Anthony Bourdain: “I fell in love with Beirut”

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — World-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain is no stranger to Beirut. In July 2006, while filming an episode of CNN’s No Reservations, the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out, forcing Bourdain and his TV crew to leave.

But Bourdain vowed he would be back — and promised to give Beirut a second chance.

“From the first day that I ever arrived in Beirut, it smelled like a place I was going to love,” Bourdain said. “(The war) didn’t change my opinion about the place. If anything, it hardened it.”

Bourdain and his crew were evacuated from Lebanon on July 20, 2006 by the United States Marines. When they arrived, the crew had filmed only a few hours of footage for the food and travel show, but it was enough to broadcast an episode.

The Beirut edition of No Reservations aired on August 21, 2006, and was later nominated for an Emmy Award in 2007.

“It’s something of a miracle that (Beirut) works,” said Bourdain. “Sunni, Shii’te, Christians can all live in one city and through some kind of tacit understanding maintain what is one of the most liberal environments in that part of the world.”

The season five finale, which aired on Sunday, June 21, took Bourdain back to Beirut.

During his travels, Bourdain met with freestyle artist “Double A The Preecherman” in the Mar Mikhael neighborhood, had a classic Lebanese meal with activist Joumana Haddad, and visited a Syrian community in southern Beirut with CNN correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.

“Bourdain’s Beirut episode is fantastic. One of my favorite places on Earth and he captures it perfectly,” wrote one Twitter user.

But not all viewers were happy with Bourdain’s portrayal of Beirut. Some Lebanese viewers took to social media, blaming Bourdain for missing the “Lebanese perspective.”

They say Bourdain spent a majority of the show interviewing Syrian and Palestinian refugees, who make up a third of Lebanon’s population.

“So it was basically more about politics than anything else,” wrote Rami Fayoumi on his blog, +961. “I believe he could have simply aired some recent report about the political situation in Lebanon and spared himself a trip here.”

WATCH a sneak peak of the show:

VIDEO: Lebanese rally driver Roger Feghali drifts through village

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Lebanese rally driver Roger Feghali on Sunday defeated his brother Abdo in the 2015 Lebanese Hill Climb Championship in Falougha, Mount Lebanon, prevailing over his brother by less than a second.

Feghali, 42, navigated Falougha’s roads perfectly, drifting around corners and racing through the beautiful picturesque village.

Falougha is located in the district of Baabda, around 34 kilometers away from Beirut.

WATCH Feghali drift through Falougha, Mount Lebanon:

Feghali is 10-time Lebanese Rally champion and the record holder of wins in the Rally of Lebanon. He also runs his own team, Motortune, for rally car preparation.

Billionaire pays Lebanese teen $100k to skip college

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Move over, Mark Zuckerburg.

The billionaire co-founder of Paypal, Peter Thiel, has pledged $100,000 to a Lebanese teen for choosing to skip college.

18-year-old Jihad Kawas will receive the six-figure stipend and an elite group of mentors over the next two years — to participate in the Theil Foundation’s mission to inspire the next generation of social entrepreneurs.

Thiel founded the program in 2011 with the belief that college discourages students from being innovators and leaves them in piles of student debt.

Kawas applied to the program, along with 2,800 other applicants, and was accepted into the exclusive group of 20 fellows on June 5.

But it’s not all that surprising, considering Kawas started exploring the mobile app industry and launching mobile startups when he was just 13-years-old.

Then in 2013, at 16-years-old, he founded Saily, a social marketplace for people to buy and sell items on their mobile devices.

Meanwhile, in between business deals and marketing campaigns, he was a student at Houssam Eddine Hariri High School in Saida, where he recently graduated.

But Kawas felt school was obstructing — not advancing — his innovative aspirations. And that’s why he chose to skip college and focus on his growing businesses.

“We should spend less time learning about how things work, and spend more time making things work,” Kawas said during a TEDx talk in Beirut in February. “(School) does not relate to our interests and does not make us better at what we’re good at.”

Thiel, who has a net worth of $2.2 billion, agrees.

