Riham's Blog

Rant: Lebanese reactions to smoking ban

I’ve been told by some very wise people that I should stop caring about Lebanon now that I’m outside of it. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly do that, and use blogs and news reporting sites to know what’s going on as long as it’s not related to politics.

This is why I was really happy to read about the smoking ban. Then I read an article on NowLebanon stating the reactions of people to this law, and I am seriously disgusted. I know this article is not representative to the population of Lebanon, but something tells me the reactions stated in it are really common. Reactions such as:

  • This ban violates the freedom of smokers. – If you had any common sense at all, you would realize that what you’re stating is that you’ve been violating the freedom of non-smokers for years. Since I’ve lived in Lebanon long enough, I know my typical-Abed will reply to this by saying non-smokers are free to not smoke, a statement I won’t even bother replying to because everyone knows about second-hand smoking.
  • I’ve been smoking for a long time, I’m not going to stop now! – Then it’s a good thing that no one is asking you to stop. We’re just limiting where you can do it so that you don’t violate people’s rights to breath clean air.
  • There are more important issues that the government can deal with! Like internet, electricity, weapons, road safety! – Every time a new law passes in Lebanon, this is the statement that drives me the most crazy. We have a lot of problems, yes, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t deal with anything. The bigger problems listed above require more time, effort and most importantly resources, so let’s start with what we can do now. If anything, change can start with you. It’s true that it sucks how easily you can get weapons in Lebanon, and that it’s something the government should deal with, but until then, how about you don’t shoot up the air every time your worshipped leader makes a speech or your dear son passes an exam that requires the IQ of a peanut (AKA Brevet)? It’s true that our roads are not safe, that car accidents are a big issue, but until this is fixed, wear the damn seatbelt, don’t drive through a red light, and for the love of god, respect your fellow citizen and don’t blind them just because you have a big car and you can!
  • This will harm my business, there’s nothing better than drinking and smoking at the same time, how will people drink – To that I have one thing to tell you: I live in Ireland. People smoke outside in the cold weather all year round. People are also drunk by 9pm. Your business will live.
And finally…
  • Whatever, no one is going to follow that law anyway – Unfortunately, this is actually something I’m scared of. But the fact people take it for a given upsets me. We keep bragging about how our country is “[Insert name of European city here] of the Middle East”, and yet we don’t want to embrace the good laws that these cities have been following for a long time now. I don’t want this law to be respected as much as the “No smoking in the airport” is, where everyone still smokes.
I never believed in some things until I left Lebanon. I always thought “noise pollution” was a made up expression until I lived in a city where cars very very rarely honk. I never understood the usefulness of a smoking ban until not only I left Lebanon, but came back and noticed the difference as I wondered why it was suddenly stinky as my friend lit up a cigarette in a coffeeshop.
This law is as important to me as faster internet or 24/7 electricity. Let’s hope my fellow Lebanese break their trend of disappointing behavior.

A simple equation

A patriarchal society.
A nation of families obsessed with boys and men.
Your first kid must be a son. Your son must be nothing less than a man.
Mothers in love with their sons that no woman is ever good enough for them.

The result?

A nation of men with a sense of entitlement, who think everyone worships the ground they walk on. Every man envies them and every woman wants them.

One girl disgusted by anything similar to this, and wants none of it in her life.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Hike of Hope

Poster for the event taken from the Facebook page

I am not sure why I haven’t heard about this before last week, but now that I have, I’d like to share the word.

Hike for Hope is basically a team of 6 Lebanese men, who are planning to climb to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, in order to create awareness about the Children’s Cancer Center and all of the amazing things it does to children. By doing that, they hope to encouraging people to donate to the Center, as it relies mostly on the funds it receives through donations in order to treat their patients.

I strongly respect CCCL and the people who contribute to it and its cause. It isn’t only because I worked there for almost two years, but because it has personally helped me get through some difficult things I was going through in my life at the time. Any event or campaign that aims to contribute to it and help it achieve its mission is one I support. So please, spread the word, donate if you can and help the Hike of Hope team raise as much money as possible.

