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Everything's better under Lebanon's sea - [more]
By: Kareem Shaheen
Date: Sunday, October 19, 2014

BEIRUT: Under the water, you can be a child again. No longer does the constant stream of messages and alerts from social networks or the incessant din of an office space distract you.

Every nook can be explored, every rock upturned; you chase curiously after rainbow-colored fish, the impulse to investigate the world you have suddenly discovered takes hold.

Then a tug on the flipper. It’s Walid Ghotmeh, the scuba diving instructor, and he motions you to slow down and enjoy the show. Relax and keep your eyes open.

The easy swim is held off the coast at the American University of Beirut, about 10 meters out for the beginner divers who are just testing the waters with the “Discover Scuba Diving” program set up by the Calypso Diving Club, based at the Movenpick Hotel in Raouche. The expert divers are farther out at sea, having been dropped off earlier, flawlessly slipping under the calm waters.

Riding out to the diving spot on a clear summer day is cause enough to fall in love with water sports. The din of the boat engine drowns out the conversations around you, and there is nothing but the salty sea breeze. The sun-kissed Mediterranean Sea embraces the sky on the horizon, and Beirut lies a seeming world away, its skyline belying the traffic jams and buzz of life.

The waters off of AUB are surprisingly clean. Visibility is a few meters in all directions, enough to entice you on to the next curiosity.

The Discover Scuba Diving session, about four hours in all, begins with a theoretical introduction to the sport and basic scuba diving gear, including how to breathe underwater or inflate and deflate your diving suit.

Next, the instructors take you on a brief test drive of the equipment at the Movenpick pool. It’s quickly evident why the test run is necessary, because breathing underwater and getting used to the pressure gauge can be counterintuitive to a first-time diver who might panic if a little water gets into the breathing regulator (the water can be expelled with a small push of a button).

It’s easy to tense up and panic, said Mohammad Azzam, another driving instructor.

“That’s why we do it in the pool first,” he said.

Next is a trip out to sea by the AUB wall, where the staggered depths allow both beginner and advanced divers to explore.

Bassam Oud, the club manager at Calypso, said scuba diving was growing in popularity in Lebanon because the sport had become safer as a result of a growing understanding of the science of diving and improvements in the equipment. He added, however, that would-be divers should seek out diving centers with experienced trainers and proper safety procedures.

He said parents were now bringing their children in to learn the sport at an early age.

“We have divers from all ages and genders,” he said, adding that every year the club saw 200 “new faces.”

In addition to Discover Scuba, Calypso offers full courses where divers can get internationally certified to pursue the sport anywhere they travel, as well as rescue and first-aid classes and cave-diving sessions, among others.

The main open-sea diving course includes a series of lectures on diving science, how to use the equipment, how pressure and being underwater affects the body and so on. This is followed by a few sessions at the swimming pool and then five dives in the sea.

Calypso’s program costs $500, including equipment rentals. After that, Oud said, divers can try out specialized experiences such as night diving to decide if they want to pursue more advanced courses and eventually even become certified as a diving instructor.

Many make use of their training on travels to tropical locations. But most stay in touch with the center and continue diving, he said, even becoming instructors sometimes, teaching their close friends or family.

“That link stays,” he said.

Many of those flocking to the center now are university students on summer vacation and professionals looking to de-stress from the office.

Oud said would-be scuba divers should do their homework and research courses before taking them, comparing them to what international dive centers offer. Quality courses ensure that divers are taught proper safety procedures.

“If you don’t follow the standards, you are going to have an accident and either get hurt or lose your life.”

Oud said the regular dives occurred in Beirut, between the Movenpick’s marina and Ain al-Mreisseh. Outside the city, locations span from Batroun to Khalde, where a Vichy French submarine sunk in 1944 – a popular haunt for divers.

The center takes occasional longer trips as far south as Sidon, which has deeper wrecks to explore.

Oud said he did not have a favorite personal diving spot, given that it was his job to dive, but added that each one had a different “fragrance.”

But he sounded in awe of one particular site in Tripoli – a British frigate sunk in 1884 that stands pointing upward underwater, from a depth of 70 meters to a staggering 144 meters.

The site is off-limits to scuba divers now due to a government order to prevent theft and claims by rival dive centers. But Oud calls it the “Everest of scuba diving.”

Stepping up efforts to save Beirut's walkways - [more]
By: Kate Maddox
Date: Wednesday, June 18, 2014

BEIRUT: Ambling along the narrow streets of Beirut's Mar Mikhael and Geitawi neighborhoods on a balmy morning, master's students from Balamand University's Academie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts lead groups of design enthusiasts on a heritage-esque tour of the areas' famous stairs.

One guide tells stories of the family who built the well-known Vendome Stairs – named after a long-gone theater at their base – and another recounts tales told by residents about a large stone in the middle of a flight north of Roum Hospital. The story goes that a drunken man comes every night to try to move it to the top but to no avail.

From secret steps tucked into the entrances of old buildings to short, wide flights shaded by webs of cables and serving as the only outlets for some apartments, the stairs are a defining feature of the capital's hilly eastern areas.

The guided stroll, led by students Honeine Laeticia, Kallab Cyril, Salamoun Elias and Rouhana Joyce, and their instructor Diala Lteif, was intended to raise awareness of the imminent threat to the steps created by a slew of new developments.

"The main problem is a lack of preservation. None of the buildings along the tour or in that neighborhood are classified as heritage sites by the government," said Lteif, who taught a semester-long course focusing on the stairs as part of ALBA's new global design program.

Letif added that the students had conducted onsite research by interviewing residents in preparation for the tours, which were part of last week's Beirut Design Week and were accompanied by an open workshop to brainstorm ways to protect the neighborhoods' traditional character.

"In the program at ALBA, we look at design as a process to solve a problem ... and the users [of the design] are the main focus," she explained. "Since we are contextually embedded in the city around us, it made sense for us to look at the design problems we face in the city."

Lteif's students hit the streets to talk with residents of Mar Mikhael and Geitawi, many of whom were older and had lived in the area for decades, about the stairs and the lack of heritage protection.

She said what the students discovered as they began to explore the neighborhoods outraged them. Seemingly on every corner, towers were being built, causing real estate developers to seek new outlets for the additional vehicular traffic such apartments bring.

The draft rent law recently passed by Parliament, under which old rents would be raised incrementally and tenants could be evicted with no compensation after nine years, threatens more upheaval, as does the controversial Fouad Boutros Highway project. The proposed road would pass from Ashrafieh to the port, with at least one flight of historic stairs, several traditional buildings and a large public garden being demolished in the process.

Additionally, as the stairs were mostly built as outlets for buildings located on the areas' steep hills, all but one flight in the area are divided into sections that are privately owned by the landlords of the buildings immediately fronting them.

This means that as developers buy up old houses and plots for new construction projects, they also acquire ownership of the stairs in front of them, which serve the greater public of the neighborhoods.

Lteif and her students predicted that most of the stairs would be demolished in 10 years' time.

However, the young designers found that many residents were unwilling to face the reality of the situation, feeling helpless to do anything in the face of the government and the real estate developers with their bottomless "wasta."

On the tour, one of the students spoke about a woman whose apartment, just off one of the large flights of stairs leading up from Armenia Street and surrounded by creeping vines and greenery, was soon to be dwarfed by a mammoth tower currently under construction. When asked if she had considered doing something or moving, the woman replied she couldn't even if she had anywhere else to go; having lived in the building for decade, it was the only home she knew.

Still, Lteif said, the students were able to establish trust with some older residents and discuss ways to fight back against the loss of historic structures. This was key, she said, as central to any design project is to "build empathy for the people you are designing for."

Proposed solutions to the problem of integrating the stairs into the area's design future include more cultural projects and festivals held around them as well as gardens and public areas incorporated along the steps to increase residents' stake in the flights as communal spaces.

Lteif added that she and the class hoped Paint Up, the group responsible for the stairs' colorful paint jobs, would continue bringing life to the steps with their initiatives.

"What we do is participatory design work, we want to reach out to the community. ... I always tell my students, a good designer is an engaged designer."

Heritage, tech and foreign guests at Beirut Design Week - [more]
By: Beckie Strum
Date: Friday, June 06, 2014

BEIRUT: Beirut Design Week, the city’s most extensive platform to promote and connect the local design industry, will kick off Monday with six days of open houses, workshops and lectures.

This year includes more than 80 events hosted by local design studios and visiting industry professionals, including guest speakers British fashion journalist Hilary Alexander and London-based artist Mona Hatoum. The week will incorporate new technology workshops, a focus on urban design and preservation, and a larger presence of foreign participants than in past years.

“There are many more international designers coming from abroad,” said Maya Karanouh, chair of the MENA Design Research Center, which founded the design week in 2012. This year has drawn some 21 visiting participants, with French product designers, British curators and a whole exhibition dedicated to the Dutch creative industry.

In past years, participants from abroad included lecturers and workshop instructors; this will be the first year foreign designers are exhibited. Beirut Souks will host from June 9 to 14 Dutch Design and Danish Architecture exhibitions.

“This year is pretty interesting because the new Dutch Ambassador [Hester Somsen] really wanted to make a statement, not only from a cultural perspective for the economic benefit. She tried to get the best people, who’ve had the most success to come join,” said Doreen Toutikian, director of the MENA Design Research Center.

Lebanon has one of the highest concentrations of designers per capita in the world, but a miniscule population makes dependence on the local market impossible, Toutikian and Karanouh explained. Beirut Design Week was created for the benefit of Lebanese designers, but having an international presence, they said, is great for cultural exchange. Such international collaboration is essential for local designers who must tap into markets abroad, as well as students who need specialized training.

“Lately many of the graphic designers from Lebanon who focus on typography end up doing their master’s in Holland,” Toutikian said.

Beirut Design Week encompasses the varied fields that fall under that professional umbrella: fashion, product, architecture, graphic, urban planning, plus the artisanal craftsmen essential to production. This year design technology and application development will have a bigger role than in past years.

Visitors from Aalto University in Finland will guide a three-day workshop at Badguer in Burj Hammoud that will harness technology to better connect communities. Representatives from Philips Design will also lead a practical tutorial on using Axure RP, software to design prototype smartphone applications.

“This is the most tech-design workshop we have because people will actually be learning a new software,” Toutikian said.

One of the cultural hits of last year’s design week was a walking tour through Burj Hammoud’s artisanal workshops. Organizers have expanded the focus on preserving cultural heritage with another walking tour of the old stairs from Gemmayzeh into Mar Mikhael. Led by a researcher at ALBA University, the tour will cover the history and purpose of these stairs, most of which date back to the Ottoman era.

“It’s general history about why they exist and what their value is, a lot to do with Lebanese heritage, architecture and urban structures,” Toutikian said.

Although the Tourism Ministry has been supportive of Beirut Design Week since its inaugural year in 2012, this is the first year the event is officially under the ministry’s patronage, Karanouh said.

“We started with 50 participants and it has grown in maturity, it has grown in the public eye. More people every day call us instead of the other way around and want to be added to the participants list. At the end of the day it’s getting recognition on that level that is really important.”

For a detailed list of events, visit Beirut Design Week’s website beirutdesignweek.org.

Ten-plus things to check out in Tripoli - [more]
By: Venetia Rainey
Date: Thursday, June 05, 2014

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Finally, after a long spell of cyclical clashes and seemingly never-ending violence, Tripoli is ready to receive visitors again.

The souks are bustling, the soldiers are no longer posted inside the castle (just outside it), and the sound of snipers has been replaced with the thrum of life. Lebanon’s northern city has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently, but everything that makes it such a glorious and rewarding city to visit is still there. Tripoli is utterly different from anywhere else in the country; from the Ottoman hammams to the Mamluk madrasas (religious schools) to the winding alleyways of shops, this is a real Arab city.

But it’s not just the wealth of guidebook-worthy sites that make Tripoli worth the hour-and-a-half journey from Beirut, it’s also the famous sweets, the hidden bohemian cafes, and, of course, unassuming yet charming Mina, Tripoli’s quieter, little sister city.

NO. 1: THE CASTLEIs it Crusader? Is it Fatimid? Is it Mamluk? Is it Ottoman? The answer is, as with so many sites in Lebanon, it’s a mix of all of them. Known as the Citadel Raymond de St. Gilles, giving it a distinctly European air, it in fact owes much of its current form to centuries of additions, modifications and enlargements by various Arab dynasties.

Signs posted in English and Arabic throughout the site explain the main features, making this an easy and pleasurable visit; just don’t be put off by the heavy Army presence outside.

On top of the various attractions inside – including the prison, stables, turrets and multiple floors to explore – the castle, which perches above the city, boasts magnificent views in every direction. To the southeast is the jagged outline of the Cedars, while to the north and the west is the glistening Mediterranean, and, on a good day, you can even see Tripoli’s famed Palm Island Nature Reserve, aka Rabbit Island.

NO. 2: THE SECOND-HAND CLOTHES STREETMore of a cluster of shops than a whole street, this is the place to go for the sort of inexpensive, second-hand jumble of clothes, shoes and handbags that is sadly missing in Beirut. Think of it as a pint-sized, much more chilled out Souk al-Ahad. Ask for directions to “belleh” next to the Mansouri Mosque.

NO. 3: COFFEE AT AHWAK TAFSEHThis place is a total institution among bourgeois Tripolitans. Everyone knows about it, and yet there is (nearly) always somewhere to sit and enjoy an orange juice and some of their famous carrot cake while daily life rumbles on around you. Expect to share the place with people playing guitar, indulging in a game of backgammon and having fiery debates.

NO. 4: THE SOAP KHAN AND THE TAILOR’S KHANTo see a beautiful, traditional khan – essentially the medieval equivalent of an airport hotel – Khan al-Saboun in the Old City is the place to go. Although a little run-down, the rectangular courtyard surrounded by two floors of rooms boasts a charming shop selling handmade soaps and a trough that has been reclaimed as a pond by geese and ducks.

For something a little more unusual, make your way to the Khan al- Khayateen on the outskirts of the fabric souk. Unlike most other caravanserais that are enclosed within four walls, the tailor’s version is a long alley with vaunted archways that opens up onto Abu Ali River.

NO. 5: RAFAAT HALLAB/ADEL-RAHMAN HALLAB AND SON SWEET SHOPSure, every place in Lebanon has its own special sweet shop, but Tripoli’s sweet shops are the original and make the perfect pick-me-up during a daytrip. You’ll see plenty that feature the name Hallab, but these two are said to be the oldest. Whether you’re in the market for some lahmeh bil ajine with pomegranate molasses or some warm knafeh, you won’t be disappointed.

For the adventurous among you, head to the notorious Syria Street in Bab al-Tabbaneh and look for Al-Kanaa. Try the knafeh Traboulsiyeh, made with ashta instead of cheese, and mafroukeh – a delicious paste of crushed, caramelized semolina.

NO. 6: SOUK CRAWL Madrasas, mosques, hammams, mazelike alleyways stuffed with stalls selling everything you could ever think of. This is the real souk experience in Lebanon, and one you won’t find anywhere else in the country.

