Celebrating Eid In Tripoli: Crowded Souks, Great Food, Clowns For A Cause, Flying Lanterns & Happy Children

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Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, is a very special time of the year for Muslims worldwide. Every country has its own traditions and in Lebanon, every city celebrates it in its own way. This year, I decided to head to Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city and one of its poorest, to share their traditions and join Tripolitans in their celebrations.

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My first stop was at Furn el Saadeh, a popular oven located in Al Tall area that sells Ch3aybiyyet, Kafta and Lahm Baajine. The place was tiny yet packed and we ended up standing outside and having our breakfast on one of the parked cars’ hood but it was quite amazing and totally worth it.

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Tripoli may be a poor city, but it’s rich in diversity and is a beautiful city to explore. There are always new places to visit and new things to do and a sense of community in the city. Locals come up with new initiatives every year to help out those in need and put a smile on their faces. Here are some of them:

Flying Lanterns (نور دربن) on Maarad Street:
Lanterns2 Flying lanterns

This year marked the third edition of this event, where Tripolitans welcome the holidays by lightening Tripoli’s ski with lanterns and collecting money to put less fortunate children back in school. The atmosphere is quite amazing as more and more people are joining the event every year to light up Tripoli skies and brighten up a child’s future.

Clowns for a cause:
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Eid is an occasion for children to celebrate and reunite with their loved ones but unfortunately that’s not the case in Tripoli where a lot of children have to work to provide for their families. The number of children aged between 7 and 15 and already working is quite staggering in Tripoli and they are easily noticeable especially in Bab el Tebbaneh. Fighting child labor is a long process but a lot of NGOs and locals organize small gatherings in the old souks and deprived areas and invite clowns to entertain the children and celebrate Eid.

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One of these events was organized by the Old Souk Development Committee in the old souks right underneath Tripoli’s citadel where they had set up inflatable games and brought clowns and cartoon characters. Another event was being held in the streets of Abi Samra by The Lebanese Center for active citizenship and a third one in Jabal Mohsen’s neighborhood. Children were dancing, playing, singing and having a great time just like they should be on Eid. Sadly though, I spotted at every event a couple of kids working and selling stuff to the audience while trying to enjoy the show.

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Haret el Tanak – (Tin Neighborhood)
In addition to these events, a friend of mine brought my attention to clown flash-mob performed in one of the most underprivileged parts of Tripoli, which has little-to-no infrastructure and is known as Haret el Tanak (Tin neighborhood). Journalists, engineers, students and activists came from all over Lebanon, dressed up as clowns and spent the whole day celebrating Eid with families there.

clowns Picture via Natheer Halawani

I ended the day by touring Tripoli’s citadel and taking panoramic shots from the highest point in the city.

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The Real Problem In Lebanon Is The Lack Of Recycling

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zz Picture via Imad Bazzi

Sukleen’s term has expired on July 17th and the company is no longer collecting garbage, the deadline set by the Naameh residents expired yesterday and the road to the landfill is closed once again, Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq still has no idea on what to do next and has informed the municipalities that they will need to handle their garbage until further notice. The proposed solution is to designate new landfill locations to replace the Naameh one but all municipalities are refusing this option because they simply don’t want to end up with a landfill as big as the Naameh one. At the same time, Naameh residents are fed up and they have every right to close the landfill, noting that it was originally supposed to operate for 6 years only yet has become the country’s primary landfill (65% of the Lebanese garbage) for 17 years now.

As far as Sukleen is concerned, they did their job and are not too worried about what happens next. Beirut Municipalities, on the other hand are not prepared to handle this task and they are already panicking and setting up temporary dump sites in inappropriate locations, noting that most municipalities are indebted to Sukleen.

How do we get out of this mess?
The problem is a political one as is always the case in Lebanon, and Minister Mashnouk can’t really do anything until all parties agree on a new company or on renewing Sukleen and setting up new landfill locations, but we could have avoided all that if the authorities started years ago recycling campaigns and encouraged municipalities to invest in recycling instead of wasting all their money on Sukleen’s services, noting that we are currently paying almost $170 per 1 ton of garbage between sweeping, cleaning, sorting, packing and dumping, which is a relatively high amount.

Given that at least 60% of our solid waste is organic in Lebanon, the most effective solution is to implement an adequate strategic waste management plan and encourage recycling. It is in every municipality’s interest to invest in recycling and promote environmentally friendly solutions to save money, protect the environment and more importantly their own residents. Take for example Sweden where people recycle almost 47% of their waste and use 52% to generate heat; I’m not saying we will achieve that in 1 or 2 years but things have been dragging for 20 years now and the worst thing we could do right now is repeat the Sukleen and Naameh experience, add to that the illegal landfills in Saida, Tripoli (Baddawi) and Tyre.

If some municipalities are too corrupt or don’t understand the benefits of recycling and waste management, why doesn’t the government force them to spend 30 or 40% of its budget on recycling instead of paying debts to Sukleen? Why doesn’t the ministry give them long-term credits to encourage waste management and incentives based on the results achieved? Just like the electricity problem in this country, I believe municipalities need to take personal initiatives like Zahle did and force it on the authorities.

