In a combative inaugural address to Parliament, Michel Aoun vowed to take measures to push Syrian refugees to return home.
Source: The New York TimesRead More
When I was a child, I spent most summers at my grandparents’ home in the Lebanese mountain village of Roumieh, overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean coast. From the swing on the veranda, an expanse of umbrella pines and terracotta-roofed villages tumbled steeply toward the sea.
In the evenings, my grandfather would set up a tiny portable television outside to watch the news, and my grandmother would point out the constellations of lights across the hills, naming the villages and towns: “There’s Bhannes, near Bhersaf. Beyond them is Bikfaya, but you can’t see it from here.”
The mountain’s geography was mystifying. Elevation seemed to both stretch and compress space. Villages separated by a few hundred meters of fragrant air were as distinct as planets, while the great city by the sea seemed close enough to touch. Maps showed the road to my grandparents’ house neatly branching off the main street of the village. In reality, it torqued as it rose steeply up a hill, tracing a question mark toward the sky.
That terrain was full of uncertainties, and it is even more so today, as the war in Syria, just a hundred or so miles away, has worsened. The United Nations registered over one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon between the beginning of the war in 2011 and 2015. The number today may be closer to 1.5 million. In a small country of under five million people, the effects of the influx seem unfathomable in their enormity.
When I try to imagine them, it’s the vista from my grandparents’ mountain balcony that I see, with even more lights glowing in constellations across the valley. And it occurs to me that my grandmother’s nightly cataloging of towns back then was her way to come to terms with Lebanon’s own history of violent displacements. It was the late ’80s, after sectarian conflict had turned Lebanon into a patchwork of confessional enclaves and no-man’s lands separated by invisible borders, much like the state of Syria today.
Her ritual of surveying and naming was therapeutic: It conjured a vision of Lebanon as a reconstituted entity — territorially and politically — to replace the scenes of fracture flickering across my grandfather’s black-and-white television.
For us children, it was a geography lesson meant as preparation for the strange homecoming that always follows a great war. Lebanon then, like Syria now, seemed finished as a state or a coherent nation, and one day we would have to make our way through its contorted political landscape, and find a new place in it.
One summer shortly after the end of the Lebanese Civil War, in 1990 or 1991, my father decided that my siblings and I needed a different sort of geography class. Four children squeezed into the back seat of an old gray-and-black, two-door Chevy Malibu, and we set off every day to explore the parts of Lebanon not visible from my grandparents’ balcony.
Within two weeks we’d crossed the country several times, stopping in places we’d only heard the adults speak about: the Roman ruins at Baalbek, the Crusaders’ sea castle in Sidon, the palace of Emir Bashir II in Beiteddine, the pockmarked sniper alleys and killing fields of downtown Beirut. Few of our destinations were prepared to receive tourists; the postwar reconstruction effort was barely underway. In fact, this may have been the objective of my father’s expedition: to show his children the remains of Lebanon’s First Republic, the country of his own childhood.
I remember the barely suppressed looks of relief on my grandparents’ faces when we’d return to their house each evening, fresh with stories about the places we’d visited. I delighted in laying out our itineraries for my grandmother, listing the towns that we passed and the roads we’d taken, especially those I’d heard her mention on the balcony on previous summer evenings. Now she listened while I spoke, our roles reversed.
On our last expedition, we pulled off the coastal highway about 10 miles north of Beirut, drove up into the hills above Jounieh, and descended into the Dog River Valley. We arrived at the mouth of the Jeita Grotto, a massive network of majestic limestone caverns that burrow for more than five miles under the mountainside. Jeita had been a major attraction during the golden age of Lebanese tourism in the 1960s. It was shuttered shortly after the beginning of the civil war in 1975.
A single soldier was sitting outside a dilapidated guard post in front of the cavern’s entrance as we rolled up in the Malibu. He listened, incredulous, as my father explained that we were interested in touring the cavern.
“Jeita is closed, sir,” the soldier said slowly. The upper passages had been converted into a munitions dump for the Lebanese Army. There was no electricity or ventilation, and no tourists had been allowed to visit the site in over a decade.
“You should come back when it opens again — maybe in a few years,” the soldier said, casting a perplexed eye at my mother, who was beaming in gratitude.
