Why We Come Back to Lebanon

The below post was originally written in the summer of 2012 and later picked up for publication by Annahar newspaper in the winter of 2014. I've reproduced it below because from time to time, I secretly reread it to remind myself why I elected to vacate the proverbial grassier side.

I often wonder how much different my life would be had I taken the job offer at Tesla in 2009. Back then, I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed grad student who craved adventure in an international setting. I fought tooth and nail to plant myself in Lebanon, when logic and sanity would have dictated otherwise.

The country's poor and ailing infrastructure paints a grim future for our progeny, and the polluted environment threatens to curb our lifespan and quality of life.

Can one ever truly justify living here when the opportunity to take flight abroad exists? Do our kids have a viable future in this shattered model of a country? Or has the sun already gone down on us? And will we continue to push our yout…

The Almighty Power of a Greeting Card

Ask an adult what their fondest memories of childhood are, and you’re certain to hear mention of a festive birthday party, or graduation from elementary school, or perhaps a visit from the tooth fairy. Life is punctuated by tiny moments of pure, unadulterated happiness. Capturing those precious memories with a greeting card allows us to celebrate them again and again as we grow older.

As children of the '90s, the overarching philosophy taught at school was “it’s not the gift that counts but the thought behind it.” In fact, gifts took a backseat to charming, sometimes handmade, greeting cards. Mother’s Day around the corner? We’d fashion a colorful card from construction paper and insert silly vouchers Mom could cash in, like “one free carwash” or “breakfast in bed” delivered by us kids.
If we were on the receiving end of someone’s generosity, we'd eagerly anticipate the greeting card that accompanied the present. I’m not exaggerating. The first thing we did when we received a g…

International Workers' Day Musings

Seven years ago, I was celebrating May 1, International Workers' Day, in a way completely different than today. May 2, 2011, marked my inaugural day as a full-time employee at one of Lebanon’s leading financial institutions. My first taste of Lebanese corporate life was in the capacity of “Strategy Officer” at a salary I will never be too thrilled to admit.
“If you excel and exceed expectations,” the Head of HR coaxed me over the phone as I tried to negotiate my pay, “you’ll be impressed by how rapidly your remuneration will grow.”
I finally acquiesced at the prodding of my parents, who perhaps innately knew that if I held out for something more in line with my lofty compensation visions, it might be a very long time.
So I threw myself into my new job, thirsty for knowledge of a field – banking and finance – I knew virtually nothing about. As engineers, we’re trained to think we can tackle anything, and that’s been my mantra until today. “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity …

Arabic's Most Untranslatable Words & Expressions

This piece was dug up from my archives! Originally appearing on some four years ago, it remains one of my favorite compilations, and I have thus reproduced it here.
Arabic is one of the most artistic and complex languages in the world. In fact, some of its words and phrases are so lush with imagery and meaning that they bear no equivalent in any other language. Nuances and undertones inevitably get lost in translation, and rich idiomatic expressions are butchered altogether.
Join me on a linguistic tour of Arabic’s most untranslatable and lyrical words, expressions, and sayings. Don’t trouble yourself trying to unravel them to a non-speaker—just have pride in being part of something precious!

To2borneh or to2brineh: literally, it means “you bury me,” and the first thought that springs to mind is deeply troubling. But the connotative punch this word packs is absolutely beautiful. You love someone so much that you can’t imagine a life without them, and you’re hoping you pass awa…

Zaatar W Zeit's New "Super-Natural Green" Wrap

The riddle has been solved. The puzzle is now complete.
Who and what were behind the enigmatic green Superman logo encasing a three-leaf bouquet?
Lebanon’s famous restaurant chain Zaatar W Zeit owned up to the teaser. Last night, in an exclusive event at its ABC Dbayeh stronghold that beckoned a roster of social media foodie influencers, the brand tied all the loose ends by debuting a new “super-natural” wrap boasting spinach flatbread. Donning the color of lushness and fertility, the wrap happens to coincide with ZWZ’s signature hue – green.

