Waking Up To A Horrific Terror Attack in Nice

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nice VALERY HACHE / AFP – Getty Images

I got back home around 10:30 PM yesterday and was chatting with a close friend of mine in Nice while watching the Jounieh fireworks. An hour later, he sent me a text that someone opened fire on the crowd and that it’s chaos. I was half asleep so I thought it was a joke at first or some isolated incident and just fell back asleep.

This morning, I wake up and see tens of my friends marking themselves safe in Nice on Facebook and realize what happened. A truck rammed into the crowd killing over 80 people and injuring hundreds. Luckily my friends were all safe but they were all traumatized by the attack.

Ironically enough, I was just telling my friend the other day that he’s lucky to be on a vacation and to enjoy his time while we are working our asses off back here. In all cases, I’m glad they are safe and and I’m very sorry for the people whose friends and loved ones didn’t make it last night.

This is the last exchange I had with my friend and the video he sent me minutes before the attack.



Vogue Spends Four Perfect Days in Beirut

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Alison Beckner came to visit Beirut for four days and the result was “a perfect storm of shopping, wining, dining, dancing, and—eventually—sleeping in this capital city where the Mediterranean meets the Middle East”.

Friday at Baffa House in the lively neighborhood of Mar Mikhael, a visit to the recently reopened Sursock Museum, dinner at Lux and end the night at the weekly Summer Decks on the Beach party at Sporting Club. Saturday starts at Souk el Tayeb, then a visit to “charming cobblestone streets of Saifi Village”, lunch at the authentic and history-filled restaurant Al Falamanki and party till dawn at the Grand Factory and the legendary B018.

This is a quick recap of the first two days. I love how the author took her time to walk around the city, explore the hidden gems found in every street, visit museums and art galleries and even hit the gym. You can check out the rest of the days [here].

Despite ongoing political turmoil, Beirut remains a hub for Levantine history combined with stunning juxtapositions: green hills, a sea-cradled peninsula, labyrinthine streets, neglected architecture—from Arabesque to Venetian Gothic—high-rises, old mosques, churches and palaces, and much more. Add to this a sociocultural melting pot, teeming with makers, doers, and shakers. The result is a perfect storm of shopping, wining, dining, dancing, and—eventually—sleeping in this capital city where the Mediterranean meets the Middle East. [Vogue]


Americans React To Lebanese Singers

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Watch Americans react to the instagram accounts of Nancy Ajram, Myriam Fares, Elissa, Najwa Karam, and Yara. Everyone liked Nancy Ajram, the guys thought Mariam Fares was super hot (she is) and wanted to DM her, Elissa was nicknamed the Madonna of Lebanon (huh?) and all were shocked that Najwa Karam is 50 years old.

If they wanted priceless reactions, they should have included Haifa Wehbe or Miriam Klink maybe.


Biometric Passports Expected Soon in Lebanon: Five Things You Need To Know

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Back in 2014, the Lebanese cabinet approved Interior Minister Mashnouq’s proposal to replace the old passports by new biometric ones. Earlier this year, the Lebanese General Security forced all those with a renewed by hand passport to issue new ones and there were false rumors that we might not be able to renew for more than a year because biometric passports are coming.

Since biometric passport should start rolling out very soon, I’ve been trying to collect information on this topic since most people are not familiar with it. Here’s what I have so far:

What does biometric data mean? What’s the technology behind it?

Biometrics refer to unique characteristics to an individual such as fingerprints, facial structure, the iris or a person’s voice. Biometrics are all about replacing “things that you know”, such as passwords and PINs, with “things that you are” and such data cannot be stolen or duplicated.

Biometric technology is the go-to solution for improving digital security and it has evolved from simple fingerprints and facial recognition to behavior IDs that are capable of adapting to a user’s movement and produce “a digital fingerprint to confirm their identity and develop an ongoing authentication without requiring any action from the consumer”.

Why are we switching to Biometric passports?

Passports containing Biometric data cannot be forged or spoofed and will be more secure for their holders and will help the Lebanese authorities reduce fraud and prevent terrorists and criminals from using fake passports.

Why are we doing that now? There are 100+ countries worldwide using bio-metric passports, the U.S. has mandated the use of biometrics for over 10 years now and everyone is headed that way, so the question should be why didn’t we do it before? Let’s not forget that there are probably mandates related to implementing biometrics set by the international aviation organization that we need to comply with.

Will there be a timeline during which certain countries might start rejecting the old passport?

The government will start issuing the new e-passport before end of July. Pilot has already started for all applicants. Lebanese can use the old passports, not the ones renewed by hand though, till their expiry date. There shouldn’t be any acceptance issues but again one cannot be 100% sure. Some embassies might require soon e-passport as pre-requisite for visas.

Who is handling this project?
The company handling it is Inkript, which is a subsidiary of RGH. I don’t have much information about Inkript but that they are listed on ICAO directory as a turnkey biometric travel document solution provider alongside global brands which should be reassuring.

How much will it cost?
I heard that the new passport will have the same fees as the current one.

I will keep you posted as soon as I have additional information.

