Wassim Nasser breaks the national record for the longest swim!

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Picture via +961

Someone was telling me yesterday that a guy swam all the day from Beirut to Amchit and broke the national record of the longest swim of 42km set in the 1960s by Abdel-Latif Abu al-Hauf. I thought of Wassim Nasser first because I remember he attempted to break the record last year but failed as the weather was bad and he was swimming against the wind, and it turned out to be him indeed.

Great Job Wassim!

The Lebanese Basketball Federation doing it all wrong

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Julian Khazzouh – Picture from Ahrarnews

In the past few weeks, I lost track of what’s happening in the Lebanese Basketball League but from what I understood, there were some legal issues regarding a controversial game that came in Amchit’s favor and as a result halted the season. There were also internal problems with Sagesse team after Mechantaf’s resignation which I don’t know if they were resolved or not.

Added to that, the National Team is getting ready for the Asian Cup and the Federation is keen to redo the same mistakes it always does by naturalizing one or two players (Riyadi player Loren Woods in that case) and paying them extravagant amounts of money (1000$ per day) while Lebanese players get nothing and are forced to join the team or get banned for 3 years.

To make things even worse, there are apparently some technicalities that need to be sorted out in order to allow Lebanese-Australian Basketball player Julian Khazzouh to join the national team, and there might not be enough time for that, but the federation and according to Malaaeb, wants to direct the blame on Khazzouh and is considering banning him for 3 years.

To be honest, I will never understand this twisted logic. Why should a player be forced to join his national team? It’s not like joining the army to defend your country from aggressors. A person should be proud and honored to join his team and not forced and threatened to do so. If he has reasons not to join the team, then it’s his loss. Few years back, I learned that one of the key players in the national team almost got banned because he had to undergo a surgery and rest for the summer but they wouldn’t let him. This is beyond ridiculous.

The funny part is that Khazzouh, for those of you who don’t know, is not just any player but a very talented one who has good chances of joining an NBA team one day. Having said that, the federation should be supporting him in his efforts to join an NBA team, not force him to join the national team or else punish him.

On a last note, I am surprised Ghassan Sarkis didn’t include his son Karl in the final selection of the team. It won’t be the same without him.

Save Beirut Heritage

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[YouTube]

Every now and then, we hear about new plans or petitions for the restoration of old houses in Beirut but the truth is years are passing by and these houses will soon be replaced by new skyscrapers, highway projects or even parking lots. As far as the government and related ministries are concerned, actions speak louder than words.

What to make of the Jesuits Garden?

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I am all for preserving gardens and creating more green spaces in Beirut and all across Lebanon, but I honestly can’t tell whether I should be for or against the plan aimed at creating an underground parking below the Jesuits Garden in Achrafieh. There’s a lot of ambiguity around this issue and just like the Fouad Boutros highway, none of the information being handled in the media can be verified.

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Picture from UrbanStances

Here are few questions that came to my mind while reading about the Jesuits Garden:

Are the protesters/activists confident that this is a bad plan in the long run specially in an overcrowded area like Achrafieh? Are there any pictures of what this new project will look like? Is the municipality of Beirut going to tear down 200 year old trees present in the garden? What will happen to the 4th century mosaics on site? Are there a lot of daily visits to this garden? What is the estimated cost and duration of this project? Is it sustainable to build a garden on top of an underground parking? What happens if the project gets approved?

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Picture from UrbanStances

If activists and protesters don’t deal with this issue properly and have a serious talk about it with the concerned parties, people will lose interest and the project will eventually get implemented maybe even without a garden.

Speaking of protests, I hope the ones held lately will encourage the residents of Rmeil, Jeitawi and all of Achrafieh to visit public gardens more often and activists to organize frequent events there. The reason why I am saying that is because I work next to a public garden in Achrafieh which no one ever goes to, and I am sure the same applies to a lot of public gardens in Beirut and all across Lebanon, so let’s start by giving the municipalities a good reason to reconsider their plans by making use of the green spaces available to us. I always thought the reason people don’t go to those public gardens is because they are not properly maintained, but that’s not true.

For those interested in knowing what the Beirut municipality had to say about this, check the interview L’Orient Le Jour has done with Rachid Achkar.

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Update: Plenty Of Lebanese beaches are safe for swimming

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I posted few days that Lebanese beaches are no longer safe for swimming according to a study published in the DailyStar and a statement from the Green Party’s President Nada Zaarour. However and as pointed out by Habib, Zaarour’s statement contradicts with the study results as shown in the map (which is not clear) in the same article.

I looked for a bigger and clearer map and was able to find one on Afedmag.com that you can check [Here].

It doesn’t mean we don’t have a pollution problem but at least there are still plenty of beaches where one can swim in Lebanon, such as Chekka, Batroun, Amchit, AUB beach, Damour, Jiyyeh, Rmeileh, Tyr and Naccoura.

