Examiner Staff

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Actress Shannon Elizabeth: I’m proud of the Lebanese side of my life

As a young girl growing up, actress Shannon Elizabeth always maintained close ties to Lebanese culture. After all, her parents belonged to a local Lebanese-Syrian club in Waco, Texas, and building a strong community bond was central to the family.

“I was really proud of that side of my life,” Elizabeth told Lebanese Examiner. “To be able to experience the food and the culture for me was something I felt a lot of people were missing out on.”

The actress – best known for her iconic roles in American Pie, Scary Movie and American Reunion – was born to a Lebanese/Syrian father and mother of English, Irish and German descent. She says she was always closest to the Lebanese side of the family.

Actress Shannon Elizabeth said she is proud of her Lebanese roots. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)
Actress Shannon Elizabeth said she is proud of her Lebanese roots. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)

“I remember going to my grandparents’ house quite a bit and it was always about cooking and Lebanese food,” she said. “I would get into the kitchen with my grandmother and help make Syrian bread.”

RELATED: Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary: Lebanese heritage influenced my career

Elizabeth now maintains a non-profit animal rescue organization in Cape Town, South Africa called Animal Avengers. She started the organization in 2001 to help in the global effort in saving animals from going extinct.

Ironically, one of her favorite foods growing up was kibbeh nayyeh, or minced raw lamb or beef mixed with fine bulgur and spices. Now, her favorite Lebanese dishes are limited to vegetarian options like grape leaves and falafel.

“My relatives don’t understand it,” she joked. “There are a lot of great things that don’t have meat; it’s just about exploring it.”

Elizabeth initially started her organization as a dog and cat rescue, but expanded to South Africa after learning of the global poaching crisis. Through crowdfunding, she raised $30,000 – and the rest is history.

Shannon Elizabeth is best known for her iconic role in American Pie. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)
Shannon Elizabeth is best known for her iconic role in American Pie. (Facebook/Shannon Elizabeth)

“I loved the people (of South Africa), I loved the culture and I felt like I was closer to the issues here,” she added. “I felt like there was more that I could be doing with my platform.”

Although she is still active in the film industry, Elizabeth said she is dedicated to her organization, which could soon start work in the Middle East. In fact, she already helped sponsor a lion from Lebanon.

“There is a Lion that was rescued that I was told was originally from the Middle East,” she said. “I did a lifetime sponsorship for him to help pay for his expenses.”

She said she still has many connections in Hollywood, and hopes to someday build connections in Beirut.

“I would love to go to Beirut because that’s where our ancestors are from,” she added. “I’m waiting for the right opportunity, but it is very high on my list to get out there very soon.”

Lebanese family accused of stealing $4.3M coin from German museum

A Lebanese family in Germany is accused of stealing a giant gold coin from a Berlin museum worth about $4.3 million, prosecutors said.

Authorities seized 77 properties owned by members of the unidentified Lebanese family suspected of “mafia-style” crimes. The properties included homes, apartment blocks and garden allotments.

Prosecutors said they recovered about $11.7 million worth of property, but were unable to locate the gold coin.

A Lebanese family is accused of stealing a gold coin valued at $4.3 million. (File photo)
A Lebanese family is accused of stealing a gold coin valued at $4.3 million. (File photo)

 

The coin, known as the Canadian “Big Maple Leaf,” belonged to Berlin’s Bode Museum. It was made of pure 24-carat gold, worth about $4.3 million, despite its lower face value.

Prosecutors believe the coin was stolen in March 2017.

RELATED: Duo accused of stealing from 10+ churches in Mount Lebanon

Authorities said they are now investigating 16 members of the Lebanese family involved in an organized crime ring. No one has been arrested or charged yet.

“The difficult thing with these family structures is that you need leads.” Berlin chief state prosecutor Jörg Raupach told DW. “There’s a crime, money is missing, where has it gone? Working out where that money went is a tough task, but sometimes, as in this case, it leads to a partial success.”

Some gold price experts fear the gold may have been melted down and sold.

 

 

Ancient relics of Saint Marina the Monk arrive in Lebanon

The ancient relics of Saint Marina the Monk have landed at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport, the state-run Lebanese National News agency reported.

Saint Marina’s preserved body arrived in a glass box, and was transported to the Maronite Patriarchate in Dimane.

According to Christian teachings, Marina lived in Lebanon’s Kadisha Valley as a monk in the 5th century. She was disguised as a man under the name Marinos.

Marina renounced women’s clothing and said she wanted to live as a monk to dedicate her life to religion, Maronite accounts said.

Saint Marina the Monk arrives at the Beirut International Airport. (Lebanese National News Agency)
Saint Marina the Monk arrives at the Beirut International Airport. (Lebanese National News Agency)

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Maronite religious representatives welcomed the relics of Saint Marina at the airport, and watched the transfer from Venice to Lebanon.

The relics were kept and venerated in Venice by the Catholic Church for nearly 200 years.

The relics will remain in Lebanon until July 23, NNA added.

