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Put yo money where yo mouth iz: Rappers brawl with words in Beirut - [more]
By: Mat Nashed
Date: Thursday, May 05, 2016

BEIRUT: Bashir is a Lebanese-American freestyle rap artist who goes by the name of Dizaster. A hugely polarizing figure, he first made a name for himself by battling – and defeating – many of the best rappers in the United States. His reputation, however, hasn’t intimidated some of the most renowned artists in Beirut, many of whom are teaming up with him to promote the freestyle battle scene across the Arab world.

“This [freestyle rapping] is going to become an outlet for way more people here,” Dizaster told The Daily Star. “I promise you. I’m sitting on a gold mine and I’m going to tap the hell out of it right now.”

Dizaster’s prophecy is one that many local rappers such as Najeeb have expressed. Najeeb is a low profile artist who has cultivated a following for himself in Lebanon. Known by his peers as Muhandes – “Engineer” – he said that freestyle rap is a progressive art form since it endorses confrontation without sanctioning violence.

“I resort to solving issues with words rather than violence,” he said. “The idea of a rap battle is an important concept in the Arab world ... because we [the youth] can resort to writing music instead of fighting each other.”

Last month, Muhandes faced off against Dizaster on the steps of Mar Mikhael in Beirut. It is here where dozens of people gathered without the need to purchase a ticket or reserve a seat in advance. That’s precisely why their battle remained genuine to the origins of the art: Their performance was available to the public and their verses were rooted in dialectical expression.

Yet none of that would have mattered if their battle didn’t electrify the crowd. In fact, the battle wouldn’t have even taken place if Muhandes didn’t participate in a rap battle four months ago at Yukunkun, a small club located off Gemmayzeh Street in Rmeil. That event was the first official freestyle rap battle in Lebanon. And when Dizaster got word of it, he made sure that it wouldn’t be the last.

“He [Muhandes] refused to battle me when I first asked him through our mutual friend Chino,” Dizaster said. “But when I got his contact and called him personally, that’s when he agreed.”

“Our battle was just a prep for the main one that we’re going to have in August,” said Muhandes, a slim man with a short beard and glasses.

Muhandes and Dizaster showcased two contrasting, yet equally entertaining styles of freestyle rap. The former relied on his rich vocabulary to produce sharp and cutthroat verses. His words, charged with an intensity, demonstrated his excellence as an Arabic lyricist.

Dizaster’s performance couldn’t have been more different. He relied on animated theatrics and strong punchlines, evoking lots of laughter from the crowd. His act showcased how wit, flow and confidence are vital in winning the support of casual observers. But performing in Arabic was nonetheless a challenge for Dizaster, who admits to have grown more accustomed to rapping in English, as evidenced by his career in the United States.

“It [rapping in Arabic] was super challenging,” he said. “The style is slightly different [than English] since there are less multisyllables and less aggression.”

Muhandes further added that the concept of freestyle rap draws many parallels to an Arabic folk tradition known as the Zajal – a style of colloquial oral poetry that dates back to the pre-Islamic era.

Zajal became one of the most popular forms of spoken poetry during the 1930s in Lebanon. While this performative art appears to have taken a backseat to freestyle rap nowadays, it’s clear that the very practice of dialectical expression has roots across the world.

Regardless of its origins, the follow-up battle promises to be a special event for fans in Lebanon. Rappers from all over the region are expected to attend the next showdown between Dizaster and Muhandes, both of whom are predicting a much larger crowd to show up in August.

And why shouldn’t they? After all, the popularity of freestyle rap has continued to expand worldwide, seemingly without limits.

Lebanese designer’s moorish patterns - [more]
Date: Friday, April 22, 2016

Editor’s Note: Fashionista Hadia Sinno took the style world by storm with a unique combination of expertise and avant-garde style, rising to become one of the most preeminent voices on all things fashion. Every Friday, Sinno will join The Daily Star to cover the hottest trends and latest styles, sharing professional fashion tips as well as her favorite salons, restaurants, and places to be seen.

BEIRUT: The first Lebanese product designer to make it big in Italy launched his latest collection at Milan Design Week. “Pattern Interrupted,” the latest collection by Samer al-Ameen, showcased pieces inspired by the famous patterns of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. The collection launched to huge success in Milan, showing the smart thinking that makes me so proud to be Lebanese.

Ameen was born in Lebanon, studied fine arts and advertising at the Lebanese American University, before working for many years in advertising agencies. In 2006, he decided to launch his own studio specialized in branding and image consultancy. During this period, Ameen was interested in and began to fall in love with the objects and product designs he was carrying out for his clients.

In January 2012, he designed his first collection, called “Walking Objects,” all set around the classic, high-backed bamboo chair. Later that year, he decided to move to Milan to pursue his masters degree in industrial design at Scuola Politecnica Di Design in Milan, and after graduating in 2014 he opened a new studio there.

The same year, he took part of the Milan Design Week in an exhibition called “Around the Frame.” In April 2015, he also presented a collection named “The Forgotten Pattern of the Alhambra Palace” at the Alberto Levi gallery in Milan.

This year again, he worked around the patterns in an interrupted and a more elaborated way, he explained. Each piece has story-telling blended into the designed objects, that include side tables, stools, tableware, outdoor beds and lights. Ameen explained that “all my objects have the ability to fit into any space, regardless the scale or style, specifically because of the way it’s done.” In addition, “the forgotten arabesque patterns of the Alhambra Palace of Andalusia revive two geometric styles, which I used to transform into modern objects,” he added.

Ameen went into details of his collection: “each piece has its different uses and name.” The “All You Can Seat” can be a stool or a side table in the shape of the forgotten pattern he created, all made from different material like wood, metal and cooper that allows you to create and personalize it the way you want, he explained.

The “Unitedivided” mirror composes 112 hand-cut pieces of glass with the shape of the forgotten pattern from the Alhambra Palace. The pieces are the exact same size but are made with four different thicknesses to create a feel of distortion.

The “Marbellous” table is square-shaped with a simple copper frame and a three-layered marble top. Three different colored sheets of marble – black, white and an electric blue – gives you the choice to select the appropriate color for the appropriate mood.

The “Leaf Me Alone” outdoor bed is in the shape of the forgotten pattern from the Alhambra Palace. With polyurethane foam and waterproof polystyrene on the inside and covered with water-repellent fabric for outdoor durability, it is a bed for one or seating for many.

The “Undercover” coffee tables are based on old Arabic-style geometry and patterns. The table is composed of six copper legs in the form of an eight-sided star. The top is made out of a circular marble and wood engraved using the laser-cutting technique. The engraving again represents the forgotten pattern from the Alhambra Palace. The table comes with a copper cover that can be used as a tray – conveying the hospitality of the Arab culture – but when not being used it can cover the marble top adding a protective copper shield.

The “Light-And-Seek” floor lamp has the shape of the forgotten pattern from the Alhambra Palace. The light intensity depends on the opening of the cube and with the multicolored LED light you get to choose the color you prefer.

The “Let’s Plate” tableware is inspired from the forgotten patterns of Alhambra Palace. The ceramic plates come in 18 different designs and are handmade and painted.

Additionally, Ameen will be part of “Ladies & Gentlemen,” a collective exhibition bringing together the most interesting designers on the contemporary scene right now. See his Light-And-Seek lamps in Milan.

The designer will also be featured in the “Raw Nature” exhibition curated by Vogue Casa Brazil. See his “All You Can Seat” stool at Dilmos Millano, in the Piazza San Marco, Milan, Italy.

To see more of Ameen’s work you can check his website:

خباز يستقطب بمسرحيته مع الوقت نجوم العالم العربي امل عرفة فنان عبقري متكامل - [more]
By: وطنية
Date: Friday, April 22, 2016

وطنية - يستقطب مسرح الفنان جورج خباز في "الشاتو تريانو" نجوم العالم العربي، وقد حضر عروض مسرحيته الحالية "مع الوقت.. يمكن" كل من الفنانين: دريد لحام الذي قدم له أكثر من شهادة، حسين فهمي، المخرج سيف الدين السبيعي.

ومؤخراالتقينا بعد انتهاء عرض المسرحية بالنجمة السورية امل عرفة التي كانت تحضر برفقة ابنتيها وقالت في دردشة مع "الوكالة الوطنية للاعلام - الصفحة الفنية": "هذه المرة الثانية التي احضر هذه المسرحية، وربما أحضرها مرة ثانية، جورج خباز ليس كبيرا بل هو عبقري ومتكامل، هو دماغ وثقافة وموهبة ومشروع، هو يعرف ماذا يريد، هو فنان قلبه على بلده وهذا ما لمسته في مجموعة أعماله المسرحية والسينمائية، الحلول في هذه المسرحية بالغة الذكاء من حيث الإخراج وإدارة الممثلين واللحظات الفارقة في الكوميديا الساخرة، هذه الكوميديا التي أتذوقها كثيرا وأحبها كثيرا، رأيت كيف يتفاعل الجمهور معه، رأيت محبة الناس وأنا واحدة من جمهوره، إن سئلت يوما عن العقل الذي أغار منه سأجاوب "بأن عقل خباز أحد العقول القليلة التي أغار منها".