You could spend hours wandering Tripoli’s ancient market area before you would be bored of spotting all the stunning architectural details, from the ornate Mamluk entrance of a madrasa to the dome of an Ottoman mosque peering out from between other buildings. Not to mention visiting both the disused and working hammams – some of the only ones left in the country – and bargaining for gold necklaces, spices, fruit and shoes.

If you’re going solo, take a map and a guide book and make sure to ask for the Qartawiya, Nuuria and Tawashia Madrasas to check out their stunning facades. Hammams worth visiting include the sprawling but deserted Hammam al-Nouri and the still-functioning Hammam al-Abed.

For those who prefer to go on a guided tour with a local who knows the area inside out and can get you into all the hammams and mosques, Mira Minkara, a guide who hails from Tripoli, does a tour of the Old City that includes all these sites and a few more. Contact: 70-126-764

NO. 7: TAYNAL MOSQUETopped by five domes painted mint green and ivory and located next to a large, green prayer square, this Mamluk mosque is an absolute gem. The inner portal leading from the first chamber to the main room is a stunning example of the ablaq architectural style, which involves alternating slabs of light and dark stone and can be seen throughout Tripoli’s Old City.

Visitors must dress appropriately (covering below the knees and elbows and for women, the hair) to get in. The mosque is located toward the south of the city right by the Bab al-Raml cemetery.

NO. 8: OSCAR NIEMEYER AT RASHID KARAMI TRIPOLI INTERNATIONAL FAIR Dubbed a “modernist wonderland,” this unique site turns reinforced concrete into a thing of beauty. Visitors can enjoy 40,000 square meters of creations by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, from a cone-shaped experimental theater to a soaring archway.

There is no entrance fee, but you do need to obtain permission before trying to visit.

The best way to see these sights and get a bit more out of the trip than just sunburn is to join one of Minkara’s guided tours of the site, one of her most popular offerings.

NO. 9: A FISH SANDWICH IN MINA Mina – Tripoli’s laid-back little sister – is a seafood lover’s dream, boasting everything from grilled fish to raw scallops. But it’s the fish sandwiches, made with samkeh harra, that are its most famous offering.

Hands down the best known place for this unassuming treat of ground-up fish and spicy pepper tucked into bread is Abu Fadi, which can be found just in front of the fisherman’s port.


EL-NESSIMCalm, cool and quiet – Beit el-Nessim is a spiritual sanctuary for anyone weary after a day of shopping and sightseeing.

Tucked in a picturesque backstreet of Mina, the boutique hotel-cum-cafe-cum-yoga center specializes in positive vibes and a slower pace of life. Lilies float in bowls on shelves, light trickles through stained glass windows and plants line the sun-kissed rooftop.

Every Thursday at 6 p.m., visitors are invited to join the owner Nabil in a beginner-friendly Hatha yoga class that is just the ticket to get you stretching, breathing and reclaiming your body from its usual chair slump.

If yoga isn’t your thing, you can also just read a book with a cup of coffee in the beautifully restored ground-floor cafe, which boasts stone walls, vaunted archways and wooden benches. For those looking to stay the night up north, this is an excellent option, if a little pricey.

No. 11: TIMMY’SA friendly, atmospheric place to get a beer and smoke a narguileh at the end of the day, Timmy’s is a favored haunt for young, liberal Tripolitans. Hidden away on a quiet road at the end of Mina’s main bar street, head here to meet locals, put up your feet and perhaps catch a World Cup game.

What's on this weekend in Beirut - [more]
By: The Daily Star
Date: Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer fashion week

St. Georges Beach and Yacht Club, Ain al-Mreisseh

May 31, 4:30-10:30 p.m.

LIPS modeling and event management is hosting the second edition of its Summer Fashion Week on the outdoor terrace of St. Georges Yacht Club. The show features summer collections from local and regional designers on a 50-meter catwalk.

Teleferique May festivities

Teleferique Gardens, Harissa

Saturdays and Sundays, until June 10


Harissa, Jounieh's iconic holy site, is offering free teleferique rides every weekend throughout the month of May, as well as live music and art displays.

La Dolce Vita

Venezia, Hilton Beirut Metropolitan Palace

May 30 until June7

The Hilton has teamed up with the Italian Embassy for a special weeklong celebration of Italian cuisine. Italian Executive Chef, Paolo Rocco, will concoct authentic Italian dishes for an unforgettable gastronomic experience.

Garden Show

Hippodrome, Beirut

May 31, 5-11 p.m.

In its 11th edition, the Garden Show and Spring Festival brings together leaders in the country's landscaping and flower industry, as well as agriculturalists and top chefs. Read The Daily Star coverage.

Hamra Street festival

Hamra main street

June 1, 10 a.m.-11 p.m.

The Ahla Fawda Hamra Festival offers a showcase of exceptional talent from all over Lebanon. Paint on walls or watch artists paint. Enjoy a large selection of art and book on display, or perhaps enjoy a story being read out loud.



Metropolis Cinema-Sofil, Ashrafieh

May 31, 8 p.m.


The Danish Feast continues with Kasper Holten's screen adaptation of Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni." Holten's sophomore feature, it focuses on the balance between man's sexual instinct and destructive drive.


'Mara La Wa7da'

Theatre Monnot, Next to St. Joseph's Church, Ashrafieh

May 31, 7 p.m.

Dario Fo and Franca Rame's one-woman play about gender-based violence, "A Woman Alone," features Kholoud Nasser as a married woman who unmasks the psychological, emotional, and sexual secrets of her private life.

'Sitt Marie-Rose'

Babel Theater, Cairo Street, Hamra

May 31, 9 p.m.


Directed by Bachir Achkar, this adaptation of Etel Adnan's novel of the same name explores the story of Sitt Marie-Rose, who is persecuted by her own community for providing help to those from other camps, other nationalities and other religions. Read The Dailr Star review.

'Dahes wa al-Ghabraa'

Dawar al-SHAMS, Tayyouneh Roundabout

Through June 1, 8:30 p.m.


Abdel Nasser Yassin's black comedy takes its title from pre-Islamic history: the famous 40-year-long contest between the Zubbiyyani and Abs clans to decide who would protect the region's pilgrimage caravans.

"EPIPHANY: Persephone in Beirut'

Beit Waraq, Ras al-Nabaa

Every Friday to Monday through June 9, 8:30 p.m.


Directed by Hussein Nakhal and starring Dana Mikhael as Persephone, daughter of Zeus, this immersive performance transports elements of Greek mythology to contemporary Beirut. Read The Daily Star review.

'Znoud al-Sitt"

Theatre Monnot, next to St. Joseph's Church, Ashrafieh

May 31-June 1, 8:30 p.m.


Directed by Chadi El Zein, Marwa Khalil and Wafa'a Halawi's "A Lady's Arms" tells the story of the multiple facets of Amal, a housewife whose life in the service of her husband falls to pieces after someone moves into the place across the street. Read The Daily Star review.


'All Mother Tongues Are Difficult'

Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Tannous Building, Karantina

Through July 19


In the videos, installations, embroideries, canvases and drawings in Mounira Al Solh's second solo show, the artist's wry, playful, performance-embracing practice confronts challenging questions of migration and civil war.

'Material Remains'

Ayyam Gallery, Beirut Tower, Zeitoune Street, BCD

May 31


Ginane Makki Bacho and Fathallah Zamroud's works engage with the brutal reality of war and their individual response to its aftermath. Read The Daily Star review.

'This is not a Painting'

Zico House, Spears Street, Sanayeh

Until June 7


Paintings by Italian artist Remo Ciucciomei show the artist's take on Magritte's "Treachery of Images." Read The Daily Star review.

'Art & Design In Times of Crisis'

SLAB A, off Monnot Street, near USJ

May 31


An exhibition of art and design featuring such local and international talents as Ara Azad, Cyrille Najjar, Jean Marc Nahas, Purrl Jewelry (sic) and Tom Young. Proceeds apparently will go to the Lebanese NGO Freedom Child Project.

Annual garden show festival opens at Hippodrome - [more]
By: Sarah Samaha
Date: Wednesday, May 28, 2014

EIRUT: The annual Garden Show and Spring Festival opened its 11th edition at the Beirut Hippodrome Tuesday, welcoming gardening enthusiasts to a week of workshops and plant browsing.

At the festival, located at the Beirut Hippodrome, gardening connoisseurs and agricultural experts offer their advice at a variety of workshops available throughout the week. Geared toward the public and industry professionals alike, the garden show offers a chance for like-minded guests to schmooze, eat and entertain their families. Children can enjoy arts and crafts, cooking sessions and the rare chance to run through a public park in Beirut.

More than a decade old, the Garden Show and Spring Festival has grown each year to become a Lebanese tradition. The event, co-organized by Hospitality Services and Myriam Shuman, is a hub for outdoorsmen of all echelons.

“We have planned this event with the same mission for the past 11 years: to have a beautiful moment in a beautiful garden in Beirut,” said Joumana Salame, managing director of Hospitality Services.

This year’s festival hosts more than 250 exhibitors and approximately 24,000 expected participants, all intent on celebrating Lebanon’s famed biodiversity and outdoor activities. “It’s so rewarding, because you can feel the spirit in the air. It’s like a moment when the world completely stops,” Salame said.

One of the most unique feature of this year’s Garden Show & Spring Festival is the debut of Travel Lebanon, a section of the expo that focuses on promoting local and domestic rural tourism through over 60 different players. “It’s the idea that your country needs you. Visit your country, instead of going elsewhere. Discover its beauty,” Salame said.

More than 250 exhibitors will be present at the festival, ranging from well-known organizations like Chateau Musar to small, locally owned businesses. Exhibitor Nadine Eid is the founder of “L’Orchidée du Désert,” a startup that specializes in turning recycled palettes into home decorations and garden furniture.

“I’ve been to the festival three or four times. It’s my favorite place. It’s a great opportunity for me to show my larger collection,” Eid said. Among her products are customized personal items, wine racks, benches, children’s chairs and house plants like basil, thyme and cacti.

“I like everything that has to do with crafting. I always wanted to start a small business, and recently my relative has been out of work, so I decided to start this with his help because he has a lot of skills with this kind of stuff,” she said.

The theme chosen for this year’s festivities is Jounayne, meaning “garden” or “little paradise” in English. Organizers said they hope the Garden Show and Spring Festival is just that, offering a place of peace in the hectic buzz of city life.

“Jounayne is about building our own paradise, no matter what else is happening outside of it,” Salame said. “Summer in Lebanon is long, and it’s celebrated. This event is the perfect kickoff for our summer.

Garden Show and Spring Festival will be held at the Beirut Hippodrome from May 27-31, 5-11 p.m. daily. Tickets are LL10,000, and women with flower names are admitted free of charge. Visit www.the-gardenshow.com for more information.

Beirut Holidays unveils this year's waterfront program - [more]
By: The Daily Star
Date: Wednesday, May 21, 2014

BEIRUT: It has been noted that the lion's share of Lebanon's summer festivals – the country's yearly cavalcade of blue-chip performing talent and tourism dollars – are situated outside the capital.

Since 2012 the managers of Beirut Souks, the shopping mall erected on the site where the city's historic souks once stood, have entered this market with Beirut Holidays.

This yearly festival welcomes a wealth of regional performers. Previous editions have included shows by such acts as Nancy Ajram and Wael Kfoury, in 2013, and the Michael Jackson tribute show, "Man in the Mirror," in 2012.

For the 2014 edition of Beirut Holidays (July 29 until Sept. 6), the Beirut waterfront will be transformed into a venue for a slate of seven concerts, featuring six performers from across this broad region and a Canadian.

Syrian-born Georges Wassouf, the vocalist that some consider a master of tarab, will open the festivities with what we can assume will be a playlist of such much-loved tunes as "People's Talk," "I Swear to the Moon."

On July 31, Lebanese crooner Fares Karam will bring his well-regarded brand of enthusiasm to his audience with his own much-loved songs, along with some new compositions, "Naswanji," "The One who Lies to his Wife" and "I Saw Her on Hamra Street."

A few days later, on Aug. 2, Egyptian actor, composer and vocalist Tamer Hosni will take the stage from his own one-night stand, during which he too is expected to perform hits whose titles can be translated as "Come Closer," "The Toughest Feeling" and "Your Voice."

For the second year in a row, the erstwhile enfant terrible of Lebanese stage and song Ziad Rahbani will once again take to the stage at the head of an ensemble performance.

This year's show, "Artistat!" will see Ziad perform with a range of performers whose names have yet to be announced.

Beirut Holidays will also host a tribute to the late great Lebanese performer Wadih al-Safi, featuring musicians Joseph Attieh, Sarah al-Hani, Georges and Antoine al-Safi. The ensemble promises to honor Safi's musical legacy with a performance of some of his most famous compositions.

Representing Lebanon's host of divas this year is pop superstar Elissa. Known for her sensual voice, Elissa is expected to charm her audience with a robust array of finger-snapping numbers.

The North American content of this year's Beirut Holidays will be provided by the one-named Canadian crooner Garou, who will draw a curtain to this year's event. Known for his deep voice, Garou is expected to sample tunes from his latest albums "Seul ... Avec Vous" and "Au Milieu de ma Vie."

Beirut Holidays 2014 will take place at the waterfront July 29-Sept. 6. For ticketing, please call 01-999-666.

Beirut Boat Show whets appetite with a taste of aquatic luxury - [more]
By: The Daily Star
Date: Friday, May 16, 2014

BEIRUT: The entrance to the Beirut Boat Show 2014 offered a stunning view of the hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of luxury boats docked in the otherwise industrial and somewhat decrepit port area.

The trade and showcase event for the country’s maritime industries opened Wednesday evening at Beirut’s Pier 1 and will continue through the weekend. Each year, it attracts a mixture of visitors – from interested buyers and boat owners to curious onlookers.

And with around 200 luxury brands on display, there was plenty to see. A Maserati Ghibli welcomed show-goers at the entrance, as did diamond jewelry and luxury watches from W. Salamoon and Sons. Stands selling high-end leather goods and vodka martinis dotted the exhibition space.

At Sea Pros, a Lebanese company and one of the world’s biggest distributors of luxury boats, sales associates were showing off all kinds of nautical novelties, from watersport toys to $6 million yachts bobbing in the dock.

Among the yacht accessories was a collection of Seabobs, a watersport gadget falling somewhere between a body board and a jet ski.

“These are very popular with people who have big yachts,” manager Pierre Kassab told The Daily Star.

Seabobs are high-end toys that propel users through the surface of the water at up to 20 kmh or down to 40 meters under the sea. Though they cost between 10,000 and 14,000 euros a pop, many yacht owners get two or three of them to keep on the boat, Kassab said.

Advocates for the country’s diverse watersports, like Lebanon Water Festival, have driven up interest in seaside activities in recent years.

Another innovation on display can rough up the country’s waters for water-skiers and surfers. Mastercraft Gen 2 boats include award-winning technology that creates a customizable wave trail in their wake for surfing and other watersports, explained salesman Rawad Bou Maacher.