Filipino actress Lotlot de Leon engaged to Lebanese businessman

Filipino actress Lotlot de Leon announced her engagement to Lebanese businessman Fady El Soury, reported Filipino celebrity news site PEP.ph.

The proposal was held Sunday at the Nature Wellness Village resort in Tagaytay City, a popular holiday town south of Manila.

The actress was surprised when the waiter served a dish with the words, “Marry Me!”

“I’ve been waiting for a while,” Lotlot said.

El Soury, who goes by the name Fred, is the founder of the Phillipines-based Fady Sports, which sells outdoor and sporting goods.

“I went down on one knee and I told her, ‘Do not cry,'” he told PEP.ph. “I was planning on it — it’s been actually more than a month.”

Filipino actress Lotlot de Leon announced her engagement to Lebanese businessman Fady El Soury. (Instagram/Lotlot de Leon)
Filipino actress Lotlot de Leon announced her engagement to Lebanese businessman Fady El Soury. (Instagram/Lotlot de Leon)

Lotlot de Leon is a well-known actress in the Phillipines, best known for her role in the variety show “That’s Entertainment,” broadcasted by the GMA Network in the late 1980’s.

Her most recent work includes drama, romantic series and action. She was previously married to former matinee idol Ramon Christopher Gutierre before their separation in 2010.

Lotlot and Fady have been together for six years. A beach wedding is planned for December, they said.

Report: Pope approves Lebanon to list of ‘Christian pilgrimage’ sites

Pope Francis has reportedly approved Lebanon to the official list of Christian pilgrimage sites in 2019, according to the state-run Lebanese National News agency.

Lebanese Charge d’Affaires in Vatican City Khalil Karam told NNA the authorization will put Lebanon back on the list of official pilgrimage destinations for the first time in 12 years.

Lebanon was previously on the list in 2007.

Worshipers gather at the site of St. Sharbel in Annaya, Lebanon. (Lebanese Examiner)
Worshipers gather at the site of St. Sharbel in Annaya, Lebanon. (Lebanese Examiner)

Karam said President Michel Aoun discussed the potential move with senior Vatican officials during a visit in March 2017.

He said leaders from the Lebanese government have been holding meetings with Vatican officials about recommended pilgrimage sites, hotels and accommodations.

The announcement is expected to attract thousands of Christian pilgrims to Lebanon, and boost the tourism industry. Lebanon relies heavily on the tourism industry, accounting for about 18 percent of the country’s GDP.

Lebanon is one of the earliest regions to adopt Christianity, and was mentioned in the Old Testament. The country is also home to the Maronite Church and the birthplace to several Maronite saints.

WATCH: Highlights from Shakira’s performance in Lebanon!

Shakira’s performance during the Cedars International Festival in Lebanon drew a crowd of over 14,000 people, organizers announced.

The Colombian-Lebanese superstar performed during the opening night of the festival as part of her “El Dorado World Tour.”

WATCH: Highlights from Shakira’s visit to Lebanon!

A swarm of fans and local media welcomed Shakira at the airport, where she was spotted with her two children Milan and Sasha.

“I am very happy to be here in Lebanon,” she said. “This is the land of my ancestors and I’m very proud of my heritage — my Lebanese heritage.”

She also visited her grandmother’s hometown of Tannourine, where officials inaugurated the ‘Shakira Square’ in her honor.

Shakira gets ready for her performance during the Cedars International Festival. (Facebook/Cedars International Festival)
Shakira gets ready for her performance during the Cedars International Festival. (Facebook/Cedars International Festival)

“I have always thought of my family like the cedars,” Shakira said. “These beautiful trees have been transplanted to Columbia to produce fruit — like the fruit of these Cedars.”

In a statement, festival organizers said they invited Shakira to “send a message of peace from the cedars and from Lebanon to the world.”

Shakira brings her children to Lebanon ahead of concert!

Shakira arrived at the Beirut International Airport Thursday with her two children ahead of her performance at the Cedars International Festival in the northern town of Bsharri.

The Colombian-Lebanese superstar is in Lebanon as part of her “El Dorado World Tour,” where she is set to perform before 14,000 people during the festival’s opening concert.

Shakira arrives at the Beirut International Festival. (Chamoun Daher/Cedars International Festival Facebook)
Shakira arrives at the Beirut International Festival. (Chamoun Daher/Cedars International Festival Facebook)

A swarm of fans and local media welcomed Shakira at the airport, where she was spotted with her two children Milan and Sasha.

“I am very happy to be here in Lebanon,” she said. “This is the land of my ancestors and I’m very proud of my heritage — my Lebanese heritage.”

A swarm of fans and local media greeted Shakira at the airport. (Chamoun Daher/Cedars International Festival Facebook)
A swarm of fans and local media greeted Shakira at the airport. (Chamoun Daher/Cedars International Festival Facebook)

Her son Milan echoed her sentiments.

“I am happy to be here in Lebanon,” Milan said.

WATCH: LBC-TV coverage of Shakira’s arrival to Beirut International Airport:

In a statement, festival organizers said they invited Shakira to “send a message of peace from the cedars and from Lebanon to the world.”