ثم نظرت امل عرفة الى جورج خباز وسألته بضحكة "متى سنعمل مع بعض جورج؟. وتابعت قائلة: "أحببت مسألة اللعب على الزمن في المسرحية وكان مدهشا في هذه النقطة. لقد اصابتني هذه الدهشة لا سيما كيف يلعب بالأزمنة بين الماضي والحاضر والمستقبل، كيف يسخر من اللحظة التي يعيشها هو بعد عشرين سنة وعلى لسان شخصيته هو بالتحديد. هذه الدهشة التي أصابتني منذ زمن طويل لم يستطع أي فنان أن يجعلني أعيشها. جورج خباز هو فنان يغرد خارج السرب، لديه أدواته الخاصة والمستقلة، هو ملك لحاله، يقود مشروعه بيده ويمشي ولا ينتظر أو يلهث وراء نجومية أو شهرة يركض باتجاهها، لكنه شاء أم أبى هو نجم بكل معنى الكلمة، اقول ذلك بعد أن تابعته وتعرفت عليه بجلسات عدة ومحدودة، لكنها أظهرت لي حجم عمق رسالته وفنه وعقله وثقافته ووطنيته، انه شخص يعيش حالة زهد بكل شيء وحين يصل الفنان لهذه المرحلة يكون شبه نفسه وهذه ناحية تعجيزية وقد بلغها جورج خباز وهو أصلا كذلك".

وختمت عرفة: "هناك الكثير من النجوم يمرون على الدرب وينالون نجومية وشهرة وأضواء، ويكتب عنهم الكثير، لكن التاريخ لن يذكره، أما جورج خباز فسيذكره التاريخ وصحيح انني لن أحيا الى ما بعد المئوية لأذكر جورج بكلامي لكن أولادنا ستتذكر ما قلته والأجيال أيضا".

وخباز الذي "تأثر بشهادة الممثلة امل عرفة الى حد ذرف الدمع قال: "أعطتني أكثر مما أستحق، شهادة كبيرة من كبيرة، هي ممثلة ومطربة وفنانة راقية، لا أنكر أنني أبادلها الإعجاب منذ قدمت مسلسل دنيا بالجزء الأول وسحرت القلوب. أما لناحية الأخلاق فهي ابنة الملحن الكبير سهيل عرفة وترعرعت في هذا المناخ"، ثم نظر اليها وقال: "متى سنعمل مع بعض في مسرح أو فيلم أو مسلسل؟".
عريجي وفرعون اطلقا مهرجانات بيت الدين والكلمات اكدت ان لبنان مستمر واحة أمل وتفاعل حضاري في الشرق رغم العواصف - [more]
Date: Wednesday, April 20, 2016

وطنية - اطلق وزيرا السياحة ميشال فرعون والثقافة روني عريجي مهرجانات بيت الدين الدولية، في حضور رئيسة لجنة المهرجانات نورا جنبلاط والمدير العام للسياحة ندى السردوك.

وألقت السردوك كلمة ترحيبية، معلنة "عودة نبض الحياة بعودة المهرجانات التي تحاكي كل انواع الفنون".

من جهته، قال الوزير عريجي: "مهرجان بيت الدين، كما في كل صيف، منذ ثمانينات القرن الماضي، يعلن اطلاق مشاعل ووعود بأماسي المتعة والفرح وغنى الروح. اطلاق برنامج هذا الصيف، قرأناه فعل تناعم خلاق بين ثقافة لبنان وخصوصيته الفنية وعطاءات الشرق العربي من جهة، مع نفحات الغرب العالمي، موسيقى ولوحات راقصة وغناء في تنوع المشارب والمدارس الفنية".

اضاف: "مهرجان بيت الدين، مساحة تلاق حضاري واستقطاب عالمي للفنون. هذا المهرجان اللبناني - العربي - الدولي هو مناسبة جامعة للنسيج الوطني اللبناني بأطيافه والمكونات، ولقاء على اسم الفرح وانعاش الروح بعطاءات الفنانين بتنوعها وجمالاتها".

واعلن ان "موعدنا هذا الصيف في حنايا وساحات القصر الشهابي العريق، احد المعالم التاريخية - الاثرية الرائعة في لبنان، ووزارة الثقافة، حافظة هذا المعلم - المتحف العمراني، تسعدها هذه الفعاليات الفنية - الثقافية التي تقام هناك، تماما كما المهرجانات في قلعة بعلبك واثار صور وجبيل وسواها. انها سمة لبنان، عبر هذه الاحتفالات التي تشهدها المناطق كافة هذا الصيف، فعل التقاء الثقافات على ارضه وانفتاحه على حضارات وفنون الشعوب".

وقال: "مرة جديدة، تأكيد بأن لبنان مستمر واحة امل وتفاعل حضاري في هذا الشرق، رغم كل العواصف والبراكين، ونموذج للعالم في التآلف والتآخي الانساني الخلاق".

وختم: "السيدة نورا جنبلاط، احيي جهودك الشخصية واصرارك الجميل، منذ عقود، على ادارة وتنظيم وانجاح هذا المهرجان، بروح وطنية عالية، وحس رهيف متشعب الاهتمامات الثقافية وانوه بنعمة التواضع لديك".

بعد ذلك، القى الوزير فرعون كلمة جاء فيها: "يسعدني ان نعود ونفتح هذه الصفحة عن المهرجانات في لبنان، بدءا من مهرجانات بيت الدين التي اعطت الكثير على الصعيد الوطني والثقافي والفني، وكم نحن بحاجة اليوم في ظل هذه الاجواء السياسية السلبية الى ان نعود ونسلط الضوء على ايجابيات لبنان وفرصه وطاقاته وتاريخه وصورته التي نريدها في العالم، وضمن اجواء الفرح والامل والفن والتراث والثقافة والسياحة واجواء حضارة لبنان".

اضاف: "نحن نهنىء على هذه المثابرة التي تقومون بها وخصوصا السيدة نورا التي ترسي هذه الاجواء الايجابية والسياحية ونتمنى ان يتم انتخاب رئيس للجمهورية، وهذه هي السنة الثالثة فيما كان من المفروض ان يتم خلال الاشهر الثلاثة الاولى من عمر هذه الحكومة".

واعلن ان عدد المهرجانات في السنة الماضية بلغ 110 مهرجانات مع المهرجانات الاساسية، مثل بيت الدين وجبيل وبعلبك وصولا الى الارز واهدن التي اعطت طاقات كبيرة على الصعيد السياحي وعلى صعيد الداخل من اجل عودة اللبنانيين للتذكير بتاريخهم وامكانياتهم الحضارية".

اما نورا جنبلاط فشكرت في كلمتها وزيري السياحة والثقافة "لمشاركتهما ودعمهما الدائم لمهرجانات بيت الدين ولكل الحركة السياحية والثقافية في لبنان".

وقالت: "في الوقت الذي تلتهب فيه المنطقة من كل الجهات، وفي الوقت الذي تشتعل فيه النيران من كل حدب وصوب، نلتقي اليوم لنعلن عن موسم جديد من مهرجانات بيت الدين التي هي مناسبة للفرح ورسالة حياة تؤكد على ارادة البقاء في مواجهة آلات القتل والدم والطغيان. عنوانه الاساسي الالتزام بالحريات والتعبير عن التعلق بها، مهما كانت الاثمان باهظة والتمسك بالقيم الانسانية المرتكزة على المساواة والاخوة، فضلا عن التركيز على التراث، لما يمثله من ذاكرة مجتمعية تقتضي المسؤولية الحفاظ عليها وتأمين انتقالها الى الاجيال الجديدة".

وأعلنت "ان هذا المهرجان هو مهرجان لبناني، انتماؤه عربي وانفتاحه عالمي، هو مهرجان متعدد الثقافات والادوار، هدفه الاساسي جمع الناس حول الثقافة والموسيقى والفن والابداع".

وقالت: "باطلاقنا مهرجانات بيت الدين لهذا العام، نود ان نبعث برسالة مرة جديدة الى جميع المعنيين انه رغم كل شيء سنستمر وسوف يستمر المهرجان، وسنتخطى كل الصعاب، من حالة اللاستقرار السياسي، والتردي الاقتصادي والاشتعال الاقليمي، والازمات السياسية في علاقات لبنان الخارجية، سوف نستمر لاننا مؤمنون بان ارادة الحياة ستنتصر، وهنا، اتوجه بالتحية الى كل المهرجانات اللبنانية التي تعكس جميعها صورة لبنان الحضارية واصرار شعبه على مواجهة كل المصاعب بمزيد من العزم والتصميم والمثابرة".

