What Does This Flag Remind You Of?

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This is the flag of the Trucial States, which were a group of sheikhdoms in the south eastern Persian Gulf and signatories to treaties with the British government and later on became the United Arab Emirates in 1971. As you can see, the flag is pretty much the Lebanese flag without the Cedar tree.

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I looked up the meaning of the flag, and while the red was a traditional color, the white was imposed by the British in order to distinguish friends from pirates in the sea and the seven-pointed star referred to the 7 sheikhdoms. I can’t really confirm if the flag was inspired from the Lebanese one but the star was added in the 1960s, which is around 20 years after the Lebanese flag was declared.

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via Sultan

10 Things That Don’t Make Any Sense On My Way To Work (Jounieh – Beirut)

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There are things you can get used to in Lebanon, like traffic and reckless driving but some things just don’t make any sense and no matter how many times I see them, I can’t get over them:

Here are some of the things that annoy me on my way from Jounieh to Achrafieh every day:
1- All of Jounieh’s intersections don’t make any sense. They just cause more traffic.
2- The military base in the highly touristic ATCL area. Why don’t they relocate to a calmer and less crowded area?
3- The small adjacent road to the Dbayyeh – Antelias highway.
4- The ISF headquarters on the main Dbayyeh maritime road: Every time a car is entering the base, recruiting new people or holding an event, they stop traffic and it’s hell. Even the army guys like to jog on that maritime road for some reason blocking one of the lanes. Military bases should be in remote areas in my opinion for their own safety and our convenience.
5- The 200 bumps at the end of the Marina Dbayyeh maritime road. I’m eager to meet the guy who decided to put 6 consecutive bumps there.
6- The wasta shortcut road: This is what I call a traffic booster in Lebanon.
7- The unfinished Nahr el Mot bridge portrayed in the picture above. I also want to meet the engineer who designed the bridge to end that way.
8- People crossing the highway underneath the pedestrian bridge.

9- The very illogical Nahr el Mot main bridge in the middle of the road.
10- The Beirut Saifi (Kataeb) intersection where cars are coming in every direction.

Believe It Or Not: There’s a Shortage Of Syrian Skilled Workers In Lebanon

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workers via Al-Akhbar

The number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon has surpassed the 1 million mark this year, and our country has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world with 257 refugees per per 1,000 inhabitants yet we’ve been having a major shortage of Syrian skilled workers ever since the Lebanese authorities decided to impose visa restrictions. Lebanon’s agricultural sector is among the most severely hit as the number of laborers dropped by nearly 80 percent and this shortage is becoming a serious issue for other sectors as well.

The reason for that shortage is that Syrian workers are now subject to a Kafala sponsorship system, which means that they need a Lebanese to sponsor their stay. Moreover, they have to pay $200 upon their entry into Lebanon and an extra $65 for the paper work required. As a result, Syrian workers are not willing (or are unable) to pay almost $300 to work for few months in Lebanon while Lebanese companies are struggling to find workers at affordable prices. A friend of mine, who owns a cleaning company, told me the Syrian worker’s average salary has gone up by some $200 in the past couple of months as the demand is really high and there aren’t that many Syrian workers left in the country. On another hand, Syrian workers are struggling to find Lebanese sponsors.

Personally speaking, I still think the visa restrictions were much needed but they probably need to be amended to facilitate things for seasonal workers coming from Syria as they need the money and we need them in Lebanon. Until then, I hope this will encourage Lebanese to replace the Syrian workers noting that we have 1.5 Million Lebanese below the poverty line. The argument that “Lebanese are not used to this type of work” is not valid because when you’re poor, you need to work and any work is better than staying home. There’s one thing that I’m worried about though, is that local businessmen might start recruiting Syrian kids to do the job.

I believe this is the first time we’ve ever had a shortage in Syrian workers ever since the Hariri assassination in 2005 and the withdrawal of Syrian troops.

My Favorite Ice-cream Shop Helado Is Finally Relocating To A Bigger Branch!

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icecream

Helado has been my all-time favorite ice-cream place for quite some time in Lebanon but its only inconvenient is that the shop is tiny, there’s no parking space around it and it gets really crowded during summer specially in the afternoon. I never really minded the wait but I always thought he should move into a bigger location given how popular the place is and it’s finally happening.

Helado is currently a small pink kiosk located in Sahel Alma in a tiny street but they are moving in a couple of weeks time to a bigger shop few hundred meters away next to Le Raclot and the big blue gas station in Sahel Alma. For those of you who are not familiar with the area, you take the Jounieh highway and go up before Crepaway and Caliprix on the main road, then you take your left on the roundabout and Helado will be there right after the gas station to the right.

I strongly recommend Helado to every ice-cream lover as it’s my favorite ice-cream place in Lebanon. The flavors are quite original and delicious, the cone is also good and the owners are extremely friendly. I will be visiting the new branch as soon as it opens.

Main heladoo

Mabrouk To Ely Dagher: Winner Of The Palme D’or For His Short Movie Waves’98 At The Cannes Film Festival

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I was watching Yasmine Hamdan, another highly talented Lebanese artist, when I read about Ely Dagher winning the Palme D’or at the 69th Cannes Film Festival for his short movie Waves ’98. Ely is the first Lebanese to make it to the official selection since Maroun Baghdadi’s film in 1982 and the 29-year old has become the first Lebanese to receive the Palme d’Or since Baghdadi.

