Ramadan In Tripoli Through The Lens Of Natheer Halawani

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D7K_4826-001 Another mass iftar held by a bunch of activists and well-doers in town. The iftar gathered people from both religions to share iftar on a same table in a one-of-a-kind event where everybody contributed to the table. Mosques and Churches announced Maghrib prayer, the time to break the fast, in an out of this world audio-visual scenery.

I was finalizing this post with my friend Natheer when I heard about the terrorist attacks in Kuwait, then in Tunisia and France as well. It’s quite tragic to hear about such unfortunate events during Ramadan and on a Friday, a holy day for Muslims, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families & friends.

These terrorist attacks unfortunately remind us of the two blasts that shook Tripoli back in 2013 killing over 40 innocent people, but Tripoli and its people defeated terrorism by promoting peace and bringing together its residents. One example is last year’s mass Iftar at Se7it el Nour where Mosques and Churches announced Maghrib prayer together and everybody took part in preparing the food.

Tripoli is a beautiful city, and Ramadan in Tripoli is a very special time of the year. That’s why I asked my talented friend and photographer Natheer Halawani, who happens to be from Tripoli, to share some of his best Ramadan pictures from the past couple of years. I hope you enjoy them and I wish all my friends in Tripoli and all over Lebanon a peaceful and blessed Ramadan month!

D7K_1496 A curious child busy exploring the tiny world at his feet instead of performing prayer as advised -most probably- by his father or whoever that brought him over to the mosque, during a mass prayer known as ‪Taraweeh‬, performed every Ramadan eve after the last of the 5 main daily prayers. Taken in Ash Shukr Mosque.

D7K_1276-002 Vivdly colorful ornamets are one of the most eye-catching Ramadan attractions, with warm lights and islamic symblos more than often. Taken in Mina.

D7K_1416 The Minarets of a newly-built mosque in Tripoli. Taken in Mina.

D7K_1595 Muslims grew a fond habit of listening to the Quran Reader of a the mosque prior or after any major prayer. Taken in Ash Shukr Mosque.

D7K_1606 Elder Muslim resting after a lengthy Taraweeh prayer, the Ramadan-exclusive prayer that could extend to an hour or two in some cases. Taken in Ash Shukr Mosque.

D7K_2575 Adult males wrapping yet another fasting day in the coziness of a local, yet very famous, roadside coffee shop playing cards and smoking shisha/arguileh. Shot in Mina, Roumiyyeh Cafe.

D7K_2682 (2) The inside a traditional Ka’ak and bread bakery in the old alleys of the town during the month of ‪Ramadan‬. Musims find a pleasure having Ka’ak filled with cheese and grilled by the bakery’s wood-lit over over Suhoor, the act of eating a snack before sunrise when fasting begins. Taken in Bab Al Ramel.

D7K_4545 Child praying by himself behind adult males in a mosque. Taken in Tawjeeh Street.

D7K_4581 Elderly man with the help of a younger male removing the post-Taraweeh praying mats that were spread out in the street, local mosque being not able to accommodate any more worshipers. Taken in Mina.

D7K_4768 Worshiper performing Isha’ prayer behind an Imam in one of Tripoli’s biggest mosques.

D7K_4783 The Grand mosque, otherly known as one of the town’s pillars and most renowned landmarks. The mosque’s court looking empty as worshipers are inside busy performing their night prayers.

The all-time-famous Saha w Hana iftar, the Mass Iftar event that closed down the main roundabout in town, the one that happens to be the city’s south entrance, for a very good cause. The iftar managed to bring together a lot of people, whether muslims or not, for an event that provided iftar for orphans and poor individuals and families from all over town.

D7K_4867-001 Shot taken from the roof of a 13-story building during the mass iftar held at the Groupy Roundabout in Mina. Attendants of both religions insisted on lighting candles in both shapes of a cross and a crescent, in an unplanned move by the organizers. This turned into an attraction through the night. Taken in Mina.