“You can take it out and surf behind the boat all day,” he said, showing off the customizable vinyl siding and colorful upholstery options. The seats rose to reveal coolers underneath and can be folded down into beds.

“It also has an amazing built-in sound system.”

At the opening ceremony, Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon spoke about the myriad projects aiming to expand the country’s coastal infrastructure.

“Projects for the marina and associated waterfront facilities in Lebanon are currently being constructed with the aim of attracting luxury boats and yachts,” he said.

“Moreover, new harbors are being developed in order to endorse Lebanon’s position on the map of luxury boat harbors in the region.”

One such luxury yacht was a 26.6-meter Ferretti 870, whose junior sailors, Charbel Imad and Elie Sfeir, were kind enough to lead a tour through the floating residence. Below deck, the hull was more lavishly laid out than most family apartments, with four bedrooms (each with its own bathroom), two guestrooms and a VIP room with a walk-in closet and skylight.

On deck, an enclosed salon featured white leather wrap-around sofas, a well-stocked liquor cabinet, a minibar and outdoor dining table. The yacht was almost exclusively furnished in white and light-colored wood and parquet to keep the close quarters open and airy, said Sfeir.

“You have to use all of the space,” Imad chimed in before leading a tour deep below deck, where closet-sized rooms housed the captain and crew. And up on the second-level deck was more lounge space, a built-in grill and a hot tub.

Though priced at around $6 million, it’s an investment that an increasing number of people around the region are prepared to make, said Albert Aoun, chairman of organizing group IFP at the opening ceremony.

“The world and the region are witnessing a big development in the yachting and boating industries, which are considered smart and lucrative investments given boats and yacht retain value in the long term.”

Byblos offers up eclectic 2014 summer program - [more]
By: Chirine Lahoud
Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014

BEIRUT: Another summer season will soon start. As usual, the country’s several festival organizations are preparing to welcome the local and international artists scheduled to perform – whom they hope will lure capacity audiences to their various venues.

The Byblos International Festival announced its official lineup at a Tuesday morning news conference at Byblos-sur-Mer.

Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang will open the festivities on July 3. A student of piano at the Shenyang Conservatory since the age of three, the pianist won Japan’s Tchaikovsky Competition prize for Young Musicians in 1995. His European fame began after his outstanding Carnegie Hall performance in 2001. Lang hasn’t stopped touring the world since.

Lang’s next destination will be Byblos, where it’s assumed his repertoire, blending classical standards with contemporary works, will amaze his audience as much as the talent and dexterity with which he performs it.

Lebanese musical patriarch Marcel Khalife will return to the Byblos stage on July 17. One of the country’s great masters of the oud and a fixture in the region’s summer festival circuit, Khalife first found renown for his politicized folk numbers. He then bent his mind to orchestral composition and, most recently, has allowed his career and songbook to be recast through his sons Rami and Bashar.

Two days after Khalife’s show, the hirsute Greek-born crooner Yanni will return to Lebanon to perform what is assumed will be a playlist of his most famous hits. A multi-award-winning talent, the Grammy-winning Yanni has been feted for his albums “Dare to Dream” and “In My Time.”

A decade or so ago, U.K. trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack stormed to the stage of the Baalbek International Festival. Their long-awaited reprise will be staged at Byblos on July 29.

Best known for such early-career releases as “Blue Lines,” “Protection” and “Mezzanine,” The Massive’s mutable ensemble has continued to tour and make the odd record, the most recent being 2010’s “Heligoland.” The band’s collaborated with a bevy of A-list talent, including Sinead O’Connor, Madonna and Horace Andy.

Those into hardcore may enjoy Epica’s performance in Aug. 2. This Dutch symphonic-metal band is known for its combination of female vocals, orchestral scoring and thoughtful lyrics.

For lovers of eurotrash dancehall culture, the highlight of the festival will fall on Aug. 5, when Belgian singer songwriter and Stromae will shake Byblos’ booty. The artist, whose name is “maestro” spelt backward, was catapulted into pop culture’s collective hard drive with his hit “Alors On Danse.” That tune’s success earned him the ambiguous honor of performing a one-night stand at Beirut’s Sky Bar in Aug. 2010. Despite this, his career hasn’t stopped accelerating, and he’s won numerous best artist awards.

A potentially interesting generational cross will be staged on Aug. 6, when the father of ethio-jazz Mulatu Astatke will take the stage with Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, promising to alternate and combine their far-flung talents.

Another local hero, Lebanese-Armenian pianist Guy Manoukian, will return to the Byblos stage on Aug. 13 promising to perform the best-loved numbers of his four albums.

Last but not least, U.S. band Beirut will close the festivities on Aug. 19. The public discovered these indie rockers in 2007, when their song “Nantes” shot up the international new music charts. Having toured the world, this will be Beirut’s Lebanon premiere.

Byblos’ wide range of acts, from the Middle East to the United States, from electronica, rock, metal and jazz to classical, promises to satisfy at least some of its audience’s musical cravings.

The Byblos International Festival will take place from July 3 until Aug. 19. For more information, please visit www.byblosfestival.org. For ticketing, please call 01-999-666.

Reviving Badaro's swinging '60s scene - [more]
By: Kate Maddox
Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014

BEIRUT: Before the 15-year Civil War ravaged Beirut, Badaro was an epicenter of the swinging '60s scene in the Switzerland of the Middle East.

Now, in a much different capital with a much different nightlife scene, it is looking to reclaim the title it lost as an effect of its proximity to the Green Line with a slew of new cafe-bars open throughout the day as well as in the evening.

Wandering along the wide avenue that the neighborhood's sleepy residential streets branch off from, it is easy to imagine the chic restaurants and bars the area was once known for, especially as the shells of some still remain, long ago abandoned but with stylized signs and hints of past grandeur lingering.

"Walking down this street, it's like you're walking back into the '60s. The architecture hasn't changed," said Rudy Mechleb, who recently opened a bakery and sandwich shop that he and his business partner hope will cater to the crowds of young people expected to sweep back through Badaro this summer.

While Don Baker is only open until 10 p.m., Mechleb said he hoped that would change with the 10 or so new cafes and bars set to open over the next two months in the area.

"We hope the business will turn more serious. There are no longer any shops for rent in Badaro, they are all becoming pubs," he said.

Yet, not everyone is happy that the roving center of Beirut's young nightlife scene may soon shift south from it's current base in the eastern neighborhood of Mar Mikhael to Badaro's tree-shaded streets, nestled between the National Museum, the Military Hospital, Horsh Beirut and the Justice Ministry.

Many residents and business owners worry about what the new ventures will bring to the neighborhood, which is already plagued by traffic in the mornings due to its proximity to government offices. They cite the ongoing battle for dominance between valet companies on Mar Mikhael's busy Armenia Street as chief among their concerns for what could happen in Badaro.

Roy Fares, who opened his appropriately named cafe Roy's off Badaro's main road over a year ago and can thus claim the title of the first new spot to open in the area, is concerned about something different, however.

"I'm a bit worried about the lifespan of the street. I expected other bars would come, but I didn't expect it would happen this fast," Fares told The Daily Star. With so many other spots due to open, he fears Badaro will go the way of other trendy areas in Beirut such as Monnot and Gemmayzeh, with many new bars opening to accommodate a fleeting clientele only to close a few years later once the neighborhood's popularity reaches its expiration date.

It took Fares, who had previously worked as a bartender at Demo in Gemmayzeh, over a year to find the storefront space that houses Roy's. Now, branches of the popular Hamra bar Dany's and Uruguay's Wall St. are set to open just across the small side street in two months. Roy's has a reasonably sized interior that is much used during the winter months, but what draws its customers back, especially in the summer, is the ample room for outdoor seating.

Many of the older commercial spaces in Badaro are tucked back from the street, with the overhanging apartments above creating natural shade that is perfect for enjoying a drink under. Taking advantage of this, many of the new ventures are a combination of cafe and bar, serving light fare and coffee during the day and shifting to focus on artisanal cocktails at night.

"This area was made for the restaurant business. There's plenty of space, there's a straight, central street," said Yves Khoury, one of three behind cafe-bar Kissproof.

His business partner Micky Abou Merhy, who launched Oscar Wilde in Hamra as well as Vyvyan's and The Happy Prince in Mar Mikhael, added that unlike with his past ventures, the nightlife scene wasn't the main focus at Kissproof.

"We wanted it to be a neighborhood coffee bar. We have amazing sandwiches and the best coffee in town, in addition to a selection of local beers on tap and foreign beers."

Still, they both admitted it had been difficult in the first five months to get Beirutis to move past the belief that Badaro is "far away."

Abou Merhy was confident, however, that just like when he first opened Vyvyan's, one of the first bars along the now-infamous strip of Armenia Street, his clientele would overcome the distance and soon follow.

"The history, the vibes, the reputation," he said, before Khoury finished his thought: "It brings people."

Of the concerns for the residential character of Badaro, the partners said they had spoken with many in the neighborhood who were happy for the business.

"The valet could be the only issue, but we are working with other bar owners to sort this out before it becomes a problem," he said.

"They're happy the real estate market is picking up, with rates now three to four times higher, and they're happy business is picking up, but there are concerns about noise," Khoury added.

Both said they had been working with other businesses in the area to integrate their new venture into the neighborhood, agreeing not to play music outside in the evenings. In addition, all the partners are members of the Badaro Traders' Committee.

The newest kid on the block, Fouad Madhoun, whose cafe-bar 27 is in its soft opening stage ahead of its formal opening on May 27, is also a member of the association.

"They have been very welcoming. They help with government issues and to ease tension with residents."

"In addition to this, we have set up our own bar owners' association of sorts. We talk about problems, like what to do when the valets come. And I go to Roy's all the time," he said.

Madhoun, unlike some of the others setting up shop, has lived in the area for years and thinks the neighborhood's atmosphere is well-suited to the string of coffeeshop-like bars that are making their homes Badaro.

"The clientele that was already here is helping change the traditional bar culture in Lebanon. It's more calm, more chill."

Youssef Fares raises the bar for olive oils - [more]
By: Beckie Strum
Date: Tuesday, May 13, 2014

BEIRUT: Alongside the commercially packaged balsamic vinegar and vegetable oil in our kitchen cabinet is a 2 liter bottle of 7UP filled with fragrant golden olive oil so local that the anonymous maker, from somewhere outside Nabatieh, made do with whatever containers he had.

Local and delicious? Yes. Exportable? Absolutely not. One can hardly imagine rows of elegant canisters of Italian-made olive oil sharing shelf space with unmarked, recycled soda bottles. Enter Yousuf Fares, one of the country’s 17,000 olive farmers, who is trying to elevate the “made in Lebanon” brand in the global marketplace.

Lebanon is already the world’s 17th biggest exporter of olive oil, according to statistics from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Fares says he believes Lebanese olive oil could be more competitive internationally but, like the bottle sitting at home, lacks the marketability.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the market yet. Only where there are Lebanese do they want to buy Lebanese olive oil,” he adds.

Advocating for one of the oldest and most traditional products in the country seems like an odd cause for a young man like Fares, who runs the olive oil brand Zejd. But he’s become an expert of sorts, one that’s attracted the praise of local food writers like Barbara Abdeni Massoud. And his brand Zejd is a model of how the country’s staple cooking oil could be turned into a delicacy that appeals to foreign gourmets.

One only needs walk by his shop, located on a side street in Ashrafieh, to be convinced.

Hung on the walls and neatly stacked on shelves is Zejd’s range of products made primarily from olive oil farmed and pressed at his family orchard in Beino, Akkar, in northern Lebanon. There are attractive wooden gift boxes, baskets of olive oil soap and a wall-mounted guide to Zejd’s varying products: certified organic premium, tapenades and flavor-infused oils.

Along a shelf, various local ingredients float in 100 ml baths. These are a line of flavored oils, one of Fares’ many creations born from the desire to infuse, literally, a very local flavor into his product. Tastes of thyme, Aleppo pepper, garlic, lemon and orange zest mingle with the pungent smell of olive.

Creating something uniquely local is part of the challenge. One of his most popular products, for example, is a fusion of pomegranate molasses and olive oil. It’s an obvious pairing to the Lebanese, but in places like the U.S. the innovation won Zejd accolades, he says.

“You know pomegranate is getting a huge hype, not only in Lebanon but everywhere,” he says. A foreign customer proves him right minutes later, when she walks in and heads straight for the pomegranate infusion.

“I’m a sucker for pomegranate,” she says before carrying her purchase out the door.

His interest in promoting the local olive also led him to create a line of tapenades, ones that include unorthodox but indigenous ingredients like figs and sumac. And for the health conscious, he’s imported the spray bottle trend to help Lebanese control the amount of olive oil consumed. “In France, [spray oil] has had a huge success,” he says. After all, “even though olive oil is a good fat, it’s still fat.”

The store’s concept is about more than promoting Fares’ Akkar-grown olives. Oil makers outside Nabatieh and Majdaloun will soon have a tanker in the shop, where customers can fill up on olive oils sourced from his fellow producers. In fact, The Daily Star first met Fares manning a stand at the HORECA tradeshow in early April, where he was dolling out tastes originating from Batroun and Koura in the north to Hasbaya in the south.

But getting Lebanese olive oil up to international standards requires more than a good marketing scheme. When Fares took over his grandfather’s olive groves, he and his uncle had to make the tough decision to replace the old, traditional presses and install updated equipment and modern storage facilities.

There are bigger challenges to regulating Lebanese olive oil, such as preventing fraud. Perhaps the biggest olive oil scandal made news several years ago, when it became known some Italian producers resold cheap Tunisian olive oil as an Italian product. Similarly, some Lebanese mix their product with the less expensive, and even less marketable, Syrian olive oil.

There’s also the challenge of education, which Fares is trying to tackle through cooking classes and tastings. “We teach the difference between a good olive oil and a bad olive oil. We bring some bad olive oil and ask them: Which one was bad? Which one was good? What did you taste? Then we’ll make some recipes with them,” he says.

For example, he suggested pairing a plate of couscous with orange-zest olive oil or coating a plate of roasted potatoes with a thyme infusion.

And despite the challenges, Fares says he sees a way forward into specific markets such as Brazil or the U.S. where a local expat community can help promote the product. “But this cannot be done by one person.”

Designers' Week takes online souk to real life - [more]
By: Elise Knutsen, Beckie Strum
Date: Saturday, May 10, 2014

BEIRUT: In the shade of luxury yachts harbored at Zaitunay Bay, more than 75 Beirut designers set up stands to showcase everything from furniture to fashion. As young designers and artisans increasingly launch their brands in the digisphere and promote their products on social media platforms, Beirut Designers’ Week has proven an invaluable opportunity to gain face time with clients, they said.

For Tiara Ghandour, who launched her clothing brand Gate26 just two months ago, exhibitions like Beirut Designers’ Week complement an aggressive social media presence. “I’m on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, but when you’re starting you have to do every exhibition in town,” she said. “Physical [presence] is much better, because not everyone shops online. Some ... want to walk around, to see the products,” she told The Daily Star.

