Beirut Blast: Death and Despair, Beyond Repair

The past 15 hours have completely upended life in Lebanon as we know it. I've been struggling to deal with the sheer magnitude of the brutality and the horrible aftermath it leaves in its wake. For those who haven't yet heard, nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded in the port of Beirut, at the heart of the capital, leveling the city with a radial arm of destruction of 10 km out. There are thousands of human casualties, and the death toll continues to rise as victims are unearthed from beneath the rubble.

If you see footage of the blast, you'd think it were a nuclear bomb. Its effects are nothing short of apocalyptic, taking away innocent lives and rendering immeasurable damage to the denizens and businesses of Beirut. Why such large quantities of ammonium nitrate, typically used as an agricultural fertilizer, were stored at a port warehouse for six years and neglected without adequate safety measures is criminal.

But what really makes this debilitating for the Leban…

Lebanese-British Music Artist Maya Marie Teases Debut Album Dubbed "Antelias"

I had the great pleasure and honor of interacting with Lebanese-British music artist Maya Marie, who recently launched her debut album Antelias in an ode to war-fraught Lebanon. Maya was born and raised in Beirut during the height of the Civil War, and she and her family straddled living between Cyprus and Lebanon before seeking asylum in the UK in 1989. However, the memories and scars of war are indelible, and she invokes them masterfully in Antelias and single “Shelter.”

Read on for my exchange with the decorated musical talent, whose work via band New Pharaohs can be accessed freely on Spotify.

(1) You mentioned being half-Lebanese, and that your father continues to reside in Antelias. With what other ethnic background do you identify? What year did you leave Lebanon? Where do you presently live? 
My mother is Irish-British, and she came to Lebanon when she was 21 to study Arabic and nursing. She met my father on the AUB campus. We left a few times in the mid-1980s and split our time …

Where to Stay/cation In Lebanon: A Guide For the Local, Expat and Tourist

Perhaps now more than ever, the notion of a staycation has become relevant and essential. With Lebanon mired in deep economic and financial strife, exacerbated only by the real threat of the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the world, travel and tourism must be completely reimagined.

Since my move to Lebanon in 2011, I spent every single summer within its borders. Sure, our perch on the Mediterranean is a stone’s throw from Cyprus and no more than four hours by plane to the European mainland. But who in their right mind would ditch the abundant sunshine, soothing blue sea, majestic mountains, and beautifully balanced cuisine that Lebanon boasts? I certainly never felt that inclination.
But it’s not quite a vacation unless you leave your house to seek shelter elsewhere and transform scenery. And that’s what we would do on occasion, checking in to hotels big and small, in the capital or far from it, by the sea or tucked away in the mountains. Each lodging with its own charm, character, and s…

Who is Rouba Saadeh? The Scoop on the Lebanese Lady Who Pinned Down "365 Days" Italian Actor Michele Morrone

If you’re a regular Netflix viewer – who isn’t during these times of quarantine? – you’ll likely have stumbled upon the June 2020 release, “365 Days.” In fact, the erotic Polish drama, which has been compared to the trilogy of “50 Shades of Gray,” occupies the number one spot on Netflix’s Top Ten list. Why, you might ask, when Rotten Tomatoes scores it at zero and critics worldwide are discounting it as “ridiculously campy” (Forbes)?

Two words: Michele Morrone. I’ll wait as you Google images of this godly creature, but make sure you don’t stray for too long poring over his photos. Yes, he’s Italian. Yes, he checks off all parameters in the “tall, dark, and handsome” descriptor. And yes, his physique conjures up a real-life Adonis with perfectly chiseled abs, toned legs, rock-hard biceps, olive-complexion skin, piercing gaze, perfectly chiseled abs…wait, did I mention that twice? Yeah, well, maybe each compartment in that six-pack (or is it 12-pack?) is worthy of individual adulation.


Quashing the Destructive Evils of Discrimination

You haven’t heard from me for some time. Five months, to be exact. Well, the truth is, juggling two children, namely an infant and a toddler, is pretty darn time-consuming. Add to that the highly novel, highly unusual circumstances gripping our world, and the inspiration to write from a positive vantage point quickly vanishes. I’ve never navigated bleaker times.

Quite often, I find myself mentally dictating a blog post, gathering all my distraught thoughts into some form of comprehensible prose as I keep a wary eye on the kids. But by the time they’re both sound asleep and the household tasks completed, the magnetic pull from my bed invariably wins out over the appeal of my reticent laptop. And I succumb to slumber.

But tonight is different. There are a myriad of sentiments coursing through my veins as the entire world – because this is much greater than merely one nation – wrestles with notions of racism. 

The name George Floyd has gained overnight fame. Floyd was a 46-year-old African-…

Reassessing Lebanon in 2020

Two months have elapsed since I last penned a piece for my blog Beirutista. Blame the anomalous behavior on a drastic change in circumstances, at both the personal and national levels, that has left me conflicted internally. There’s so much I want to spill on paper, in the hopes that articulating my feelings will emancipate my mind. But at the same time, my thoughts are amorphous, and structuring them into eloquent, coherent prose would be a taxing exercise.

Alas, I must try. So here goes.
I departed from Beirut on 9 November, three weeks after the start of the people’s revolution took Lebanon by storm on October 17. My destination? Southern California, where my parents reside. We’d booked our tickets in late summer, far before the financial and political crises ravaged Lebanon.
I’ve been here precisely eight weeks, and returning to Beirut, which continues to sink deeper into economic imbroglio, holds zero appeal. For the first time in my life, I have no desire to go back. The entire co…

Regaining Lebanon

Nearly one week ago, just a few days into the protests animating Lebanon, a Lebanese-American friend residing abroad texted me to see how we were faring. “Still hell-bent on that dump of a country?” he inquired.
Maybe if he’d asked me that same question a week before, before the catastrophic fires tore through the Chouf, Metn and Akkar regions, ravaging the lush greenery of the Lebanese mountain ranges; before we learned of the three Sikorsky helicopters, each equipped to carry 4,000 liters of water to douse fires, that had been grounded for years on account of neglect; before heads of state despicably proposed a fee of USD 6 per month for WhatsApp VoIP calls, a technology that is entirely proprietary and free to the public worldwide…maybe I would have conceded ashamedly to his logic.
“You’re right,” I’d have concurred. “This country is a veritable dump, and we’re idiots to be wiling away our livelihoods here.”
But something has happened in the wake of those fires and that heinous tax p…