I’m not sure if my Anthony Bourdain post got CNN interested in my Instagram account, but they asked me to send a couple of pictures that I took in Beirut and they got featured on CNN’s iReport which is pretty cool.
I wish I could have sent more pictures to show them all the complex elements that make Beirut a beautiful city. The old streets and houses next to the skyscrapers, five star hotels and rooftops, the vibrant nightlife 10 minutes way from refugee camps and security zones, the residential streets packed with pubs, bars and plenty of street food, and other things that make Beirut so special and so difficult to live in.
I know Lebanon has a ton of issues now, we don’t have a president, over 2 million Syrian and Palestinian refugees, terrorists at the borders, armed groups inside the country, corrupt politicians and a bad economy but that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy our everyday life and make the best out of it, and more importantly speak positively about our country.
I watched last night the season finale of CNN’s Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain which was shot in Beirut, and I hated every single bit of it except for the short interview with Joumana Haddad. I really had high expectations for that episode, but I lowered my expectations after seeing the comments on Facebook and it turned to be even worse than I thought it would be and did not reflect the words Bourdain used to describe our capital. In fact, if I didn’t know Bourdain, I would have thought he’s some clueless foreign reporter who’s visiting Beirut for the first time and still thinks we are at war. All he talked about for nearly 45 minutes was Syrian & Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, ISIS, Hezbollah, bombings, ISIS, 2006 war, recent suicide bombings, ISIS, the 1975-1990 civil war and more ISIS.
Let me just start by telling Bourdain that ISIS is far from Lebanon and its borders, and the map (shown above) does not reflect ISIS control in Syria, nor its threat to Lebanon. The Lebanese Army and Hezbollah are not even fighting ISIS on the borders but Jobhat el Nousra.
Moving on to the full episode, I went through it minute by minute and took notes along the way. The episode kicked off with the cliché mosque and church contrasts, and then of course showing veiled women walking next to lingerie shops or billboards. We are proud of this co-existence of course but it gets boring when someone mentions it 10 times in the episode and randomly shows pictures of the Virgin Mary or Jesus or a mosque.
Bourdain then took a ride with the Harley Davidson Lebanon chapter and they visited a snack shop in Beirut (Broasted Rizk) which I’ve never heard of before. They barely mentioned the food there and talked for about five minutes about the civil war, the war of the hotels back in the 1970s, thee Holiday Inn and other war-related stories.
Afterwards, Bourdain kept talking for few minutes about explosions and the civil war before he got to Burj el Brajneh camp in Beirut and continued his war talks by covering Syria, Palestinians, ISIS and wars in the region. He visited poor families and children and had Syrian food inside the camp. They also showed gruesome pictures of war victims which weren’t really necessary.
Bourdain moved back to Raouche, showing people dancing the Dabke and then ISIS fighters somewhere in Iraq or Syria I don’t know. He then mentioned that you can swim and ski on the same day in Lebanon, and headed to Ras Beirut to have lunch with his security guard in Beirut, who thinks that Lebanon looks a lot like 2006 now (Don’t ask me how). In fact, all they talked about over lunch was war, explosions and the terrifying ISIS. Of course after lunch, we got another cliché church-mosque-night club constrast.
Radio Beirut was next on Bourdain’s to-do list and it was a short but fun act. He met with Chino and Lebanese Rapper Hussein Charafeddine who was once arrested and mistaken for a suicide bomber.
Moving on, Bourdain then had dinner somewhere in Beirut’s suburbs in a Hezbollah area. Food looked nice but the guy had a machine gun in the kitchen for some reason along with Hezbollah posters all around. Needless to say, everything they talked about was the 2006 war and ISIS and of course Hezbollah.
Bourdain was meeting Lebanese Journalist and activist Joumana Haddad but he made sure to include more cliché pictures of sexy Lebanese women, then a Virgin statue, a Chanel store and the reflection of a mosque, because Lebanon is the only country in the world where you will find conservative religious women, women in bikinis, a chanel store and a mosque (ma hek?).
Joumana’s three-minute interview was by far the best part in this episode and Joumana impressed as always with her opinions and take on things. She explained to Bourdain that it’s not “awesome not to have a president for a year”, and that the chaos that we are living in is not something you’d want to experience for over a year and she’s right.