“Nothing forces us to funnel students into a tournament that bankrupts the losers and turns the winners into conformists,” Thiel wrote in The Washington Post. “But that’s what will happen until we start questioning whether college is our only option.”

Today, Thiel Fellows have raised over $142 million in venture capital and created at least $41 million in revenue.

Jihad Kawas is well on his way.

WATCH Jihad’s talk, “Why School is Not Ready for Us,” at TEDx Beirut:

Abu Dhabi police buy $3.4M ‘Furious 7’ car from Lebanese company

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — Abu Dhabi police recently purchased the $3.4 million Lykan HyperSport — the same vehicle that appears in the movie ‘Furious 7’ — from Lebanese car company W. Motors.

The Lykan HyperSport is a 770-horsepower supercar that can go from 0 to 100 kilometers/hour in just 2.8 seconds. The model is officially limited to 7 units, making it one of the most expensive cars in the world.

29-year-old Lebanese businessman Ralph Debbas is the mastermind behind the car, which was first launched at the International Qatar Motor Show in 2013. His company, W. Motors, was founded in Beirut in 2012.

“It is a satisfaction and pride to drive it around Dubai and see all heads turn in its direction when it hits the highway,” Debbas told Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper. “People are starting to notice it more and more on the roads. They step aside to admire it and to take pictures.”

Lebanese-born businessman Ralph Debbas is the creator of the Lykan HyperSport. (Photo: Dubai Autodrome)

The Lykan HyperSport became internationally-known after appearing in ‘Furious 7’ as a vaulted supercar owned by an Arab billionaire. Actors Vin Diesel and Paul Walker manage to escape security and drive through a window at the Ethiad Towners in Abu Dhabi in the film.

“The producers and stunt coordinators needed a car that was really different from the ones used in all the previous Fast and Furious movies, something that they don’t see everyday,” Debbas added.

WATCH the Lykan HyperSport in ‘Furious 7’:

The Lykan features a holographic display with interactive motion and tactile interaction. LED headlights are made up of a Titanium blade encrusted with diamonds and the taillights with sapphires. A 24-hour concierge service is also available.

It is also the first car to have headlights with embedded jewels containing titanium LED blades with 15-carat diamonds, although the buyer has a selection of rubies, diamonds, and sapphires to be integrated into the vehicle’s headlights.

Critics are questioning why Abu Dhabi police would need a $3.4 million police car. But reports say Abu Dhabi police are envious of Dubai’s fleet of supercars, like a Ferrari FF, Bugatti Beyron, and Lamborghini Gallardo.

WATCH the reveal of Abu Dhabi’s new supercar:

When you’re uber-rich, why not?

Take that, Dubai.

U.S. fundraiser aims to bring clean water to Lebanese schools

(DETROIT, MI) — A U.S.-based service organization is on a mission to raise $3 million to install water filtration systems in 1,200 Lebanese schools over the next three years.

A group of Rotary International leaders — in partnership with the Rotary of Lebanon and Troy Rotary Club in Troy, Mich.  — are part of an effort to bring clean water into Lebanon’s public school system.

Nearly one in three Lebanese buy alternative sources of drinking water, usually from mobile water trucks or in bottles, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Lebanese public schools are in even greater need, according to USAID, because of the influx of Syrian refugees, who have added 200,000 Syrian children into an already crowded system.

“The water reaching Lebanese private and public properties is so contaminated, it is undrinkable,” said Fadi Sankari, chairman of the Lebanon Water Project. “It is important to engage in Lebanon’s humanitarian affairs because as U.S born Americans we are fortunate enough to have clean drinking water at our disposal.”

Contaminated drinking water affects 300,000 Lebanese children and 200,000 Syrian children, according to Sankari. Rotary International has developed working committees to examine the hardest-hit schools, and allocate the resources and volunteers to launch the undertaking.

“I’m happy to report that we have roughly $1.2 million raised and nearly 400 schools complete and 50 in the works,” Sankari added.

The committee is working in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and the Red Cross, among others. It costs $2,500 to install a water tank and filter in each school.

