Train Train: Trains in Lebanon Again?

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Traffic in Lebanon is insane, and for many reasons. First, Lebanese people are horrible drivers. Lanes and traffic lights and signs might as well just be modern art to them. They speed, overtake each other dangerously, go in the wrong direction, etc. Our traffic cops are good at Whatsapping their friends and whistling at girls walking on the street, the only thing truly enforced are the unfair parking tickets, which are haphazard and mean, given that no alternative parking is ever available, and if it is, some scumbag valet services that’s friends with the cops gets them.

Second, infrastructure projects in Lebanon are always geared towards how much money the contractor will make, not how useful it is for the flow of traffic and taxpayers’ wellbeing. Useless bridges with 8 lanes, just to allow for one lane under them, with a pricetag that’ll add many millions to the companies constructing them who are friends with the government at the time the contracts are awarded.

Third, very poor planning, like the Jounieh bay highway, which magically squeezes into two lanes after being 3 to 4 lanes before and after the Jounieh part. Imagine Lebanese drivers split into 4 lanes (5 actually, I mean, who cares about the lanes, right?) squeezing into 2 lanes in a battle to the death with crazy cab, truck and bus drivers. And with so many buildings crowding that strip of highway, it’s almost unimaginable that it can ever be expanded in a feasible way.

Trains might not be the silver bullet to solve our traffic problems, but it surely is a major part. Here are a few cool facts from the Train Train NGO’s Facebook page:

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Kalam Ennas Cool Reports

Here’s a cool report about the Lebanese railroads’ impressive history

And this one is a heartbreaking account of one of Lebanon’s train conductors, now 85 and abandoned by the country and government he served for almost 50 years.

Byblos-Batroun Rail Plans

Mr Maalouf has been trying to relaunch the line between the coast cities of Byblos and Batroun, to show the feasibility of having trains running again. “We need a success story,” he says. The project, with a budget of £430,000, should take only a matter of months to complete, but Mr Maalouf is still waiting for the green light from the Lebanese government.

via The Independent

It’s hard to believe the government would ever OK this. After all, our members of parliament are only good at a handful of things: punching taxpayers, suing taxpayers, extending their terms and increasing their wages.

But, there are other ways to make the money and get the projects done: the private sector. With enough public support, maybe, just maybe, we could rebuild that railway. I’m not sure how useful a train between the relatively close and congestion-free Byblos and Batroun would be, but still, as Maalouf said “we need a success story”.

Now, many of the remaining tracks and stations are government property: public property. But, so are our beaches, and almost every single centimeter of beach has been built-up by the private sector. So, why not do the same with the railroads, but at least this time, it’s for a nobler cause than making people pay 50,000LBP to swim in a publicly-owned beach.

It’d cost around 700,000 USD according to Train Train, why not let brands sponsor each segment or station, having for example the “Sanita Station” in Halat, the “Bank Byblos Station” near Jbeil, etc. I’m sure 700,000 USD won’t be too hard a sell for such an epic comeback for something our generations never saw live, despite it dating back almost 120 years…

Imagine the jobs it’d create and the momentum it’d kick off to resume rehabilitating our railway all the way from our northernmost tip, to Lebanon’s southernmost and hopefully into the Bekaa. It’ll also be interesting to see how Lebanese will adapt to blocking railroads, like they so casually and consistently do to roads…

Major Victory Against Censorship in Lebanon

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One struggle I’ve been part of for the past few years has been exceptionally fruitful. I’m proud to be part of March, the NGO that stands for freedom of speech and anti-censorship in Lebanon. For the better part of the past 2 years, we’ve been in a bitter fight with the General Security’s Censorship Bureau. A play we originally wrote with the title of “Bto2ta3 aw ma Bto2ta3″ was censored, and the former team at the Censorship Bureau launched a vicious and juvenile media attack, citing anonymous critics’ opinions as reason enough to justify their ban (“expert opinions” included that the “language was too poor” and that the writers “did not have the necessary mental capacity and maturity”.) The play satirized the censorship process in Lebanon.