Read more about the team, the hiking plan among other issues on their website.
Follow them on Twitter @HikeOfHope.
Check out their Facebook page
And most importantly, Donate! 🙂

Calogero Concert in Beirut

I went to see Calogero, with @MarieNakhle (proof), who performed in the Zouk Festivals on Friday July 9th, 2010. All in all, it was an enjoyable experience.

The concert was supposed to start at 8.30, but the chairs were still almost fully empty at that time. A lady kept speaking every 10 minutes, telling us the concert will start in five minutes, ten minutes, few seconds, but that was never the case. We can’t truly welcome someone to Lebanon without showing them our punctuality. Eventually, at 9.30, it finally started. The stage was always beautifully lit and the sound was excellent.

He started with the song we all know, which is “En Appesanteur”. The crowd was excited at times, and almost sleeping at other times, but he was actually successful in getting us to sing with him, even when we barely knew the song. He’s actually very pleasant on stage.

Calogero kept switching between his guitar, bass, keyboard and piano. A very talented singer, for sure. He kept telling us the story behind some of the songs, such as “Nathan”, which he & his pal Marc Lavoine decided to sing about an autistic kid, as they were extremely touched by kids suffering from autism. Another amazing performance was when he sang “Chanson pour Pierot” by Renaud, since Renaud is another artist I would love to see perform. He also sang a song for Barbara, an artist who inspires him.

What I loved the most was how much he was interacting with the public, which is something probably all artists do. He kept asking us which songs we’d like to listen to, which ended in some Lebanese intelligence standing out. Some guy asked him to sing “Caravane”, which, as known by anyone who knows anything about French music, is a song for Raphael & not Calogero.  Calogero’s reply was funny as he said “C’est pas le meme chanteur, mais je vais passer le message a Raphael”. It just shows how much some Lebanese know the artist they claim to really want to see.
Eventually he asked us to come closer, and we were able to watch him right next to the stage.

So like I said, it was a pretty good night.

Songs I recommend: C’est Dit, Yalla, Danser Encore, La fin de la fin du monde.
Songs that you MUST listen to: Prendre Racine, Tien An Mien

Behind the Scenes with Lara Zankoul

I had the opportunity to go photoshooting with @larazankoul & Razane on saturday. It was a lot of fun and provided me with lots of laughter.A few days later, we saw Lara’s beautiful shots of the event. So I decided to post my documentation of the day for the world to see.

Disclaimer: Remember, if you walk into surgery before it’s over, it looks like murder. Do not think badly of photoshoots after seeing this. The purpose is purely comical (not informative!). If Lara asks to take your pictures, SAY YES! The conversations under the pictures may or may not have happened. There are two sizes of pictures under here.

Enter at your own risk!

Summer in Beirut

Even though the weather is killing me & making me cranky, summer in Beirut provides a lot to look forward to!

To begin with, tomorrow is Fête de la musique 2010, which is extremely exciting. Non stop music, and free access? Yes thank you!
You can view the full program here, but to be honest, I can’t choose which to see.

Another awesome, awesome thing is the Zouk Mikael festivals! Last year, these festivals allowed me to see Garou, and I still get all excited when I remember how amazing it was. We were an hour late, and so bummed about it, until we realized that the fact we were late had us sit in the third row rather than the very back.
So after falling more in love with Garou last year, this year I get to see CALOGERO with @MarieNakhle. The sad thing is that Mashrou3 Leila are playing on the same night in Byblos, so I won’t get to see them.

I would also like to see Gorillaz & Archive in Byblos Festival, but I am still on the look out on who is going so I can accompany them.

There is also Beiteddine Festivals. I want to see Diane Krall, but I am not sure if I will. Also: all of them.

Previous events I didn’t go to include Placebo playing here, and a DOG SHOW! How the hell did I choose laziness over cute dogs?

Beirut, your wonderful events make up for the awful, awful weather that’s been making me want to kill myself. Let’s hope the fun summer goes as planned!