Lebanon, Brace Yourself for Pokémon GO

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pokemon go

Pokémon Go launched in the US, Australia, and New Zealand last week and will be launching in Europe in Europe and Asia ‘within a few days’. Android users in countries where the app wasn’t released yet have already figured out a way around to download the APK but it’s a bit trickier for iPhone users.

A lot of Lebanese are already using the app and there’s a scheduled meetup for Pokemon Go players in Lebanon in Beirut Souks that will be followed by a 10K walk with plenty of “pokéstops” on the way lol!

pokemongo1 Source

What is Pokémon Go?

For those of you who are still wondering why people are going crazy over that game, Pokémon Go is a mobile game that uses your phone’s location services and camera so that you can catch Pokémon in real life. The game uses augmented reality to make it look like whatever Pokémon you’ve stumbled across is indeed standing right there in front of you. This means that if you are walking around the streets of Achrafieh, your avatar is moving inside the game and you need to physically walk to a specific location to catch Pokémon.

What’s good about this app is that it is quickly becoming the best exercise app out there. However, a lot of incidents were reported so far, including a girl finding a dead body, people using the game to rob others, a lot of injuries, privacy issues and the fact that some people’s houses are pokespots.

We are still safe here in Lebanon but not for long. Pokémon GO Mania is coming soon!

Here’s a video that shows you how it works:


AUB Goes Eco-Friendly, Launches its First Photovoltaic Power Plant

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The American University of Beirut has inaugurated yesterday its first photovoltaic power plant to “mitigate the high environmental and economic costs of electricity generation through combustion of diesel”. The solar panel system was installed on the rooftop of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (FEA) and will save an estimated $500,000 per year in operating cost, deliver 150 MW of clean energy into the grid and reduce 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions.

The project was completed by three students over a period of eight months and was funded by the European Union’s ENPI CBC Mediterranean Seas Basin MEDSOLAR project (covering 85% of total cost), the FEA, and a local NGO called MONEERA.

Let’s hope this project will be implemented in several areas around Lebanon and in all universities and schools. You can read more about it [here] and/or watch this [LBCI report] by Raneem Bou Khzam.

Earlier last year, ABC Achrafieh installed the largest private photovoltaic plant in Lebanon on ABC’s rooftop. The installation covered up to 4,000 m2 and provides a capacity of 0.45 MW that is enough to power ABC department store, the equivalent of feeding up to 500 houses.

What Are These Girls Talking About?

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Child marriage continues to be a serious problem in Lebanon and the Middle East. Girls are generally more impacted than boys as they are not physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers. Child marriage is also quite prevalent among Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and families seek to marry their teenage girls for protection or economic reasons.

Raising the minimum legal age of marriage to 18 is a must but is unfortunately far fetched in Lebanon.

A Sneak Peek into Roadster Diner’s New Menu

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Roadster Diner just launched a brand new menu and I was the first to try it out on Saturday at their new Hazmieh branch. The new menu rolls out on Thursday and will contain over 30 new (and revisited) items, out of which I tried around 20.

Just to give you a brief summary:
– There are four new appetizers, three new salads, three new sandwiches, seven new burgers, one new platter and one new pasta dish and nine new desserts!
– A lot of the old items were dropped, including the 220 burgers, the all-fit menu, the onion rings and others.
– The presentation of the dishes has drastically changed and fits RD’s new look.
– Pictures of the items were re-added to the new menu.

Since this was just a tasting session, I will go through the items I tried and give you my first impression. Let’s start with the appetizers:

The “Legendary” Starters

1- Loaded Fries: Fries and cheddar with a creamy mushroom gravy served with ranch dip on the side. You can’t really go wrong there!

2- Chicken Gravy Melt: (Freshly baked whole-wheat baguette loaded with char-grilled chicken strips, covered in warm mushroom gravy and topped with our melted cheese): I enjoyed the mix but it’s a bulky dish. I would rather have separate crunchy toasts with that mix on top.
Chicken Gravy Melt

3- Blooming Shrimp (Seasoned char-grilled shrimp): I’d rather order them as an add-on to salads or platter. The blooming chili dip was good.

4- Ranch Chicken Rolls (Also known as egg-rolls): I’m not a big fan of egg rolls but they were okay. I wouldn’t mind sharing them with someone.
Ranch Chicken Rolls

Fresh Crisp Salads

1- Kale Caesar (The old Caesar Salad revisited with fresh avocado and Kale): If you like RD’s Caesar, it just got better and lighter.
Kale Caesar

2- Kale Chicken Wasabi (Char-grilled chicken tenders coated with a wasabi sesame seeds on a bed of crisp kale, sprinkled with crunchy peanuts, tangy cranberries and tossed with sesame balsamic dressing): This is my new favorite salad at Roadster. I loved it!
Kale Chicken Wasabi

3- Red Rocket Caprese (A colorful mix of market fresh lettuce, red rocket leaves, basil, avocado and cherry tomatoes, topped with char-grilled chicken tenders and fresh baby mozzarella, tossed with basil vinaigrette dressing): I didn’t try that one.

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