My Pictures of Beirut, The Beirut We Love, Featured on CNN iReport

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20150622180740jpg-3629922_p9 Said Akl tribute in Gemmayze

I’m not sure if my Anthony Bourdain post got CNN interested in my Instagram account, but they asked me to send a couple of pictures that I took in Beirut and they got featured on CNN’s iReport which is pretty cool.

I wish I could have sent more pictures to show them all the complex elements that make Beirut a beautiful city. The old streets and houses next to the skyscrapers, five star hotels and rooftops, the vibrant nightlife 10 minutes way from refugee camps and security zones, the residential streets packed with pubs, bars and plenty of street food, and other things that make Beirut so special and so difficult to live in.

I know Lebanon has a ton of issues now, we don’t have a president, over 2 million Syrian and Palestinian refugees, terrorists at the borders, armed groups inside the country, corrupt politicians and a bad economy but that doesn’t mean we cannot enjoy our everyday life and make the best out of it, and more importantly speak positively about our country.

CNN iReport View from The Roof – Four Seasons Beirut

Al Rifai #AngelDrones Delivering Packages To Needy Families On Ramadan

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rifai

Ramadan is not only a religious occasion, but also a social and cultural one. It is a time to reach out and help those who don’t have a home or family to come back or don’t have enough to feed their children. This year, Al Rifai has decided to send out drones to deliver special packages to families and individuals in need and help them enjoy Ramadan. The drones, called Angel Drones, will be delivering packages throughout the whole month of Ramadan.

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Al Rifai has always been creative with its ads and campaigns. I love the idea, I just hope no one will report the drones to the authorities thinking they are Israeli lol!

[YouTube]

The 2006 Lebanon War Among The 30 Most Edited Wikipedia Pages Of All Time (20,173 times)

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wiki

The 2006 Lebanon War Wikipedia page is in the top 30 most edited Wikipedia pages and controversial topics with over 20,000 revisions, with the most popular ones being George W. Bush and World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s the only Middle-East related page on that list weirdly enough despite everything that’s been happening since 2006. Other pages on that list include The Undertaken, Adolf Hitler, Jesus, Michael Jackson, Roger Federer and others.

I think the main reason for that was the cyber war that Israel launched back then against Lebanon and Hezbollah and that turned into a global cyber-warfare between the US and its enemies.

Here’s the original link to the Wikipedia list of the most revised pages since its creation.

Thanks Basil!

Anthony Bourdain’s Beirut Episode Is Even Worse Than I Thought It Would Be

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I watched last night the season finale of CNN’s Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain which was shot in Beirut, and I hated every single bit of it except for the short interview with Joumana Haddad. I really had high expectations for that episode, but I lowered my expectations after seeing the comments on Facebook and it turned to be even worse than I thought it would be and did not reflect the words Bourdain used to describe our capital. In fact, if I didn’t know Bourdain, I would have thought he’s some clueless foreign reporter who’s visiting Beirut for the first time and still thinks we are at war. All he talked about for nearly 45 minutes was Syrian & Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, ISIS, Hezbollah, bombings, ISIS, 2006 war, recent suicide bombings, ISIS, the 1975-1990 civil war and more ISIS.

Let me just start by telling Bourdain that ISIS is far from Lebanon and its borders, and the map (shown above) does not reflect ISIS control in Syria, nor its threat to Lebanon. The Lebanese Army and Hezbollah are not even fighting ISIS on the borders but Jobhat el Nousra.

Bourdai_ISI1

Moving on to the full episode, I went through it minute by minute and took notes along the way. The episode kicked off with the cliché mosque and church contrasts, and then of course showing veiled women walking next to lingerie shops or billboards. We are proud of this co-existence of course but it gets boring when someone mentions it 10 times in the episode and randomly shows pictures of the Virgin Mary or Jesus or a mosque.