The spinach wrap is something novel to the Lebanese food world, but in a global context, spinach flour, and spinach pasta for that matter, have been around for ages. While the wrap doesn’t really evoke the flavors of Popeye’s favorite vegetable, an unmistakable suppleness is imparted to the carb envelope, and you wolf it down confident that it’s healthier than its refined flour counterpart.
So what’s inside? I found it to be classic ZWZ: cubes of roa…

Support Local: All-Natural Peanut Butter at a Bargain

If you’ve ever made it as far as the “About Me” section on my blog, you know I prefer peanut butter to Nutella. Yes, to the great grief of many a pure-blooded Lebanese, I much favor my spread nutty than chocolaty. It just packs in an uncharacteristic boldness, a certain oomph, that easily trumps its cocoa-derivative counterpart.

And it seems that peanut butter is finally getting more credit than in days past, when it was dismissed as junk food in a jar. Granted, a vast number of commercial peanut butters were (and remain) guilty of listing sugar as the second major constituent. As a result, peanut butter tasted suspiciously sweet, which can be unpalatable to folks generally associating the salty flavor with nuts.
With heightened consciousness surrounding what we eat and the public’s desire to consume “real food,” peanut butter has undergone a total makeover, in some cases chucking sugar altogether and in others, substituting in molasses. The results are irresistible, and foodies the wor…

The Limited Edition Raclette Burger from Crepaway

Georges seated us at a table along the glass railing, overlooking the hustle and bustle of the mall, and proceeded to hand us the large Crepaway menus.

“We’re here for the Raclette burgers,” I announced, gently declining the menu and requesting a Perrier.
“Ok, I’ll be right back with your order,” replied Georges, peering at me intently before inquiring whether we were bloggers.
“Uh, yes,” I conceded. “I’m Beirutista.”
“Ooh, so does that mean I’ll be featured on your blog?”
The burgers, dear boy!
Within a scant few minutes, and I do mean minutes, two runners arrived with salvers balancing open-faced burgers. Supple, poppy-seed bun slathered with a lick of special sauce. Grilled Angus beef patty. Pan-fried hash brown. Crisp lettuce. Juicy tomato. And the pièce de résistance: a thick sheet of molten Raclette cheese slowly sliding off a metal tray and onto the beef.

Crown the tower with the top bun and go at it cautiously. It’s a high-rise, subject to toppling if you don’t clutch it properly. I…

A Swanky Sunday Brunch at Kempinski Summerland Hotel

Even the road leading there feels distinctly un-Lebanese: wide, serene, evenly paved, with residential high-rises spaced noticeably apart for breathability. You’d never know you were mere miles from Beirut International Airport to the south and Pigeon Rock to the north.

The Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort beautifully embodies its descriptor. Featuring its own private beach and marina, the hotel is defined by a maze of pools and secluded Jacuzzi bungalows. As we passed through the main gate and descended toward the complex, images of Kassandra in northern Greece – specifically the Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort – cascaded through my mind with longing and nostalgia.
Beirut’s newest five-star property perches on the Mediterranean as prominently as the Manara Lighthouse, boasting 153 rooms and suites designed to exploit the breathtaking views of the sea. There’s a venue for every breed of guest, from a Cigar and Single Malt lounge for the stogie-whisky aficionado, to a gourmet restaura…

Up Close & Personal with Wesley’s Wholesale

I recently sat down with Farrah Berrou, Creative Strategist at Wesley’s Wholesale, a major Lebanese wholesaler of American products with a flagship store in Jnah and a massive three-story stronghold in Hazmieh.

Wesley's is owned and operated by the Berrou family, who transplanted from Southern California to Beirut more than a decade ago and yearned to import the American shopping experience with them.

DI. When and where was Wesley’s Wholesale incorporated? Who is it run by? How many staff members are there? Is it an international enterprise?
FB. As a family, we've been in imports since 2005, but Wesley’s as a brand didn't come to life until 2013. We decided to rebrand and restructure our concept as an American grocery megastore similar to the big-box stores of the US while also paying tribute to my late uncle Wesley, who passed away a few years before. Between sales staff and management, we’re about 40 people involved in the day-to-day, but the purchasing & procurement is…