There’s something still confusing me though, how samples collected from Jbeil and Sidon all measured above the 100 fecal coliforms mark, and samples collected in Mina and Sidon came back borderline toxic, yet the map shows Sidon, Jbeil and Tripoli beaches as acceptable.

DePrague closing and re-opening for the wrong reasons

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DePrague Hamra, Picture via DailyStar

I don’t know whether it was a publicity stunt that DePrague’s owner pulled by changing his mind after having decided to close down his pub, but the reasons for closure and re-opening it are not valid specially the ones linked to the smoking ban and a change of atmosphere in Hamra. If anything, Hamra changed in favor of DePrague (and others) and became a street packed with pubs and nights, therefore attracting more potential customers.

Kayan opened in Gemmayze even before DePrague and is still packed every day of the week despite the smoke ban.

Owner Raed Habib decided to close his doors, with several culprits sharing the blame: a year of declining revenue due to an economic recession, an increase in unrest in Lebanon and the region, and a rise of reported incidents of violence in Hamra, a smoking ban that appears to be selectively enforced in the country and a general change of atmosphere in the neighborhood. [Link]

“There was so much pressure. I couldn’t ignore it,” said Raed Habib, who opened De Prague in 2005, making it one of the first establishments in Hamra to attract a popular following after the civil war. So dedicated were the staff and customers that they organized a sit-in at the restaurant Wednesday evening and then walked to the house of Habib to convince him to change his mind.

“If so many people genuinely want the place to stay open then let us give it a chance,” Habib said Thursday morning after a steady stream of patrons visited his home late Wednesday until after midnight. [Link]

How To Spend One Day In Lebanon: Day3

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Picture from 248am.com

I have already prepared a post on how to spend a day in Faraya but I will save it till next week and share this post on the ATV road trip adventure Mark had during the last weekend.

It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but never had time to plan it. If I am not mistaken, you can also plan a trip from Faraya to the Cedars during winter using a skidoo.

Here are few excerpts from the post. You can read it the full post [Here].

This trip will take the whole day so there’s no need to plan anything before or after it. Just have a proper breakfast because it’s a long ride and get a jacket.

This past long weekend I spent it in Lebanon and among the activities I did the most fun was an ATV road trip adventure. I didn’t really know what to expect, I had just previously heard off a friend that you can take an ATV trip with a guide from the popular ski area Faraya, all the way to the Cedars (a few mountains away) and back. The trip ended up being just unbelievably fun.

Depending on where you stay in Lebanon, getting to Faraya will take you anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour with no traffic. Faraya is a popular destination in the winter since a lot of ski resorts are based there, but in the summer, it’s a popular destination for outdoor activities like offroading, mountain biking, camping and ATV exploration. I had booked a bunch of ATVs for me and my friends before arriving to Lebanon and because we wanted to start the day early we got to the starting location in Faraya at around 9:30AM. From there we got geared up, given basic safety tips and the chance to try out the ATVs before heading out on our trip.

The trip is 80% off road with the rest of the time being tiny tarmac roads. It was an incredibly fun journey full of beautiful scenery and general seclusion with no people for miles and miles away. The route heading out was different than the route coming back so that way we didn’t get to experience the same scenery twice. We weren’t expecting the weather to be cold so we didn’t get jackets but our guide recommended we got some since we would be going up to the highest peak in Lebanon (around 2,750 meters high). Luckily we found a small store near the starting point that rented out ski jackets and good thing we got them because with the jackets on we were still freezing our asses off in some stages of the trip.

This was an incredibly fun adventure and one I really can’t wait to go on again. Since we were four people the cost for the trip was $225 per person (guide included). If you’re less than four it’s $250 and if you’re more than four you could probably negotiate a better price. You could also share an ATV with someone else since it can hold two people and that way split the amount. But I have to say it was EXTREMELY worth $225. Make sure if you do take this trip to expect to end up covered in dust and dirt. Also bring a jacket with you as well. We rented the ATVs with the guide from a place called Red Runner. Their phone number is +9613178666. Have fun!

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Picture from 248am.com

Deghri Messengers Now Recruiting

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Picture from Deghri FB Group

Deghre Messengers is a fast, clean and Eco-friendly delivery service for a greener Beirut. It’s a very ambitious idea for a city like Beirut but I truly hope it works out.

Read more about it [Here].

Calling all cyclists! Deghri Messengers is recruiting!

Are you a motivated person and an energetic character? Do you want to be part of a business that will change the face of Beirut? Have you got what it takes to work as part of a close-knit team of bike messengers?

Then join our cooperative, earn a living by riding your bicycle all day, benefit from generous working conditions, and enjoy being part of the change.

To apply, please send your CV and a short cover letter explaining why you want to be a bike messenger to deghri@outlook.com.

We’re looking forward to your application.