Unwilling to give up, we rewrote another play titled “La 3younak Sidna”, which was essentially the story of how “Bto2ta3 aw ma Bto2ta3″ was banned. We also included basically the entire script of the original, plus what happened before and after we applied for approval.

Days ago, we were pleasantly surprised to find out that our second attempt, was approved fully as-is. Flabbergasted would best describe our reactions at this unexpectedly positive decision by the Censorship Bureau. It’s important to note that since our last attempt, the chief of the bureau and most of the team have been replaced and the new chief and team seemed far less intent on censoring free speech.

This complete shift in attitude and contradicting verdicts only reassure what we’ve always said: that the law is too vague, and allows for interpretation either way depending on the person wearing the censorship hat. So, here, I’d like to thank the bureau for taking the right decision and respecting taxpayers’ right to express themselves freely without consequence. I’d also like to thank the Interior Ministry, who followed up on the process and encouraged a more lenient performance. I also hope that this will be the first of many steps towards a more pragmatic stance on censorship from the government far more acceptable than the past few years’ policies.

We’ll be debuting our new play soon at AUB, more details in the coming few days!

Visit Beirut’s Newly Paint Up-ed Staircase!

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It’s the 7th time the Dizhayners have organized a Paint Up project in Beirut that transforms one of the city’s iconic, deteriorating staircases into an urban art masterpiece. The events are always fun, with volunteers from all over Lebanon joining in to finish the monumental task in just 6 hours.

This time though, Chad the Mad (Chady Abousleiman), one of my favorite street artists in Beirut, collaborated with them and added his awesome signature, surreal touch to the middle-section of the stairs. Meaning, it’s even more awesome than the other staircases we all love and know around Beirut, like the one in Mar Mikhail most Lebanese people have a profile picture or two on.

But, the staircase is supposed to undergo much-needed renovations “soon” (which hopefully isn’t anytime soon given the Lebanese government’s track record), and with other staircases being threatened by the monstrosity that is the Fouad Boutros Highway, these amazing, world-renowned stairs are a very endangered species.

So, make the most of them while we still have them, and participate in the next Paint Up event to help preserve these rare pedestrian lifelines in a city choked with useless, absurdly-priced cement skyscrapers with sidewalks that are not wheelchair-accessible and often serve as a parking spot instead of a safe pedestrian path.

The Azariyeh stairs are located here, and below is a screenshot of their location (the space-age looking thing on the right is ABC Ashrafieh for reference)

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Car-Free Day This Sunday in Sodeco-Abdel Wahab Streets!

10600638_713193452098971_773891049827641658_nI absolutely adore those car-free days Achrafieh 2020 holds regularly. My favorite so far was the Gemmayzeh one, where the kiosks, local businesses, food, drink and entertainment was awesome. The vibes were positive throughout the day, and families, young folks and the elderly all joined in the fun.

I’d like to see iconic streets like Gouraud (Gemmayzeh), Monot, Mar Mikhael, Abdel Wahab, etc. become fully pedestrian. It’d be heaven: no traffic jams, less pollution, more enjoyable atmosphere and MOST IMPORTANTLY: no fucking valet parking.

Here’s to hoping we’ll see that someday during our lifetimes, but for now, one street for one Sunday at a time will have to do! See you all there!

RSVP here.

 

Classic Burger Truck Offering Shares for Fans

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Many of y’all love CBJ. I love it too, and it’s a regular lunch spot for me when in Beirut. It’s fast, easy and tastes good. The success of their business model needs no explanation, as you can see them popping up everywhere and beyond Lebanon now.