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Bourdain then took a ride with the Harley Davidson Lebanon chapter and they visited a snack shop in Beirut (Broasted Rizk) which I’ve never heard of before. They barely mentioned the food there and talked for about five minutes about the civil war, the war of the hotels back in the 1970s, thee Holiday Inn and other war-related stories.

Afterwards, Bourdain kept talking for few minutes about explosions and the civil war before he got to Burj el Brajneh camp in Beirut and continued his war talks by covering Syria, Palestinians, ISIS and wars in the region. He visited poor families and children and had Syrian food inside the camp. They also showed gruesome pictures of war victims which weren’t really necessary.

swin

Bourdain moved back to Raouche, showing people dancing the Dabke and then ISIS fighters somewhere in Iraq or Syria I don’t know. He then mentioned that you can swim and ski on the same day in Lebanon, and headed to Ras Beirut to have lunch with his security guard in Beirut, who thinks that Lebanon looks a lot like 2006 now (Don’t ask me how). In fact, all they talked about over lunch was war, explosions and the terrifying ISIS. Of course after lunch, we got another cliché church-mosque-night club constrast.

chris

Radio Beirut was next on Bourdain’s to-do list and it was a short but fun act. He met with Chino and Lebanese Rapper Hussein Charafeddine who was once arrested and mistaken for a suicide bomber.

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Moving on, Bourdain then had dinner somewhere in Beirut’s suburbs in a Hezbollah area. Food looked nice but the guy had a machine gun in the kitchen for some reason along with Hezbollah posters all around. Needless to say, everything they talked about was the 2006 war and ISIS and of course Hezbollah.

mus2

Bourdain was meeting Lebanese Journalist and activist Joumana Haddad but he made sure to include more cliché pictures of sexy Lebanese women, then a Virgin statue, a Chanel store and the reflection of a mosque, because Lebanon is the only country in the world where you will find conservative religious women, women in bikinis, a chanel store and a mosque (ma hek?).

joumana

Joumana’s three-minute interview was by far the best part in this episode and Joumana impressed as always with her opinions and take on things. She explained to Bourdain that it’s not “awesome not to have a president for a year”, and that the chaos that we are living in is not something you’d want to experience for over a year and she’s right.

I then skipped the part with Elefteriadis because I don’t think he’s the right person to talk to about Lebanon or Beirut as a whole. I love Music Hall and I admire the things he has done to improve nightlife in Lebanon but he’s a self-proclaimed emperor who lives in an imaginary kingdom. That’s all I have to say here. Bourdain finished the episode by visiting a cafe which I haven’t heard of as well and that is managed by Syrians and Lebanese.

All in all, “Parts Unknown” is an American travel and food show where Anthony Bourdain is supposed to go around the world and uncover lesser known places and explore cultures and cuisine. That said, coming to Beirut and visiting camps and war-torn areas is definitely not the right way to explore cuisine and culture and the way he portrayed Beirut to the whole world was a rather negative one. It’s as if we are living in constant fear of a new civil war or of ISIS invading the country which is far from the truth. We trust and believe in our Lebanese Army and we’ve always stood as one against terrorism and hopefully always will.

There are so many things that Bourdain missed out on and that could have made this episode a much better one:

– Uruguay Street, Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael, Badaro and Hamra’s nightlife.
– Beirut’s rooftops and open venues.
– Authentic Lebanese snacks and restaurants in Beirut. Since when is broasted chicken part of our culture?
– Zaitunay Bay, Beirut Souks and Solidere as a whole.
– Beirut’s beautiful graffiti murals and art scene.
– The dozens of cultural and artistic festivals happening in Beirut.
– Shawarma, Falafel, Manakish, Knefe, Lebanese sweets, etc …
– A walk around in old Achrafieh and Hamra streets.
– A close look at certain NGOs and their awesome work (ex: LiveLoveBeirut ).

I’m just talking about things to do in Beirut here and I’m sure there is tons of other stuff as well. If Bourdain wanted to see how Lebanese are reacting to ISIS threats, he should have visited Tripoli and seen how vibrant and peaceful the city is right now. We are not living in denial, we know we have a lot of issues to deal with, but that doesn’t mean we need to live in constant fear of war and stop enjoying our everyday life.