Until then, enjoy the smells :)

IMAX Finally Coming To Lebanon

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IMAX-screens-get-smaller_ via digitaltrends

Three IMAX theatres will be added to VOX locations in the MENA region, including one in Beirut, marking IMAX’s entry into that country. VOX Cinemas are expected to get IMAX by end of this year based on what I’ve been told, but the date hasn’t been confirmed yet. I’ve been to an IMAX theater once and it’s quite an amazing experience. The technology and architecture makes you forget you’re in a theater and makes the movie so freaking real!

I will keep you posted if there are any updates but this is very exciting news for myself and all movie-goers in Lebanon.

IMAX Corporation (NYSE: IMAX) and VOX Cinemas, a leading exhibitor in the Middle East, today announced an agreement for three IMAX® theatres to be added to VOX locations throughout the region. IMAX theatres will be added to existing complexes in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and in Beirut, Lebanon, marking IMAX’s entry into that country. In addition, IMAX’s next-generation digital laser projection system will be launched as part of a completely new development of their flagship VOX Cinema, located within the landmark Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, UAE.

“Moviegoers in the Middle East want only the best cinema technology and movie watching experiences when visiting our cinemas and IMAX is a brand that is regarded as the best among our guests in the region,” said Cameron Mitchell, CEO of VOX Cinemas. “Our commitment to delivering a customer-focused cinema experience is a perfect fit with IMAX’s cutting-edge technology and blockbuster film slate. As we continue to expand our circuit throughout the Middle East, IMAX will serve as an anchor attraction that we are confident will be embraced by our guests. [Source] “

Two New Road Signs To Be Introduced In Lebanon

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CKVpN8TUsAAc-e3 Poster done by Bob Kastoun from Ma3roof

If you spot the first sign, quickly take ur right and let whomever is behind you pass, otherwise you might get beaten up or even stabbed to death. As for the second sign, it will deployed in the next phase of the new traffic law to help drivers avoid specific potholes that were listed as historic sites and are being preserved by the concerned ministries and Goodwill Ambassador Zein el Atat.

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Ten Things The Telegraph Didn’t Know About Lebanon

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leb via LiveLoveBeirut

It’s not always a good thing when Lebanon is promoted as a touristic destination by international media as the way they perceive things is sometimes highly inaccurate. Of course you can’t really blame them because of the current situation on the borders and in neighboring countries but it wouldn’t hurt to double check on some facts before publishing them.

I just finished reading an article recently published by the Telegraph on Beirut entitled “War is a million miles away when the Lebanese begin to party” and here are ten things they got completely wrong. The first two are related to the outdated pictures they used, while the rest is from the article itself.

chris A Lebanese Christian woman partying after recent elections

1- The last elections took place on June 7, 2009 which is more than 6 years ago and a “Christian woman” drinking champagne after results were announced is not really how we party in Beirut.

diningg Dining out in Beirut’s rebuilt downtown area (Photo: Alamy)

2- I don’t remember the last time I saw people dining in that area of Beirut. I think it goes back to 2003 or 2004. Whomever wrote this article obviously hasn’t visited Beirut in a long time.

Standing on picnic tables, skinny girls in hot pants and crop-tops gyrated to thumping beats, upending bottles of vodka into the mouths of the bare-chested men dancing beside them. An open-top car, Christian Louboutin shoes and a full-time, live-in maid to look after one’s children are all must-have accessories.

3- Are they referring to Rikkyz here? If not where is this place in the Lebanese mountains with skinny girls in hot pants and bare-chested men? I had no clue Rikkyz was for fancy people only.

Beauty is paramount: parents are known to book nose jobs as a birthday presents for their teenage children, and the youngsters wear their stitches proudly, as badges of honour. The average cost of a birthday party among this elite, one event organiser tells me, is $200,000. A wedding is $300,000.

4- Nose jobs for teenage children? Wear their stitches as a badge of honor? Really? And birthday parties for $200,000? Are we talking about Lebanon here? Plastic surgery is quite common in Lebanon but people tend to be discreet about it as far as I know.

It is said that most of the country’s big spenders sustain their lifestyles using bank loans they cannot obviously repay. The phenomenon is often explained as a consequence of the civil war.

5- Bank loans for $200,000 to hold a birthday party and get a nose job? Lebanese families who organize such parties don’t need bank loans. They probably own banks themselves. Moreover, the phenomenon is not a consequence of the civil war as most people tend to overspend on their credit cards. This is a universal problem for all credit card holders.

Society remains divided. Most Lebanese put sect before country. Beirut is a patchwork of separate cantons (in Christian Ashrafieh, the women wear miniskirts, while 10 minutes’ walk east, in the mostly Shia district of Basta, the prevailing fashion is the hijab).

6- Shia District of Basta? Isn’t Basta a traditionally Sunnite area?

The communities rarely interact.

7- That’s true. Christians rarely talk to Muslims and we rarely hang out at the same places. Yesterday I went to Verdun and I was a bit worried that Muslims on camels might attack me there, but then I spotted Christians wearing gold chain necklaces with a cross on it and I felt safe again.