Lebanese Health Minister Wael Abu Faour announced in early April a new campaign to address water sanitation in Lebanese public schools. Abu Faour said his office identified high levels of bacteria in water samples from nearly all public school systems.

According to the Lebanese National News Agency, 49 percent of samples failed to meet the necessary health standards of the ministry.

Rotary International leaders in Lebanon have met with Abu Faour to discuss upcoming plans and timelines for project completion.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

The Troy Rotary Club is hosting a fundraising gala on July 23 at Byblos Banquet Center in Dearborn, Mich. For more information call (248) 740-7151 — donations are tax deductible. The event flyer can be found at this link.

Lebanese shawarma wins ‘world’s tastiest sandwich’

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The infamous Lebanese shawarma was named “world’s tastiest sandwich” by London-based food network FoodieHub after a local Beirut-based restaurant won the top award among 4,000 nominees across 150 cities.

Joseph’s Restaurant in Sin El Fil, which has been operating for 20 years, was nominated by Lebanese food blogger Anthony Rahayel, who runs the popular blog NoGarlicNoOnions.

Rahayel described Joseph’s shawarma as “fulfilling without being heavy.””I loved the quality of the ingredients, the juiciness of the meat, the crunchiness of the vegetables and the tenderness of the bread,” wrote Rahayel on a blog post from November 2014.

“The adequate amount of fat, the spiciness and that’s it. Not over done, and not spilling from all sides, the sandwich is really unique.”

Rahayel said his blog’s mission is to show “the other side of Lebanon,” referring to a more positive image of the country’s cuisine and culture.

“I wanted to let everyone see and learn how our various dishes are prepared, how they vary from one town to another, one city to another and even from one home to another,” Rahayel wrote.

Foodiehub described the shawarma to be: “Thin and fresh bread, two layers of it, wrapped around a generous portion of meat of chicken alongside accompaniments; premium quality, without any sauces or sophistication. Pure beef, premium chicken, juicy, tender with lettuce, pickles and fries for the white meat and parsley and tartar for the brown.”

Lebanese man proposes to girlfriend by drone!

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — A Lebanese man used a drone recently to organize a surprise proposal to his girlfriend on the rooftop of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beirut.

A relaxing dinner overlooking the beautiful Zaitunay Bay was interrupted by an incoming drone carrying the proposal ring.

Hotel guests sealed the deal as they applauded around the couple.

WATCH the surprise proposal here:

Mabrouk!

Surprise drone proposals are becoming increasingly popular around the world, prompting the United States Federal Aviation Administration to add new regulations on all “small unmanned aircraft systems.”

RELATED: Watch filmmaker Georges Chahoud propose to his Ukranian girlfriend at the Beirut International Airport here!

Lebanese, Armenian women named world’s ‘sexiest’

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The results of a new U.S.-based survey gives Lebanese and Armenians yet another thing to brag about. The two proud nationalities can now boast the “sexiness” of their women, as the survey ranks them among the world’s “sexiest.”

According to the survey by MissTravel, a destination dating website, Armenian women are considered the number one “sexiest” nationality, followed by Lebanese in tenth place.

The travel site polled over 110,000 Americans to determine who they thought was best looking. Last year, Australian men and Brazilian women topped the sexy charts.

The change of heart gives well-deserved recognition to the grace and glamor of Lebanese women. But more importantly, it recognies the intelligence and ambition of Lebanese ladies that contribute to the country’s economy, intellect, and sex appeal.

Lebanese TV journalist Rima Karaki made national news when she shut down a London-based Sheikh when he told her to shut up. (MEMRI TV)
Lebanese TV journalist Rima Karaki made national news when she shut down a London-based Sheikh when he told her to shut up. (MEMRI TV)

And with curves like Kim Kardashian, who can question the bombshell beauty of Armenian ladies? The Armenian-American celebrity recently went on an eight-day tour of her homeland in mid-April.

Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and North all visit the Geghard Monastery in the Kotayk province of Armenia (Irish Mirror)
Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and North all visit the Geghard Monastery in the Kotayk province of Armenia (Irish Mirror)

The survey also ranked sexy men, placing Irish, Australians, and Pakistani’s among the top.