Ely’s 14-minute long film is “about Omar, a high-school kid living in the northern suburb of Beirut, struggling in his social bubble”. I couldn’t find yet the full movie online but I will share it as soon as I do.

Congrats to Ely and I’m sure this is just the start for our young and talented director.

Summer Season Is Looking Good So Far For Lebanon

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The number of passengers during the first four months of 2015 reached a record high of 1,969,222 passengers and showed an increase of almost 10% when compared to the same period last year. Similarly, Lebanon’s hotels (four and five stars) witnessed an increase in occupancy from 42% last year to almost 54% this year according to an Ernst & Young study. Doha, Madina, Abu Dhabi and Dubai all ranked higher with an occupancy rate of over 75%. As far as room rates are concerned, the average room rate in Beirut rose from $163 in 2014 to $173 this year, vs $303 in Dubai and $227 in Abu Dhabi. I wish they added a breakdown by nationalities to see if we are getting more Arab tourists this year or not.

In all cases, summer is looking good so let’s keep our fingers crossed that everything will stay calm inside Lebanon and on the borders.

Bankaudi

Check out the full report [here].

Families, Neighbors And Friends Should Protect Lebanese Women From Abusive Husbands

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wifej

Every time I hear about a husband beating or abusing his wife in Lebanon, I keep asking myself why don’t the victim’s parents and friends do anything about it. I understand that some women are too afraid to speak up, but Sara al-Amin is not one of them and was filing a lawsuit against her husband for allegedly beating her over two decades! Unfortunately, Ali al-Zein shot his wife Sara al-Amin dead using an assault riffle after hearing that she’s pressing charges and fled the house. He was later on caught by the police.

11329798_10153276136174337_2179348084723932233_n via Kafa

Needless to say, this is a horrendous crime and everyone wants justice and is asking for the husband to be sentenced to death, but this is not enough and won’t get us anywhere. Even having a law that protects women from abusive husbands is not enough if society doesn’t step in to protect the victim. I am not here to judge the victim’s family or neighbors or friends, but to encourage them to take proper action next time they witness domestic violence and do whatever it takes to keep the victim safe and help her speak up. If you watch the below report, Sarah’s neighbor was trying to reconcile the couple and convinced her to go back to her husband, and Sarah’s father stated he wouldn’t have let her come back to her husband if he knew he had a gun. Both of them were obviously trying to help Sarah but should have called the cops or some local NGO like KAFA to ensure Sarah’s safety, even if it’s against her will because she was obviously more worried about her children than herself.

10502013_10153276444024337_7772738399627689090_n Men who still think like this guy should be thrown in jail – via Kafa

A man who beats his wife or his children for 20 years won’t stop anytime soon unless he’s jailed or severely punished. I know a guy who went and beat the hell out of his sister’s husband because he was hitting her and it worked but that’s not the right way. Friends, family and neighbors should be pressuring the authorities to arrest an abusive husband before he commits his crime not after, and the cops should put under arrest a man beating his wife before he kills her not after. This whole “Keeping it in the family” thing should stop because the victims always end up being the highest price.

Having said that, please do report any case of domestic violence you witness and try to help the victim while keeping her safe. Sarah was brave enough to file a lawsuit against her husband, but there are hundreds if not thousands of other Lebanese women too afraid to speak up. As far as the ISF is concerned, Kafa has already trained over 100 ISF members on how to handle domestic abuse cases but further action is needed to make the victims feel safe and able to go back home and not be threatened by their abusive husbands.

Kafa’s hotline is 03018019 and the ISF can be reached on 112.

[YouTube]

Six Lebanese Cities (Including Jbeil??) Among 64 Cities At “Extreme Risk” Of A Terror Attack

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lol

I am going to label this post under “Humor” because this is an absolutely ridiculous list that makes no sense whatsoever and I’m quite surprised that the Telegraph and Time decided to share it without double checking some of its findings. Out of the 64 cities categorized as “extreme risk” in Verisk Maplecroft’s new Global Alerts Dashboard (GAD), there are 6 Lebanese cities: Beirut, Byblos, Aley, Baabda, Jounieh and Zahlé.

Noting that the rankings are based on “an online mapping and data portal that logs and analyses every reported terrorism incident down to levels of 100m² worldwide”, and that is based on the “intensity and frequency of attacks in the 12 months following February 2014, combined with the number and severity of incidents in the previous five years”, I am not sure how cities like Byblos, Aley, Baabda, Jounieh and Zahlé made the list while Tripoli wasn’t even mentioned. When was the last time you heard about an attack in Jounieh, Byblos or Baabda? The areas aren’t even close to conflict areas like Zahle is. Moreover, how is Beirut more at risk of a terror attack than Damascus?

Funnily enough, I was just praising Jbeil yesterday for winning the Arab Tourism Capital Title for 2016 and now it’s on some world’s deadliest cities list.

Update: I am going to email the Telegraph and Time and ask them to revise this article.