Riham's Blog


“Non Alcoholic Spirits”

What's wrong with this picture?

This was something I saw and took a picture of when I was in Jeddah last week.
Many people have already seen this or heard of “Saudi Champagne”. I have too, but it isn’t until recently that I saw it on a menu at a restaurant, or seen “red wine” or “white wine” around Saudi Arabia.
The terminology they are using is very surprising and interesting at the same time; “Non alcoholic spirits” along with the names of the actual alcoholic drinks.

I stay in Saudi Arabia country for a few weeks a year, which used to be months, and I am aware of the fact that the “real stuff” could be available to those who look in the right places. But publicly, everyone knows that alcohol is not allowed in Saudi Arabia, that they follow Islamic law which states that alcohol should not be consumed. So why call those drinks “wine” and “champagne” to begin with? I understand beer, but wine and champagne are somewhat different from those drinks offered. So why not just call them for what they are, some sort of juice and some other ingredients?

My over thought out and analyzed theory is that since everything that is forbidden is usually desired, calling this simple beverage “wine” or “champagne” will make it more popular, as consumers will feel that they are drinking something similar to what is forbidden. Another theory I have is that by calling them these names, it makes alcohol less “forbidden”, seeing as examples of alcoholic drinks are available in the country, but adapted to their cultural norms.

However, here is what probably happened: Some company was trying to come up with a new drink to put in the market. The result was a dark red liquid. Someone joked saying “Oooh.. it looks like wine!” Looks were shared, a light bulb lit above their heads, and the rest was history.


Blog Action Day 2010: Water

Have you ever had a long day at work and you waited for the moment you can get home and jump in the shower? Ever went jogging on a hot summer day, and waited for that moment when you’re done so you can have a big gulp of water? Now imagine if this shower and that drink were not an option for you.

If your country suffers from poor infrastructure in general, and water mismanagement in particular (not hinting at any one country here.. hmm), then you probably have lived through a day or two without running water. I know I have, and I can honestly say that I would choose lack of electricity over lack of water any day. If not being able to conveniently take a shower is so frustrating, imagine how much worse it would be if you didn’t have access to drinking water, and that this was your reality.

I don’t want this post to sound like a civics class. We’ve all taken those classes and we all know that there is a water problem in the world. However, it isn’t until you see the numbers and facts, and I mean really look at them, that you know how big the water problem is. Check out this page about water facts, and how they affect millions of people in the world.

Almost 1.1 billion people’s reality is much different than ours. What we take for granted and use, abuse and misuse is something they walk for kilometers to get and die in its pursuit. Millions of children die because of diseases related to the water problem. While knowing this, our problems should seem trivial.

Why hasn’t much been done about this? One of the reasons is what makes the world go round: Money. There isn’t enough funding to decrease the consequences of the scarcity of water, or the difficulty of access to it. This seems hard to believe when looking at the useless things governments spend money on. Tree shaped islands, weapons, the list can go on and on.

No individual can do anything to solve this, but what we can do is hel; spread awareness and donate. I can tell you about one thing I have recently done. My family and myself contributed to the building of a well. A small amount each, and we are helping bring water to people who need it most. I hate myself for not having all the information with me right now since I wanted to share it, but let me know if you are interested and I will give you all the details next week when I can get them.

This post is my participation in the Blog Action Day 2010.


