Ashoura Traditions: The Commemoration And The Abbas Cookies

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Picture From TasteOfBeirut

Ashoura Day is commemorated by Shi’a Muslims as a mourning day for the martyrdom of Hussein, the son of Ali and grandson of Prophet Mohammad during the Battle of Karbala some 1300 years ago. Re-enacting the battle has been long a tradition among the Shiite communities and involves in few areas self-flagellation in order to remember the blood that Hussein shed for them.

To be honest, I am not a big fan of the Tatbir, or self-flagellation act and I’d rather see people organize blood donation campaigns on that day (Like Hezbollah does) but some areas in Lebanon such as Nabatieh like to maintain this tradition, which seems to attract foreigners every year.

As far as Ashoura food traditions are concerned, there’s the Hreessé dish and the Abbas cookies and I absolutely love both! I don’t know why I had never heard about Abbas cookies until this year but they’re definitely worth a try. If you are interested in the recipe, Taste Of Beirut wrote about it [Here].

Check out more pictures from Nabatieh [Here]

Save Achrafieh Stairs! Save The Mar Mikhael (Massaad) Stairs!

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Mar Mikhail stairs, also known as Massaad stairs, have always served as a practical passage for residents between Mar Mikhael and Geitawi. They’ve also become in the past few years a public gathering space, an artistic venue for young Lebanese and non-Lebanese and somehow an attraction for Mar Mikhail visitors specially after the stairs were painted in colorful geometric shapes in 2012.

I love these stairs and I don’t want them to see them get demolished and replaced by a road to a new construction site. You can’t just destroy a landmark like the Massaad stairs and all of us should protest against it and spread the word!

There’s nothing official yet about plans to destroy these stairs but no one has officially denied them as well except Beirut City Council member Hagop Terzian. Knowing how things work in Lebanon, the decision is never made public until it’s too late to protest it so it’s better to raise the issue from now and put the pressure on the concerned parties.

Mar Mikhail needs new projects that preserve its landmarks and create new green spaces, not modern buildings that Mar Mikhail and most Lebanese people cannot afford living in.

For those interested, there’s a protest taking place today from 4pm till 8pm at the Mar Mikhail stairs.

Urgent Call before Bulldozers Demolition of Mar Mikhael’s – Massaad Stairs!

This is a call to motivated individuals to join us save our capital’s memory from rampant and barbaric development…

To pressure the municipality to reverse its decision of the demolition, the neighborhood’s residents called for a sit-it next Thursday, November 14, at 4 pm.
They asked civil society organizations and preservation activists to stand by them in this campaign to defend the Massad stairs.

NO for Bulldozers
NO for Demolition
NO for Mafiosity
YES for Saving Beirut Heritage
YES for Achrafieh Stairs!

Please invite your friends, families, neighborhoods… we should show them our solidarity!

Yalla, come as you are!
Let’s dance, sing, meet, protest to support BEIRUT HERITAGE!


J2 Vodka: The First “Lebanese” Vodka

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It’s technically Polish made but using Lebanese mountain water. I think it’s a very ambitious move to compete with the likes of Grey Goose, Russian Standard and Belvedere but it’s definitely worth a try. I will go grab a bottle in the next few days.

J2’s journey began two years ago when Aboulhosn’s brother-in-law ­­— who works in the wine industry in the United States — told Aboulhosn he had made some contacts in the spirits industry and was looking to create a local spirit in Lebanon. Aboulhosn, whose background is in finance, liked the idea of creating a Lebanese spirit and together they started the Middle East Beverage Company.

After assessing the potential alcohols — which included wine, whiskey and beer — the decision fell on vodka because of its relatively straightforward production process and the fact that it is the fastest growing spirit in terms of consumption in Lebanon and the rest of the world. In 2010 Lebanon imported more than 1 million liters of vodka. “This is a huge chunk and the potentials are enormous,” says Aboulhosn. “If we only manage to capture 2 percent of that market, we would still be doing well.”