ثم تحدثت عن تفاصيل المهرجان لسنة 2016، واهمها: الافتتاح في 8 و9 تموز مع مسرحية غنائية راقصة من عاصمة الافلام السينمائية الهندية. في 14 تموز حفل مع ملك البوب والسول "سيل" احد اهم المغنين والفنانين البريطانيين. في 19 و20 تموز باليه معاصر عن روميو وجوليت، في 23 تموز امسية بعنوان "يا مال الشام"، في 29 تموز يا عاشقة الورد وتحية لزكي ناصيف، في 3 آب باسم يوسف لاول مرة في البرنامج وهو خاص بمهرجانات بيت الدين، في 5 و6 آب حفل لقيصر الفن الغنائي العربي كاظم الساهر، وآخر امسية في المهرجانات هي دوبل كونسرت مع بويكا وكارينيو.

واعلنت عن تنظيم معرض عن التراث بعنوان "سوريا وكارثة الاثار في الشرق الاوسط، تدمر المدينة الشهيدة"، اضافة الى معرض تنظمه لجنة المهرجانات بالتعاون مع المركز الثقافي الفرنسي في دير القمر مع مجموعة كهربا، وهو بعنوان "نحن ودير القمر جيران".

بعد ذلك، تحدث مارون اسمر من مجلس ادارة بنك ميد، وحبيب خوري من SGBL .

البدء بترميم أقدم كنائس لبنان وأفخمها في اهدن باشراف وزارة الثقافة - [more]
By: حسنا سعادة - وطنية
Date: Friday, April 15, 2016

“ستعود كنيسة مار جرجس في اهدن اجمل مما كانت عليه”، هذا ما يؤكده القيمون على وقف رعية زغرتا اهدن ردا على الاسئلة التي تبدي خشيتها من ان تؤدي اعمال الترميم الى تشويه في الكنيسة الاثرية التي أمعنت يد الطبيعة في ازدياد تشققاتها سنة بعد اخرى وصولا الى الخوف من انهيارها.
وكانت بدأت اعمال ترميم الكنيسة منذ ايام بعد ان تم نقل جثمان بطل لبنان يوسف بك كرم الى كنيسة مار ماما المجاورة، كما تم اخراج محتوياتها وفك المذابح وترقيم الرخام بعد عملية التصوير والرسم ولإعادتهم في ما بعد، اضافة الى نقل مجسمات القديسين وفك الثريات والايقونات والمقاعد والأثاث وكل ما في داخل الكنيسة ونقلهم إلى مكان آخر حفاظًا عليهم من الضرر، كما تم فك قبة الكنيسة بعد رسمها وتصويرها، فيما بدأت اعمال الحفر الى جانب الاعمدة الاساسية في الكنيسة والتي سيقام الى جانبها اعمدة جديدة مع جسور من الباطون لتدعيمها وبالتالي تدعيم الكنيسة بشكل عام منعا للتشقق الذي طاول جدرانها الخارجية.
يشار الى ان تدعيم الكنيسة يتم باشراف وزارة الثقافة مديرية الاثار وبتمويل من الهيئة العليا للاغاثة، فيما التنفيذ باستلام شركة انطوان مخلوف بعد دراسة هندسية اشرفت عليها شركة خطيب وعلمي، فيما سيتم المحافظة على الجدران التي تحوي رسومات للفنان الايطالي دانتي مارو والتي تشكل آية فنية من حيث الجمال والاتقان على ان ينتهي العمل في الترميم بعد ثمانية اشهر تقريبا.
وتتألف كنيسة مار جرجس من ثمانية عشر مصلبا قائمة على عشرة أعمدة ضخمة طولها ستة وثلاثون مترا وعرضها تسعة عشر مترا وعلوها أحد عشر مترا، فيما يدخل النور إلى الكنيسة من نافذتين وخمسة عشر منورا، والمناور في أعلى الحيطان مفتوحة داخلا وخارجا لتعكس نورا قويا إلى الكنيسة، وفيها ستة مذابح بالإضافة إلى المذبح الكبير الذي هو على إسم الشهيد مار جرجس العظيم، والذي هو عبارة عن تماثيل نافرة من الرخام الأبيض.
يذكر ان المؤرخين أجمعوا على ان عهد بناء الكنيسة يرتقي إلى أوائل ظهور النصرانية في جبال الشمال وهي من أقدم كنائس لبنان وأشهرها وأفخمها وتتميز بقبتها المرتفعة ستة عشر مترا عن سطح الكنيسة.
وقد لاقى مشروع تدعيم الكنيسة ترحيبا من اهالي البلدة الذين لطالما طالبوا بايجاد حل للتشققات خوفا على هذا الارث الاثري الديني من الانهيار.
Tony Hage: The rise of a Lebanese photographer - [more]
Date: Friday, April 15, 2016

Editor’s Note: Fashionista Hadia Sinno took the style world by storm with a unique combination of expertise and avant-garde style, rising to become one of the most preeminent voices on all things fashion. Every Friday, Sinno will join The Daily Star to cover the hottest trends and latest styles, sharing professional fashion tips as well as her favorite salons, restaurants, and places to be seen.

BEIRUT: Paris has been, and will always be, the most important city for the fashion and art worlds. As many of you also know, a very high number of Lebanese live there and work in countless different fields. Last month, a photo exhibition took place in Paris at Maison Européenne de la Photographie. The show hosted the Lebanese photographer Tony Hage under the name of Pris sur le vif.

The idea of the show was to transport us back to the ’80s, that was a notable period in the history of fashion. The period saw the rise of young designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and was a real revolution in many areas of the fashion world.

The watershed moment came in 1983 when, for the first time, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York dedicated an exhibition to a living designer, Yves Saint-Laurent.

“Back then, Tony Hage was young and eager to capture candid shots of fashion and film stars. Since then, the intense media coverage of business celebrities has created a great obstacle for freelance photographers,” said curator Cristianne Rodrigues. “What’s true of the shows at fashion week also applies to the Cannes [film] festival. [Hage’s] images are a testimony to a time gone by in the history of press photography.”

Hage’s debut came when he moved to Paris at the age of 17 to study photography in Paris. After he graduated, he started working on the fashion world, focusing on fashion week.

Through the photo agencies of Gamma and MaxPPP, his photographs were published in The Times, The Independent, Paris Match, L’Express, Le Point, Marianne, Le Figaro Magazine, Le Parisien, Gala, Voici and many major publications in the Near East. In 2013, as part of PhotoMed, the Mediterranean photography festival in Sanary-sur-Mer, Hage presented a series of portraits of Eastern and Western celebrities between 1981 and 1985. The collection included the likes of Costa Gavras, Marcello Mastroianni, Clint Eastwood, John Huston, Youssef Chahine, Amin Maalouf, and Elham Shahin, among others. At the same time, he curated an exhibition of young Lebanese photographers. He also became a founding member of the Lebanese branch of the festival, PhotoMed Liban. He was asked to be an ambassador of Fujifilm’s X-Photographers France, and the Canson Infinity brand.

Pris sur le vif by Hage is the culmination of years of work in fashion photography, taken at special moments, Hage explains. He adds that, in the past, taking pictures was harder than it is today as life and technology, including new media, have changed the landscape. “Today, I’m so proud and honored to be part of the most important place to show my photos in ‘Maison Europeenne le Photographie.’ When I look back at the pictures, I remember the great days I had, how the fashion was different than today. But every period has its own flair,” Hage said.

Beirut to hold first edition of cultural festival in May - [more]
Date: Saturday, April 09, 2016

BEIRUT: The Beirut Cultural Festivals Association has announced the first edition of the Beirut Cultural Festivals that will be held next month at the capital’s seafront area.

The May 17-22 event will include cultural, artistic, sports and entertainment activities, some featuring in Lebanon for the first time.

The opening will consist of a mass visual and musical production using the latest technologies to recount the main historical eras and events in the capital. The closing festivities will include Lebanon’s first F1 show starring one of the field’s leading names.

“The Beirut Cultural festivals strive to constitute a special event befitting our ancient capital, which is deeply rooted in history, in keeping with Beirut’s status as a point of convergence for civilizations and cultures, and with the capital’s iconic historical, civilizational and cultural background,” Lama Salam, the chair of the association, told a news conference earlier this week.

“The launching of the Beirut Cultural festivals aims to instill life once again in Beirut, and spread joy, arts, creativity and beauty in this city, which is dear to our hearts. The aim is to reignite life in wounded, problem-ridden Beirut and restore its former prosperity,” added Salam, wife of Prime Minister Tammam Salam.

Highlights of the festival include erecting a dome in Downtown’s Nijmeh Square that would house a 70-minute show, titled The Story of Beirut, which will recount the city’s past using the 3-D Mapping technique. It will also host concerts by popular singers Ragheb Alama and Nancy Ajram.

The festival will also host a motor sports village, a car show and Lebanon’s first F1 show with a RedBull team car driven on the road between Phoenicia Hotel and BIEL by Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Junior.