Carefully taking a subtle tiara out of a client’s hair, Sherine Natour said that while social media is important for promoting her brand, exhibitions are ideal for client feedback. “Exhibitions are nice because you can learn what people like, what colors, which styles,” she said.

And no place is better for casual product perusing than Zaitunay Bay, Nada Koussa Itani said from behind her jewelry stand. “People are eating, you don’t have to pay entrance, and you can come and go freely,” she said. “The [economic] situation in Lebanon isn’t very good, so when you do an exhibition at least the Lebanese will come out and look.”

Even more established brands, however, can benefit from exhibition exposure, Guida Khoury said. She sells her organic cotton products, under the label Mellow, at a small store in Mar Mikhael, but says only so many people pass by her storefront.

“Both social media and exhibitions are very important,” Khoury said. “From Facebook I can get clients from the States, but at here [at exhibitions], they can get to know the brand.”

Grace Akkaoui Hakim, whose brand Huggables specializes in children’s accessories, said that while she already has a functional website where clients can order online, exhibitions are the best way to make new contacts. “At exhibitions like this, I have gotten contacts from Dubai, and from Qatar,” she said. “I don’t really care if I sell ... mostly I focus on making contacts.”

Earlier this week, the organizers of Beirut Designers’ Week decided at the last minute to postpone the event by a day, after downpours Thursday broke through an unusually dry spring. For Claire Damaa, traveling from Paris to show off her line of high-end lingerie and lounge wear, Friday’s weather was just perfect. “Zaitunay Bay is such a nice location. I’m living in Paris, where we don’t have the sea or the sun,” Damaa said.

The event offered a convenient platform for Damaa to introduce her lingerie brand, Claire D, to the local market. Originally from Lebanon, Damaa works and lives in France, where her designs sell in major luxury retailers like Harrods department store.

Brightly colored, warm-weather items, like beach totes, sheer coveralls, sandals and sundresses, made this weekend’s open-air market a great destination for summer shopping, Damaa’s product included. For the slew of summer weddings fast approaching, Damaa’s display of elegant silk and lace intimate apparel offered a range of unique options for bachelorette gifts.

For the second season of Beirut Designers’ Week, organizer Sandra Ghattas Ferzli dedicated the market to its majority female business owners, titling the event “Women for a Better Lebanon.” Designers and artisans who spoke to The Daily Star, however, said that not only women, but all of the creative industries in Lebanon need better support.

Damaa, for example, is preparing her own event in June to bring together Lebanese designers who sell in Paris as a way to promote the “Made in Lebanon” brand abroad, she said.

Joumana Dagher, a children’s furniture designer, had a similar sentiment: local designers, regardless of gender, need better support. “I don’t feel the inequality,” Dagher said. “The challenge we face is to find people, men or women ... who really appreciate the work.”

Dagher’s tent displayed a range of extra-large pillows covered with vintage comic strips and quirky wooden furniture. Her workshop is one of the few locally that focuses on children’s furniture. Her concept emphasizes modular designs that can be customized, taken apart and rearranged.

Wedged in a corner of the exhibit among the many ladies who set up shop Friday was Tarek Thebian, co-owner and manager at Taj Hindicrafts, which specializes in home accessories bursting with the color. The Oriental-style cushions and embroidered upholstery are handmade in India, he said. His store is among the new businesses participating this year, and Thebian said he hoped Beirut Designers’ Week would allow him to network with people who could expand the business outside its showroom in the Chouf. “It’s good for advertising and searching for franchisers,” he said. “Zaitunay Bay is a good place for that.”

CrossFit craze hits Beirut's fitness enthusiasts - [more]
By: Kareem Shaheen
Date: Friday, May 02, 2014

"If you still look cute, you didn't train enough." The inscription on the box at the entrance of CrossFit B-Town summarizes the ethos of its namesake, high-intensity sport that is gaining a foothold in Lebanon.

Coach Abdel-Kader Heraki stands atop the wooden boxes, CrossFitters gathered around, sweating and panting. They had just finished a workout of hill sprints, rope jumping, handstands, squats, planks, box jumps and flipping large truck tires.

"This was a little present to warm your hearts up," Heraki said, smiling. "It was by no means your workout."

The actual workout, a string of kettlebell swings, high pulls, box jumps and knee-to-chest pullups, scrawled on a whiteboard, draws a whistle from the crowd. They all get to work.

"All the stress of work and daily life goes away in this one hour," Ahmad Abbas, 23, said at the end of his workout, visibly exhausted, face reddened and sweating.

Chiseled, with nary a visible ounce of fat, coach Heraki seems to embody the CrossFit ethos. He speaks animatedly and with enthusiasm to a group of newcomers attending an introductory workout meant to familiarize them with the principles of the sport. He wears a T-shirt that says "Respect is earned."

An exercise philosophy and company founded in 2000, CrossFit has many adherents worldwide who swear by its mix of high-intensity exercises that combine running, Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and bodyweight exercises like pushups and squats. Thousands of affiliated gyms have opened worldwide, one of which is CrossFit B-Town.

Heraki first discovered CrossFit during a visit to a gym in Montreal in summer 2009.

"I was mesmerized," he said.

He was hooked on the mix of exercises on display, having long eschewed the traditional notion of bodybuilding that exercises isolated muscles and gives primacy to physique over fitness. By the second day, he said, he felt like part of the gang at the gym, a common refrain among new adherents to the sport, who often find the alternating camaraderie and competitive spirit a refreshing change from a solitary jog on a treadmill with the earphones on.

When he came back to Lebanon, Heraki said he would get together with friends at his local gym to do CrossFit workout routines. The intense and frantic nature of the routines drew a few strange looks.

"They would look at us like maniacs," he said.

But Heraki flips it around. CrossFit, he said, is "training for life."

Many advocates of the sport say it combines natural movements that strengthen the body and adapt it to physically challenging situations in real life, a form of "functional" training. Isolated weightlifting exercises, by contrast, are not as useful for overall physical health.

Another advantage over traditional gym workouts is the constant variation in training routines. Workouts are never the same from day to day – the organization that founded CrossFit posts a new "WOD," or workout of the day, on its website every morning.

"It prepares you for everything," he said. "It's not sport specific. We're not just training for a marathon, but you can run a marathon if you also CrossFit."

Now, Heraki has his own CrossFit gym on Australia Street near Raouche, which opened nearly three months ago.

There, he does beginner, intermediate and advanced CrossFit classes three days a week. It costs $75 for access to 12 classes a month, and a lot of sessions, he said, are packed with the maximum of 25 people of varying fitness levels.

Heraki, a certified CrossFit trainer, also has background in martial arts, with a black belt in kickboxing and a blue belt in Brazilian jiujitsu.

To build the gym, Heraki converted part of an underground garage in the building into a brightly lit room where pumping music, his own shouts of encouragement and the occasional roar of a car engine enhance the desire to soldier on with the workout.

He designed the pullup rig on AutoCAD, and the wood exercise boxes that you jump on in some workout routines were built by hand.

"No one ever drowned in sweat," says the inscription on one of them.

That sort of unbridled attitude and the high-adrenaline nature of the workouts can be off-putting to outsiders, who often mock the sport's adherents for having cultish tendencies.

Many new converts to CrossFit preach its creed with zeal and bear blisters from frequent pullups as battle scars on their palms.

The competitive nature of the workouts, which are often timed and the performance recorded, can also be intimidating.

But those who take part in the sport often instead praise its camaraderie. At a recent workout, trainees gathered to cheer on a comrade who was last to finish her set of workouts.

"You're always making friends," said Maya Mirey, who has been training at CrossFit B-Town for a month and a half.

"You don't feel intimidated."

Workouts are also often scaled, with beginners doing fewer rounds or carrying lighter weights than the more seasoned crowd.

When she found out about the sport online and decided to try it out, Mirey said she was concerned about getting too "buff" or muscular. But after training about three times a week, she said the effect was more one of increased fitness. The adrenaline rush from the high-intensity workouts is somewhat addictive, she said, bringing her back for more.

Heraki agrees. He wants to change what it means to work out, to build a community. At the end of the session, the gym slowly empties out, faces flushed but enthusiastic after a few minutes of meditative stretching.

"What you will see [in a traditional gym] is a guy standing five feet away from the mirror doing bicep curls and then texting his girlfriend," Heraki said.

At a CrossFit gym, you won't find that, or a solitary treadmill run.

Lebanese vineyards gearing up to break Europe - [more]
By: Brooke Anderson
Date: Friday, May 02, 2014

BEIRUT: Wine producers throughout Lebanon are getting ready to showcase their drinks in Germany for the “Lebanese Wine Day in Berlin.”

The all-day event, on May 5, will gather 33 Lebanese producers and around 50 government officials at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in the German capital, where they will hope to land contracts with European distributors and raise the profile of Lebanese wine.

“It’s important for people to know about and discover Lebanese wine,” says Elie Maamari, export manager for Lebanon’s largest winery, Chateau Ksara, which has been exporting to Germany since 1991 but is looking to get a greater foothold in the market beyond the Lebanese diaspora.

“Most of what we now sell is to Lebanese restaurants.”

The inaugural annual Lebanese wine fair took place in Paris last year, helping to boost awareness about the product in Lebanon’s second biggest wine export market after the United Kingdom.

It is part of a larger combined effort to put the country’s internationally acclaimed $50 million wine industry on the mainstream map. In March, 11 of Lebanon’s producers showcased at ProWein in Dusseldorf, Germany, as part of a separate Wines of Lebanon campaign. With its Central European location, Germany is considered a hub for distribution across the continent.

Lebanon is already gaining a foothold in the German wine market, having exported around 130,000 bottles to the country last year at a value of $600,000, more than double the $275,000 for which it exported 80,000 bottles in 2010.

Still, it lags far behind Lebanon’s two top European wine markets – France and the United Kingdom – which import an approximate annual value of $4.3 million and $2.4 million respectively.

Along with apples, honey and olive oil, wine is regarded as one of Lebanon’s best agricultural exports, making it a point of pride for many. At a conference last Thursday to promote the Berlin fair, both producers and the Agriculture Ministry suggested that each bottle could serve as an ambassador for Lebanon.

Lebanese wine has long been known among international connoisseurs. It made its first big splash at the 1979 Bristol Wine Fair in the U.K., where it received rave reviews from wine writers who highlighted the perseverance of serious production during hard times.

Since then, Lebanese wines have won prestigious prizes, such as a Decanter bronze medal for Kefraya in 2009, a lifetime achievement for Serge Hochar in 2010 from the German gourmet magazine Feinschmecker, a Green Buildings Award from CNN for IXSIR winery, in addition to consistently high praise from world-renowned wine writers.

But even with its hard-earned reputation over the past three decades among experts, Lebanese wine still hasn’t managed to penetrate the international market or consciousness in the way that the “new world” wine exporters, such as Chile, Argentina, South Africa and Australia have.

Confident that they can join the ranks, Lebanese wine producers – who, though relatively new to the modern commercial market, can in fact claim to be from one of the world’s oldest winemaking countries – are hoping to attract distributors looking for something new, no doubt a long process that will require sustained efforts.

“It is very rare for a winery to get a distributor the first time they exhibit in a new city,” says Beirut-based wine writer Michael Karam.

“Marketing is a long-term project. They shouldn’t assume that if they don’t land a distributor that they’ve failed.”

“This will be one more advantage Lebanon will have on the international awareness scale. Once they can remind people of Lebanon’s strong winemaking tradition, then they can hold their own among other winemaking countries of the world.”

A foreshadow with a taste of the traditional - [more]
By: Beckie Strum
Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2014

BEIRUT: Some 20 years ago Lebanese food in America consisted of thick pita passing itself off as Khibiz Arabi, falafel sandwiches paired with romaine lettuce and carrot shavings, hummus scooped directly out of a dusty, imported can of mashed chickpeas.

“It was Lebanese but very, yani, Tex-Mex,” recalls Philippe Massaoud, owner and chef behind Manhattan’s acclaimed Lebanese restaurant ilili.

Since his days as an overambitious hospitality undergrad, Massaoud has dreamed of revolutionizing the state of Lebanese food in America. He spent his late teens and 20s antagonizing Lebanese restaurant owners, attempting to buy a chain of lackluster falafel joints in upstate New York and watching several projects for his own place fall through.

Opened in 2007 in the Flatiron district of midtown Manhattan, ilili is the culmination of a life’s work pushing to elevate Lebanese cuisine from the equivalent of foreign fast food to its rightful place as a sought-after delicacy. Food critics and peers have not only lauded Massaoud as a fantastic cook but also recognized him as one of the essential matchmakers in America’s recent love affair with Mediterranean eating.

The menu is about 60 percent traditional Lebanese and 40 percent innovation derived from the cuisine’s flavors. Next to staples of Lebanese cuisine – kibbeh nayeh, chicken liver in pomegranate molasses, stuffed vine leaves and skewers of taouk – are inventive bites drawing on authentic flavors while pleasing discerning Manhattan palates.

“The concept fulfilled two purposes: one, to fill a void in what we believed to be traditional, authentic flavors. ... The second was to represent our interpretation of the future of the cuisine,” Massaoud explains.

Take the duck shawarma, for example, which Massaoud claims was the first of its kind. At brunch, classic American eggs benedict is on the menu, but in the place of round slices of Canadian bacon there is traditional Armenian basterma and black-truffle oil.

“I do a foie gras with carob molasses and halawa,” he says. He called his innovations “little things like that” many times. Those little things also included gnocchi clearly inspired by the flavors of shish barak, comprising potato pasta, yogurt and pine nuts. There’s also two versions of fattoush on ilili’s menu: one with kale and one with classic lettuce.

“We allowed ourselves to dream and take risks through combinations that were never thought of before,” he says.

After working or living in the business since he was 4 years old, Massaoud had piles of recipe cards, accumulated like merit badges, from all the restaurants he’d worked in before. He learned the trade in places such as Burj al-Hamam in Antelias, Lebanon, Paris’ Lebanese fine dining hit Diwan and another Paris spot called Nora, when “they were not as big as they would later become,” Massaoud explains.

It was the name, therefore, not the menu that posed the biggest challenge when Massaoud was putting together his business plan.

“We got hung up on the name. I mean what were we going to call it? ‘Baba Massaoud house of falafel?’ Or ‘Beiti Beitak?’ Or ‘Dounia.’ I didn’t want to give it that ethnic feel; I wanted it to be a true interface between cultures. I wanted New Yorkers to own ilili,” he explains.

Friends of his stumbled on the name by coincidence. “Tell me,” a friend of his wrote to another online in transliterated Arabic: “ilili.” The name appealed to Massaoud for its almost numerical aesthetic.

“I love numbers, I’m a number guy. Even the ZIP code for ilili is 10001; it’s also a palindrome, very kind of ‘Da Vinci Code,’” he quips. “Visually, I knew it had an appeal. It captivated me instantly. I knew also that I’m telling my story by opening ilili so the name was very fitting in the context of the restaurant.”

And what a story Massaoud has to tell. Massaoud’s flair for hospitality comes down to genetics, as the family is credited with jump-starting Lebanon’s hospitality industry.