Fairouz, absolutely breathtaking

Fairouz may be the most important Lebanese icon. Many people have memories of going to school everyday, still half asleep, while listening to her on the radio in the early morning. I know I have, and that is probably when I really fell in love with her. She represented a dream to me, a beautiful artist, and I never thought I will have the opportunity to see her live.  And last night, that’s exactly what I did.
I don’t think there is a word big enough to describe the feeling that I got when she appeared on stage. Goosebumps pretty much took over my whole body.
I’ve heard what she was like on stage, but to actually see it is a whole different story. To see that without moving one finger, she is able to captivate everyone’s ears, mind and attention. It’s just amazing. I don’t think anyone has such charisma on stage. Her voice may be not as powerful as it used to be, but it is pretty impressive seeing as she is 75. You can still hear the beauty in it.
I don’t usually like to go to a concert where I don’t know the songs, but this was not the case for the new album. It was my first listen for it, and it was absolutely enjoyable. The new songs really are beautiful.
All cellphones and cameras were banned, which is a bit silly, and a lot of people were able to sneak theirs in. I decided not to even try and left them in the car. I would have loved to take a photo of Fairouz on stage, but honestly, I was there to sit down, relax and listen.
This event is and was not to be missed. Those who had decided not to go are in the wrong. Fayrouz immersed me in large amounts of joy, and no concert will ever compare.

So, what was Dubai like?

I was in Dubai for five days last week, and it was my first visit. People say Dubai is artificial, but I thought it was part of what it is. It was a pretty cool city to be in. There’s lack of any “touristic” sights, but a lot of activities to do nonetheless. I would just like to share some things I saw/liked/hated/noticed in no logical order.

You can take the kid out of Lebanon, but you can’t take Lebanon out of the kid – Credit to whoever said that expression in front of me, as it allows me to share a funny story. Now I have been to other countries and taken taxis there, so I am aware of the fact that the whole “taxi drivers choose whether or not to drive you” thing is specific to Lebanon. However, one tends to forget. A cab stopped for my friend & I, and before she had the chance to get in the car, she saw me asking the driver if he would take us. A “what the hell are you doing? Get in!” was uttered, and embarrassment was felt!

Everything is big – Ever since I stepped foot in that city, the one word that came to mind and pretty much stayed there for the whole trip was the word “Grandiose”. Everything is huge, everything is exaggerated, so much space everywhere. Large highways, high towers, ridiculous ideas for towers.

Malls are not meant for shopping – Following up on the previous point, malls are huge. I’ve seen some big malls, but none of them compared. There was so much to do, so much to see in each one, that it got overwhelming at some point. I do not know how to shop like that. There were some things I wanted to buy, but I barely stepped into any shops. This was mostly the case in Dubai mall. Finding shops is impossible, walking from one to the other takes a whole lot of walking and a whole lot of time. And who needs to shop anyway when you have fish to see? Emirates mall is much easier for shopping, as it is much smaller. Another interesting thing I found was how the high brand names are located right next to other shops. It felt like it makes you more likely to purchase from them. If you can afford that top from Zara, why not that brand name from the shop next door?

Everything is possible – It just seems like there is (well, for now was) nothing they stopped at. Ski in a shopping mall? Done. Aquarium in a shopping mall? Done. A (sort of lame, actually) glass boat ride in the aquarium in the shopping mall? Done. Water that dances around to music every 15 minutes? why the hell not. I love that and hate that at the same time. I like the fact that they tried to push it as further as they could, but also dislike it because it was bound to explode in their face.

Is Dubai smelly? – I’ve heard this from more than one person, and read it in different reviews and articles about Dubai. However, I honestly did not feel it.

Atlantis – This was probably my favorite part of Dubai. I don’t know if it’s the fact they had an amazing international buffet, or if it’s the child in me who had never been to water parks. This hotel may have been going for “fancy”, but to me it screamed FUN. I love the sea, but I am not a beach person. After all the water park fun was had, my friend and I headed to the beach part of Aquaventure. It was extremely quiet. I laid on the chair that actually covers you from the sun light (dream come true) and fell asleep. That NEVER happens. Fun, relaxing, just amazing!

Palm island – I am very much against the idea of the Palm Island, and I don’t know what happened to the project of creating a cedar version of it here in Lebanon, but I’d hate for that to happen. However, the houses on that island are just amazing. They have a back door right on the beach, and the actual buildings are extremely beautiful.

Towers are impressive – If Dubai’s towers impressed me that much, I can hardly wait to see what I would think when I visit my dream city/NYC. I loved staying in a tower, I loved driving (well, being driven?) around them.