Rushing through the city’s Armenian quarter one night, on my way to the chic downtown district, I was stopped by an elderly man who warned me not to go on. “There are Muslims there,” he cautioned.

8- The Muslims are coming. Beware lol!

A Lebanese businessman told me recently how he had struggled to persuade a British colleague to come to Beirut. For years she refused to visit, until it became a necessity for her work. Convinced she was flying into a war zone, her hands shook with fear as she checked in at Heathrow. On the plane she broke into floods of tears.

9- This passage is quite insulting to the whole British community and to British Ambassador Tom Fletcher. Is it so hard for this young woman to check the British Embassy’s website and understand what’s happening in Lebanon. Ironically enough, the UK travel advice to Lebanon is one of the most detailed and accurate ones.

For now, sadly, even at the magnificent Greco-Roman temples of Baalbek, the tourist touts sit together at a coffee table by the empty ticket hall. A camel, dressed up to the nines, with an embroidered doily resting between its ears and an elaborately carved wooden saddle on his back, waits under a tree, desolately swatting flies with its tail. The businessman’s friend may well have been their last customer.

10- The Baalbeck International Festival is the oldest and most prestigious cultural event in the Middle East and is visited by thousands every year. Last year, the festivals were relocated due to the situation in Syria but they are back this year. Moreover, Baalbeck is almost one of the most impressive and most visited sites in Lebanon.

The only thing that the Telegraph goes right was that the “biggest risk to foreigners in Lebanon is a thick waistline and a stinking hangover”. Here’s a [link] to the full article.

PS: If you’re coming to Lebanon this summer, here’s a list of fun things to do.

Week33: LiveLoveBeirut’s Best Pictures Of The Week

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Barook Barouk Cedars – by Sarah

You can follow LiveLoveBeirut on Instagram on [Instagram]. I’m also on Instagram and you can follow me [here] if you like.

Jounieh festival Jounieh Festival – by RiseAboveLebanon

Harissa Harissa – by Eliasouba

Gazl Le marchand de bonheur – by Elias.ac

Cedars1 Eternal gardens – by Eli.youssef

Baakline Baakline waterfalls

Afqa Afka – by Gilbert Geagea

HMA Tom Fletcher Bids Farewell To Lebanon By Walking From Batroun To Beirut

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HMA Tom Fletcher is touring the country and promoting Lebanon as a touristic destination on his final days as the British Ambassador. Fletcher had lemonade in Batroun, then walked all the way from Batroun to Jbeil where he visited the souks and met the locals. On the second day, he went to Harissa and wore the traditional Lebanese costume during a dinner ceremony held in his honor. Later on, he visited the Jounieh souks, walked all the way to Nahr el Kalb where he visited the different monuments, passed by Beirut’s port to show support to the Lebanese economy before reaching his final destination at Martyrs Square in Beirut.

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HMA Tom Fletcher may no longer be an ambassador to Lebanon but he’s from now an ambassador for Lebanon and he’s a perfect fit for the job. We thank you for showing the true image of Lebanon and being the best diplomat Lebanon has had in years!

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Zahle Teta “Yi K*** Em Hal Kahraba Chou Bitdall Ma2tou3a bi Beirut!”

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Karhaba

Zahle residents have every right to brag about their achievement as they now have 24/7 electricity and water and have sorted out their garbage issues as well. More importantly, they managed to confront generator owners and the mafias behind them and keep them away from the city.

I wish Jounieh officials (and other major cities for that sake) would learn a thing or two from Zahle and come up with a plan to provide electricity to its residents and stop the Zouk power-plant pollution instead of hanging polluting posters and holding useless press conferences.

[YouTube]

Death Penalty Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

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deth

Tareq Yatim is a cold-blooded murderer and a horrible human being but death penalty is not the way he should be punished and we need to stop cheering for capital punishment every time an innocent person is killed. Taking away someone’s life should never be an option and the Lebanese society needs to stop promoting it as a quick fix solution. There are better alternatives like being jailed for life without parole. I understand that there’s corruption in this country and some criminals are walking out free but that’s not an excuse to keep pushing for capital punishment.

Killing Tareq won’t bring George back to his family and sentencing him to death may not be as swift as people think it is as the process takes time and might involve several trials and hearings and needs the (non-existing) president’s approval. More importantly, and given how corrupt our system is, applying the death penalty can be arbitrary and politicized (in other crimes) and you can’t undo a mistake once you discover a man has been executed for a crime he did not commit. I know everyone is angry and pissed off at what happened but there are many ways to support and comfort George’s family like raising funds to help the family for example.

Let’s not forget Walid el Mohtar was also killed but by mistake on that same day. Should we sentence his killers to death as well? Why isn’t anyone doing so? We all mock and criticize Saudi Arabia and Iran for executing prisoners every year yet this is the first thing we ask for when someone is killed. Capital punishment has never worked, has never stopped criminals like Yatim and goes against almost every religion and code of ethics out there.

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