terms and published the results, so I did the same exercise with more searches. You can do the same by going [here] and searching up to 5 terms for the past year or more.
What I did was perform searches related to popular companies, banks, smartphones, sports, neighboring countries, popular TV stations, famous singers and others. Check out the results below:
Picture via UNRWA
Syrians were able to stay in Lebanon for up to six months previously, but this will no longer be possible as any Syrian who wishes to enter Lebanon will have to obtain a visa at the borders. This measure should have been implemented long time ago in order to control the flow of refugees trying to escape the war but it’s better late than never.
The new regulations will come into effect on January 5 as mentioned on the General Security website. This is the first time that such measures are taken ever since Lebanon’s independence. Hopefully, the borders will be secured soon as well in order to stop illegal entries as well.
The newly wed Lebanese born human rights barrister was told by Egyptian officials that she risks arrest over a document criticising the country’s judicial system. Alameddine has identifies flaws in Egypt’s judiciary which led to the conviction of the journalists over a year ago. Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed were sentenced in June to seven to 10 years in jail for spreading lies to help a “terrorist organization” – a reference to Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Honestly speaking, I am not surprised by the Egyptian authorities’ reaction but I wouldn’t go as far as call Alamuddin the regime’s number one enemy as Annahar did. Let’s see how this situation evolves and let’s hope we won’t be needing Clooney to stand for Lebanese journalists anytime soon. In fact in terms of Freedom of the Press, Egypt was ranked as not free last year while Lebanon is still partly not free but hasn’t improved in years.
“When I went to launch the report, first of all they stopped us from doing it in Cairo,” Clooney told The Guardian. “They said: ‘Does the report criticise the army, the judiciary, or the government?’ We said: ‘Well, yes.’ They said: ‘Well then, you’re risking arrest.’ [Independent]
I always enjoy watching NYE fireworks from around the world mainly in London, Sydney and New York. As far as the Middle East is concerned, Dubai has been impressing the world with a spectacular show around Burj Khalifa every year and yesterday’s show was even more impressive than last year. Of course we also had fireworks planned in Beirut but most Lebanese I know are sharing Dubai’s fireworks for 4 main reasons:
1- Dubai’s fireworks were the most expensive in the world ($6M) and Dubai broke the Guinness record for the world’s largest pyrotechnic display, setting off 500,000 fireworks in six minutes. It’s very hard, even for New York, Sydney and London, to compete with a city that has something as big as Burj Khalifa.
2- Christmas decoration was poor this year in Beirut and NYE celebrations were also shy. I don’t know why the Beirut municipality is not spending much this year (money is not an issue though) but we barely heard about the fireworks and I haven’t seen any videos and only a couple of pictures online and Instagram. I think it’s quite shameful as we had some really cool fireworks few years ago in Beirut and it would have been nice to keep this tradition going and let people look forward to this spectacle.
3- Celebratory gunfire is still very common in most areas in Lebanon, even in Beirut. A lot of Lebanese don’t like fireworks and would rather fire their guns and even machine guns to welcome the new year. It’s stupid and dangerous but a lot of people still do it. Check out this [video] taken yesterday at midnight.
4- Cities like Jounieh and Jbeil are becoming more popular every year and are organizing cool fireworks and shows. Of course this is a positive thing but Beirut is the capital and NYE celebrations should be special there. Moreover, a lot of Lebanese love to spend New Year’s Eve in the mountains, like Faraya, Mzaar, The Cedars, Broummana, Zahle, Ehden as it’s far from the city’s traffic and it’s nicer and cosier specially when there’s snow.
So until we have cool fireworks in Beirut, enjoy Dubai’s stunning NYE spectacle:
Chakla ma “bitmoun” 3a 7ada yilemma bi Dubai. Anyway I hope she’s ok.