Burj Khalifa, not as impressive – For some reason, I was not impressed with Burj Khalifa. It is extremely high, sure, but it also isn’t very wide, which seemed to reduce of its “grandeur”. I have visited Petronas twin towers in Malaysia before, and they were much more impressive. The tour inside the burj though was pretty interesting, and showed how luxurious it actually is.

Expensive city – Usually, on vacations, you get in a mood where you feel like money doesn’t matter, and you indulge in whatever you like. At least I do. However, I do not think this was the case for Dubai. Everything is more expensive than in Beirut, and money gets spent extremely easily. If I were living there, I’d probably be spending at the same pace. It is true what they say, Dubai is not a city where you can save money.

They still have dance floors! AKA Night life – First and foremost, to me, pubs win clubs any day of the week. Everyone says that nothing compares to Beirut’s night life, but I just really liked that you can actually dance in Dubai’s clubs when you go dancing. In Beirut, the “dancing” is mostly shaking your body around tables that are stuck to each other, while you are way too close to the strangers on the next table. I liked that the one place we went to had a dance floor, I hadn’t seen that in a while (but I’m not much of a clubber so what the hell do I know?). Pubs however win so much. Extremely crowded, with drinks that have interesting names!


Hamra Festival Day 2

The second day of the Hamra festival was kind of fun, but could have definitely been better.

There were three stages, and a lot of stands. It was some sort of bazar, with the occasional arcade stand and another game stand.  Again, it was definitely cool to walk around Hamra, and it was very crowded. The people were mostly parents bringing their kids, and teenagers. The festival was definitely not trying to target the parents or older people. The music appeals to the younger generations, and some games for the kids. Maybe some of the stands could appeal to the older ones, but still it wasn’t enough in my opinion. Another thing that would’ve been nice to see is if there were some sort of festival special prices. There were some things I wanted to get, but they were actually too expensive. I understand that  there may be a percentage of the sales revenues that has to go to the organizers for giving you a stand, but it’s still a festival, a special occasion. Most people are not there to shop, but they are more likely to get into some impulse buys if the prices were more encouraging. At least that’s what it was like for me.

LiHamra2i.com stand

I only took pictures of the stands I enjoyed. The “Li Hamra2i” had amazing paintings of Hamra. It promotes the book “لكم حمراؤك و لي حمرائي” (You have your Hamra and I have mine). Check out their website, it’s cool.

Photography by Mazen Jannoun

There were also displays of photography by Mazen Jannoun. They were nice to look at, as they seem to be taken spontaneously, all around Hamra.

Cool t-shirts!

This was one of the best stands. The people there are cool, and they are selling some funny tshirts. I got myself an “I heart Hamra” one.

Cocoa and Co had an awesome and colorful stand. They have the most amazing brownies (in the boxes). I hate brownies, and a friend once got those to work,  and everyone went crazy for them. Seriously, you have got to try them.

JLP

I attended some of the concerts. JLP were the best for me, and I enjoyed the songs they played. I think they even had a larger crowd than the other performances I was able to see.

Michelle, Nokia X3 winner, and JLP

They also offered free Nokia X3 phones to anyone who was willing to go on stage and sing with them, a song of the person’s own choice. This was an awesome opportunity to the few willing to do that. The first volunteer was seriously, seriously, SERIOUSLY excellent. She definitely deserved the phone. So were the two other girls who came up. However, what everyone around me said was that these very talented ladies were in a band. If that is the case, although that wouldn’t mean that they shouldn’t have gone up there, I wish more chances were given to those people who wanted to go up and sing, and were not picked to do so (such as @DinaMyColors who actually can sing decently). Plus, even if someone came up to sing and was awful at it, they’d earn the phone by embarrassing themselves.