Hakini Lebneni: A twist on Lebanese cuisine by Cafe Najjar - [more]
By: Mira Osseiran
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

BEIRUT: A new hotspot in Ashrafieh introduces a fresh take on Lebanese dining experiences, complemented by an interesting dessert selection. Playing on traditional recipes with a modern twist, Hakini Lebneni restaurant is inviting to all. Based on heritage and authenticity, the menu boasts a comprehensive selection of traditional favorites suitable for any meal of the day.

The breakfast menu ranges from the variety of eggs to the typical Lebanese assortment of zaatar, cheeses, labneh and vegetables. The lunch and dinner menus feature the original salad mixtures and succulent wraps, not to mention the quintessential cold and hot dishes.

The dessert selection ranges from local to Western recipes, with atypical range of specialties.

More notably is the signature coffee selection by Café Najjar, “A Connoisseur at Your Service” offers its 12 exclusive trademark blends at Hakini Lebneni.

Along with co-founder Mousaad Fares, the M.D.C Franchise System has launched the restaurant last week, its latest project.

M.D.C Franchise System is owned by Georges Najjar and Fares. The two have established local franchises – “La Maison du Café by Café Najjar,” and “Hakini Lebneni by Coffee Najjar.”

Hakini Lebneni fosters reinterpreted concepts of Lebanese cuisine and the experience of a Lebanese gathering, making it the perfect place for lovers of modern Lebanese food and rich Lebanese coffee.

“Since we are offering a new progressive concept, we are targeting all ages, all genders, simply the people looking for Lebanese food novelty and of course the coffee lovers; an afternoon coffee remains our specialty at Hakini Lebneni – Coffee by Najjar,” Fares said.

“We want to be progressive that’s why we created a progressive menu and we want to go international with it and not limit it [to only] Lebanon,” Fares said. “For us to be able to go to Europe we needed something that represents the modern and young Lebanon and this is what we focused on while creating this concept.”

The interior decoration of the new restaurant also offers a modern interpretation of Lebanese aesthetic with oriental patterns and light colors common in the traditional Lebanese homes. The place itself represents the food menu, since it is not like all Lebanese restaurants yet it is oriental. It has the soul of Lebanese culture filled with light fresh colors.

“The concept is great, change is always good for success, at the beginning the food appeared weird on the menu but once you taste it you find the combination is a very different tasty Lebanese recipe” according to Nada Merhi, editor-in-chief of Red Carpet Magazine, speaking to The Daily Star.

“The food is very healthy and my experience at this place is different and great, and we wish Café Najjar great luck in the future” Merhi added.

Lebanese artists’ works grace Dubai fair - [more]
Date: Friday, March 25, 2016

Editor’s Note: Fashionista Hadia Sinno took the style world by storm with a unique combination of expertise and avant-garde style, rising to become one of the most preeminent voices on all things fashion. Every Friday, Sinno will join The Daily Star to cover the hottest trends and latest styles, sharing professional fashion tips as well as her favorite salons, restaurants, and places to be seen.

BEIRUT: After a long week in the art scene in the desert hub, Art Dubai came to an end. This year was the 10th edition of the leading art fair in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia that attracted a record 27,516 visitors throughout the week. Attracting over 5,000 spectators during the Collectors’ Preview at last year’s event – this year saw a further increase in participation to 7,211 people. Participants came from across the region and all over the world to expose their work in Dubai. Inevitably, there is an ever-growing community of Lebanese expats in Dubai that attracts local artists to exhibit their work there.

Nadim Karam is a sculptor, painter, urban artist and architect based in Beirut, with a background that fuses Oriental and Japanese theories of space. He created his own approaches, perspectives and concepts like “micro pluralism,” which he defines as “the architecture of performance,” and “story-telling architecture.” His work, which has succeeded in acquiring international recognition, focuses on re-examining contextual issues through a more global lens.

He tackles notions such as the need to dream and create stories, as well as the importance of both the eternal and the ephemeral. Accordingly, Karam insists on taking quintessential perceptions of pluralism and difference within society to the next level by introducing them as sources of enlightenment as opposed to reasons for conflict.

Karam’s consistent production of multi-medium works across a variety of disciplines is an optimistic act of rebellion, as well as an affirmation of the power of creativity against the tedium, soullessness in the face of terror, that at one time or another affect our lives, and cities.

His works have appeared regularly in solo and group exhibitions worldwide including the Liverpool, Kwangju, Venice and Shanghai Sculpture Biennales, and the Chatsworth Sotheby’s Beyond Limits.

“Shhhhhh...shout!” was the theme of his work this year, which was featured in Ayyam Gallery’s contemporary art booth at the festival alongside fellow artist, Faisal Samra.

According to Karam, “Shout and Silence are beings carrying emotions represented in abstract form.

Silence is deep inside. It cannot be reached, it is void. Silence is the accumulation of years and years of shouts lost to oblivion. It carries the best it can, the immeasurable weight of its own restraint.”

Although these are arguably intense reactions, they are a state of being for the artist.

Chateau Kefraya: From the earth to the glass - [more]
By: Mat Nashed
Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016

BEIRUT: Under the large crystal chandelier on the top floor of Phoenicia Hotel stood a circle of waiters receiving final instructions before they catered an evening of wonderful food and wine. The night served as an illustration of the multiple and customized blends of Chateau Kefraya, one of Lebanon’s most well-known wineries stationed in the west Bekaa Valley. “It’s very important to make people aware that we [Chateau Kefraya] are just blending wine. We do not produce our own original grape,” Fabrice Guiberteau, the winery’s technical director, told The Daily Star.

Chateau Kefraya was first established by Michel de Boustros in 1946. The first grapes were planted in 1951 and the first wine in 1979 despite the raging violence of Lebanon’s Civil War.

The vineyard covers 300 hectares located precisely 1,000 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. And while their wines have won multiple awards in the past, Thursday night enabled wine lovers to create the perfect blend for their own tastes.

Francois Fiorilla, the director of Phoenicia Hotel, said that he loved to mix a little bit of the spicy Syrah grape with the full-body taste of the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Syrah is a dark red grape assortment that is more widely known as Shiraz. It tends to produce a fruity and medium- to full-body taste, especially when grown in warmer climates. On the other hand, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely produced grape varieties in the world. And like many of the influences that Chateau Kefraya draws from, Sauvignon became globally hailed through its prominence in Bordeaux wines.

“The mixing of blends is an influence that can be attributed to France and particularly from Bordeaux,” said Fiorilla. “In America, for example, they don’t have mix blends so much. They like to produce much more singular blends when it comes to their wine.”

Blending wines is a craft that can be extremely difficult since the taste of each grape will slightly differ depending on the climate each season. That’s why each wine needs to be reviewed each year in order to maintain a consistent taste.

That said, Chateau Kefraya has managed to maintain a wonderful consistency in its wines. This was no more apparent than when the famous wine critic Robert Parker awarded the winery’s Comte de M a place on his list of the best hundred wines in 1997.

Thursday night, however, was less about the acclimated success of Chateau Kefraya and more about enjoying the taste of their wines. That’s precisely what people like Yara Abdel Ahad, Chateau Kefraya’s brand manager, had done throughout the night.

“In my own personalized wine I think I would make it with 50 percent of Syrah, 30 percent of Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent from Carmenere,” she said while taking a sip from her glass. “Our wine is very unique and I think it’s most important to mention that we don’t blend any of our wines with grapes outside of our vineyard.”

Guardians of the sea: Beirut’s lighthouse family - [more]
By: Dana Abed
Date: Monday, March 14, 2016

BEIRUT: For more than 150 years, one family, from father to son, has been in charge of lighting the Manara (lighthouse) of Ras Beirut. The Cheblis took it upon themselves to keep the shore marked out brightly and keep ships safe as they approach Beirut.

The first Manara was built a few meters away from where the iconic black and white one stands on a hill above the water. In the 1840s, under the reign of the Ottoman Empire, the first lighthouse was built and stood around 25 meters tall, burning kerosene for light.

“It was very hard to manage,” said Victor Chebli, the latest generation of lighthouse keeper, “My father used to gather 2 or 3 gallons of Kerosene every day and carry it up the stairs in the dark to light the lamp.”

Victor, who lives with his family in a house adjacent to the black and white Manara after inheriting the job from his farther, proudly tells the stories of the three different lighthouses Lebanon has had over the decades.

“The Manara was very important up until the ’50s, it guided boats coming to Beirut and it had four different lights,” Chebli explains.

On Dec. 22, 1952, the French SS Champollion sank near Khaldeh, south of Beirut, as it headed to the capital. However it wasn’t the ship’s first trip to Lebanon and they were used to the lighthouse, Chebli says.

The French blamed Joseph Chebli, Victor’s father, for the incident. Protests were organized in France with citizens holding his picture as the criminal that killed their people. He was imprisoned for three months in Lebanon, until he was proven innocent: The lighthouse was shining at the time.

