Founder of The Nawaya Network Zeina Saab Wins King Abdullah Award of $50,000

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Picture via RagMag

I’ve been following up on them for a while now and they deserve all the best for the hard work they are pulling! Alf Mabrouk to Zeina and all the Nawaya team.

Zeina plans with this opportunity to expand her reach to other regions of Lebanon, and hopes to be operating throughout the country by the end of 2014.

Added to that, the Nawaya Network announced the launch of an online platform back in May (Which I unfortunately couldn’t attend) that will allow individuals to connect youth with needed resources – all with the click of a button. You can already subscribe to it [Here].

Zeina Saab, founder of The Nawaya Network, has won the King Abdullah Award for Youth Innovation and Achievement (KAAYIA). She was presented with the award by King Abdullah of Jordan at the Dead Sea during the World Economic Forum on May 26. With the award comes a $50,000 grant for her NGO.

Zeina was one of more than 350 applicants from the Arab world, and was selected as one of 10 finalists from the region; she was the only one from Lebanon. In April, she was invited to Jordan to present her innovative approach to combatting inequality and poverty in front of a panel of entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, and Lebanon, who then decided on three winners; the two others were from Egypt and Sudan.

Zeina’s NGO is based in Lebanon and focuses on empowering disadvantaged youth by connecting them to various resources to develop their talents or passions via an interactive online platform. The platform features youth profiles with short videos and summaries, and offers users the opportunity to support any youth of their choice, either by employing them, training them, mentoring them, sharing their story, providing them with material/equipment, or sponsoring them.

Four sentenced to death over murder of Lebanese Samir Yousef Jaber in Kuwait

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[YouTube] Video taken from 248am.com

Lebanese dentist Dr. Samir Yousef Jaber got attacked and stabbed to death by a group of young men at the Avenues Mall in Kuwait back in December 2012. The four men implicated in his murder were sentenced to death few days ago by the Kuwaiti criminal court.

Via 248am.com

#FreeTheBandwith Fta7 Ya Men3em!

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Picture taken from @Nicolasehnaoui

Telecom Minister Sehnaoui posted this picture today on his instagram account blaming Ogero Telecom chief Abdel-Moneim Youssef on the slowness and asking him to free the bandwidth.

Even though I agree with Minister Sehnaoui that Youssef’s behavior is unacceptable, I refuse to solely put the blame on one side as there are two fundamental issues that are at the origin of this problem:

1- Ogero’s existence is a problem in itself.
2- The constant bickering and lack of dialogue between opposing political opponents in Lebanon is leading to deadlocks, leaving us Lebanese to suffer.

I cannot believe that no one is able to reach Ogero’s chief or set a meeting to sit and talk with him. If that’s the case, then legal action should be taken against him or he should be forced to resign or the concerned people should head to Ogero and ask to meet Youssef, or organize a protest etc …

This matter has been dragging for months just because no one’s been able to meet or talk to Youssef? Let’s storm Ogero and free the bandwidth then. Will that solve our internet problems? Definitely not.

I’ve already tried to assess the internet situation in Lebanon in a previous post, which I believe still applies now. You can read it [Here].

And here’s my take in the article on Ogero:

Having a state-owned (privately-managed) entity controlling the Telecom sector is a recipe for disaster and the past years are a clear proof of that. Regardless of political affiliations, it is illogical to let one company control everything and then expect other privately owned ISPs to compete with it. I am not saying Ogero is bad but this monopoly is an obstacle to a healthy competition and should be halted either through privatization or other means. Last but not least, I think more efforts should have been put by both sides to settle the differences as we’ve wasted precious years and are now way behind technologically.

Speaking of problems, I urge Minister Sehnaoui to reconsider the new mobile regulations since I haven’t heard one single positive feedback on this matter from the Lebanese Online Community.

72% of newly built residential projects in Beirut still unsold

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View from Sama Beirut (not yet finished) via Skyscrapercity.com

Why am I not surprised to read the below numbers? I always wondered whether these new projects in Achrafieh and Beirut are getting sold specially that they are selling at unbelievably high prices.