Massaoud credits his grandfather with igniting the entrepreneurial spark in his family’s hometown of Dfoun in Aley, where a number of neighboring families went on to open some of Lebanon’s iconic businesses, such as Aziz deli, Roadsters Diner and, of course, the Coral Beach Resort in Jnah, the family’s hotel where they lived out most of the Lebanese Civil War.

Massaoud describes the chain of events that led the family to move permanently into their own establishment. “At the age of 4, when the Civil War broke out, we were in Aley and we also had a house in Kantari [Beirut]. So, we packed our suitcases really fast and went straight down to the hotel as sort of a waypoint,” Massaoud says. As they left Aley, the family could see men breaking into their home, then looting and destroying it.

“Then our home on Kantari Street also got destroyed and burned and looted. So here we were with one suitcase at the hotel and that’s how my life at the Coral Beach started,” Massaoud says. It was a perverse kind of blessing living at the hotel, where he could watch pastry chefs prepare creme patisserie in the morning and then help flip burgers at the beach cafe in the afternoon.

“I was able to see the entire operation at a very young age, from A to Z.”

Terrifying violence would finally move Massaoud’s parents to transplant their son to Scarsdale, a bedroom community outside New York City, to live with an aunt.

“My father never wanted me to be in the business because he knew how hard it was. He knew how much of a toll it takes on your family life, your personal life because you have your one and only wife, which is your job,” Massaoud says.

His adolescence in the U.S. would help define the character of his food years later, as he dove headfirst into assimilating into American culture.

“I went to American high school; I played American football for the Scarsdale Raiders. For me it was like, I’m here I’m going to be as American as apple pie. I’m going to go for the whole experience.”

Massaoud’s father was assassinated in his final year of high school, the Coral Beach Resort subsequently sold by the time he was a second-semester freshman at Cornell University and his adolescent dreams of returning home and expanding the business were destroyed.

“Around the time I knew I wasn’t going into the hotel business, I took my first class in food and beverage management, and I discovered the blank recipe card,” he says. “I’m very mathematically inclined so I started writing things down and doing trial and error. Fast-forward to graduating in 1994, prior to graduating, I decided I was going to open a Lebanese restaurant in NYC.”

Before that dream was realized in ilili, Massaoud helped conceive and create Neyla, a Lebanese restaurant in Washington. “The Neyla concept, which was named after my sister and one of the daughters of one the investors ... became one of the big success stories in Washington.”

In 2006, Massaoud made his return to New York, where he brought together the team that would open ilili in 2007. It is the ultimate mixture of New York sophistication and healthful richness of Lebanese culinary traditions. Massaoud brings many of the traditional ingredients – the essentially Lebanese flavors like pomegranate and carob molasses – straight from Lebanon.

Manhattan’s flavors are present at ilili, too, however. The restaurant is located in the Asian-populated neighborhood of Koreatown. To honor his multicultural neighbors, he’s made Korean-inspired falafel. He’s also added foods popular among the city’s trendy gourmets, things like garlicky ramp greens and aged steak.

With seven years of success, Massaoud is set to take a step back from the daily grind to plan an expansion.

“I don’t want to use the word franchise. ... Franchise is an ugly word. It would be to branch out. We’re looking at other markets and we just launched a fast food concept called ilili Box bringing mankousheh to New York.”

With his plans for expansion is the possibility of a homecoming to the Beirut market.

“We’re looking at London and Miami and Dubai, and hopefully Beirut when the situation settles.”

One day, he said, when Beirut’s restaraunt industry is ready to start evolving and taking risks again: “Once there is enough stability I’m fully confident Beirut will take its place as a culinary capital in the world.”

Sport and food: Cricket unites expat community - [more]
By: Venetia Rainey
Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

BEIRUT: "Out!" The shout echoes across the sunny car park, and from the edges of a painted cricket field, clusters of spectators clap or shake their heads according to their nationalities. A Sri Lankan batsman walks off into a crowd of teammates eager to dissect what went wrong.On the outskirts of the crowd, Nour Haidar shuffles along in a line of people under a tent and scoops a spicy looking stew of various sized lentils onto her plate next to a vibrant cucumber and tomato salad.

"I don't normally watch cricket," she says with a sigh, "unless my boyfriend has it on the TV – which can be quite a lot."

She picks up a large dumpling-esque pastry filled with spiced potatoes and takes a bite.

"But this festival is amazing, I wish I had known about it before."

Cricket tournaments are hardly anything new in Lebanon among the country's largely Asian migrant community, most of whom work as domestic help or do other labor-intensive jobs. Almost every weekend, the Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Sri Lankan communities in particular gather to practice their national sport – both as participants and spectators.

This past weekend, however, saw something a bit different take place.

The St. George's Day International Cricket Tournament, held in a Université Saint Joseph parking lot in the capital's Monnot neighborhood, was the second iteration of the multicultural event that brings together sport and food and allows migrants and locals to mingle in a unique way.

The main sponsor of the event was Xpress Money, while XXL, Mike Sport and Caritas also gave their support.

"There should be more of these things happening," Haidar mulls. "Quite a large chunk of the population is just put on the side normally, Lebanese just don't normally interact with migrants in a social way."

"We need to break this mentality about these people all being domestic workers, we need to get to know them in a different way."

If there are two things that can level the playing field without the need for language skills, it's sport and food.

"Sport is such a leveler," agrees Briton William Dobson, the organizer of the event. "When you step on the field, nothing else matters apart from your sporting abilities. ... That's great for people in society who are on the periphery or who are made to feel second class."

"I also decided to make the food a big part of it this year because so few people in Lebanon actually know what cricket is, I thought it would bring in people who might not be interested in cricket."

"It's also a nice way to showcase the different cultures."

Apart from an independent Sri Lankan food stand, the bulk of the offerings came from a tent run by the indefatigable Souk el Tayeb.

"This is the first outing of a new project we are doing with the International Labor Organization," explains Pamela Chemali, Souk el Tayeb's manager. "It's all about 'al-tayeb shtegel bil beit,' or tasty homemade food, and we're working exclusively with migrant domestic workers."

Although the project doesn't officially launch until May 24, those at the cricket tournament were able to get an early sample of delicious Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi dishes cooked by people whose cuisine is hugely under-represented in a country of international gastronomes. The final project will also include chefs from three other countries in Asia and Africa.

Libi Khan, a 37-year-old cleaner from Bangladesh, proudly explains her five dishes to hungry customers as they line up with empty plates.

"This is chicken biryani, and this is biryani with beef," she says with a smile, pointing to mountains of rice dotted with chunks of meat.

"This is chopoty, it's made of different lentils, green peppers and coriander. Then there is salad, and finally singara – which is like a potato samosa – and peajeo, a fried lentil cake."

As the queue moves along, another woman takes over the commentary.

"This is the Sri Lankan yellow rice," says Anna Fernando, a 42-year-old domestic worker wearing matching purple earrings and dress. "This is chicken curry – very spicy."

"Also, there is cashew and peas with curry sauce, a fresh pickle salad and fish balls with potato inside," she said.

Fernando, who is also active in rights group Kafa and the Migrant Community Center, grins widely. "This is my first time selling food. I've asked many people if they have enjoyed it, and they all said yes, so I'm very happy."

She gestures encouragingly to one nervous looking customer hovering over the fish balls.

"Plus we have our games in the background, so it is a good day."

Cynthia, 24, said that she had never eaten any of this sort of food before, but liked it: "It was quite spicy, but I enjoyed getting to know some other cultures."

According to Dobson, each of the six women involved in the Souk el Tayeb tent made $100, a great boost for women who are often subject to poor pay and working conditions.

For Souk el Tayeb's Chemali, it's about getting people to see those who cook their meals, look after their children and tidy their houses in a different light.

"As ever, we are trying to make the change we want through food by integrating the communities around us," she says.

"In the U.S., domestic workers are usually Hispanic or Mexican, and Americans eat a lot of their food. Lebanese people don't do this, but maybe this will be the time for them to start."

World-class talent to converge on Beiteddine Palace - [more]
By: Chirine Lahoud
Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2014

BEIRUT: It seems security tensions in Lebanon and the region are not so serious as to keep well-known international performers from coming to perform at Lebanon’s summer’s festival.

The curtain will open on the 16th edition of the Beiteddine Art Festival June 26, when Lebanese diva Majida al-Roumi will take the princely palace’s main stage. The vocalist is expected to perform a selection from her best-loved tunes, such as “Bakeer Falayt,” “Lebnan” and “Nashid al-Hob,” among other favorites.

More than just a pop culture figure, in her role as U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Roumi has also made numerous public appearances in aid of various humanitarian campaigns. Over the past few years she has performed with such international artists as Spanish tenor Jose Carreras and Senegalese singer-songwriter Youssou N’Dour.

With her 2003 debut album, “The Soul Sessions,” U.K. soul singer Joss Stone was credited in certain circles with having revived soul. Beiteddine will host the singer-songwriter’s first show in Lebanon, providing a perfect opportunity for those who don’t know Stone’s work to discover her groovy and rhythmic voice.

Turkish musician and musical archaeologist Kudsi Erguner will return to the festival to lead a tribute to the masters of historic Sufi music and the muwashahat. He will be accompanied by Waed Bouhassoun, Fawaz Baker and two orchestras, one from Aleppo and the other from Istanbul. Vocalists, nai and oud soloists will mingle to immerse the festival audience into a classical musical tradition even older than the stones of Beiteddine itself.

Beiteddine will host another Lebanon debut with Katie Melua’s July 18 concert. Recipient of 56 platinum awards, the singer-songwriter is among the most prominent young jazz and blues talents on the circuit today. She will perform a repertoire of tunes that propelled her recordings up the charts. Songs like “The Closest Thing to Crazy” and “Nine Million Bicycles” promise to enchant her audience.

The Chouf festival is not afraid of dance, nor tributes to blockbuster movies. This year, on July 25-26, Marseille’s National Ballet Troupe will revisit the story of the unsinkable cruise liner, which James Cameron cashed in on almost 20 years ago. “A Titanic Triumph” is a contemporary dance performance that may well make you wish that you too were sliding into the depths aboard the famous ship.

Another frequent visitor to Beiteddine, Iraqi crooner Kazim al-Saher, will return to the festival for a pair of dates on Aug. 1-2. Described as the “Caesar of Arabic Song,” Saher’s shows have tended to thrill Arabic pop music lovers, and will likely do so again this year.

Award-winning Lebanon-born playwright and director Wajdi Mouawad also returns to Lebanon this summer to stage his adaptation of Sophocle’s “Antigone,” to be staged Aug. 7-9. The play will be given a pop-culture edge thanks to the presence of Bertrand Cantat, lead vocalist of the French rock band Noir Desir, in the cast. This unusual collaboration promises to be a unique theater experience.

Additional facets of this year’s festival include LeBAM Orchestra’s tribute to Zaki Nassif and a visionary installation on the theme of the metamorphosis created by the students of ALBA, the Université De Balamand – Académie Libanaise Des Beaux-Arts.

For several of its recent editions, Beiteddine’s concerts have played out within the context of an exhibition or two.

This year “Al Kawanin wal Manakel” is an exhibition comprised of Mohamad Barakat’s private collection of braziers, which promises to shed light on this item of Arab material culture. In multiple designs, Barakat’s braziers will suggest something of how these items were an integral part of the region’s legacy.

Nearby, “Hidden Treasures of the Higher Chouf” is a photo exhibition featuring work by Eddy Choueiry, Walid Rachid, Alsan Joumblatt and Fadi Baddour, which explores the abandoned heritage sites of the region.

The Beiteddine Art Festival will run from June 26 until Aug. 9. For more information, please visit www.beiteddine.org or call 01-373-430.

حصرون وردة الجبل وعروس المصايف في بشري قدمت للتاريخ بطاركة ورجال فكر ومعرفة وحياة مليئة بالعز والمجد - [more]
By: انطوانيت شليطا
Date: Monday, April 28, 2014

وطنية - حصرون وردة الجبل وعروس المصايف في قضاء بشري، موقعها المميز على حافة وادي قنوبين وبيوتها ذات الطرابيش الحمر تشد الناظر اليها من بعيد، وتدعوه لزيارتها والتمتع بجمالها، وتناديه لتخبره حكايات عن ماضيهاالجميل، وتقدم له وردة الجبل عربون حب واحترام وكأنها تقول له "اهلا وسهلا".

حصرون بلدة العلم والثقافة تجمع المجد من كل اطرافه، تحب الحياة بقدر ما قدمت لها الحياة من عز وجاه وعظمة، تعشق روح الحداثة والتمدن، بقدر ما تحافظ على ارث الماضي بغناه وامجاده.

اعطت هذه القرية للمنطقة وللبنان رجال فكر ومعرفة، وهي تعتبر قرية البطاركة والمطارنة والادباء. من هنا لا بد من العودة الى الجذور والقاء الضوء على مساحة مهمة من مراحل تاريخها.

يعود تاريخ القرية الى تاريخ ابنائها الموارنة الذين سكنوا في هذه البقعة الجغرافية من شمال لبنان ، وزرعوا الارض بعرق جبينهم، في الربع الاخير من القرن السابع حسب رأي العلامة الدويهي، واستقروا في الوادي الذي قدسوه بوجودهم فعرف "بالوادي المقدس".

وذكر الاسقف ابراهيم الحدثي "ان حصرون كانت مأهولة ما قبل القرن الثالث عشر، واشتهرت بتعبدها عبر التاريخ فبنيت على الايمان والشهادة.

اصل الاسم
يعود اسمها بالاصل الى تفسيرات عدة، بالنسبة الى اللغة السريانية البعض يعود بها الى سلالة النسب، اي سلالة النبي داود، اذ يذكر القديس متى "ان فارص ولد حصرون وحصرون ولد آرام". وآخرون يرجعون اشتقاق كلمة حصرون من كلمة " خنصر" اي "حاصر" وهي تعني البلدة التي تحاصرها الجبال والثلوج والوديان.

عائلات حصرون تعود بالاصل الى اربعة هم: عواد، السمعاني، حوراني، العفريت. وتفرعت منهم عائلاتها المعروفة اليوم وهي: عواد، معربس، فرح، جباره، السمعاني، حكيم، السيد، عبدو، مرعب، بو نصار، صوما، شكور، بيت توما، بيت عساف، متى، لابا، نعيم، وشليطا.

أهلها ينتشرون في كل بقاع الارض من الاميركيتين الى افريقيا واستراليا، الى حد انك قل ما تزور بلدا الا وتجد فيه مهاجرا من اصل حصروني. محبتهم للهجرة ليس للابتعاد عن الوطن الام ومسقط الرأس، بل لتحقيق احلامهم وبناء مستقبلهم، حيث يعود ابناؤها اليها مهما طال الزمن، ويحاولون بناء منازل وقصورا تؤمن استمرار حياتهم فيها.

يعرف ابن حصرون بإيمانه العميق وتقواه، ويتقن فن الضيافة والاستقبال، يحب الحياة ويعشق التطور دون ان يتخلى عن اصالته اللبنانية والمحافظة على تراثه وامجاده.