Some French people came down to the house offering money and a French passport to the family in return for Joseph saying he was guilty of the accident, Chebli says. However, Joseph refused, maintaining his innocence and insisting he was doing his job properly.

After further investigations, it turned out that the captain of the boat had mistaken the green light of the airport for the white light of the Manara. “It wasn’t a valid excuse,” Chebli says. “However, at least it was now clear that it wasn’t my father’s fault.”

Following the incident, the Lebanese authorities decided to build a new lighthouse, which is the black and white one that still stands today. In 1953 the project began. “We moved away for a few years until the Manara was ready,” Chebli says. “We came back in 1957, when it was first lit.”

Chebli explains the then-new Manara ran on electricity and was very innovative and technologically advanced at the time – “the best in the region.”

In 1973, Victor officially took over from his father and became the employee responsible for lighting the beam.

However, in 1975, hardship began with the start of the Civil War.

During the Israeli invasion of 1982, the Cheblis were asked to turn off the Manara to prevent the Israelis from using the light to land on the beaches of Beirut. Against his will, Victor was forced to turn it off.

The lighthouse remained dark until 1990, when the Civil War came to an end.

But the years of the Civil War were hard for Victor and his family; they were bullied by militias in west Beirut. He was kidnapped three times and the lighthouse was bombed twice. Despite it all, he refused to leave. “This is where I was born and this is where I will die,” he says defiantly.

In 1991, a French mission came with the aim of fixing government-related infrastructure after the end of the Civil War.

When they reached the Manara, they were surprised to find that Chebli had already fixed the glass. “I used to light it up during the day,” he says, “I didn’t want the motors to get damaged from lack of use.”

Chebli and his son were later sent to France, at different times, to get a better understanding of the workings of a lighthouse. During that time the French replaced the components in the Manara, modernizing it.

A few years later, a businessman decided to build a residential skyscraper in front of the lighthouse, which was, of course, problematic.

Chebli said that it would block the light and he petitioned the government, but the businessman was powerful enough to get the approval for his building regardless. Then it was decided that a new lighthouse should be built right next to the sea. It is this latest one that currently guides ships by night.

However, it is still Chebli that lights it up every evening and turns it off every morning.

“The Lebanese Army is always guarding it now and it became a military emplacement because of the radars and surveillance tools,” Chebli explains.

In summer 2006, the Manara was again targeted by the Israeli troops and they bombed it, with Chebli and his son inside. “It became a dangerous place.”

His family’s story of keeping the lights shining is one of challenges, hardships and dedication.

The Cheblis have faced significant obstacles, not least war. Chebli longs for the past as he sees the problems of the country today.

“My only wish right now is for Lebanon to overcome the crises [it faces] and go back to the way it was in before 1975,” Chebli says.

“Those were the golden times.”

Lebanese talent appears on France’s The Voice - [more]
Date: Monday, March 07, 2016

BEIRUT: With his edgy performance and voice, it was certain that the four judges would turn around for Lebanese talent Marc Hatem in the French version of The Voice Saturday. Singing Hozier’s widely known “Take Me to Church,” 25-year-old Hatem added to it his own style and confident performance.
Garou was the first to turn around, a move that soon encouraged the other judges to follow. 

The audience’s applause echoed in the studio when the song ended. As Hatem introduced himself, judge Mika, who is of Lebanese origin, was surprised.Hatem isn’t the first Lebanese to join The Voice’s French version.

Singers Aline Lahoud and Hiba Tawaji are among those who joined previous seasons and Lukas Abdul is currently competing in the same season as Hatem.
طرابلس: من أدراج التماس إلى أدراج السلام - [more]
Date: Saturday, March 05, 2016

تلك كانت الأدراج الفاصلة بين مناطق الإشتباك الطرابلسي، بين جبل محسن وباب التبانة وبين الأسواق الداخلية وجبل محسن، تتحول اليوم من أدراج للتماس والقنص والمعارك إلى أدراج للسلام والمحبة والتعايش.

في خطوة مهمة للمجتمع المدني الطرابلسي الذي يتحرك على أكثر من صعيد لإعادة الأمور إلى طبيعتها في المدينة وتحقيق السلام والوئام والمحبة بين أهالي جبل محسن وباب التبانة والمناطق المتقاتلة بشكل عام، يحصل كل ذلك في غفلة من المجتمع السياسي الذي يبدو بعيداً كل البعد عن اللحاق بهذا الحراك المدني السلمي الذي تخطى كل حراك سياسي، وهو ينشد المحبة والعيش المشترك بينما ينشد الحراك السياسي المصالح الذاتية والفئوية والمناطقية.

درج القبة
ومن منا لا يتذكر درج القبة الشهير أو ما يسمى بدرج الجامعة؟!. فكل من تعلم في الجامعة اللبنانية الفرع الثالث في القبة يعرف هذا الدرج ولا شك أنه استخدمه يوماً ما صعوداً من داخل المدينة في محلة السويقة (سوق الأحد القديم) حتى منطقة القبة أو نزولاً من القبة إلى داخل طرابلس. ودرج الجامعة هذا، كان قبل مدة مسرحاً لمعارك وقنص واشتباكات في المعارك وجولات العنف التي كانت تدور بين باب التبانة والقبة والأسواق الداخلية وجبل محسن والتي روعت السكان وروعت المدينة بشكل عام لسنوات عدة. ومع عودة الهدوء الأمني إلى طرابلس وعودة الأمور إلى طبيعتها بعد تطبيق الخطة الأمنية، فإن متطوعي جمعية One Voice Team أرادوا إحداث نقلة نوعية في العمل على بناء السلام وتوطيد التعايش في مدينة السلام طرابلس، حيث قام فريق الجمعية التطوعي بمشروع “حولوا من خلاله 15 درجاً في القبة وباب التبانة وجبل محسن والمناطق الداخلية للمدينة إلى ألوان من الفرح والزينة والإضاءة والرسوم على الجدران” ولاقت الحملة هذه ترحيب السكان وتشجيعهم “ونزل الأطفال والشباب والصبايا وتطوعوا إلى جانب فريق الجمعية” للمساعدة في تحقيق اكتمال المشروع والوصول إلى طرابلس السلام والمحبة والتعايش من دون معارك ولا حروب ولا جولات للعنف أو للإقتتال الأخوي.

جولة ميدانية
“صدى البلد” جالت على المشروع والأدراج المنفذة برفقة فريق one voice واستطلعت رأي الأهالي والسكان وطلاب الجامعات المارين خصوصاً على الدرج الشهير بطوله الذي يربط السويقة بالقبة (درج الجامعة) “وكانت الأماني لدى الجميع أن يستمر هذا الهدوء والإستقرار في كافة أرجاء مدينة طرابلس وأن تبقى هذه المبادرات الإيجابية هي التي تتحكم بالوضع الطرابلسي لما فيه خير المدينة وأهلها بشكل عام”.

خطوط التماس: بالألوان
من جهته مدير مشروع (أدراج السلام) محمد البعريني وخلال حديثه إلى “صدى البلد” أشار “إلى أن العمل تم بتأهيل 15 درجاً حتى الآن كمرحلة أولى بالتوازي مع دورات تدريبية في الرسم على الجدران وغيرها. هذه الأدراج كانت تستعمل كممرات سريعة أيام المعارك عندما كانت الطرقات مقطوعة في داخل طرابلس بسبب أعمال القنص. اليوم أعدنا الحياة إلى هذه الأدراج وأزلنا آثار المعارك والرصاص من على جدرانها وأجرينا عليها الرسم والألوان حتى يتمكن طلاب وطالبات الجامعة والأهالي بشكل عام من الصعود والنزول عليها بفرح وسرور وسط ارتياح كبير لجهة أن آثار الحرب والمعارك قد أزيلت وأصبحت من الماضي”.

لإزالة آثار الدمار
برهان عرجا من جهته قال “لقد قمنا بتصوير فيلم على الدرج سوف يتم عرضه في وقت لاحق بمشاركة الشباب والصبايا الذين تلقوا دورات تدريبية في التصوير والتمثيل على الدرج المذكور. نحن في فريق one voice كنا في السابق نعمل على الصعيد الفني على نشر السلام في مدينة طرابلس والمناطق، واليوم أضفنا إلى دائرة اهتماماتنا الشق الإنمائي الإجتماعي بالنظر إلى الحاجة المحلة لشباب وصبايا وأهالي مدينة طرابلس إلى هذا النوع من العمل خصوصاً في هذه الفترة من أجل إزالة كل أشكال الحروب والمعارك من النفوس ومن الحجر والبشر”. وتابع عرجا “كل درج انتهينا من صيانته أقمنا على متنه احتفالاً ونشاطاً فنياً وكانت الأهداف الأساسية لأي نشاط أن نقول : ان طرابلس مدينة للعيش والحياة والمحبة والتعايش ولا مجال إلا أن تبقى كذلك ونحن أبناء المدينة نرفض كل أشكال التلاعب بأمنها واستقرارها ونريد أن نعيش سوياً من كل المناطق إخواناً متحابين بسلام وأمان وننبذ القتال تحت أي مسمى كان “.