My father got out of the car and the two men conferred for a few minutes. Some sort of exchange took place — of ideas perhaps, more likely of currency — and the next thing I knew we had left the noonday heat and entered the delectable cool of the mountain. The soldier walked ahead of us, cracking signal flares every few minutes to illuminate the cave’s soaring vaults, hung with monumental stalactites.
We wandered for a while before coming to an underground river. A few rowboats sat overturned near the water’s edge, where they’d been left when the caverns were closed to the public. The soldier stopped and told us that it was time to turn back. My father smiled.
As we floated down the river, my siblings and I dipped our fingers into the water, marveling at its chilliness and at the echoes our voices made against the glistening walls. The soldier sat in the back of the boat, a stone-faced Charon, rowing us forward toward the depths of the cave.
The expression on my father’s face remains one of the clearest memories I have of the trip. It was a look of triumph. The war was over. The presence of his family floating down a river in a prehistoric cavern was somehow proof of that. It was still here, and therefore so were we.
Source: The New York TimesRead More
The Internet today in Lebanon and the Middle East is about equivalent to what the Internet was in the United States in 2003 in terms of speed. Internet Speed dictates the Internet user’s growth that is happening right now in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. From 1992 to 2004, 50 million websites existed online. Between 2004 and 2007, this number doubled to 100 million. Between 2007 and 2011 it went over 600 million! It’s estimated that this number will increase by at least 25% each and every year and for the next ten years.
Since 2003 I was already in the business of web design & development in the USA. The Internet speed was fast enough but not good enough to watch a video online. In the same year I witnessed the “Google Bust”, when Google just exploded and became the main most used Search Engine online making it the number one website in the world. The term “Google it” became popular few years later.
I saw firsthand how Google changed the world and everything we knew about marketing with it! Ten years later in 2012, Google.com is still the most visited website each and every day! As matter of fact Google the Company owns at least 20 of the TOP 100 websites globally! YouTube is just one of them!
Today in Lebanon, anywhere you look you see people everywhere using their PC’s, Macs, Laptops, iPads, iPhones, or any Smartphone to access the World Wide Web the Internet. What is it going to be like nine years from now if statistically Lebanon Internet use is where the USA was back in 2003?
I would say half of the people in Lebanon will live online nine years from now; at least half of the population of Lebanon will spend a minimum of two to three hours a day doing whatever they do online. In terms of exposure and marketing, that’s way more “people attention” that all TV Stations, All Newspapers, all Magazines, all Billboards, and all Radio Stations ever had combined!!!
Back then I was forced to learn everything about Google and how the search results work in order to design and develop websites that would appear in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). All websites built before the Google Bust became worthless for they did not appear in the Google search results as anyone who owned one would want it to be. A $50,000 website not built for Google results became too expensive to market and had to fail while compared to the $1000 website that was programmed for Google succeeded and generated serious profits to its owners. Websites right away and almost overnight became a MUST thing to own for any company who was in business. Even after owning the websites something had to be done to make these websites strong in Google and a must thing for them to succeed.
A new science and new field in the IT industry was born called SEO. Search Engine Optimization the science behind getting websites ranked high in the Google results pages was a very abstract field back then, no one knew how to do things, why, when, what, and so forth. No one could learn it in school, no one can ask anyone else, and no one knew how things worked. Every person in the business including me had to experiment and teach themselves how to get websites to be ranked number one or at least in the top ten results in Google. Those that taught themselves well became known as “SEO Guys”. Those that excelled at it basically because they got addicted to Google and had to spend thousands and thousands of hours monitoring Google search results became known as “SEO Experts” and basically taught themselves one serious career that even today no University or College can figure out how to teach SEO, an over 150 Billion Dollars a year industry in the United States alone!
Why would anyone build anyone else a website to rank high in Google when you can do it for your own websites? SEO became more and more competitive and a huge secret, companies didn’t know what to do to their websites. Large corporations didn’t have anyone on staff that knew anything about SEO. Webmasters, graphics designers, programmers, computer engineers, project managers, and software experts none had any idea what SEO was and even today none have any idea what SEO is unless they take the time to teach themselves and have to own their own websites to practice and excel at it. The Internet business was almost taken away from real companies and corporations to be mastered by small time people in their pajamas working on their own websites from home. It drove businesses and web owners crazy!
