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…

Losing Lebanon

What’s happening to you, dear Lebanon? Why do you allow yourself to continue plummeting into the abysmal darkness rather than pull yourself into the light where you once basked? Why aren’t you fighting for what you could be, nay, should be, permitting everyone instead to trample all over you?

I hardly recognize you from the beautiful Lebanon on which Lebanese-American writer Gibran Khalil Gibran once waxed poetic:
“I have my Lebanon and its beauty,” Gibran declared. Now fires run ablaze through your green frontiers, fires which the state struggles to subdue and douse because it willfully neglected to maintain its infrastructure. Where is your natural beauty now? Sullied and squandered.

“My Lebanon is a flock of birds fluttering in the early morning as shepherds lead their sheep into the meadow, and rising in the evening as farmers return from their fields and vineyards,” Gibran went on to write. Your pastures have been besieged by land developers who insist on erecting more and more edif…

Radisson Blu Beirut: A Tranquil Oasis in the Heart of the Lebanese Capital

If you saw the photos of the entrance lobby at Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut during the months of August and September, you’d rethink any air travel in a heartbeat. Lines of passengers snaked through the entrance halls, threatening to spill outside onto the curb, and it was estimated that aroundtwo hours were required before reaching the duty free zone. The Lebanese are not particularly renowned for their organizational skills, so you can imagine folks belligerently cutting line in a bid to make it in and past the madness.

We recoiled at the horror stories and decided that a staycation would deliver roughly the same purpose a quick getaway abroad endeavored to: change of scenery, pampering, and respite from the travails of quotidian life in Beirut.
And thus, on the last weekend of September, to coincide with our five-year wedding anniversary, we – the trio of me, my husband, and our toddler – checked in to the Radisson Blu nestled in the heart of the Ain Mreisseh district…

Lebanon’s Newest “It” Winery: Les Vignes du Marje

At first glance, one might consider the Lebanese national drink to be “arak,” that white, murky, anise-derived spirit related to France’s pastis and Italy’s sambuca. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’d immediately reconsider: Lebanon boasts upward of 70 wineries spanning the Bekaa, Batroun, Bhamdoun and Byblos regions. In my book, we’re unequivocally a wine-producing nation.

Surprised? According to Farrah Berrou, founder of B for Bacchus which host workshops and tastings surrounding Lebanese wine, the number of vineyards registered in 1990 was a measly seven. Fast forward to the millennium, and the tally reached 17. In 2010, it surged to 41, and by 2017, we hit 49. That means in the past two years alone, the rate of induction of new wineries has grown by a factor of seven!

One in particular, Les Vignes du Marje, is worthy of close attention. In the less than one year since its launch in December 2018, Les Vignes du Marje has captured the notice of wine connoisseurs, sommeliers, rest…