على الأدراج .. ألوان
الجولة على تلك الأدراج التي انتهى الفريق من صيانتها، ليس أجمل منها، على الرغم من أن المسافة طويلة والصعود ليس بالأمر السهل، إلا أنك تنسى عناء التعب وأنت تتجول وسط الألوان والرسوم والزخرفات برفقة شباب محب للحياة وللمدينة. تتخيل كيف كان المشهد على هذا الدرج قبل لا سيما أيام المعارك وكيف كان المسلحون يجوبونه صعوداً ونزولاً، لنقل الأسلحة والذخائر أم لقنص المناطق والمباني المشرفة في المنطقة الأخرى، وتتخيل بالمقابل الأطفال الصغار تلاميذ المدارس، وطلاب وطالبات الجامعة اللبنانية صعوداً ونزولاً على متنه، فتقول في نفسك “الحمدلله، هذه هي طرابلس: مدينة الألوان والفرح”.
إذاً، يستمر شباب طرابلس ومجتمعها المدني في العمل على زرع الإبتسامة في كل مكان وكل زاوية من زوايا هذه المدينة، والنيات معقودة على إزالة كل أشكال الحرب والدمار والإنطلاق إلى العمران والتنمية والتطوير في المراحل اللاحقة، وهذه همة شباب طرابلس وشاباتها ستعيد المدينة إلى سابق عهدها طالما بقيت أيادي السياسيين والمتاجرين بالشباب بالتسليح وزرع البغض والحقد، بعيدة عن حراكهم الإنساني الإجتماعي هذا.

3 دواليب للبحر عند مدخل أنفه لحفظ التراث الانفاوي في استخراج الملح - [more]
By: فاديا دعبول
Date: Friday, March 04, 2016

تحقيق فاديا دعبول

وطنية - رفعت "جمعية مهرجانات أنفه" برعاية بلدية أنفه وبالتنسيق معها، ثلاثة دواليب للبحر عند مدخل البلدة على الاوتوستراد الذي يربط بيروت بطرابلس، بغاية حفظ التراث الانفاوي في استخراج الملح منذ العهد الفينيقي. وقد طليت الدواليب باللونين الابيض والازرق في رمزية للبحر.

وشدد رئيس جمعية مهرجانات انفه الدكتور اميل نجم على اهمية الاضاءة على تراث أنفه، وكل ما هو جميل فيها، مؤكدا ان استخراج الملح هو من التراث الانفاوي. وفي حين اشار الى انه "كان مورد رزق للعديد من العائلات"، لفت الى "اقتصار العمل على بعض الملاحات، بحيث لا تتعدى اصابع اليد الواحدة نتيجة اغراق الاسواق المحلية بالملح المصري وبأسعار بخسة جدا".

ونوه بابن البلدة رامح نخول، لما حققه من انجاز مهم "بصنعه للدواليب بفترة قياسية قصيرة لم تتعد الشهر، وذلك بالتزامن مع تجهيز قواعد حجرية لها، بارتفاعات مختلفة، لتشكل حديقة تراثية".

وفي خضم الاهتمام بتراث أنفه وحمايته، ما زالت "هيئة تراث أنفه وجوارها" برئاسة رشا دعبول، تعمل، على مراحل، لاعادة دواليب البحر الى الشاطئ، ضمن مشروع يشمل 20 دولابا. وقد عملت على رفع نصف هذا العدد تقريبا، وتعمل على تجهيز القسم المتبقي، وذلك بالتعاون مع ابناء انفه المقيمين والمغتربين ومع نائب رئيس مجلس النواب فريد مكاري.

وفي حين أكد أمين سر "هيئة البيئة والتراث في الكورة وجوارها" المهندس جرجي ساسين ان "رفع دواليب البحر يعد جزءا مهما من وجه انفه التراثي، الذي كان يميز شاطئها عن سواه من الشواطئ"، شدد على ان "لدولاب البحر ابعادا اخرى، اهمها بيئية نظرا لكونه يعمل على الطاقة المتجددة، وهي الهواء، دون ان يتسبب باصدار اي انبعاثات ملوثة، وابعادا اقتصادية كونه كان جزءا من عملية انتاج الملح، كما انه مورد رزق للعديد من العائلات. هذا عدا عن النواحي الجمالية والسياحية المصبوغ بها".

Remnants of a great past: Lebanese hotel that has remained open since 1874 stands emptied as nearby civil war rages - [more]
Date: Wednesday, January 06, 2016

  • Hotel Palmyra in the Roman city of Baalbek hosted international figures like Ella Fitzgerald and Charles de Gaulle
  •  It became top destination for tourists and academics looking to visit Roman ruins
  •  Now stands emptied due to growing security concerns in the Bekaa valley, close to the Syrian border
  •  'No one has a right to touch Hotel Palmyra, except for time' defiant owner says

  • With its windows facing the ancient Roman temple ruins of Heliopolis, the Palmyra hotel in Lebanon's Baalbek attracted renowned international figures since it opened in 1874. 

    Jazz singers Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, late French president Charles de Gaulle and even the Empress of Abyssinia stayed in its sumptuous rooms, admiring the hotel's long halls decorated with antique Persian and Turkish rugs on the walls and floors.

    But now the Palmyra hotel stands emptied in Baalbek, due to the worsening situation in the in the Bekaa Valley, which is close to the Syrian border.

    An interior view of the long halls in Palmyra hotel, located in the Roman city of Baalbek, Lebanon

    An interior view of the long halls in Palmyra hotel, located in the Roman city of Baalbek, Lebanon

    The reception area of the Palmyra hotel. Once a haven for renowned international figures, the Palmyra now stands emptied in Baalbek

    The reception area of the Palmyra hotel. Once a haven for renowned international figures, the Palmyra now stands emptied in Baalbek

    An interior view of a room where Jean Cocteau, the French writer and artist, stayed as a guest. Cocteau's drawings are framed on the wall

    An interior view of a room where Jean Cocteau, the French writer and artist, stayed as a guest. Cocteau's drawings are framed on the wall

    Stepping into the legendary hotel is like a 'journey into the past', as owner Rima Husseini puts it. 

    Built by a Greek entrepreneur following the growing number of tourists in the region, Hotel Palmyra became a top destination for tourists and academics eager to find traces of a European past in the region.

    The last German Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was a guest at the hotel 1898, sponsored a joint German-Ottoman excavation of Baalbek's ruins. 

  • During World War II, Palmyra hotel even served as headquarters for the English troops in the area, according to some.

    'So many people have passed through this hotel,' Husseini recalls in an interview with Great Big Story

    'But now we are feeling the impact of the war on one side of the border and economic depression in general. At one point there were no visitors to speak of and that was very difficult'.

    Stunning view from the Palmyra hotel overlooking the historical Roman ruins of Baalbek

    Stunning view from the Palmyra hotel overlooking the historical Roman ruins of Baalbek

    Rusty hotel room keys are pictured at the hotel, which has seen a sharp decline in visitors since the start of the Syrian conflict 

    Rusty hotel room keys are pictured at the hotel, which has seen a sharp decline in visitors since the start of the Syrian conflict 

    There is a persistent smell of carpet, old walls and rusty faucets in the hotel which 'makes you smile' according to the owner 

    There is a persistent smell of carpet, old walls and rusty faucets in the hotel which 'makes you smile' according to the owner 

    The hotel's deserted, dusty interiors, with their antiquated mahogany furniture, relics from the Baalbek ruins and green ostrich skin lampshades, bear memories of a great past which seems to be gone forever.

    There is a persistent smell of carpet, old walls and rusty faucets which 'makes you smile', according to Husseini. 'That's what memories are about,' she says.

    One room, where heavy drapes are pulled back to let the sunlight in, features drawings by the French poet Jean Cocteau framed on the wall. 

    Stepping into the legendary hotel is like a 'journey into the past', Rima Husseini says

    Stepping into the legendary hotel is like a 'journey into the past', Rima Husseini says

    A Roman head statue decorates the interiors of Hotel Palmyra  

    A Roman head statue decorates the interiors of Hotel Palmyra  

    Pictures of famous guests decorate a wall. Jazz singers Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald stayed in the famous hotel

    Pictures of famous guests decorate a wall. Jazz singers Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald stayed in the famous hotel

    The personnel has been there since the 1950s, Husseini says, because 'for them it's home'.

    Ahmad Kassab, who works in the kitchen, has worked in the hotel for 60 years. 'This hotel runs in my blood. After 60 years you feel something extraordinary. Anything related to this hotel affects me. If I am here or not, it is part of me.'

    Despite the sheer decline in visitors, Husseini stands defiant: 'No one has a right to touch hotel Palmyra, except for time'.

