Reflecting On My MIT Graduation 10 Years Later

Ten years ago exactly, I graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That day formed a huge deal to me, and I remember it as though it transpired yesterday. My parents and younger brother flew out from Los Angeles to attend the momentous occasion, and the weather that weekend couldn’t have been more hospitable for a city that is typically inundated with chilling precipitation.

MIT was the culmination of every academic dream I had entertained since high school. I had shied away from applying there for the undergraduate program because it was so far from home – on the opposite coast of the United States – and at 17, I wasn’t quite ready to make that leap.
But while at the University of California, I never lost sight of my dream. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more. I strove so hard to maintain a perfect GPA so that I could assure admission to the world’s most prestigious engineering school. I didn’t realize it until the fall semester of my senior year, when…

Disney's Aladdin Remake Beautifully Retells the Iconic Classic

Easily the single most important movie to us kids growing up in the ‘90s was Disney’s “Aladdin.” The intriguing storyline; the incredible voices of Genie, Jafar, and Iago; the mesmerizing musical score and lyrics; the animated scenes from Agrabah; the definitive triumph of good over evil…it was spellbindingfor impressionable youngsters like me and my brothers.
We would listen day and night to the Children’s Broadcasting Corporation radio station called AAHS. Any time one of the songs from the Aladdin soundtrack came on, my elder brother Andre would bolt to the radio and press the record button on a blank cassette he’d pre-loaded. We obtained the sheet music for “A Whole New World” and practiced it religiously until we’d mastered playing it on the piano while singing along. Andre was Aladdin, and I – of course – was Jasmine. My younger brother John Paul chimed in whenever we generously allowed it.
We hunted down the movie paraphernalia: everything from the official movie poster to toy fi…

Strolling Down Memory Lane: Restaurant Closures in Beirut

The other day, I was scrolling through the extensive directory of restaurants published on my blog. By no means is this an exhaustive list of every eatery in Lebanon. It is merely a compilation of the places I’ve (1) visited and (2) felt utterly compelled to showcase. To be sure, the list counts hundreds of food institutions in and around Beirut.

But as I was skimming over the roster, I realized an update was in order, for a vast number of these joints have gone out of business. A reliable source in the food and beverage industry recently confided that 741 establishments shuttered in the past year alone. That number is at once record-breaking and crippling.
Indeed, the one constant in Lebanon is change, and more often than not, it’s anything but positive. Our dilapidated roads, the poor urban planning, telecom and mobile service, pollution of the environment, economic stagnation, unemployment, unreasonably low wages…the banes afflicting this nation are too numerous to recount here. 
One …

Honoring Lebanese Female Entrepreneurs on This International Workers' Day

May 1 marks International Workers’ Day or, more commonly, Labor Day, when all productive members of society are recognized for their achievements. The aim of this blog post is to highlight the endeavors of a number of female entrepreneurs in Lebanon who are slaving over their dreams with nose to the grindstone. While the majority dabble in the food and beverage industry, they hail from completely diverse backgrounds, proof that a mere hobby can evolve into a passionate and gainful enterprise.

Here are these women wonders, in no particular order.

Laure Schoucair, Laurita’s Bites
I may have a sweet tooth, but truth be told, I yearn for simple tea cakes, particularly if they’re healthy and wholesome. Those who follow me on Instagram are no doubt privy to the toddler-friendly cakes I bake incorporating yogurt, fruit, and natural sugar – either honey or molasses. Which is why I readily identified with pastry chef Laure’s artisanal cakes counting among them flavors such as cinnamon swirl, vani…

Guest Lecturer at Saint Joseph University’s Higher Institute for Banking Studies

A few weeks ago, I was invited to deliver a free-form lecture to third-year banking students enrolled in l’institut supérieur d’études bancaires at Beirut’s prestigious Université Saint-Joseph in Monot. I jumped at the chance to address the next generation of Lebanese bankers. The only stipulation was that I weave in my working knowledge of social media, blogging, and communications in the context of a corporate institution, namely a bank.

I’d recently become aware that today’s students don’t come from the same cloth as us, their predecessors. We may be separated by a mere decade, but the academic environment that dominated during my collegiate years would be wholly foreign to these fledglings.
How did I know? During my tenure at Bank of Beirut, I helped spearhead and implement a novel MBA program in Banking Operations at another local university. Based on my direct interaction with students in that program, in addition to the input I gleaned from colleagues delivering courses there, t…

Kalimera, Athens!

The motivation to travel to Athens was two-fold: (1) the direct flight from Beirut is a mere hour and a half, and (2) my understanding of Greece had heretofore been limited to its coastal resorts. It seemed appropriate to visit the capital of a country considered to be the cradle of Western civilization, where landmarks like the Parthenon at the Acropolis date back to the 5th century B.C.

So we booked our flights, homed in on an Airbnb in the heart of the city, and dashed away during the second week of April. Our first impression upon landing was how unusually quiet the airport is. We completed passport control, claimed our baggage, and nabbed a cab at the curb all within 10 minutes after deplaning. When will we ever be able to say the same for Beirut?
The drive into the city takes about 45 minutes, with lush green expanses of olive trees and fields on either side of the slick highway. Once you reach the periphery of Athens, however, the scenery changes markedly. In fact, it’s reminisce…