I myself not until 2007 figured out how to use my SEO knowledge to offer it as SEO Services to other companies and businesses. I created an SEO Company in Lebanon called www.LazyURL.com . The website today is still online reflecting what was so new and such a secret in the SEO industry just five years ago! I was the first person to ever create the first 1000 Web Directory List Online. That is a list of websites that accept other websites in their database and lists them in terms of categories. Website Directories was the first secret place how to get free links and links was the big secret of SEO! Now through iBaroody in Lebanon I have been “making online dreams come true since 2002”, helping others promote and make their websites strong in the search engines in order to profit more, gain more, increase their traffic, emails, phone calls, and get more business.
In business, I have seen small businesses generate hundreds of thousands of dollars with their cheap websites just because their websites were designed for Google. On the other hand, large corporations lost millions of dollars in new business to the smaller companies or to those that built SEO websites because their own websites were not designed from scratch for Google. They had to adapt and re-engineer their websites and on an average it took about 3 years for them to do so. During that period those that knew the SEO basics enjoyed the wealth that was created by third party websites. Websites made just for SEO were very high in the Google search results and people would search for anything would find and visit them first, just because they were designed to be ranked number one or two in Google without any real substance or business behind the website. Then these SEO websites owners, who learned SEO on their own in order to promote their websites, would send the traffic to the largest businesses that offered the highest commissions for that market. This created what is called the “Affiliates” and “Resellers” programs you see online today.
SEO right away became the main part of everything called Internet Marketing (Also known as Online Marketing). SEO is also the reason to why Internet Marketing is going to change all marketing in Lebanon and the Middle East. The same thing that happened in 2002/2003 in the USA is going to happen right here at home! This SEO is what started iBaroody www.iBaroody.com and is what iBaroody right now does here in Lebanon for businesses throughout the Middle East. Designing websites to do everything websites do plus at the same time be built for Google is what differentiates iBaroody from other developers in the Middle East.Read More
Beirut, in the words of one designer I talked to recently, is like a third world country that’s put on some makeup.
It is the capital of a country that has not had a president in two years. There are daily power outages. It can take an hour to heat water to take a shower, and garbage removal is a serious problem. There are almost no street signs, but one can summon an Uber relatively easily.
Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, creativity thrives in Beirut, which seems to have more than its share of architects, interior designers, industrial designers and artists. Most speak at least three languages, have been educated in other countries and have multiple passports, so they could live someplace seemingly easier.
“There is a soul here that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Nada Debs, a designer in her 50s with a shop in downtown Beirut.
Others of her generation mention their interest in helping rebuild a country devastated by a 15-year civil war. And some cite more practical reasons: the ease of sourcing materials, finding artisans and producing pieces in Beirut rather than Europe.
Karim Chaya, 44, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, whose company, Acid, has designed and produced furniture and fixtures for companies like Lanvin and Golden Goose, said he thinks designers thrive on the area’s chaos. “The borderline danger, borderline madness is something that pushes us in our designs and our research and our need to create,” he said.
Here’s a look at some of the city’s designers who have made names for themselves outside the region.
200GRS, RANA HADDAD AND PASCAL HACHEM
200Grs was founded three years ago by Rana Haddad, 47, an architect, and Pascal Hachem, 37, an artist, to create local handmade pieces, inspired in part by their city. They do conceptual designs, like a rolling pin with one flat side carved with the words “Keep up appearances.”
They also have a collection of oak and walnut case goods that Ms. Haddad says “challenge the wood,” and a series of steel-framed mirrors that seem to float on the wall. All are minimal, thoughtful pieces that highlight materials and craft, sometimes subtly. The firm will debut a new collection next year at the Federica Schiavo Gallery, during Salone del Mobile in Milan.
Marc Baroud, 38, founded and directs the design department at his alma mater, the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts in Beirut. He also studied at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et des Métiers d’Art in Paris, after which he returned to Beirut to start a branding agency and, later, an architecture firm.
Mr. Baroud is working with galleries to produce and show either one-off pieces or limited editions. His latest, Leatherscapes, was inspired by uncut shapes and imperfections of calfskins he saw. “I wanted to keep the skins as they are, with the holes, the traces of the hand, all the faults, but give them a function,” he said of the resulting pieces (two chairs, a desk and a bench) with skins seemingly melted over steel frames.