I then skipped the part with Elefteriadis because I don’t think he’s the right person to talk to about Lebanon or Beirut as a whole. I love Music Hall and I admire the things he has done to improve nightlife in Lebanon but he’s a self-proclaimed emperor who lives in an imaginary kingdom. That’s all I have to say here. Bourdain finished the episode by visiting a cafe which I haven’t heard of as well and that is managed by Syrians and Lebanese.
All in all, “Parts Unknown” is an American travel and food show where Anthony Bourdain is supposed to go around the world and uncover lesser known places and explore cultures and cuisine. That said, coming to Beirut and visiting camps and war-torn areas is definitely not the right way to explore cuisine and culture and the way he portrayed Beirut to the whole world was a rather negative one. It’s as if we are living in constant fear of a new civil war or of ISIS invading the country which is far from the truth. We trust and believe in our Lebanese Army and we’ve always stood as one against terrorism and hopefully always will.
There are so many things that Bourdain missed out on and that could have made this episode a much better one:
– Uruguay Street, Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael, Badaro and Hamra’s nightlife.
– Beirut’s rooftops and open venues.
– Authentic Lebanese snacks and restaurants in Beirut. Since when is broasted chicken part of our culture?
– Zaitunay Bay, Beirut Souks and Solidere as a whole.
– Beirut’s beautiful graffiti murals and art scene.
– The dozens of cultural and artistic festivals happening in Beirut.
– Shawarma, Falafel, Manakish, Knefe, Lebanese sweets, etc …
– A walk around in old Achrafieh and Hamra streets.
– A close look at certain NGOs and their awesome work (ex: LiveLoveBeirut ).
I’m just talking about things to do in Beirut here and I’m sure there is tons of other stuff as well. If Bourdain wanted to see how Lebanese are reacting to ISIS threats, he should have visited Tripoli and seen how vibrant and peaceful the city is right now. We are not living in denial, we know we have a lot of issues to deal with, but that doesn’t mean we need to live in constant fear of war and stop enjoying our everyday life.
That’s what Bourdain should have focused on instead of reviving the civil war and the 2006 war in his report.
Egyptian Prankster Ramez Galal thought it would be funny this year to invite celebrities to a fake opening of a hotel in Dubai, fly them on a private jet and trick them into believing that the plane is going to crash and that they need to jump in parachutes. His latest victim is Lebanese TV Presenter Nishan who totally lost it and start beating the guy next to him. To be honest, this is a sick joke and he’s gone too far this time, and the fact that the plane is actually in the air makes things even worse.
It’s like this guy is waiting for something terribly wrong to happen before he stops. He has already tricked in previous year Haifa Wehbe, Maya Diab and Cyrine Abdel Nour but this prank is the worst ever.
Anthony Bourdain is a popular American chef and author. He used to host the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” and “The Layover” before joining CNN in 2013 to host “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”. I love Bourdain’s shows, his take on a country’s cuisine and culture and how he visits the most random and “undesirable” places and makes them look awesome. To Bourdain, “meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself”, and he’s absolutely right.
I couldn’t find the full episode online yet but I noticed on Facebook that a lot of people didn’t like it and claimed that Bourdain focused too much on religious and political issues rather than focus on the food and culture. Many stated that the episode wasn’t representative of Beirut and Lebanon as a whole, which is quite surprising to be honest, specially after his 2006 Beirut episode which I enjoyed a lot.
I will watch the whole episode as soon as it’s available and update the post with my take on it. If anyone has seen it yesterday, please do share your comments.
I didn’t expect to hear positive things about my blog and my work on 7ki Jeliss especially that I tend to criticize them a lot, but LiveLoveBeirut were their guests last week and they mentioned the picture that I took in Achrafieh that went viral and helped initiate a beautiful campaign aimed at helping children in need.
I’m sharing this small report on LiveLoveBeirut because I’ve been supporting this initiative since day1 and I love the work that they are doing for Lebanon and its youth and the community that they built. A picture is truly worth a thousand words sometimes and LLB has been working day and night to leave a positive impact on the community and show a better image of Lebanon.
They’ve recently launched their website [Livelovebracelet] where they are helping young people achieve their dreams by funding their projects and ideas. Make sure to check it out!