    An exterior view of the hotel, which has been built in 1874

    An exterior view of the hotel, which has been built in 1874

    Another exterior view of the hotel, which is located in the Roman city of Baalbek, in the Bekaa valley 

    Another exterior view of the hotel, which is located in the Roman city of Baalbek, in the Bekaa valley 

  • ...
    Temple of Eshmun Lebanon, Phoenician ruins in Sidon, South of Lebanon - [more]
    By: Tourism Lebanon Team
    Date: Friday, December 11, 2015

    The Temple of Eshmun (Arabicمعبد أشمون‎) is an ancient place of worship dedicated to Eshmun, the Phoenician god of healing. It is located near the Awali river, 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) northeast of Sidon in southwestern Lebanon. The site was occupied from the 7th century BCE to the 8th century CE, suggesting an integrated relationship with the nearby city of Sidon. Although originally constructed by Sidonian king Eshmunazar II in the Achaemenid era (c. 529–333 BCE) to celebrate the city's recovered wealth and stature, the temple complex was greatly expanded by BodashtartYatan-milk and later monarchs. Because the continued expansion spanned many centuries of alternating independence and foreign hegemony, the sanctuary features a wealth of different architectural and decorative styles and influences.

    For more info, please visit

    The Temple Of Eshmun 

    Revisiting old marriage tradition of hand-made mattresses - [more]
    By: Mohammed Zaatari
    Date: Saturday, November 21, 2015

    SIDON, Lebanon: Upholstering bed mattresses was once a prominent profession in south Lebanon which over time has faded away. In the past, beds and pillows were an integral gift in marriage ceremonies. Mattresses were stuffed with sheep wool and winter quilts were made from pure cotton in those days.

    In fact, the parents of the bride were obliged to carry bed mattresses and complimentary accessories on the wedding eve to her new house according to tradition.

    “But today everything has become based on trends,” 70-year-old Kamel Shaarawi, who works in upholstery, explained. “Globalization won over our heritage and openness closed what our ancestors and parents left us.”

    Shaarawi knows how to sew and prepare bed mattresses. He is fighting to keep his profession alive despite the proliferation of readymade mattresses.

    “The bed mattresses used to be stuffed with sheep wool after being washed, cleaned and sun-dried. The bride’s parents used to ask for the mattress a month ahead of the wedding in addition to the quilt, pillows and embroidered and printed bed sheets,” he explained.

    “But today the mattresses are manufactured, stuffed with sponge and springs and have taken the place of our profession.”

    The mattresses that the bride and groom sleep on were stuffed with 30 kilos of sheep wool and were upholstered every year.

    Shaarawi recalled how they used to visit houses, rupture, upholster and tailor them again.

    “Sometimes the groom would ask for a mattress that would make his wife pregnant with boys, while other ask for ones that would bring girls,” Shaarawi laughed.

    He said he used to go along with it, and “design” mattresses for those who prefer boys in blue and those wanting girls in pink.

    At Sidon’s souks, pillows and wool are hung in one of the city’s shops. Abu Hasan Traboulsi is seen making and upholstering quilts along with one his employees.

    “Many continue to ask for quilts made from natural cotton,” Traboulsi said.

    “The quilt needs to be stuffed with around 4 kilos of pure cotton in addition to fashionable fabric for the quilts.”

    The quilt needs more than three hours of work, Traboulsi said.

    Mehye el-Din Baba inherited a fabric-selling business from his father. Inside his historic shop, fabric of various colors can be found.

    “The demand on bed mattresses made of wool is little, today the cotton is artificial,” Baba said.

    Several modern mattresses are causing back pain he noted saying that when making coverlets or bed sheets one needs to be careful to keep them clean.

    “Regardless of how comfortable the pillow is, conscience is what matters.”

    The taste of success in Tripolitan foul, hummus restaurants - [more]
    By: Misbah Al-Ali
    Date: Friday, November 13, 2015

    TRIPOLI, Lebanon: At 3 a.m., the day begins for foul and hummus master Abu Abed. The head chef at the Akra restaurant in Tripoli, he checks on every detail: the boiling of the grains, the preparation of the pickles, the freshness of the bread. He performs his job with great precision, rejecting produce and discarding prepared items that do not meet his standards.

    Despite a prevailing impression that hummus and foul restaurants are casual venues that are easy to run, their operation contains an entire world of its own, preserving the characteristics of historic Tripoli.

    The capital of the north is famous for its exquisite Oriental sweets and foods, and has long maintained a vibrant souk drawing crowds of visitors. This has pushed Tripoli’s residents to excel at a number of trades, including food preparation, handmade crafts and soap making.

    So it is no surprise that the city has become famous for its delicious hummus and foul, grown in the nearby countryside and accompanied by cucumbers, mint and tomatoes. A main feature of the plate is the deluxe olive oil and fresh Oriental bread served on the side.

    People who work in the profession explain that each plate carries its own secrets.

    Preparing a plate of hummus and foul, whose price rarely exceeds $2, requires the know-how to choose quality legumes, cook them correctly, and use them in the right dishes. There are few people who are skilled enough at the profession to earn a large income.

    The restaurant where Abu Abed now works was named after Jamil Akra, who made his own mark at the tiny Abdo Hamza stand during the 1940s. The restaurant was smaller than 15 square meters, and had only one employee: Akra.

    For his loyalty and dedication, Hamza decided to give the restaurant to Akra, who at the time was very poor, and served as the breadwinner for his 10-member family. He worked hard to provide his four children with a good education.

    But Akra, now deceased, did not foresee that despite his children gaining university degrees, they would take up their father’s trade, expanding the shop into a family business with 120 employees. It now has four branches in Tripoli operating out of converted old houses to maintain Tripoli’s historic legacy.

    One of Jamil Akra’s sons, Abdul-Kader Akra, used to be an electrician, but left his profession to join his father’s business, which he considers a source of pride.

    “What I remember in my childhood is the copper cooker that is specially [used] to prepare foul,” he recalled. “I used to go to my father’s shop after school to have lunch from the shop’s products, and then deliver orders to houses and shops.”

    Abdul-Kader makes sure that his son also visits the shop at least once a week so that he can begin learning the profession’s secrets.

    شموت ضيعة لبنانية تزدان بارثها التاريخي - [more]
    By: زينة خليل
    Date: Friday, November 06, 2015

    شموت قرية ببلاد جبيل لجهة الشمال الغربي عبارة عن منحدر جبلي بيخترقو 5 اودية ما الها تاريخ محدد بس المؤكد بأنو الرومان سكنوا هالضيعة كما انو البيزنطي اختاروا بناء كنايسون فيهاكانت شموت قديما بتشتهر ببساتين اللوز وبعض اشجار التين والعنب اما اليوم فأغلب المحاصيل بتعتمد على اشجار الزيتون المنتشرة بكافة انحاء الضيعة اضافة لتربية النحل وانتاج العسل.... حاليا يوجد في شموت كنيستين الأولى على اسم القديسة شمونة والثانية على اسم مار فوقا اضافة لعدة كنائس هدمت وبعض الآثارات من نواويس وآبار محفورة في الصخور..هالضيعة لليوم بتحافظ على طرقاتها الضيقة المزدانة بالأشجار بتخلي الزائر يشعر بالراحة ويتمتع بالمناظر الخلابة

    حصرون ... وردة الجبل وعروس المصايف - [more]
    By: تقرير زينة خليل
    Date: Thursday, October 22, 2015

    على كتف وادي قنوبين المقدس بتستريح بلدة جبلية لبنانية فوق مشارف الوادي المقدس العابق ببخور النساك والقديسين... حصرون وردة الجبل بيوتها بتحافظ على نمط العمارة التقليدية اللبنانية وهي بمعظمها بيوت حجرية معممة بالقرميد الأحمر... اسم حصرون فينيقي الأصل بيعني المكان المسور والمحصن وهالشي بينطبق على طبيعة هالبلدة المحاطة بسور طبيعي من الجبال والوديان ... كما انجبت حصرون عددا من البطاركة والأساقفة والعلماء الكنسيين والكهنة بشكل لافت. بتتميز حصرون باحتوائها اقدم سوق تجاري بالمنطقة وعدد ملحوظ من الفنادق والمطاعم والمقاهي ومراكز التسلية.وردة الجبل حصرون بتضم كنائس اثرية من اهمها كنيسة مار لابا وبتشكل نموذج للعمارة اللبنانية ومسكن لمحبي الراحة والسكينة ...
    New Italian restaurant for the people, by the people - [more]
    By: Talia Abbas
    Date: Tuesday, October 06, 2015

    BEIRUT: An intimate crowd gathered to celebrate the official opening of Popolo, a charming Italian restaurant where you can eat lightly fried cheese truffle balls with mushroom any time of the day, or order a crispy cotoletta alla Milanese with a side of creamy truffle fries.

