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Why Lebanon Will Always Be Home to Me

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As a child who earnestly anticipated her summers in Lebanon, I remember distinctly praying each night for weeks leading up to trip departure that our two-leg journey from Los Angeles would go smoothly and safely. Should a crash befall us, may it be on the return from Beirut, I pleaded with my Creator. I wanted so desperately to spend a fun-filled vacation in the Land of the Cedars. Reflecting on that memory now as an adult, I’m baffled at how willing I was to embrace the worst, so long as it presented itself aptly in the sequence of events. Yes, folks. That’s a gauge of how enamored I was with my ancestral homeland. Chilling? Or just plain foolish? As many of my readers already know, I made Lebanon home in 2011, a full decade ago. I was a fresh MBA graduate and in between jobs and world regions. I found myself in the Levant on an ambassadorial mission for my alma mater MIT. When it ended, I decided to linger and look for work. I was fed up with hearing that as a summer tourist in L

In Beirut, Shopping Around Is Key To Beating The Huge Play on Prices

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It’s no secret: prices across Lebanon for the vast majority of goods and services have witnessed an unprecedented spike as the lira continues to plunge against the dollar. Though the official rate is around LBP 1,500 for USD 1, the lira is trading on the black market for LBP 16,000 (current as of June 24, 2021), which translates to a whopping 967% surge in the exchange rate. Over the past four months alone, I’ve seen prices of local goods double. For example, Master Kettle Chips (144g) were selling for LBP 8,000 in February , whereas now a bag goes for LBP 15,000. Candia Lait 1-L TetraPak of milk are priced at 15,500 LBP, nearly double the LBP 8,000 tag they fetched at the start of the year. The other day I tweeted that “walking into a grocery store in Lebanon is like getting back a graded exam. Your heart stops as you scan the numbers on the price labels. It’s a harrowing experience.” But even more harrowing is the huge spread in prices you’ll occasionally witness across retaile

When Inspiration Runs Dry

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The other day, I bumped into an old acquaintance I’d met in Paris a dozen years ago. After some quick catch-up and gushing over each other’s kids, she asked me about the blog and whether I was still penning as Beirutista. I told her I’d become far less prolific the past year on account of “being uninspired.” The moment those words left my mouth, I felt insufficient and foolish. A deluge of thoughts swept through my mind as I braced for a personal awakening. Does one really need inspiration to get a word out on paper? Even if one commits to writing about what one might perceive as mundane nonsense, the very thought process that engages the gears in the noggin would qualify for a fruitful writing exercise. Right? We can’t possibly attribute a perpetual flow of inspiration to the celebrated early 20 th -century author William Faulkner, for example, can we? Have you read – nay, attempted to read – The Sound and The Fury ? It is a lesson in "stream of consciousness," or unfilte

Four Things My Gastronomic Self Just Can’t Do Without

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These days my anxiety is through the roof. I mean, whose isn’t? We’ve got a global pandemic raging, and though we’re starting to witness a drop in the number of cases in areas where vaccination has been launched full-scale, most of the world has yet to be graced with needles of elixir by Pfizer, Moderna, and the likes. In fact, a third wave is upending whole populations in dense countries like India. Couple that with a trifecta of crises in Lebanon – political, economic, and fiscal – and it takes an inordinate amount of self-delusion to stay sane. We’ve literally been living on our own proverbial island, inside the four walls of our flat in the northern suburbs of Beirut. On weekends we escape to family’s chalet for a glimpse of that moderating Mediterranean and some fresh air. And if we really want to go wild, I’ll take the kids to a mall five minutes away where there are more shops than shoppers by a stretch . (Did you know that The Gap ducked out of Le Mall in Dbayeh? Subway, too.