A bottle of J2 will retail for somewhere between $40 to $50, less expensive than their competitors in the premium vodka market such as Grey Goose which sells at $60 or Belvedere at $90 but still a high-end price. Aboulhosn says they chose to produce a premium vodka for two reasons. “If you look at the Lebanese brands that do well, they are usually high end ones and the Lebanese have pride when it comes to brands like that,” he says, giving the examples of Lebanese fashion designers and wine producers. The other reason was that they would not have been able to compete with current low-end vodka producers when it came to the economies of scale required to make a profit. [Executive-Magazine]

Wicked Fruit

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There’s someone (Lebanese) you should recognize in this video clip.

PS: Mute the audio on YouTube when watching the video because the song is obnoxious (and the video clip hilarious but not in a good way).

Eagle Shot Down by Lebanese Hunters In Akkar

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These reckless hunters must be put in jail.

This photo depicting an eagle hunt down by two men who were identified as being residents of the northern district of Akkar has been circulating on the major social media platforms and provoking activists’ resentment.

In the absence of a hunting regulations in Lebanon, this ‘sport’ is taking place without any restrictions almost anywhere across the country and wrongdoings have alarmingly increased.

A law was drafted in 2004 to control the situation by allowing the hunting of some common birds only.

The said law includes the implementation of bird counts in some stopover areas and the administration of training to the hunters but the draft was put on hold following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. [Link]

Inside O1NE by Skybar (Abu Dhabi)

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The sunset theme

A few months ago I got a tour of O1NE in Beirut while it was still under construction. Back then the graffiti work covering the building was nearly done but the inside was just bricks and dirt. Even though while getting the tour I was being described how the interior would eventually end up looking like it was still pretty difficult to visualize. Fast forward and a few months later I’m in Abu Dhabi for the Formula 1 weekend. While still at the airport waiting for my bags to come out I starting chatting on Whatsapp with a friend from Lebanon. I was telling them I had just landed in Abu Dhabi for the weekend when they proceed to tell me to check out O1NE since it had opened the night before. I had no idea O1NE was opening in Abu Dhabi yet alone it was going to open before Beirut so I was caught a bit off guard. While still on Whatsapp I sent a message to my contact at Skybar asking him if he happened to be in Abu Dhabi by any chance for the opening and turned out he was.

Picture of O1NE Beirut exterior

That same night while heading to the F1 practice sessions I spotted O1NE on my way to the track. The exterior was practically identical to the Beirut one, a large oval shaped building covered with graffiti all around. I didn’t end up passing by O1NE that very night but I did the following evening.


When I was first given a tour of the Beirut location they told me how their interior would be very special since it would be surrounded by blank white walls on which 3D video mapping would be projected. The idea was pretty simple, with just a click of a button they would be able to transform the interior from one mood to a completely different one and just like that change it again and again. I got to O1NE in Abu Dhabi that night early at around midnight and the first thing that grabbed my attention was the beautiful interior. Since it was still early and the music was still pretty chilled the interior had a beautiful sunset setting projected onto the walls as you can see in the video above. It was like nothing I had seen in a club before with the 3D video mapping covering the full 360 degrees of the interior. As the night progressed and the music started to speed up the wall mapping progressed as well.

Both interiors of O1NE Beirut and Abu Dhabi are going to be very similar with the biggest difference being the fact that Lebanon won’t have private rooms with balconies overlooking the club (for now). The private rooms in Abu Dhabi can hold around 50 people each which basically means you can hold your own party inside the already larger party taking place (think Inception). The club had a long catwalk stretching from one side of the club to another surrounded by a lounge area on both sides and a bar at the very end. You also had raised areas around the hall similar to Skybar Beirut with plenty of tables and seating.


That weekend a bunch of different performers were coming in every evening, the night I was there Tyga and John Martin were supposed to be performing but Tyga missed his flight due to the shooting that took place at the LA airport. I honestly had no clue who John Martin was until he started singing and then I recognized his song. He was actually pretty enjoyable to watch and as you can see in the video above the crowd who were pretty much wasted were having a blast. Actually I just watched the video for the first time now since recording it and there are a whole bunch of interesting characters and things that take place in the background so pay attention.

Me acting too cool for the ladies in the back

O1NE Beirut is being targeted for a December 19th launch but the date is not official yet. I’m sure Najib will keep you guys posted on the exact launch date once it’s been finalized.

Posted by Mark