Adel Karam issued an apology few hours ago for disrespecting a 63 year old man who was presenting his brevet exams after the story went viral online and Elie posted about it. Needless to say, it’s a shameful thing to mock an old man for wanting to complete his brevet exams at the age of 63 and he should be praised instead and even though it’s too late to apologize now, I’m glad Adel decided this time to do so instead of blocking those who are attacking him and ignoring them (which he did earlier on Twitter with a separate incident).
More importantly, I hope Adel and his team will learn from this mistake and try to focus on positive stories worth sharing instead of hosting dumb guests and updating us on Kim Jong-un. What happened with Fares Karam few months back was also unacceptable as he handed Adel a loaded gun live on TV.
I still think Adel’s show is a decent one and he does make me laugh from time to time, but it can be much better than that in my opinion.
Update: Never mind the blocking remark, it seems he did block few tweeps who attacked him. I think this is a silly move (from him or whomever is managing his account) that will only backfire on him.
If you had asked me 5 or 6 years ago what I thought about Tony Khalife or Joe Maalouf’s TV show, I would have probably told you that they need to be shut down. However, as social media is becoming more and more important in Lebanon and the Arab world, these shows are mainly feeding on hot social media topics and taking them a step further, and are helping (sometimes) shed the light on other important topics. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean that the hosts are doing a fine job and should be praised. On the contrary, I’ve been criticizing and bashing Khalife and Maalouf for years and I still disapprove of their methods and some of the stories they cover but the fact that they are able to tackle any topic they want and say (almost) whatever they want on TV, even if it’s wrong, is something we somehow need in Lebanon.
Take for example tonight’s episode with the guy who was filmed beating his wife in ABC Dbayyeh. Both criticized and bashed the man and Maalouf went as far as accusing him of bribery. He even decided to hang up on him at some point when the guy stopped making any sense. Again I’m not saying I approve of such behavior but you need someone to do this dirty job and they are doing it for us and indirectly forcing those who committed a certain crime or are involved in a scandal to show up and defend themselves or state their point of view. More importantly, the fact that the original video spread via social media got people engaged in the show and helped spread the story even further and put more pressure on the concerned parties (juridical body) to do something about it.
Again I am not a fan of these shows to be honest and I struggle to watch them but I do so when there’s a hot story going viral online because both hosts are very well connected and powerful enough (I don’t know who’s backing them) to say whatever they want and they almost always manage to surprise me with the amount of information they collect, specially Joe Maalouf. Unfortunately, their take on some issues is sometimes disappointing and even shocking, like when Tony Khalife was taking sides with some Sheikh and bashing Kafa and other NGOs for trying to help women being abused, or when Maalouf revealed a secret hideout for gays in Lebanon causing their arrest, but that’s where the online community should intervene and pressure them to apologize for their mistakes.
All in all, social media is still growing rapidly in Lebanon and is leading to positive changes in our society but it still didn’t reach a point where it can have a serious impact on some matters, mainly because the authorities rarely listen to what people are saying, and more importantly because some parties are hijacking social media and “imposing” their views by spamming our timelines. We need more online influencers and by that I don’t mean popular Instagram accounts
This is an old video where Jumblatt appeared on a famous TV show on LBC and was asked to call a random pastry shop and order two huge Knefe platters to be delivered within 5 minutes. I think Jumblatt should consider doing his own comedy show after he retires from politics as he’s quite hilarious on Twitter lately. Moreover, he’s been in politics since ever and is powerful enough to come up with jokes all day on other politicians and get away with them.
I was watching Yasmine Hamdan, another highly talented Lebanese artist, when I read about Ely Dagher winning the Palme D’or at the 69th Cannes Film Festival for his short movie Waves ’98. Ely is the first Lebanese to make it to the official selection since Maroun Baghdadi’s film in 1982 and the 29-year old has become the first Lebanese to receive the Palme d’Or since Baghdadi.
Ely’s 14-minute long film is “about Omar, a high-school kid living in the northern suburb of Beirut, struggling in his social bubble”. I couldn’t find yet the full movie online but I will share it as soon as I do.
Congrats to Ely and I’m sure this is just the start for our young and talented director.