How Aleb Lebanon Has Impacted the Lives of Families in Need

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30-year-old Fadia* always wanted a family. A naturally loving and nurturing individual, she never thought motherhood would be so fraught with trials. She and her husband, a member of the Lebanese army, are parents to a four-year-old girl who has thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder, and a two-year-old boy with congenital problems. Fadia, a high school diploma holder, used to work as an esthetician. But the wave of crises that has recently hit Lebanon, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and concomitant closures, has left her without a job. Her modest home is in poor condition. The children’s treatments are not covered by the insurance extended to military personnel and their families. And Fadia’s faith in nothing short of a miracle continues to wane. Since October 2019, Lebanon has been reeling from devaluation of its currency as the lira lost more than 80% of its value against the US dollar. The majority of the population has slumped into poverty in what the World Bank de

Before & After: Price of Local Goods in Lebanon Post-2019

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Anyone remember the Golden Age our parents and grandparents so often recounted about pre-civil war Lebanon? Surely we’ve all heard it: the rich presence of arts, music, culture and theater; the unsurpassed hospitality and lavishness of the Lebanese people; the lack of any real consciousness about religious sects and confessions; and above all, the fact that Lebanon served as the financial hub of the Arab world. The expressions “Paris of the Middle East” and “Suissra-el-Charq” illuminate just how cultivated and prosperous Lebanese society was. Fast forward to 2019, a momentous year that will surely enter the annals of history of our little Mediterranean plot of land. By momentous, of course, I mean complete and utter catastrophe on the banking and finance front as well as deep-seated political gridlock, both of which show no promise of letting up. Seriously, how much worse can it get when you have no access to your hard-earned deposits at the bank? When your credit card gets declined

10 Things About Me

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The other day, a friend tagged me in a fun Instagram story, spurring me to divulge 10 facts about myself. Why not extrapolate that to the blog, I thought, the perfect medium for writing listicles. It always intrigues me to see the lengths to which ‘grammers go in order to create elaborate stories, only to have them vanish into oblivion a mere 24 hours later. If I have to jump through hoops, rummaging through photos and matching them to intimate details about me – ten times, mind you! – I’d readily prefer the permanency of this web diary. The purpose of this exercise is two-fold. First, if you’re new to the blog, this is a quick glimpse into the gal behind it. And second, pandemic. I need a bit of a release. Nuff said. Get ready to learn more about me!   (1)     I am the second of three children born to Lebanese immigrants who made their home in Southern California, where I was raised and where my parents continue to be based. I grew up in the 90s watching “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Whether You’re A Freelancer or An Employer, What You Need is Ureed.com

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If 2020 has taught us anything with its perpetual stay-at-home orders and loathsome lockdowns, it’s this: (1) your home is your office, and (2) if you want to remain employable in this tough job market, you have to be versatile. In other words, sharpen your skill set and expand the repertoire of your competences. “Sure, Beirutista,” you’re probably thinking to yourself, as you stroke your chin pensively. “I’m a seasoned web developer [ or insert other specialty here ]. I’ve got a decent internet connection. And I keep on piling new and catchy certifications. But how can I locate paid projects right up my alley? Better yet, where do employers track me down?” Compelling questions. Allow me to introduce you to Ureed.com , an online marketplace where freelancers and employers can connect through facilitated channels. The idea is rather cunning: if you’re a freelancer, establish a profile on Ureed.com’s platform, populate it with a portfolio of your sample work, pitch for available proj

Lebanon: My Timeless Dilemma

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“Why are you in Lebanon? What are you doing here?” Almost exactly one decade ago – on January 2, 2011 – I boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Amman via Paris. Amman was not my final destination. It was the first stop in a circuit of three Levantine countries – Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon – where I would be leading an ambassadorial mission on behalf of my alma mater, MIT in Boston. At the end of the month, after my tour ended, I decided to linger in Beirut and look for a job. I’d forever dreamt of planting roots in the land of my heritage. Growing up, my brothers and I had spent paradise-like summers in Lebanon that exposed us to the warmth and unique hospitality of our culture. We spoke the language fluently, so I certainly never felt like a foreigner. And most importantly, I’d recently bagged my second graduate degree and was ready to launch a career. Somehow, the consulting gigs I’d held in Paris and Abu Dhabi felt lacking. Sure, I was challenged intellectually. But I was in search o