That’s what Bourdain should have focused on instead of reviving the civil war and the 2006 war in his report.

[YouTube]

Lebanon Officially The No.1 Country With The Most Refugees Per 1,000 Inhabitants

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LB via Forbes

The UNHCR released its annual Global Trends Report: World At War on Thursday, and revealed that the number of people displaced by war and persecution has reached a new high whereas one in every 122 humans globally is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. We are talking about almost 60 million people that were forcibly displaced compared to 51.2 million in 2013.

As far as refugees per 1,000 inhabitants ratio is concerned, Lebanon is still leading the way with 232 refugees, followed by Jordan with 87. The “good” news though is that this number has slightly dropped from mid-2014 where it peaked at 257, which could be due to the visa restrictions set by the Lebanese authorities.

Needless to say, there’s still a lot of work to be done as refugees need to be regrouped in decent camps and should get the necessary help. Of course Lebanon needs all the help he can get from Arab countries and the UN, but more importantly, we need transparency and accountability when it comes to foreign aids to ensure funds are not going into the wrong pockets.

Ramez Galal Plane Prank Is F*cked Up And Should Be Stopped!

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ramez

Egyptian Prankster Ramez Galal thought it would be funny this year to invite celebrities to a fake opening of a hotel in Dubai, fly them on a private jet and trick them into believing that the plane is going to crash and that they need to jump in parachutes. His latest victim is Lebanese TV Presenter Nishan who totally lost it and start beating the guy next to him. To be honest, this is a sick joke and he’s gone too far this time, and the fact that the plane is actually in the air makes things even worse.

It’s like this guy is waiting for something terribly wrong to happen before he stops. He has already tricked in previous year Haifa Wehbe, Maya Diab and Cyrine Abdel Nour but this prank is the worst ever.

Someone needs to stop this show once and for all.


[YouTube]


[YouTube]

Anthony Bourdain On Beirut: It Defies Logic. It Defies Expectations. It is Amazing.

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Bourain

Anthony Bourdain is a popular American chef and author. He used to host the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” and “The Layover” before joining CNN in 2013 to host “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”. I love Bourdain’s shows, his take on a country’s cuisine and culture and how he visits the most random and “undesirable” places and makes them look awesome. To Bourdain, “meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself”, and he’s absolutely right.

The first time Bourdain visited Beirut, it was two days before the Israeli War had started in 2006. Almost 10 years later and after a short stop in 2010, he is visiting again our beloved capital and featuring it in the season finale of #PartsUnknown.

I couldn’t find the full episode online yet but I noticed on Facebook that a lot of people didn’t like it and claimed that Bourdain focused too much on religious and political issues rather than focus on the food and culture. Many stated that the episode wasn’t representative of Beirut and Lebanon as a whole, which is quite surprising to be honest, specially after his 2006 Beirut episode which I enjoyed a lot.

I will watch the whole episode as soon as it’s available and update the post with my take on it. If anyone has seen it yesterday, please do share your comments.

Bourdais

Leaked Footage Showing Roumieh Prison Inmates Being Tortured

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tor

Two videos were leaked today showing security forces beating and torturing Roumieh inmates. The incident took place when the ISF raided the prison back in April to quell inmate riots. In one video, two officers are seen beating two half-naked prisoners on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs. Needless to say, nothing justifies beating and torturing prisoners no matter what they’ve done and these officers should be arrested and reprimanded.

Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk has already condemned these brutal acts and assumed full responsibility for the mistake. He vowed to take all legal measures against those found guilty and two guards have been arrested so far.

Unfortunately, torture is still quite common in Lebanese prisons as around 60% of prisoners are tortured according to a report issued by the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) last year. The same report stated that 52% of women arrested by the Lebanese authorities in 2013 and 2014 were subjected to severe torture.

[YouTube]

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