RELATED: Shakira to perform in Lebanon during Cedars International Festival

Music manager Wassim Slaiby, who directs the Anghami music distribution company, helped bring Shakira to Lebanon.

Shakira arrives with her two children Milan and Sasha. (Chamoun Daher/Cedars International Festival Facebook)
Shakira arrives with her two children Milan and Sasha. (Chamoun Daher/Cedars International Festival Facebook)

“We are confident that the concert will be exceptional,” Slaiby said. “We will continue to attract world stars through Anghami and allow them to enjoy Lebanon and the Middle East.”

The Cedars International Festival aims to honor Lebanon internationally through the beauty of the Lebanese cedars.

Beirut named in world’s top 15 cities by Travel + Leisure magazine!

Beirut was named in the world’s top 15 cities Tuesday in a list released by the New York-based Travel + Leisure magazine.

The magazine ranked Beirut as the fifteenth best city in the world with a score of 87.04 out of 100.

The score took into consideration the city’s landmarks, culture, cuisine and friendliness, among other categories.

Beirut was named in the world's top 15 cities. (Travel + Leisure magazine)
Beirut was named in the world’s top 15 cities. (Travel + Leisure magazine)

“Jaw-dropping architecture, distinctive restaurants, a rich array of cultural offerings, and intriguing shops are a must,” Travel + Leisure wrote in the article. “A teeming street life, a friendly population, and a harmonious relationship with nature are equally essential.”

Magazine readers voted for their favorite cities from November 2017 to March 2018. The combined votes helped determine the list of world’s best cities, Travel + Leisure added.

FULL LIST:

  1. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
  2. Oaxaca, Mexico
  3. Udaipur, India
  4. Ubud, Indonesia
  5. Kyoto, Japan
  6. Florence, Italy
  7. Luang Prabang, Laos
  8. Hoi An, Vietnam
  9. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  10. Charleston, South Carolina
  11. Mexico City, Mexico
  12. Cape Town, South Africa
  13. Rome, Italy
  14. Istanbul, Turkey
  15. Beirut, Lebanon

In a previous article about the rankings, Travel + Leisure said its readers were drawn to Beirut despite Lebanon’s instability and challenges.

“Beirut’s food is unsurpassed,” said one fan, while another added: “The nightlife is the experience of a lifetime.”

Lebanese man accused of scamming World Cup fans out of $250k

A Lebanese man is accused of scamming World Cup fans from Saudi Arabia out of $250,000, the Russian news agency TASS reported.

The Lebanese citizen, who resided in Moscow, was charged with fraud in absentia for the alleged scam. The unidentified man is now on the run.

According to TASS, the Lebanese man told Saudi fans he would arrange a flight from Moscow to the southern city of Volgograd in return for 15.6 million rubles, or $252,000.

After he collected the money, the man vanished and could not be reached.

Saudia Arabia team at the World Cup. (File photo)
Saudia Arabia team at the World Cup. (File photo)

“The police have found out that a Lebanese native registered in Moscow was behind this crime,” a source told the TASS news agency. “He has been charged in absentia, measures are being taken to detain him.”

Russian news agency Interfax reported that a Saudi man gave the suspect about 220,000 euros on June 24. The suspect said he would arrange for flights from the man and his friends.

The fans were set to travel to Volgograd to watch Saudi Arabia play Egypt in their final World Cup group phase match.

Saudi Arabia won the match 2-1.

Pizza shop in California serves Lebanese garlic chicken pizza

A pizza shop in a suburb of Los Angeles is known for literally marrying the Lebanese and Latino cultures, and creating unique pizza dishes influenced by both cultures.

Lebanese owner Ali Chahine and his Hispanic wife Brenda Torres are the masterminds behind Big Al’s Pizzeria in Maywood, California.

The couple told KABC-TV the restaurant combines the best of both cultures, and draws foodies from Los Angeles and Orange counties.

“My parents are Lebanese and I met my wife about 17 years ago and I learned how to speak Spanish to get along,” Chahine told the ABC station.

WATCH: KABC-TV showcases a ‘fusion of Lebanese-Mexican cultures’

The restaurant is best known for their famous Lebanese Garlic Chicken Pizza, which features garlic pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, chicken, tomatoes, turnips, pickles, parsley and buttermilk ranch.

A pizza shop in California is known for its Lebanese garlic chicken pizza. (Facebook/Big Al's Pizzeria)
A pizza shop in California is known for its Lebanese garlic chicken pizza. (Facebook/Big Al’s Pizzeria)

Chahine said the pizzeria was recognized in Yelp’s Top 100 places to eat in the U.S. in 2015 and 2018.

“We got a lot of Latinos and Central Americans here in Maywood,” Chahine said. “Then Bell’s right next door and we got a lot of Muslim community, cause we cater the Halal meat to everyone.”

Big Al’s Pizzeria is located at 6044 Atlantic Boulevard in Maywood, California. For more information, click here.

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