عدد سكانها 5 آلاف نسمة، وهو عدد المقيمين فيها صيفا، ويصبح هذا العدد 2000 نسمة شتاء.

تصل اليها من طرق عدة: بيروت - شكا - حدث الجبة، او عن طريق اهدن - بشري، او عن طريق البقاع: دير الاحمر - عيناتا الارز فبشري.

هذه القرية في قضاء بشري تمتاز بكبر مساحتها وتشعباتها، واسماء احيائها، فتمتد نحو الاعلى وتلامس الجبل، وتمتد الى الاسفل وتجاور وادي قنوبين. تشكل الشريان الحيوي الذي يربطها بعاصمة القضاء وجسر عبور الى اماكن اثرية مهمة منها: بقاعكفرا بلدة القديس شربل، متحف جبران خليل جبران، ومغارة قاديشا وغابة الارز.

موقعها المهم والمشرف على وادي قنوبين جعلها مقصدا لنزلاء الفنادق خصوصا وانها على مقربة من مقر الكرسي البطريركي الصيفي في الديمان.

تعرف ببيوتها الحجرية الاثرية وقرميدها الاحمر الذي يزين سطوحها، وهي مقصد للسواح منذ القدم. اول فندق انشىء فيها كان يعرف ب "قصر بيت عواد"، ويقال ان الجنرال الفرنسي "ديغول" نزل فيه ضيفا. كما عرفت ايضا بفندق "السمعاني" وفندق "بالاس".

"مقاهي الزجاج" ما زالت تنتشر في شارعها العام حتى اليوم، تستقطب الرجال الذين يقصدونها للعب الورق والمنقلة والطاولة، ويتناقلون الاراكيل التي تفوح رائحتها الى الخارج وتصل الى انفاس المارة.

تعتبر حصرون بلدة اصطياف من الدرجة الاولى بسبب مناخها الصحي وجوها الراقي وموقعها المميز المطل على الوادي، واكثرية المصطافين فيها من اهالي طرابلس.

يقال ان رئيس الحكومة السابق نجيب ميقاتي له ذكريات عزيزة على قلبه في هذه المنطقة، حيث كان يمتطي دراجته الى ساحة الديمان ويمارس هوايته المفضلة.

حركة الاصطياف تراجعت اليوم بسبب ظروف الحياة والاحوال الامنية في البلاد. وابن حصرون يؤمن للزائر كل ما يلزم لراحته.

أول صيدلية فتحت في المنطقة كانت للمرحوم جوزف البستاني الذي كان يعرف "بطبيب المنطقة". وللسينما بدايات فيها حيث كان يقصدها الشبان والشابات من قرى القضاء كافة. اما السنترال فما زال موجودا حيث كان يؤمن الاتصال بالعالم الخارجي بآلاته القديمة التي تذكرنا بتقنيات ذاك العصر. محطات الوقود عرفت منذ وجود السيارات التي كانت تلبي حاجات الزوار من الوقود بعد مسافات طويلة للوصول اليها، كما ان الطاحونة القديمة رافقت تاريخ حصرون واشبعت الالآف ولا تزال كذخيرة تربط الحاضر بالماضي.

العمل السياسي ليس بجديد على ابن حصرون، فالمحامي والاستاذ الجامعي انطوان معربس ترشح الى الانتخابات النيابية خلال فترة الحرب ولم يصادفه الحظ، وقد ترشح قبله المرحومين ادمون عواد وتوفيق عواد ولم يفوزا ايضا.

القديس لابي
حصرون القرية المؤمنة تحتفل بعيد شفيعها القديس "لابي"، (السان جود) يوم الاحد الاخير من ايلول كل عام، وهو احد رسل المسيح ونسيب ليسوع ومريم. صنع عجائب كثيرة حتى عرف "بالعجائبي" استشهد في بلاد العجم رشقا بالسهام وضربا بالعصي. وهكذا يظهر القديس في احدى صوره مع هراوة في يده دلالة على انه قتل بها ومات من اجل المسيح. وفي صورة اخرى يظهر حاملا صورة المسيح على صدره لانه كان طوال حياته الرسولية صورة عن نسيبه المسيح.

للقديس لابي ثلاثة كنائس تحمل اسمه في شمال لبنان، في بشنين، برسا، عكار واهمها كنسيته الاثرية في حصرون التي بني القسم الشرقي منها في الجيل الرابع والقسم الغربي في الجيل الثامن سنة 770 طبقا للتاريخ المحفور في بلاطة على الباب الغربي منها.

كرمت حصرون هذا الشفيع منذ القدم وبنت على اسمه كنيسته الاثرية التي يعود تاريخها الى الاثار الصليبية. ويقال انها بنيت على انقاض هيكل وثني كان قد شيد تخليدا للملك حصرائيم. ويظن البعض ان اسم حصرون انما اشتق من هذا الاسم بالذات. اكرمت حصرون هذا الشفيع فأسمه موجود في كل منزل فيها، وصوره منتشرة في بيوتها، ومزاراته مزروعة بكثرة على طرقاتها. كما ان عددا من المغتربين والاجانب يقصدون حصرون خصيصا لزيارة مقامه الاثري والتبارك منه ونيل شفاعته..

ولحصرون ايضا اضافة الى هذه الكنيسة الاثرية كنيسة اخرى ذات عقد جميل بنيت في اواخر القرن الماضي على اسم السيدة العذراء وشفيع البلدة. كما شيدت في البلدة كنيسة ضخمة على اسم القديسة حنة ام السيدة العذراء.

المعابد والمزارات
في حصرون الكثير من المزارات التاريخية، منها مزار مار توما الذي لجأ اليه البطريرك (تيان) ابان الاضطهاد، وقد كان مقرا لحبساء كثيرين، ومزار على اسم الملاك ميخائيل، وآخر على اسم مار يعقوب المقطع.

هذه المزارات الثلاثة هي في اسفل البلدة وعلى مسافة منها، وهناك مزار على قمة الجبل يحمل اسم مار سمعان العمودي، ومزار شهير عرف ب"ام العجائب" بالقرب من كنيسة السيدة.

من أشهر خصائص حصرون انها كانت مشتل البطاركة والمطارنة والكهنة والرهبان حيث اعطت ما لا يقل عن 4 بطاركة، و17 مطرانا. وفي زمن غير بعيد كان في حصرون 42 كاهنا وراهبة، ولم تخل عائلة من كاهن وربما اكثر.

وفي الوقت نفسه لعبت حصرون بفضل مشايخها وأعيانها دورا مهما وجيها ليس فقط على صعيد المنطقة بل ايضا على صعيد الوطن، اذ تولى ابناؤها المناصب الرفيعة بجدارة يشهد لهم التاريخ. ومنهم الشيخ يوسف راجي عواد والشيخ توفيق لطف الله عواد.

العلوم والمعارف
اما عن العلوم والمعارف، تكفي الاشارة الى ان آل السمعاني وخصوصا العلامة يوسف سمعان السمعاني (1687 - 1767) زهرة المدرسة المارونية في روما، وواضع رسوم المجمع اللبناني في الشرق، رفع له تمثال في مسقط رأسه حصرون في 21 تشرين الاول سنة 1928 ايام الانتداب الفرنسي، تقديرا لاعماله التي طالت الاصلاحات في الكنيسة المارونية، وآل عواد ومن ابرزهم البطريرك يعقوب عواد (1706 - 1733)، والبطريرك سمعان عواد (1743 - 1756).

هاتان العائلتان أعطتا، ليس فقط لحصرون وللبنان، بل للعالمين الشرقي والغربي على السواء، تراثا ادبيا وفكريا ودينيا يقر بفضله كل العالم.

وبالاشارة الى مشروع المسح الثقافي الشامل لتراث الوادي المقدس سيكون لحصرون الدور المهم كونها تقع على شفير الوادي، وتحيط بالمقر البطريركي الصيفي في الديمان ومن خلالها سيكون هناك ممرات عديدة ترشد الزائر الى الوادي المقدس.

عملية المسح ما زالت جارية وقد كشفت هذه السنة مغاور عدة، وتتولى العمل رابطة قنوبين للرسالة والتراث بتوجيه وعناية البطريرك مار بشاره بطرس الراعي، واشراف النائب البطريركي العام على الجبة المطران مارون العمار خلفا للمطران فرنسيس البيسري، الذي اشرف على الرابطة منذ تأسيسها بمباركة الكاردينال مار نصر الله بطرس صفير وذلك سنة 2004.

وقد درجت العادة ان يزور رئيس الجمهورية منذ عهد الرئيس السابق للجمهورية اميل لحود والرئيس الحالي ميشال سليمان المقر الصيفي للبطريرك في الديمان في منتصف شهر آب من كل عام، ويحضر القداس الالهي في حديقة البطاركة، ويلتقي فاعليات المنطقة، وذلك في لفتة كريمة من اعلى سلطة سياسية مارونية للاطلاع شخصيا على مجريات المسح الشامل لتراث الوادي والمحافظة على هذا الارث وحمايته.

بلدية حصرون تلعب دورا مهما وبارزا في اعادة الحياة الى القرية، وابراز قيمتها التاريخية والحضارية عبر نشاطات عدة تقوم بها ومنها العشاء القروي السنوي خلال فصل الصيف لاحياء التراث من خلال تقديم مأكولات لبنانية قروية من صنع سيدات القرية، اضافة الى احتفالات "تعشى وتمشى" التي تقام في الصيف مرات عدة، حيث تعج القرية بأهلها المقيم والمغترب، فيقفل الشارع الرئيسي فيها وسط اجواء موسيقية احياء للفولكلور اللبناني.

وخلال فترة عيدي الميلاد ورأس السنة تقيم البلدية الاحتفالات وتقدم الهدايا الى الاطفال، وتشعر السكان انهم ليسوا متروكين في فصل الشتاء.

تشجع البلدية النشاطات الرياضية صيفا، وتقيم على نفقتها الخاصة مباريات على ارض تستأجرها بغية تشجيع ابنائها على ممارسة الرياضة والالتصاق بأرضهم. وتسعى الى تأمين ملعب رياضي يتيح لجيل الشباب ممارسة رياضتهم والتمتع بمناظر بلدتهم الساحرة.
وتهتم خلال فصل الشتاء بإزالة الثلوج تسهيلا لحركة المرور، ولا يقتصر على طرقاتها العامة بل الداخلية ايضا، وهي تجند فريقا خاصا لهذا الغرض بغية تأمين الراحة للسكان القاطنين فيها شتاء. وتعمل على تقديم المساعدات الى المدارس الموجودة فيها وهي اربعة: الانطونية، اللعازرية، والمدرسة الرسمية والمهنية، وتسعى الى تأمين مادة المازوت للتدفئة وغيرها من الخدمات اللازمة لتأمين الحضور التربوي في القرية والمحافظة عليه.

اما شرطة البلدية، فهي العين الساهرة ليلا نهارا لتأمين الراحة للمواطنين عبر تسهيل حركة المرور، خصوصا في المناسبات والاعياد ونهاية عطلة الاسبوع.

اما حضور الدولة فيها فهو معزز، حيث هناك مخفر للدرك قديم العهد، يسهل حياة الناس بالتعاون مع المجلس البلدي.

انشأت البلدية في حصرون حديقتين، الاولى قرب مزار مار لابا، والثانية عند نهر المشراوي، وهما تحتويان على اماكن للراحة، وتضم كل منهما منشية وشتول الازهار. كما تم انشاء عيادة للاسنان في المستوصف الخيري للبلدة المدعوم من البلدية، وذلك من التبرعات التي قدمها 12 شابا من حصرون مقيمين في اوستراليا لضم مستوصف البلدة الى الرعاية الصحية في وزارة الصحة وذلك سنة 2010.

من ناحية ثانية، تعد البلدية دراسة جديدة لبحيرة نبع رأس النبع للمحافظة عليه بعد ان اظهرت الدراسات الجيولوجية انه بحاجة الى اعادة تأهيل، وقد جهزت الدراسات للمباشرة في العمل بانتظار مصادر التمويل.

رئيس البلدية
وشدد رئيس البلدية لابا عواد على ضرورة انشاء البرك بسبب شح مياه الشفة خصوصا خلال فصل الصيف، مشيرا الى ان البلدية بصدد اعداد دراسة لانشاء بركة ثالثة.

وقد تم منذ 3 سنوات تدشين بحيرة في جرد حصرون مع 3 قرى في القضاء في جرود بقاعكفرا بقرقاشا، وبزعون، لمساعدة المزارعين على ري مزروعاتهم بمساهمة من اتحاد بلديات القضاء وبالتعاون مع نائبي المنطقة ستريدا جعجع وايلي كيروز.

واشار عواد الى ان البلدية تشجع حركة العمران وتسعى الى تأمين الرخص اللازمة ضمن المعايير المطلوبة، هندسة بناء مميزة، الحجر الصخري، القرميد على سطوح المنازل، وكل ذلك للمحافظة على ميزة حصرون الخاصة التي عرفت بها منذ القدم وهي "وردة الجبل".

وقال: "تساهم البلدية مع اتحاد بلديات القضاء في المحافظة على الانسان ووجوده في هذه المنطقة بتأمين الحد الادنى من المتطلبات للبقاء في ارضه وعدم النزوح منها"، مشيرا الى انه قدم مساعدات الى المزارعين تشمل مواد الرش والبذور والقساطل والامدادات اللازمة والمساهمة في شق الطرقات الزراعية وغيرها.

واعلن ان نواب المنطقة ساهموا بتوزيع مبلغ من المال قدره 150 الف دولار اميركي مقدمة من الصندوق الكويتي على كل بلدية في قرى القضاء، ومنها حصرون لمساعدة المزارع. واستعمل هذا المبلغ لبناء كنايات الباطون واعادة اعمار الحفافي والسواقي في الارض الزراعية.

واوضح اهتمام البلدية بالبنى التحتية، فعمدت الى تقوية شبكة الكهرباء القديمة ومدت شبكة جديدة، وأستبدلت الكابلات القديمة بأخرى جديدة TORSADE بالتعاون مع وزارة الطاقة.

وأشاد ب"التعاون المثمر مع اتحاد بلديات القضاء لخلق بيئة نظيفة وخلق فرص عمل لمنع افراغ القرى من سكانها، اضافة الى ايجاد مشاريع متطورة لحل مختلف المشاكل العالقة، ومنها مشكلة الصرف الصحي، وبناء محطات تكرير المياه، اضافة الى فرز النفايات، بحيث تشكل هذه المشاريع برنامجا متكاملا موضوعا على جدول اعمال الاتحاد لدرسه والاسراع في تنفيذه".