What I found especially cool though, is that they’re opening a sister business, Classic Burger Truck. I got an email invitation to check out their Eureeca.com page, and I thought it’s a really cool idea if you have the money. Lotsa times, I wonder how did this or that business choose its investors, and it’s usually friends or people who’ve already done business together. Now, these types of ventures, like “mybar” and “myclub” if you remember, don’t always pick up, but then again, it wasn’t on an online platform like now which operates similar to crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Zoomaal. The main difference I guess only this offers you equity (shares) in the business instead of the perks or products an entrepreneur decides on other crowd-funded sites. Then again, remember, you can pay as littles as a few dollars on those websites, when the desired tickets here are worth 2,500USD…

I don’t have that kind of money, but I wouldn’t mind if one of you guys and gals becomes a big investor and rewards me with some Swiss and Mushroom burgers =P. I also think it’s a great example other successful entrepreneurs might consider using, to make sure they can branch out into uncharted waters, without risking the success of their existing business.

The code is: “classic”

Audio Kultur’s Launch Party: Fighting for the Right to Party

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Despite the many subjects I tackle on this blog, I pride myself in that my main “area of expertise” and the posts that have gotten most attention over the past five years, were the ones related to nightlife.

I fucking love to party. From The Basement days where it all began, to the mega-clubs and concepts today like The Garten, Uberhause, C U NXT SAT, The Grand Factory, B 018, Decks on the Beach and many, many more. House music + Lebanese people = some of the best clubbing experiences in the world. I’ve partied in so many cities, and I say this wholeheartedly, nothing is like Beirut. Here, we party because we have a reason to, not just to get drunk or high like in most places. It’s our church, our therapy, our escape from the otherwise unpleasant reality we live in. No bomb, war, assassination or other forms of violence can stop the party. Both good and bad, the sometimes over-the-top party scene is one of the last vestiges of the “liberal” Lebanon we love and aspire to.

I wrote a feature on that topic for Audio Kultur earlier this year, and I feel it still holds true, especially with today’s Vice piece on just that (worth the read.)

Next Saturday, all the major party crews are coming together under the Garten’s dome to show the unity of this magnificent scene. I mean, just look at the lineup… It brings tears to my eyes, coupled with the debut of “Muscle Shoals”, a Secret Walls live graff session and the support of awesome folks like Red Bull’s Quarter Tone Frequency radio and the Wickerpark Festival crew.

You CANNOT miss this. It pains me to know I’m going to be missing it. I would’ve absolutely loved to be with all of you there.

Always keep the party going Beirut. I love you all <3

RSVP here.

Embrace: A Suicide Every 3 Days in Lebanon. Help Stop This!

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Mental illness is still a taboo subject in Lebanon. Mentally ill people hide it, and when they can’t, their loved ones hide it for them from the rest of society. It’s still seen as something to be ashamed of, and to some people even as something that’s a deserved “punishment” by god or whatever.

But, its impact is real, and given the striking numbers of psychoactive drug prescriptions in Lebanon: 1 million tranquilizers, 642000 anti-depressants in 2011 [source], coupled with the devastating reality that every 3 days, someone in Lebanon takes their own life, goes to show you that a LOT can and needs to be done.

That’s why I was very happy to find out about the Embrace Fund, a regional and national campaign to raise awareness and provide support for mental illness. It’s in partnership with the AUBMC’s Psychiatry Department, and earlier today, they had their “walk into the dawn” activation towards the Raouche Rock (Pigeon Rock in Beirut), which is infamous as a top choice for people committing suicide by jumping off of it into the Mediterranean Sea.

Here’s their Facebook page, so you can find out how to help. On their website, you can submit your own story about a struggle with mental illness, and read those who wrote their own and wanted it to be published. You can also sign up to become a member, or make a donation, or both! So, head to EmbraceFund.org and sign up!

What to do This Weekend: A Big One!

Friday

NRJ Music Tour

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For my younger readers, the NRJ Music Tour is an annual summer staple. On the lineup this year are the likes of Magic System, India, Graham Candy, Conor Maynard and many others. It’s under-18s friendly, and tickets are starting $50 with a split section for underage peeps.

Check out the event details here.