All in all, it was fun. I hate sounding too negative, but this was my experience and I thought there was room for improvement. I am still going to try to go tomorrow as well, I enjoy outdoor concerts, crowds, Hamra and walking around. If you can pass by and you haven’t already, then you should because it was pretty okay, but don’t feel too bad if you are unable to.


Hamra Festival Parade

We do love Hamra!

Walk Walk Walk! Camera and instructions credit to @DinaMyColors, while the photo was my attempt 😉

Which is more exciting, making Hamra a pedestrian street for three days, or the festival? Answering this question is difficult. For all the people who love Hamra, driving there is a challenge due to traffic. Having the ability to walk around in the middle of the street with no cars in sight was amazing. The first day of the festival was just as good.

It was kind of disappointing to see that the first day was so short, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Security was also everywhere.

Volta Ao Mundo - Capoeira performance

The parade included Capoeira performace by Volta Ao Mundo association (found on FB here, Capoeira Lebanon site), which a lot of people seemed to enjoy. Many even said that they thought they were the best. It’s basically Brazilian art that combines martial arts, dance, and catchy music.

After that came a small group of the AUB Music club, followed by some young people who were wearing white tshirts with “Breathe” written in Green. Unfortunately, I was not able to find out who they were, but they were making noise and screaming  “Wel3aneh!” non stop.

AUB music club

Tamashi Japanese restaurant had a huge truck with lots of people on board. All of them were wearing kimonos, and partaking in several activities related to Japanese culture. Fortune cookies were being distributed, minus the cookies. Mine said “Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants / Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of”.

Tamashi Japanese Restaurant, http://www.tamashii.me

Scouts performances followed, in addition to a fabulous mime who kept imitating everyone and joining the crowds. Animals Lebanon were also present, giving out flyers regarding Trap-Neuter-Return program, which aims to decrease the overpopulation of animals in Lebanon, in a healthy and safe manner, of course.

Scouts, and the mime!

The final show I witnessed was the motor bike one, the one and only Harley Davidson show (#AkhYaAlbeh, yes), which was amazing and included some hardcore bikes. Mickey Mouse even got to ride one, which I wish I could prove in photos. The parts I unfortunately missed included some sort of a wedding/zaffe, in addition to a showing of a lot of beetle cars.

Lots and lots of bikes

Mickey Mouse, running to the good stuff!

People watching the fireworks

At the end, people kept walking around Hamra street, while fireworks went off. We have witnessed time and time again the negative consequences of fireworks, and many people are not fans of the sounds, but this was one to enjoy.


Postcards; small gate to a big world

I have recently mentioned in front of someone that I collect postcards, and they found it to be a weird thing to collect. This was kind of surprising as I would think a lot of people buy them when they travel.

Whenever work or life suffocates us, we tend to go other places in our minds. Merely thinking of a better time, of something we want to accomplish, a place we want to visit. Being the travel lover that I am, I enjoy remembering old trips, and thinking of places I want to go to, and I do that through postcards (okay fine, and occasionally tripadvisor.com, I admit it). They are nice and comforting to look at. If you bought them yourself, you are able to remember the nice days you spent there. If they were sent to you by someone else, you get to discover a nice spot in a country you may have never been. It’s just awesome any way you look at it. This is why I decided to share a few of my favorite postcards.

Alicante, Spain

The first one is from when I went to Alicante way back in 2005. We used to hang out in this particular spot, and it was such a beautiful place. Spain being one of the best trips I’ve been on, this postcard reminds me of nice days. This is also the wallpaper of my work laptop.

Palau de la Musica, Valencia, Spain

The next one comes from the same trip. We spent a day in Valencia, and it was also such a beautiful city.This postcard is great because of the colors and the lights.

Coat of arms of the house of Schwarzenberg

I remember receiving this one, mostly because it traumatized me in a “Wow, impressive and weird!!” kind of way. A friend from the internet sent it, and this is what she wrote on it.
“Some crazy baroque artist dug up 40000 plague victims and decorated a chapel with them. This is the coat of arms of the family that funded it. It’s all made of human bones”

Not sure I’d want to go there, though. You can see the clear image here.