واكد رئيس الاتحاد ايلي مخلوف ان "موضوع الصرف الصحي من اولى اهتمامتنا، ونسعى مع وفد فرنسي باشراف السفير الفرنسي باتريس باولي على ايجاد حل مثمر لهذه المشكلة، "مشددا على "ضرورة حماية الوادي ومنع التعديات عليه وتأهيل مداخله، وتفعيل دور النواطير فيه، والحفاظ على النمط السياحي بعدم رمي النفايات وتلافي الحرائق وغيرها".
واعلن عن انشاء "كيوسكات" في الوادي لتأمين الراحة للزائر ما يعزز الحياة السياحية فيه".

واشار الى "سعي الاتحاد لبناء ملعبين رياضيين في كل من بقاعكفرا وعبدين، وهناك مشروع تنفيذ بحيرة في حدشيت، بعد ان تم ترميم المقابر العمومية في بشري".

وشكر مخلوف "تعاون النائب البطريركي العام على منطقة الجبة بشري المطران مارون العمار واهتمامه بأوضاع الوادي، ومساندته لكل المشاريع التي ينوي الاتحاد القيام بها، وذلك بتوجيه البطريرك مار بشاره بطرس الراعي، واشراف المطران العمار". وقال: "سيدنا يولي اهتماما خاصا بوادي وادي قنوبين ليبقى مقصدا للزوار، ومنارة نشهد من خلاله على روحانية القداسة"، مشيرا الى ان المطران العمار "قدوة في العمل الرسولي والديني والاجتماعي، واب صالح لكل مواطن يعيش في هذه المنطقة العزيزة، اضافة الى دوره الروحي في التواصل الدائم مع رعاياه والاطلاع على اوضاعهم واحتياجاتهم وحل مشاكلهم العالقة، وتفقد المرضى والمعوزين منهم، وكأن الروح القدس ارسله الى هذه المنطقة ليلبي احتياجات الاهالي، ويكمل ما صنعه اسلافه"، مؤكدا انه "بفضل تشجيعه ومباركته سنصل الى تحقيق ما نصبو اليه وكل ما تستحق منطقتنا لتبقى فعلا مقلع الرجال وارض القديسين".

حصرون "وردة الجبل" سطرت للتاريخ حروفا من ذهب وحياة مليئة بالعز والجاه والعز لتبقى نموذجا للقرى اللبنانية.

An intimate getaway at your Lebanese home away from home - [more]
By: Brooke Anderson
Date: Saturday, April 26, 2014

BEIRUT: For some, a vacation means a fully catered luxury getaway to an exotic location, or perhaps it’s an adventure with a backpack and the chance to meet other travelers at a hostel. For others, the appeal can be the opportunity to feel at home in a foreign country – or in some cases in another region of the same country – with the expert hospitality of a knowledgeable local.

In Lebanon, where large luxury hotels are often touted to attract big-spending tourists, the small but charming bed and breakfast – or boutique hotel – model is growing in popularity in the shadows of shiny high-rise accommodation. The standard ranges from simple rooms in a proprietor’s home to suites fit for a king – or a tourist with an appreciation of architecture – in fastidiously restored grand houses.

“I prefer small hotels with stories,” says Samar Youssef, a travel blogger staying at Villa Clara, a boutique hotel in Mar Mikhael – one of the few Beirut neighborhoods left with Ottoman- and French Mandate-era homes lining its streets.

“It feels like home. I get the chance to get to know people.”

Villa Clara was opened by a French-Lebanese couple, chef Olivier Gougeon and his wife Marie-Hélène Moawad, who has a doctorate in business. They purchased the dilapidated 1920s building two years ago, originally for their own use, before deciding to put their professional backgrounds to work and open a hotel with an authentic French restaurant, naming it after their daughter, Clara.

This was in the midst of the Arab Spring, when Gulf states were issuing Lebanon travel warnings to their citizens – still in effect today. The Moawads weren’t too worried about attracting guests, however.

Being a niche hotel with only seven rooms to fill, they have had a steady stream of customers – including European artists and writers, many of whom have become repeat visitors as well as close friends – since they opened their doors in 2012.

“Each room has a different identity,” Moawad says, pointing to the difference between a small hotel in a home and a generic chain.

“Guests can have breakfast at any time of the day. We can manage that because we only have seven rooms.”

Khalil Arab, founder of Al-Yasmine Guesthouse – also named after the owner’s daughter – located in the mountains of southern Lebanon, just above the coastal city of Tyre, was never intended to be a hotel.

A farmhouse that had been in Arab’s family since 1973, it has survived the Civil War, the Israeli invasion and most recently has been used as an observation outpost by UNIFIL. When the proprietor finally reclaimed it in 2007, his daughters suggested that he turn the old family farm into a hotel.

“Little did I know that this would be the greatest idea they came up with,” says Arab, sitting in the garden of the renovated family house and horse stables – now turned into bungalows for weekend travelers.

Activities on offer include horse riding, cycling, tennis, hiking, swimming in the outdoor pool – all on a mountain with a view of the Mediterranean. And, of course, there’s the history lesson from the owner. When the hotel opened, it only served breakfast but quickly scaled up to three meals a day after it became clear that few guests wanted to go out for dinner, preferring the hotel’s home-style meals and atmosphere.

“Had I known how much fun it would be to meet different people, I would have done it long ago,” says Arab. Like the Moawads, he is unfazed worried about the country’s security situation affecting his business – especially given the farmhouse’s colorful history. He says most guests are repeat visitors from Beirut who go there to discover the south and learn about the place through word of mouth.

In a period of political instability, these venues offer the hoteliers a potentially more sustainable model that doesn’t depend on mass tourism, but instead on a certain type of traveler who values history over modern glitz and views of winding cobblestone streets over panoramic scenes. Perhaps most important and memorable of all, they seek conversations with the proprietor about the history of the house and the neighborhood.

For Jamil Azar, who opened two rooms of his early 20th-century apartment in Beirut’s Ashrafieh district to tourists in 2005, making lasting friendships has been a pleasant surprise to his small business.

Now in business for just under a decade, he has helped visitors plan trips to villages and ancient ruins alike. In two instances, he accompanied Lebanese expatriates – one from Europe and another from the United States – to the orphanage where they were adopted during the Civil War.

When the unrest in Syria in Syria broke out three years ago, the security situation actually helped his business, with several guests who were no longer able to tour the region deciding to extend their stays in Lebanon. With Azar’s detailed knowledge of Lebanon’s hidden treasures, he was able to keep them busy.

“I help people find their way, where to eat. It’s not like running a regular hotel,” he says.

It was with this growing popularity of independent cultural tourism that Paris-based Lebanese expatriate Orphee Haddad started his booking website business L’Hote Libanais in 2004, featuring guesthouses throughout Lebanon in traditional old homes, targeting Lebanese city dwellers looking for weekend getaways in villages as well as foreigners who want an authentic experience.

“I’m trying to get under the skin of the country,” Haddad says. He admits that it was at first a struggle to convince Lebanese – whom he describes as both hospitable and private – to open their homes to strangers. But once they did, he says they were surprised with the results.

“This is a global trend,” Haddad says, pointing to the diversity of Lebanon’s range of small-scale accommodation. “Luxury means you’re experiencing what no one else can experience.”

Celebrating jazz for one day in Downtown Beirut - [more]
By: The Daily Star
Date: Friday, April 25, 2014

BEIRUT: Beirut International Jazz Day is back with a lineup of six acts, which were announced at a news conference Thursday.

Scheduled to take place on April 30 under the patronage of UNESCO, half a dozen performances will transform Beirut’s Downtown into an open-air jazz club.

The Lebanese Conservatory Big Band will open the festivities at 7 p.m., mingling jazz classics with newer tunes. The 18 musicians are set to thrill with rhythmic saxophone, trumpet and trombone solos.

Those whose taste runs toward the good old blues will be happy to hear that The Real Deal Blues Band – considered among the best Lebanese performers representing jazz culture in the country – are scheduled to immerse audiences in their smooth Chicago groove. Composed of Hani Alayli, Elie Farah and Issa Ghrayeb, the band will showcase the sound they’ve been working on together since 1997.

The Real Deal Blues Band will be followed by F.B.B. (aka “Funky Blues Band”), who will reinterpret classics by BB King and Elmore James, among other legendary jazz singers and musicians. Their set should prove a nice test for those who consider themselves aficionados of the jazz classics.

An alternative take on the jazz theme will be provided by Xango. This Lebanon-based band takes its inspiration from Brazilian music and will perform compositions by Toquinho, Sergio Mendes and Baden Powel, to name a few.

Called the “Dean of Jazz Musicians,” Arthur Satyan will also be on hand with his Organ Quartet to perform jazz fusion – both Satyan’s personal compositions and exceptional arrangements. Satyan routinely performs around the city several times a week and has released multiple albums. He is among Beirut’s most prominent jazz musicians, so for those as yet unfamiliar with his work, this could be a chance to discover his unique sound.

Jazzmine Bey Quartet will draw a curtain on this day of jazz grooves with their blend of tunes by McCoy Tyner and Abdullah Ibrahim, among others. Composed of four European musicians, this Beirut-based band promises to bring their own unique blend of jazz fusion to the mix.

بركة السمك المقدس في البداوي : تراث شعبي وحنين لماض جميل - [more]
By: سونيا كفروني
Date: Friday, April 25, 2014

وطنية - مائة متر إلى جانب الطريق الدولي العام في مدينة البداوي، ثالث مدن الفيحاء، تقع "بركة السمك المقدس" كمعلم سياحي وتراثي يحمل ذكريات جميلة، ويحتضن ذاكرة القرن العشرين في عز نهوض المنطقة.

منذ إنشائها أواخر القرن التاسع عشر، شكلت البركة مركزا سياحيا هاما، فأقيمت حولها المقاهي التقليدية، وزارها رواد مدن الفيحاء من خارجها، إضافة إلى السكان الذين اعتبروها من المراكز الأساسية للترفيه والاستجمام.

بعض متقدمي السن يتذكرون نشأة البركة، ومنهم من عايش استخداماتها التي يبدو جليا أنها تركت أثرا إيجابيا، وحنينيا لأيام جميلة لم تفارق ذاكراتهم. فالبركة فسحة مشادة باستدارة من حجر ناعم، وبارتفاع يقرب من المتر ونصف المتر، وفي جدران البركة فتحات تصل إلى مياهها عبر درجات قليلة.

يروي السكان عن البركة أنها كانت مليئة بالمياه المتدفق سابقا، وحفت بها المجالس العامة والمقاهي، لكنها جافة اليوم، وغابت عنها الانشاءات المدنية القديمة لتحل محلها أبنية باطون تتنافى بالكامل مع طابع البيئة المحلية.

كان زوار الفيحاء يتجهون للاستراحة على البركة بعد إنهاء الأعمال التي جاؤوا من أجلها إلى طرابلس، ويتذكر أحد قدامى البداوي أن فنانين مصريين كبارا مثل السيدة أم كلثوم ومحمد عبد المطلب ومحمد عبد الوهاب زاروا البركة عندما كانوا يأتون إلى المدينة لتقديم حفلات فنية، واستراحوا على البركة، وتناولوا القهوة، والمرطبات المصنعة محليا.

ويعتقد المهندس المدني المتخصص في ترميم الآثار واثق غمراوي أن "السكان هم الذين أطلقوا عليها صفة القداسة، وأن من يأكلمن اسماكها يمرض، وذلك منعا لصيدها، فنجح الأهالي بذلك".

ويتحدث الدكتور خالد تدمري أنه "في الحرب العالمية الأولى، رابط الجيش البريطاني على البركة، وخيم جنوده الهنود قربها، ولأنهم لا يأكلون لحم البقر، فقد اقتاتوا على أسماك البركة فانقرضت، لكنها فرخت من جديد لاحقا".

ويقارن تدمري بين "بركة البداوي، وبركة سمك النبي ابراهيم في مدينة أورفة التركية، وهي بنفس نوعية السمك، وهناك يمنع أكلها أيضا، ويأتي الناس يتسامرون ويطعمون الأسماك كما كانت العادة عندنا حتى مطلع السبعينات".

ويرى أنه "من الغريب أن الأسماك قطنت البركة ولم ترحل مع مياهها التي كانت تتدفق عبر مجرى خاص إلى البحر".

وظلت بركة البداوي، حتى منتصف السبعينات، مركز تنزه للطرابلسيين يقصدونه في آخر الأسبوع حيث يجدون المقاهي، ويقومون بإطعام تلك الأسماك، إلا أن الحرب اللبنانية، وتحول المكان إلى مخيم لتنظيمات مسلحة، أدى إلى خرابها.

وتطغى على الموقع اليوم الأبنية العالية، فتحجبه، وتنشىء البلدية عليه إنشاءات غريبة عن طابعه التقليدي بهدف إعادة استثمارها سياحيا، ويعتبر غمراوي أن "البناء العشوائي الذي تقيمه البلدية على البركة يشوهها أكثر مما يغنيها".

Bicycle evangelists stake ground in Karantina for Baskil Festival - [more]
By: Brooke Anderson
Date: Thursday, April 24, 2014

BEIRUT: The industrial area of Karantina isn’t typically associated with recreation and greenery, and that’s exactly why it was chosen for a bicycle festival in Beirut.

“This part of the city is forgotten. We want to make an impact,” said Karim Sokhn, founder of the group Cycling Circle, one of the event’s organizers. Sokhn noted that most of Beirut’s festivals tend to take place only in one of three places: downtown, Gemmayzeh or Hamra. He thinks it’s time to put Karantina on the map.

“We can make bike lanes here. There’s lots of green space,” he said, pointing to the area’s trees and quiet streets.

The Baskil Bicycle Festival, the first of its kind in Lebanon, kicked off Wednesday afternoon in the public garden of Karantina. The event, which will wrap up Sunday, is expected to draw around 4,000 participants over five days.

A completely community-supported initiative that includes exhibitions, rides and workshops, the festival offers bicycles on loan from the sports shop Bicycle Generation, insurance sponsored by Commercial Insurance and the posters, done by the MENA Design Research Center, have been donated by the Danish Embassy.

Tucked away behind the coastal highway, about midway between Beirut Port and the Dora roundabout and around the corner from the Sukleen waste center, the garden is at the heart of one of the least desirable areas of Beirut – better known for industrial pollution than greenery. But inside the gates of the garden, the tall eucalyptus, palm and pine trees provide a welcoming oasis of shade and fresh air for festivalgoers.

Even before the festival began, neighborhood children home for spring break were riding bicycles around the garden, oblivious that they were on the ground floor of a grass-roots movement to make Beirut a bicycle-friendly city.

“There’s potential in this area,” Karim Attoui, an urban planner and an organizer of the festival, said as he sat on a park bench, relishing the buzz of children whizzing by on bikes and volunteers putting up colorful posters for the event. “This could be a prototype to show the potential for bicycle lanes and open spaces in Beirut.”

The urban planner is well aware of the potential hurdles that such a project could face – a stagnant government perhaps unwilling to engage with community grass-roots movements, hungry developers waiting to put their hands on the next trendy neighborhood, as well as a public whose hopes have been dashed too many times by their government’s broken promises.

That’s why he says he’s working with the local community to show them the value and potential of their neighborhood, urging them to get more involved and protect and sustainably develop what they do have.