    Located in Ain al-Mreisseh with a view of the Mediterranean, the decor is a soft palette of red, heather gray and baby blue with wooden accents. There is no music to be heard, except for the faintest sound of waves crashing in the background.

    Impressive slivers of homemade tagliatelle are laid out to dry on a wooden rack, while cured meats dangle in the background like chandeliers suspended from the ceiling.

    Popolo by definition means people in Italian. The menu is homely, even comforting at times, and so is the concept: Food brings people together.

    “When we thought of Popolo’s concept, we didn’t want to open a high-end restaurant where people won’t link themselves to the food because when you go to a high-end restaurant, you expect service more than food. You expect to be treated like a king or like a queen and not enjoy the food as much,” said Serge Trad, digital manager from Add-Mind, a local consultancy group.

    “So the food here is more rustic than rarified high-end food and the slogan we wanted to opt for was for the people, by the people, to the people,” Trad added during the event last week.

    As soon as the guests sat down, a crumpled paper bag with fresh-baked bread and grissini was brought to the table. A plate of Parmesan chunks followed suit, with honey and balsamic dips for a perfect mix of sweet and savory.

    Plates of truffle fries, grilled octopus and marinated squid piled up, before a zesty artichoke salad confidently appeared.

    Halfway through the meal emerged Popolo’s chef consultant Guiseppe Palumbo and executive chef Georges Dakkak. The two men glided through the tables, each assuring the guests were satisfied with the food and if there were any remarks.

    The margarita pizza and squid ink risotto that followed was plentiful, but that night, it was the homemade ravioli with black truffle sauce that commanded seconds and thirds.

    Francesco Sirimarco, menu consultant at Popolo and owner of Bianca in Dubai, described Popolo’s menu as “typical Italian dishes, mixing original recipes with local taste.”

    “You can have truffle fries in Italy in street markets, you can’t find it in high-end restaurants. The ingredients we use are premium though, not to make you feel like you are eating in a street market,” Trad added.

    As much as Popolo strives to bring us rustic food, the quality of ingredients makes it a decidedly luxe version.

    Popolo counts on suppliers mainly from Napoli – which is home for Sirimarco and Palumbo – to bring in premium quality products like truffle bits and flour to Lebanon, while vegetables are sourced locally because of their excellent quality, Sirimarco explained.

    The dinner ended with a calzone al forno that was a performance on a plate: Nutella and mozzarella oozed out from homemade dough like lava at the crescendo, under the ravenous gaze of the entire table.

    Not a crumb left in sight, people sipped their last drops of wine before making their way to the exit, promising each other to return for lunch in the near future.

    Vinifest dates announced, Lebanese wine industry flourishes - [more]
    By: Talia Abbas
    Date: Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    BEIRUT: The eighth-annual Vinifest, an extravaganza of local wines and performances, will occupy Beirut Hippodrome Oct. 7-10. At a press conference at La Table D’Alfred on Sursock Street, Ashrafieh last week, Neda Farah, founder and director-general of event management company Eventions, spoke briefly about this year’s theme of wine and tasting, and eagerly introduced Russia as the festival’s guest of honor.

    In a speech, Zafer Chaoui, president of Lebanon’s official wine association, the Union Vinicole du Liban, and chairman of Château Ksara, said that “wine is our national pride and its reputation has been established beyond the shadow of doubt.”

    Chaoui implored the citizens of Lebanon and the owners of restaurants to be proud of Lebanese wine and to purchase it instead of imported wines, many of which can be of lesser quality, yet more expensive.

    Lebanon’s wineries are among the oldest sites of wine production in the world, and believed to date all the way back to the time of the Phoenicians, who were instrumental in spreading wine culture throughout the Mediterranean region.

    Today, Lebanon’s wineries produce nearly 8 million bottles per year, mainly in the Bekaa Valley and the Chouf. Almost half this amount is exported to the United Kingdom, France and the United States. Lebanon imports 1.5 million bottles of wine per year, most of which originate from France.

    The guest of honor, Khayrat Akhmetov, director of the Russian Cultural Center, spoke of Russia and Lebanon’s long historical ties, from the Ottoman Empire up to modern day diplomatic relations.

    He expressed his heartfelt appreciation for Vinifest and its organizers, and said that only a “unified initiative such as this one, which [brings people together] according to a principle of [establishing] friendly ties, can play a significant role in building a prosperous Lebanon.”

    Other keynote speakers included Louis Lahoud, general director of the Agriculture Ministry, who said he was proud of the achievements of Lebanese wines, and Ronald Hochar, vice-president of the INVV and chairman of Château Musar, who stated that “Vinifest enhances the culture of wine among the Lebanese public.”

    Both Lahoud and Chaoui spoke of their dear friend Serge Hochar, Ronald Hochar’s late brother, and his many contributions to supporting and developing the Lebanese wine industry.

    Hochar’s dedication to producing fine wines in harrowing times earned him the title “father of Lebanese wine” and in 1984, Decanter magazine, an influential British wine publication, named Hochar its first “man of the year.”

    Vinifest will welcome three personalities from Decanter magazine this year.

    For more information visit their website

    Lavender, the scent of the season in Jbeil - [more]
    By: Will Worley
    Date: Tuesday, September 01, 2015

    JBEIL, Lebanon: ‘Tis the season for lavender; or at least it is at Alice Eddé’s eponymously named boutique in the coastal town of Jbeil.

    Eddé is currently promoting lavender to mark the close of its season in Lebanon. In doing so, she also hopes to highlight the biodiversity of the country and the range and skill of its craftsmen.Her store has been decked out in the purple flowers, lavender gifts have been especially created and chefs from her other enterprises have developed lavender ice cream and lemonade for the occasion.

    Aromatherapy specialist Marie Mouzaya is present to talk about the plethora of benefits of lavender. “It has many uses,” Mouzaya said. “It can help those with minor respiration and bronchial issues. For gastric issues, drinking diluted lavender water can be soothing. It’s good for the skin, in a cream or tonic.”

    Perhaps the most commonly known and widely accepted quality of lavender is relaxation. “It also is helpful for those with nervous issues, it helps them to calm down” Mouzaya added. Indeed, inside the shop a customer looks extremely tranquil as she receives an Indian Ayurveda massage with lavender oils. Is she relaxed? “Very,” she sighs.

    Other visitors are equally convinced of the benefits of lavender. Roula du Pale said: “I use it when I have a migraine. I also put it on my kid’s hair to prevent lice. It acts as a repellent.”

    Marianne Kanaan chimes in: “It’s good as a room fragrance. I also use it when my clothes have been washed. It prevents them from becoming moth eaten.” Presumably, it also keeps them smelling nice.

    Eddé herself uses it in her hair, and her husband uses lavender oil to care for his moustache.

    An alembic has been erected outside the shop to demonstrate the process of distillation, which creates an extract from the flowers. Water and lavender flowers in the lower half of the alembic are heated. As this happens, steam passes through the plant material, vaporizing the 120 chemicals which are contained in the flowers. These vapors then evaporate and are cooled by cold water on the upper section of the alembic.

    The condensation – lavender water – then flows out into an awaiting container. Having been left to settle, oil rises to the top of the water, which can be withdrawn by a syringe. This process is one which is repeated numerous times by the artisans to create lavender products.

    Eddé hopes that by investing in lavender and associated products, her shop will support the infrastructure of rural tourism. “I think it adds something to visiting a place beyond restaurants and beaches. It promotes local crafts and talent,” she maintained.

    Indeed, she works with numerous local designers and artisans to stock her boutique. Her handbags require a leather crafter, her hats a hatter, and her soap dishes a glassmaker.

    Her fragrances and soap are traditionally made in Beirut and Tripoli, sometimes by schoolchildren who are learning a trade.

    Eddé is keen to provide business and skills for local people as much as possible.

    So, in addition to its traditional benefits, the use of lavender could also herald a few more.

    Amada Hostel, Fidar - [more]
    By: Tourism Lebanon Team
    Date: Saturday, August 22, 2015



    Amada Hostel is situated in Fidar, a coastal city just before the famous city - Byblos (Jbeil). Fidar is famous for its beautiful & clean sandy beaches with a lot of resorts and restaurants, such as Bourj El Fidar, Ocean Blue and Abou Philippe to name a few.

    To reach Amada Hostel from Beirut, you have to turn right just before the AUL University (Fidar Entrance), go up the bridge and take the first left turn. If you are coming from the North, turn right under the bridge (facing the AUL University).

    The entrance of the Hostel is very clean and has a lot of handmade crafts, and pots, wood work and trees.

    You will get a very good feeling about the place; however, the rooms are not as well maintained as the entrance. Concerning the rooms, the overview is good based on the price, but they need more work and attention. There is no small fridge, no mop stick for the bathroom, no water, no extra toilet paper, no breakfast... which might turn some people off.

    The hostel has rooms with a sea view and others a mountain view. The beach is about 5 minutes walk from the hostel.