Some 72 percent of residential projects in Beirut completed over the course of 2012 with a market value just shy of $400 million are still unsold, according to a study released Tuesday by real estate adviser RAMCO. In the study RAMCO said that 217 apartments – representing a total of 71,361 square meters – completed in 2012 remain on the market [DailyStar].

Think about it for a second: If you are buying a 150 square meter flat, with a price of at least $2,800 per square meter, this means it will cost you $420,000, add to that registration cost and furniture and all, you will end up paying half a million dollars.

I don’t think any bank will give you a loan amount of $400,000 unless you earn more than $10,000 a month. This being said, why are some real estate companies still coming up with new projects? Who is their target customer? How many Lebanese have this kind of money in cash? Why aren’t they lowering their prices if they want to sell? Are they waiting for Arab tourists to come back?

According to RAMCO, 18 – or 28 percent – out of 65 residential projects with an asking sale price of at least $2,800 per square meter are completely sold out.

If the Finance Ministry is that concerned about selling these new projects, let them propose a better way of pricing real estate projects inside and outside Beirut. I am not asking them to regulate the prices but to cut down the companies’ profits and propose a rational way of pricing flats. When an apartment in Adonis for example facing the Zouk Power Plant and with barely any view is priced at $1600 the square meter, something’s not right.

The low demand for properties is also affecting the revenues of the Finance Ministry which relies heavily on the taxes from any real estate transaction.

How To Spend One Day In Lebanon: Day2

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Lebanon is considered one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world, with the majority of the vineyards located in the Beqaa Valley. These vineyards are worth visiting and the full-day schedule I am proposing is suitable for families, couples, groups of tourists or just a group of friends.

Day2: Chtaura (Massabni or Hedwen) -> Chateau Ksara -> Chateau Kefraya or Massaya -> Zahle (Saydit Zahle) -> Beirut

1- Waking up:
It is preferable to leave around 8:30 – 9:00 am for that trip as you could encounter a lot of traffic if you’re late and driving on the Dahr el Baydar road is quite dangerous with all the crazy and reckless trucks and vans.

2- Breakfast at Hedwan or Massabni
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Try to skip breakfast (or eat lightly) at the hotel or wherever you are staying as there are two breakfast places that you have to try on your way to the Bekaa.

Hedwan and Massabni both have some of the best Labneh you could ever taste. Try also the Ricotta and honey sandwich. They all come in Markouk bread and you could eat 1 or 2 easily if you’re hungry. Both are located in Chtaura and visible on the highway.

3- Chateau Ksara
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After having breakfast, head to Chateau Ksara for a visit of the caves and some wine tasting. The caves are very old and were found by the Jesuit Fathers and well maintained back in the 19th century. The whole visit shouldn’t take more than an hour, but is very informative. If you want more details on how to get there and visiting hours, check Ksara’s website [Here].

4- Chateau Kefraya or Massaya

Chateau Kefraya

Head back to Chtaura and then either to Chateau Kefraya or Massaya. Both are much bigger and more commercial than Ksara, are situated next to the vineyards and offer tourists an open buffet with open wine and arak in their restaurants and venues, as well as other activities. I honestly have only been to Kefraya only but few friends have told me about Massaya as well.

Note: As mentioned in my review of Chateau Kefraya, the rides to the vineyards are a bit boring as there’s nothing really worth seeing, so if you insist on going, I recommend you choose the shortest ride.

All the information you need on Kefraya and Massaya are on their websites respectively [Kefraya] [Massaya].

PS: If you are a wine lover, buy your bottles at the above mentioned venues as they are cheaper than the market.

5- Quick Visit to Zahle, Saydit Zahle Church
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Panoramio.com

After being done with lunch, you have two options here:
1- Go visit Zahle and spend the night in one of the city’s hotels.
2- Make a quick visit to Our Lady of Zahle and head back to Beirut before it gets dark.

If you select Option2, make sure you get some proper rest at Kefraya or Massaya (just by lying down in the gardens) because the road to Beirut is long and tiring. I’ve done it a million times and still find it annoying.