The sexiest nationalities for women:
10. Lebanese
9. Bulgarian
8. Filipina
7. Brazilian
6. Australian
5. English
4. Colombian
3. American
2. Barbadian/Bajan
1. Armenian

The sexiest nationalities for men:
10. Spanish
9. Danish
8. Nigerian
7. Italian
6. Scottish
5. English
4. American
3. Pakistani
2. Australian
1. Irish

So, what do you think? Let us know on our Facebook page.

American photographer transforms Beirut into minimalist artwork

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — American photographer and artist Matt Crump made Beirut his canvas recently, when he took to the streets to photograph local landmarks and transform them into minimalist artwork.

Crump is known for creating a movement called #candyminimal, a photography project which separates subjects in a photograph and edits them into a candy-colored image.

minimalist beirut

Crump collaborated with Beirut-born fashion designer Ryan Houssari to “glamorize reality” and showcase Beirut landmarks. Houssari is also the creative director of PLASTIK magazine, an independent art and fashion publication.

Crump’s work was recently published in the latest edition of PLASTIK, which was founded in 2009. The magazine’s highly stylized editorials have been acknowledged by the The Printing Industries of America in New York City with the “Premier Print” award in 2010, and the Golden Award for “Best Publication in the Middle East” by the DCCI Publishing Group at the 2009 Dubai Printing and Press awards.

minimalist beirut

minimalist beirut

Matt Crump is a full-time artist with a social-media following of over 125,000. Crump attributes his success to his distinctive use of candy-colored negative space and surreal compositions. He open-sourced his brand of photography with the hashtag #candyminimal, inspiring his international audience to create and tag over 50,000 of their own candy-colored photos.

minimalist beirut

minimalist beirut

Red Cross exhibition marks 40 years since start of Lebanese Civil War

(BEIRUT, LEBANON) — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), together with the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC), is organizing a special photo exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary of the start of the civil war in Lebanon.

The exhibition will feature photographs from the Red Cross archives and from Lebanese photographers, depicting humanitarian work carried out by the ICRC and LRC during the conflict. The civil war in Lebanon, which lasted for 15 years, left thousands of people dead and injured.

“The war brought about a lot of previously unseen challenges and had profound consequences for our organization,” said Fabrizzio Carboni, head of the ICRC delegation in Beirut, in a news release. “We faced a very volatile environment and often had to operate in urban areas under fire, crossing constantly-moving front-lines.”

Organizers say outcomes of the Lebanese Civil War continue to plague the country today.

“This exhibition is but a modest attempt to shed light on a history filled with pain,” said Georges Kettaneh, Secretary-General of the Lebanese Red Cross. “Wherever there are wars and victims, there are human stories. 40 years have passed, but memories still hurt us and are deeply engraved in our hearts and minds.”

The photographs at the exhibition will illustrate many of the humanitarian issues faced in Lebanon during the past four decades.

The exhibition takes place between 17 and 26 April, 2015 at the Villa Paradiso, Gemmayzeh, Beirut.

VIEW a sample of the gallery below:

picto-4
A damaged cemetery in Beirut, Lebanon in 1982. ICRC/L. Chessex
picto-6
Destroyed neighborhoods in Beirut, Lebanon in 1983. ICRC/E. Winiger
picto-8bis
Evacuating civilians in Bourj Al Barajneh camp, Beirut in 1987. ICRC/A. Manoukian
picto-9
The Lebanese Red Cross and the ICRC evacuate civilians from Chatila refugee camp in Beirut in 1987. ICRC Archives (ARR) / Hassan, Ali
picto-10
Following an explosion in Beirut’s Ashrafieh neighborhood in 2012. © Lebanese Red Cross Society / C. Souad
picto-11
A Lebanese Red Cross volunteer evacuates a little girl during one of several rounds of violence that hit Lebanon’s northern city, Tripoli in 2012. © Lebanese Red Cross Society/H. Baydoun

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