Snow view of Golden Pavilion, Rokuonji Temple, Japan

This one is pretty much one of my absolute favorites. I received it the last day I was presenting the final year exams at high school, and it was from an internet friend who has moved from the US to Japan. I remember sitting in the car looking at it absolutely amazed while my mother was throwing questions all over the place on whether I did well. It’s such a beautiful image, and it’s probably this particular postcard that made me want to visit Japan. Clear image here.

Another postcard I love is one I received from one of my best friends. Since I love puzzles, it is basically a puzzle. I couldn’t read what it said or see it unless I put it together. It was great because it combined two things I love.

Paris, je t'aime!

As you may already know, the awesome @FunkyOzzi gave me some postcards from New York and Turkey. This poster was part of them, and it’s from Paris.  Unfortunately, I have not visited Paris yet, but I loved this poster.

Did I convince you of my love for postcards? I hope that means you’ll remember me next time you travel!


Autobiographies and blogging

I have finally started reading Les Confessions de Rousseau, as it is a book we’ve studied time and time again in high school, and I have always wanted to read the whole thing, and it is what got me even thinking about this.

My favorite genre of books to read has always been autobiographies. I have always enjoyed them, as they provide the reader with a sense of reality. The fact that the person in question is writing about his/her own life makes it even better, as we not only have events listed, but we can witness the author’s analysis, justification, or input on the issue at hand. Writing an autobiography also poses many challenges on the author, which we have all learned in school. Let’s look at some of them  depending on their relevancy to what I would like to discuss.

The challenges faced by the author

  • Bias – It is commonly accepted that it is difficult for a person to distance themself from something that concerns them, and look at it in an objective manner. How do you report the events, accidents, feelings that have happened in your life when they are only looked at from your point of view?
  • Having something to say – Not every person should write an autobiography, because let’s face it, not everyone’s life is interesting enough to even generate material to discuss and analyze.
  • Generating Interest – Let’s say you do have a lot to say, you’ve overcome your bias self, and you wrote a good and objective autobiography. You’ve poured your mind and soul into it and reached self improvement, or whatever it is you are trying to reach to begin with. The question is, will people read it?

How are autobiographies similar to blogging.
I don’t know about you, but I can see some similarities.

  • Bias – Bias is a concern if you are trying to report on events, mainly political in the case of Lebanon, that are happening. Bloggers may not be journalists, but if they are to be used as a source of seeing the “on the field” action, then they must try to remain objective. Of course opinions could be stated, but let’s assume a foreign person wants to read what’s going on in a country without going to news sources. A (Lebanese in this case) blogger should, for instance, avoid repeating the same sectarian divisions and opinions, and report things as they really are.
  • Having something to say – This is an issue that we always read about. Who should blog? Should your blog touch on one specific subject? Should all business men blog? Basically, anyone can blog, but the question is whether they should. There is certainly no point in doing so if you do not have anything to say, if there is no reason for the existence of your blog.
  • Generating Interest – All websites measure traffic, and bloggers should too. It helps them view which posts are viewed the most. They also need to know their audience. Just like an autobiography would be written differently in each period, a blogger also has an audience to write to. How much that is taken into consideration in each context is relative though, as many authors have been criticized for their work which was ahead of its time and was not accepted by others of the period.

Technology & the Internet: New Challenge for autobiographies
The general idea is usually that technology is facilitating the marketing of new products, by creating more awareness about celebrities and what is happening to them, and promoting their doings. But it seems to me that all it is doing is killing the need to even write your autobiography. Think about it. Who usually writes their autobiography? Famous people who have an established fan base (or hate base). People think of this person as different, out of the ordinary, so they would want to read a book about their life and how they got to where they are. However, when I am able to read a celebrity’s tweets, watch the press release they make about a certain incident that happened to them, log on foursquare and follow their day-to-day movements, go on Wikipedia (for convenience) and have their life broken down into pieces and categorized by career, love life, controversy, along with many articles on what they said and what everyone else said, would I really want to read their autobiography? When they come down from this admired and famous person, to an ordinary one just like you and me, it gets a bit challenging for me to find interest to read more.