Karen Chekerdjian, 46, who grew up in Beirut during the civil war, got her master’s in industrial design from the Domus Academy in Milan. There she met Massimo Morozzi, a founder of the radical Italian furniture company Archizoom Associati, who became her mentor and, while art director at Edra, commissioned her first produced piece.
Fifteen years ago, she opened a studio in Beirut. Ever since, she has been designing furniture, decorative objects, jewelry and the occasional interior (she is working on a villa by the architect Youssef Tohme). It’s quite a range, in style, materials and price. A collection of locally made hammered brass tabletop items shows her modern take on traditional shapes and techniques, while her Spaceship II table resembles a futuristic boulder, ripped from the mountains and reimagined in brushed brass.
1MILLIMETRE, SARA JAAFAR
After earning a degree in architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and working as a designer at Heatherwick Studio, Sara Jaafar, 30, returned to Beirut in 2014 and founded 1millimetre studio.
The name is a nod to her reputation as a stickler for detail, which is evidenced in her small but focused and cohesive collection: several tables, a chair, a light fixture. “I enjoy materials, and the juxtaposition and intersection of materials,” she said. Her Drape chair, for example, melds tubular copper framing with leather (the slings can be interchanged, the chair ships flat and can be disassembled for storage), and the Slit table has a walnut veneer top perched on a brass base with marble accents. And the Broken Slab table, made of marble and powdercoated steel, was inspired, she said, “by all the rebars sticking out of old buildings that had been destroyed.”
Nada Debs says her aesthetic was formed by the four countries she has lived in: Japan for minimalism, America for utility and use of modern materials, the United Kingdom for heritage and craft, and Lebanon for ornamentation and repetition of patterns.
Ms. Debs, who is 54 and holds a degree in interior architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design, has her furniture and decorative accessories made locally and sold at her shop in Saifi Village. She aims to “preserve the heritage in a contemporary way, taking craft to another level, creating a modern Arab identity.” This is most evident in her interpretation of inlay, marrying what she calls “noble” materials — mother-of-pearl, brass, stainless steel and even leather — with the more pedestrian acrylic, concrete and wood. The pieces feel familiar, yet surprising, and very contemporary.
Marc Dibeh was a student at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Val de Seine, home on summer break, when the 2006 war started. He decided to stay in Beirut, earning a master’s in product design from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts, where he now teaches.
Now 31, Mr. Dibeh is designing products and interiors, including the renovation of an 1800s farmhouse in Corsica, and the redesign of the Muncheez restaurant franchise in the District of Columbia. This summer, he had a solo show of new furniture pieces (a coffee table, armchair and stool, all made of blackened steel, brass, wood and leather) at the Gallery S. Bensimon in Paris.
DAVID/NICOLAS, DAVID RAFFOUL AND NICOLAS MOUSSALLEM
David Raffoul and Nicolas Moussallem are perhaps the Beirut product designers best known to the outside world. They have designed for international brands, including porcelain dinnerware for Vista Alegre, rugs for Moooi Carpets and Tai Ping, a desk for Haymann, candleholders for Verreum, and a bar cabinet for the Carpenters Workshop Gallery, which will debut next month.
They are both 28 and met while students at the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts in Beirut. They are very aware of their rapid rise. “If our studio was based in London, I don’t know if we would’ve gotten the same success as fast,” Mr. Moussallem said. “Being from Beirut, people are curious, and this curiosity is something we feed on.”
Carlo Massoud, 32, worked as an architect before deciding to focus on product design. He was part of the Armory Show’s first Design Project last year in New York, where he showed “Arab Dolls: Maya, Zeina, Racha and Yara” with the Beirut-based Carwan Gallery; it was an installation of 60 hand-crafted, black lacquered wood sculptures that, from afar, look like bullets, but are meant to resemble veiled women. “It was a statement about the polemic about the veils in Switzerland: Should we ban them from public institutions or not?” he said.
This year, he worked with his sister, the ceramicist Mary-Lynn Massoud, on an exhibit called “Autopsy,” which was shown by the Carwan Gallery at the Armory Show this spring, and featured six cast bronze stools inspired by South African fertility dolls. His most recent designs are cast brass paperweights, created for a pop-up shop that’s a collaboration between Wallpaper magazine and House of Today, a nonprofit based in Beirut that connects experts and emerging designers.
Source: The New York TimesRead More