6- Back in Beirut

Picture taken from Zaitunaybay.com

By the time you are back in Beirut, you will have to rest for a couple of hours before heading back out. A walk on the Zaytunay bay if you’re in Beirut would be nice afterwards, followed by drinks in Gemmayze, Mar Mikhail or Hamra. If you are a Shisha lover, you will find plenty of cafes in Beirut and outside it serving them.

If you are staying in Keserwan, you can also do the same by walking in the Jounieh Souks.

Transportation:
I would recommend for such a trip (If you don’t have cars) to rent a van or mini-bus or taxi, depending on the number of people going. You can ask your hotel or any taxi company for such a service and they will be more than happy to assist you.

In case you missed Day1, you can check it out [Here].

Korea ends Lebanon’s hopes to make it to the 2014 World Cup

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[Picture from the DailyStar]

The draw put Lebanon at the bottom of the group and ended its chances to qualify to Brazil in 2014. I honestly lost hope in Lebanon Football the second I heard about the match-fixing scandal.

I only feel bad for the few decent players, our great coach Theo Bucker and of course the fans.

South Korea scored deep into injury time to clinch a 1-1 draw against Lebanon in an Asian Group A World Cup qualifier in Beirut Tuesday, ending their hosts’ faint hopes to make it to Brazil in 2014.

A Kim Chi Woo strike from a freekick from the edge of the penalty area in the 7th minute of injury time gave the Koreans a deserved point but the Lebanese players, who had given everything and fought bravely to hold off their visitors, will feel hard done by from the referee’s decision to award a foul. [DailyStar]

LBCI answers Nemr Abou Nassar

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[YouTube] Original Video Uploaded by Nemr

LBC Blogs posted LBCI’s response to the incident Lebanese Comedian Nemr Abou Nassar talked about few days back.

An honest answer from LBC and I agree with them that Nemr should not have dramatized the matter that much. Mistakes do happen.

Many of you rightfully expect LBCI’s transparent and honest answer to Mr. Abou Nassar’s video.

Like most would agree, LBCI succeeded in exporting Lebanon to the world with unparalleled levels of professionalism. This did not happen by coincidence or magic, but as the result of the perseverant work of hundreds of professionals. And it happened because we believe in our country, in its talents, and in all men and women dedicating themselves for Lebanon, whom we reassure of our unwavering support.

We do not (thank god!) pretend to be perfect. Mistakes happen with all corporations, and we believe the successful institutions are those who draw lessons to avoid repeating them. Let me be clearer: LBCI takes full responsibility of the mishaps that took place and regrets their impact on all the people involved. We salute the efforts of Dr. Sfeir and For Lebanon and sincerely hope that our apologies will be accepted.

The performance, which is not reflective of our standards, was due to the fact that the filming was outsourced in all good faith by LBCI to an external team, which did not perform up to expectations. Again, we are not trying to put the blame on someone else as we fully acknowledge our lack of proper selection. And we are willing to do everything possible to repair the harm that was inadvertently made.

What is an unforeseen sub-performance should not be dealt with as a premeditated wrongdoing, or as a hidden agenda targeting local talents. Though we fully understand the frustration, linking this incident to malevolent intentions is taking things out of proportion. We cannot stress enough how much LBCI supports Lebanese talents from all genres and languages and our track record in this case cannot be brushed aside because of a blunder. An unjust accusation cannot be an answer to a non-premeditated mistake.

Many people can testify that LBCI has broken many partnerships with organizers who did not abide by our standards in term of respecting the people attending the event, thus speaking of intentional sabotage is simply not an option. Criticizing what is wrong is what we do, and we support numerous points that Mr. Abou Nassar has raised, but we are against dramatized criticism which turns into a witch hunt.

We hope that a new page will be opened, and that we will continue to collaborate with all our valued talents to serve our common cause which is Lebanon, as we are all fighting in the same ranks. Mr. Abou Nassar ensured a good coverage for the event and helped in clearing the organizers’ reputation which we also hold dear. We join our voice to his to also thank them for their efforts, hoping to put this unintentional incident behind us.