One thing is sure, if Rousseau had tweeted:
@Rousseau Mme Lambercier gave me a fesses, and it hurts so much but felt good at the same time. This will define all my future relationships! WEIRD!
(This is 140 characters, I checked!)
I am not sure I would spend a lot of time reading his analysis of why or how it happened. Although this may be a wrong example due to the creepiness of it, and I would probably want to know why a spank meant so much to him, but you get the point, I hope.

Thoughts?


Silence, an underrated virtue

You might want to call me Captain Obvious after this, and I am fine with it.  It’s certain that there are plenty of cheesy quotes preaching what I’m about to preach. Let’s not call this preaching, actually, let’s just assume I am thinking out loud.

Source

When we are under stress, angry, upset, or just temporarily emotionally unstable, the things we are able to come up with and even say never cease to amaze. It can be mean and downright cruel. It can go as far as hearing people tell you, to your face, what you have confided in them, as a way to hurt you. Coming up with what to say in reply usually comes with a sense of achievement, making you feel like you know exactly what to say to end this and come out a winner. The worst part is, even when you kiss and make up, you will still remember that this person has used something you’ve told them against you. It has happened countless times to just about everyone.

While my friend was getting a tattoo recently, the artist told him about a guy who had the word “Shh!” tattooed vertically on the side of his index finger to piss off his girlfriend. I do not know if this is true, and if it is, then this girl is probably in a somewhat abusive relationship and should get out. But keeping how rude and provocative this is aside, it does make a point. If you had kept quiet for a few minutes during that fight, would the consequences have been that bad? If you had waited after coming up with the next best thing to say, would the sense of accomplishment calmed down? Would reason have told you that saying this is a bad idea?

Maybe silence isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes, you need to let it out in order to feel better, move on, get closure, all of those nice things. Sleeping on it first seems to be a good compromise, since you will have had time to process what happened, think whether or not it’s a good idea to speak up, and eventually do what you have to do.

This has been on my mind lately, and I have been applying it. I noticed it’s working out well for me when I actually asked “When did I stop being the insane one and started being the calm and zen one?” The answer is: When I started avoiding unnecessary conflict, that’s when!

So, “Silence is the new loud” might have some negative implications, but in this post, it is understood the positive way. Staying quiet is not a better way to piss off your “opponent”, but a way to facilitate the process of making up. Yes, that’s exactly what they mean.


What to do when you can’t find parking space

Men are continuously influenced and affected by their surroundings. Whether we want it to or not, the people we spend time with and the society we grow up in certainly affects us, the way we view things and how we respond to them. The affected actions can go from simple, routine day-to-day situations to deeper and important issues. Let’s take a concrete example.

What would a civilized person do when they cannot find a parking space:

  • Take this issue into consideration before going, and accordingly use public transportation, get a ride with a friend, avoid being in a situation where they have to look for a parking spot.
  • Keep driving around, sooner or later someone has to leave the area and take their car with them.
  • Try to find a nearby public parking, pay 2000LL, 3500LL if you’re in an upper scale area, and park there.

What would a Lebanese person do when they cannot find a parking space:

  • Start a huge fight, use all kinds of weapons, basically turn everyone’s life into hell.

Honestly, I don’t know for sure that this is what started the fight, but previous fights (ie, trees!) show that I shouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.
I also do not care about politics, or any group or sect or party or religion or whatever else way we internally divide and subdivide our people. All I care about is not to have bullets on my balcony or have to sit at home and hear all that debacle.

So for the love of God, next time you’re on that street, and you do not know where to park your car, and are so angry you just NEED to shoot someone for it, call me, I live there and am willing to give up my parking spot for your convenience.