“Instead of sitting and complaining, let’s learn to self-govern on a micro-community scale,” he said.

صيدا بوابة الجنوب ووريثة صيدون اقدم المدن شهرة واهلها اول من صنع الزجاج - [more]
By: ايمان سلامة
Date: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

وطنية - صيدا.. بوابة الجنوب ووريثة صيدون الفينيقية التي نشرت الابجدية في بلاد اليونان، هذا ما ذكره مؤرخوها واعتبروه دورا حضاريا مهما بالاضافة لاكتشاف مادة الصباغ الارجواني آنذاك في بحرها، اذ ان وقوعها على ساحل البحر المتوسط في جنوب لبنان، على مسافة 45 كيلومترا باتجاه الجنوب الغربي من بيروت جعلها صلة وصل بين المدينتين والعالم ويأتي ترتيبها الثالث في المدن اللبنانية واكبرها في محافظة الجنوب.

وقد اجمع علماء التاريخ على انها اقدم مدن العالم شهرة بتاريخها والشاهد على ذلك مرفأها وقلعتها واماكنها الاثرية.

تسمياتها وتاريخها

تسميات كثيرة اطلقت على هذه المدينة منها "صيدون" باللاتينية واليونانية و"صيدو" بالعبرانية والاسم مشتق من كثرةالسمك في شواطئها، اذ ان اهلها الاقدمون عملوا كصيادي سمك، وكما ذكر الكاتب الفرنسي جاك نانتي في كتابه "تاريخ لبنان" (ص- 22) ان اول مدينة انشأها الفينيقيون هي صيدا حوالي سنة 2800 ق.م، وأسسها ابن كنعان البكر صيدون وسميت باسمه كما اورد الشيخ احمد عارف الزين في مؤلفه "تاريخ صيدا" ان صيدا من اقدم مدن العالم واخذ اسمها من بكر كنعان حفيد نوح وكان ذلك سنة 2218 ق.م او قبل ذلك، كما كانت تعرف في ايام يشوع بن نون بأم المدن الفينقية.


عرفت هذه المدينة تاريخيا في الالف الاول ق.م، ونعمت بالازدهار اواخر الالف الثاني وفي هذه الحقبة كانت تقسم الى قسمين - كما تدل نقوش معبد آشمون -.

- صيدا الكبرى او البحرية واشتهرت كمركز للصناعة والتجارة وتقوم المدينة الحالية مكانها.

- وصيدا الصغرى وكانت تقع في الضاحية على سفوح المرتفعات المحيطة بالمدينة.

ويذكر ان مجيء الفينيقيين الى بلادنا يعود الى الالف الثالث ق.م فقد اثبتت عمليات التنقيب التي بدأت عام 1914 على يد الفرنسيين واستمرت حتى منتصف الستينات، ان اليونان هم أو من اطلق تسمية "الفينيقيون او الفنيقيين" على سكان الساحل السوري الاوسط والجنوب وكما كانت "فينيقي" تعني عند اليونان اللون الاحمر، فقد استعملوها للدلالة على الساحل اللبناني وسكانه.

عرفت صيدا مراحل تاريخية عديدة بدأها الرومانيون ثم البيزنطيون فالامويون والعباسيون والفاطميون والصليبيون والعثمانيون وغيرهم، اذ بعد انتهاء الحرب العالمية الاولى وزوال الحكم العثماني وبعدما كانت صيدا معزولة عن باقي الكيان اللبناني بفعل ارادة حاكميها حينها تم اعادتها الى الوطن الام وضمها الى الجمهورية اللبنانية، فعرفت منذ ذلك الوقت بعاصمة لبنان الجنوبي.

اتت بعد ذلك مرحلة الاحتلال الغربي اي حقبة الانتداب الفرنسي والبريطاني والتي استمرت حسب ما تشير اليه كتب التاريخ حوالي ثلاثة وعشرين عاما ليكون يوم 22 تشرين الثاني 1943 تاريخ استقلال لبنان وهزيمة الجيوش الاجنبية وخروجها من اراضيه.

ثم جاء الاحتلال الاسرائيلي الذي وقع في عام 1982 ودام نحو عشرين عاما ليأتي 25 ايار عام 2000 تاريخا لتحرير لبنان باسره من هذا الاحتلال بفعل صمود شعبه واهله في وجهه وانهزامه امام ارادتهم بالبقاء وحب الوطن.

استكشاف الحضارات ودلالاتها

بدأت عمليات التنقيب في عام 1914 على يد الفرنسيين وبقيت حتى منتصف الستينات ثم عادت لتنشط عام 1998 بتمويل المتحف البريطاني مما ساهم بالتعرف الى تاريخ صيدا وحقباتها المتلاحقة كما اوضح مشرفو البعثة البريطانية على اعمال التنقيب والبحث، واشاروا الى انه يمكننا من خلال التعرف للطبقات الارضية ان نسمي مراحل التاريخ الذي عاصرته مدينة صيدا عبر توزيعها وفق ما يلي:

6 طبقات من الصخر وصعودا ترقى لعام الالف الثالث (3000 ثلاثة آلاف سنة قبل الميلاد) وتسمى بالعصر البرونزي القديم.

اما الحقبة الثانية والتي تتألف من 8 طبقات فقد سميت بالعصر البرونزي المتوسط والجديد وترقى الى الالف الثاني (2000 الفين سنة قبل الميلاد).

واخيرا هناك 5 طبقات وتعرف بعصر الحديد او الفينيقي الفارسي وتعود الى الالف الاول ق.م.

كما اكد الباحثون ان عمليات الحفر اظهرت طبقات اسلامية ورومانية ولا زال البحث جار ولو عبر خطوات بطيئة لكشف المزيد من الادوات والاواني الذهبية والفضية والقمح والشعير والفخار واعتدة حربية مدفونة وما الى ذلك من اشياء تدل استعمالاتها على اصحابها والحقبات التي كانوا موجودين فيها.

اقتصادها تجارتها صناعاتها

كانت تعتمد صيدا بالدرجة الاولى باقتصادها على زراعة الحمضيات كالبرتقال والحامض والموز وساعد في ذلك وجودها على سهل ساحلي خصب التربة وغزير المياه وكثير الاشجار كما عرفت هذه المدينة زراعة القطن استمرت حتى منتصف القرن التاسع عشر.


ما كان يميز صيدا عن بقية المدن ان كل الحضارات والشعوب التي وطأتها وسكنت فيها جعلت ساحلها البحري مقصدا تجاريا تعج فيه مختلف ملل العالم من اعجمي وعربي وفارسي وتركي وغيرهم. اضف الى ذلك تجارة الاخشاب وصناعة السفن واستخراج الصباغ الارجواني لطلاء الاقمشة.


يؤكد المؤرخون الذين عاصروا هذه المدينة ان اهلها الصيدونيون هم اول من صنع الزجاج خاصة الشفاف منه، وانشأوا معامل لصناعته على طول الخط البحري وصولا الى مدينة الصرفند المشهود لها بجودة الصنع عالميا وقتئذ، وتميزت بصنع الآواني الخزفية والحفر والنقش وصب الذهب والفضة ومختلف المصنوعات المعدنية، وهم اول من عني بتبليط الشوارع، وجعلوا لصناعة الفن شهرة واسعة وصلت الى اهم ما وراء البحار ولا تزال في متاحف اوروبا حتى يومنا هذا معروضات كثيرة لصناعات زجاجية صيدونية ملونة وجميلة.

عائلاتها واصولها

اختلفت اصول سكان صيدا وجنسياتهم، ففي الزمن القديم ومع ازدياد حركة التواصل التجاري بين المدينة والعالم باختلاف لغاته واديانه الا ان هناك منهم من استقر وسكن صيدا كموطنا ابديا له واذا بحثنا عن اصل هذه العائلات لوجدنا مثلا ان عسيران عائلة جذورها (ايرانية) حسب ما اورد لنا الباحث الدكتور طلال المجذوب، وكذلك الديماسي وجذورها تعود لمدينة الدماس في (سوريا) واما الاسكندراني فهي نسبة للاسكندرية العاصمة المصرية كذلك آل المصري وسعد ينتمون الى الجذور المصرية ذاتها، واما آل البزري فاصولها مغربية وتلفظ (البذرة) ويعود تاريخ هذه العائلة الى مئتي سنة او اكثر والزنتوت والمجذوب ايضا ينتسبون للجذور ذاتها، الا ان المجذوب وقدمها يرجع الى اربعمائة سنة.

اما عائلة قطب، فيعود اصل الكملة الى المراتب الصوفية الخمسة ومصطلح قطب (هي المرتبة الاولى التي يصل اليها الانسان المتصوف اي المتدين من حيث ادائه الديني وسلوكه في الحياة).

اما عائلة الكيلاني ومنشأها (ايران) واصل لفظ الكلمة (الغيلاني او الجيلاني) ولكن اخطاء تسجيل الاسماء العائلية واردة في كل زمان ومكان فتتغير الاحرف كتابيا، وخلافه لفظيا لا يغير من معالم واصول العائلة هذه او تلك.

اما اليوم ومع ترسخ جذور هذه العائلات دخل جيل اخر متلازم اسمه مع نوع المهنة والحرفة التي يعمل فيها على سبيل المثال (صانع الجواهر) غدت صفة مهنته اسما له الجوهري كذلك الحكواتي (الذي يروي الحكايات في المقهى القديم) والزعتري (بائع الزعتر) البني (بائع البن) كذلك الاسماء التي تحمل صفة قدح او ذم مثلا: ابو عقدة وابو ظهر وابو زينب وابوالشامات ونسبة لاداة او نبات او حيوان او شيء كالابريق والكشتبان والبصل وغيرها.

هذه هي مدينة صيدا يختلف سكانها بجنسياتهم واديانهم وآرائهم، الا انهم كلهم متفقون على انها هي الارض التي يحبون وهم يسعون دائما كما في القديم كانت ام المدن، كذلك في العهد الجديد ان تكون رائدة المدن الطليعية.

ملاحظة: (اصول العائلات نقلا عن الباحث الدكتور طلال المجذوب في دراسة "اصول وتاريخ العائلات الصيداوية).
Lebanese vineyards reap the fruits of letting wine make itself - [more]
By: -
Date: Friday, April 18, 2014

Editor’s note: Stephen Quinn travels the world for his weekly wine column and hopes to convey the magic of the grape in ways that anyone can understand. The Daily Star will be publishing Quinn’s columns, beginning with his visit to Lebanon courtesy of HORECA.

KSARA, Lebanon: Chateau Ksara is the oldest continuous winemaking operation in Lebanon. Jesuit priests founded Ksara in 1857, and this religious and teaching order continued to make wine until 1973, when a local consortium purchased the estate.

Ksara has the largest output of any Lebanese vineyard, producing almost 3 million bottles a year. It exports about 40 percent of that total, higher than the national export average of about 30 percent.

The chateau has the largest area of natural caves of any vineyard in Lebanon. The caves are about 8-12 meters below ground, and are natural refrigerators. They maintain a constant temperature of between 11-13 degrees all year round, with 80 percent humidity. A fungus grows in the humidity that helps to preserve wine.

James Palge has been one of Ksara’s winemakers since 1994 after arriving from France. He is also the technical director.

A highlight of my visit occurred when Palge opened a 1942 white made by the Jesuits. The bottle was covered in fungus that needed to be removed before the wine was presented. It was a majestic sweet wine, smelling and tasting of coffee and walnuts, and could almost be described as a spiritual experience.

Ksara is served on Middle East Airlines, and I enjoyed my first taste of their 2012 Blanc de Blancs on my flight to Beirut. It is a blend of 50 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon and 20 percent chardonnay, and is the best-selling white in Lebanon. It is easy to see why this delicate and floral wine is so popular.

Another memorable wine was the 2012 Gris de Gris, a blend of carignan and grenache gris. It is delicate yet has splendid acid zing combined with aromas and flavors of green apples and flowers.

The flagship wine is the Le Souverain, a 50:50 blend of cabernet sauvignon and arinarnoa. The latter is a hybrid of merlot and petit verdot developed in 1956.

The 2008 vintage is the current release and is majestic. Huge aromas of blackberries, chocolate, carob and liquorice greet the nose before subtle yet perfumed textures adorn the mouth. A wine to keep for decades for special occasions.

Elie Maamari is the chief winemaker at Chateau Ksara. His first vintage working alone was in 1982, at the height of the Civil War. Maamari is proud that even during the war years the vineyard produced a vintage every year.

Currently Lebanon has about 2,000 hectares under vine. Maamari believes the industry needs to focus on quality because the maximum vineyard surface available in Lebanon is only 3,000 hectares.

“That is why quality is very important, since we can never compete with volume.”

Another of the best-known vineyards in Lebanon is Chateau Musar, founded in 1930. Gaston Hochar is the general manager, and grandson of the founder. They share the same name.

The winery is in Ghazir, and overlooks the hills and bright blue waters around Jounieh. Most of its grapes come from vines that received organic certification.

Musar produces four levels in descending order: Chateau Musar, Hochar Pere et Fils, Cuvee Musar and Jeunesse. Most of the levels consist of a white, a rosé and a red. All wines are blends. The reds and rosé tend to use traditional international grapes while the whites employ indigenous varieties.

Jeunesse means “young,” and these are intended to be consumed early. At the other end of the spectrum, the Chateau Musar wines are only available after a long time in the cellar.

Musar releases its flagship white after eight years, while the red is available after seven years.

A colleague, Quentin Sadler, and I tasted the 2007 red, the current vintage, then a 1998 and a 1977. The 2007 red is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, carignan and cinsault. Think flavors of mocha, black fruits, spices and zaatar, encased in an elegant structure of soft tannins.

The white is a blend of obeideh (66 percent) and merwah, the two most common indigenous grapes. The 2006 is the current release.

These two white grapes are also used for arak. Huge bags of aniseed sat near the entrance of the winery when we visited, giving the place a playful smell as we walked around.

I love the aromas of the Chateau Musar red and white. The reds have a funky and earthy nose and are very distinctive. Indeed, while judging in Beirut, I found it easy to identify the Musar red in a blind tasting. A feature of the white is the way the flavors and aromas change each time one approaches the glass.

Musar only uses natural yeasts and Gaston Hochar was at pains to emphasize that there was no formula to Musar’s flagship wines. “We let the wines makes themselves,” he said modestly. But such joy is no accident.

We tasted a range of barrel samples from 2013 that will make up the flagship red: cabernet sauvignon, carignan and cinsault. Separately they are fascinating but combined they work a special magic.

Musar reds have become cult wines. Museum releases command high prices. For example, the 1977 Chateau Musar red sold for 3.99 pounds a bottle when released in the United Kingdom in 1984. It currently sells for $420 a bottle at the winery. The 1996 vintage sells for $990 a bottle.

Limited space means that I am unable to mention other fine wines from estates such as Karam Winery, Chateau Nakad, Chateau Florentine and Ixsir. Lebanese wine exudes quality.



Batroun Bsharre Ehden Tripoli Zgharta


Jezzine Tyre


Baalbeck Zahle
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