Future Shorts at Minus 5

10599624_746367668757405_7399212233811744876_nThe event page describes this as “the world’s largest pop-up film festival of its kind celebrates the best and most innovative short films, connecting global stories with global audiences”. I’m a movie buff, and love to see these independent kind of shorts. So, starting 9 PM, you might wanna check it out if you’re a fan of motion pictures too. You get to vote for your favorite, and it gets awarded the “Audience Choice Award” too!

Here are the event details.

Fuck Monday. Party on Friday at The Grand Factory

10425045_10154535402870472_6767763245088654304_nIt’s gonna be Jade vs DJette with a few guests too. It’s at Beirut’s hottest new venue in Karantina: The Grand Facotry, on the rooftop of a big industrial complex overlooking the Beirut Port. It’s supposed to have the awesomeness of Cotton Candy parties, which I’ve personally missed loads!

So, check it out here.

Saturday

Picnic in Horsh Beirut!

10609516_751193291606328_8232405212753308663_nHaving access to public green spaces is our right, and the continued shuttering up of the largest one: Horsh Beirut, is unacceptable. That’s why, on Saturday, from 3:00 till 6:00PM, join us in taking a walk and spending some quality time in Beirut’s green heart. Meet up at the main entrance, near Baba Sweets at 3:00PM sharp!

RSVP here.

Group Art Exhibition at IXSIR Winery

1907417_543879732406396_1042319815126660568_nIf you haven’t been to the award-winning, breathtakingly designed Ixsir winery which is around 10 minutes above where Pierre and Friends is. Bacchanalia features four Lebanese artists, two of which are good friends of mine! Yazan and Laudi!

So, if you’re into great works of art, displayed in an awesome location, with great wine at hand, then you can’t miss this. The exhibition runs till September 28, and it opens this Friday!

Details here.

Mother Mantra Followed by Gunnar Stiller at The Garten

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Mother Mantra is a brand new alternative rock band from Beirut. There music is dope from what I’ve heard so far, and show starts at 9:30PM.

Event details here.

Then, it’s Gunnar Stiller! Last year was absolutely epic, and I look forward to seeing this super energetic man back on the decks at The Garten! Details here.

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The BASEMENT Reunion at The Grand Factory

I grew up in The Basement and my musical taste was refined by Jade and Diamond Setter in that iconic underground club with the fancy chandeliers and mirrors. It’s always a special experience when a reunion goes down, so, looking forward!

Details here.

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Where to Party This Weekend: The Return

After the string of recent bombings and clashes in Aarsal, I felt it was a bit inconsiderate to keep publishing these posts as if nothing happened. But, if I’ve learned anything in all the years I’ve lived in Lebanon, is that life goes on no matter what. Bombs, assassinations, wars, natural disasters, no government, no president, no elections, no electricity, no water, unconquerable traffic, millions of refugees and still life goes on and the show must go on.

So, here’s making sure the terrorists don’t succeed in terrorizing us, and here’s a handful of stuff I think are worth you checking out over the next few days!

Massive Festival of the Weekend: Forest Frequencies.

10366188_563699313749744_6963817273110704426_nEscape to Chahtoul’s beautfiul nature and be wowed by dozens of awesome international and local talents from across the electronic music genre spectrum. This happens once a year, and it started yesterday, and looking epic already.

RSVP and details here.

Friday: Shonky at Electric Sundown (Iris Beach)

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The Friday sunset series we’ve all been loving continues, and this Friday with Shonky, supported by the awesome Tia and Vatche. It starts early, and you get in for free till 8:00PM. It’s awesome because you get to party while the sun sets to an amazing backdrop. This also means that the party starts early and you’ll get your 6-7 hour fix easy by midnight. Which means, for me at least, it’s the start of my Friday night!

Here’s the FB event for details and RSVPs

Friday: Solomun at SKYBAR

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This event is the headliner for me. I can’t believe Solomun is coming to Beirut tonight :’). I really wish it was on a Sunday though, but, I have extremely high hopes for his marathon set tonight. I’ll finish up from Iris Beach and be at Sky for the rest of the night. See y’all there!

RSVP and details here.

Saturday: MY FAVORITE ROBOT at The Garten

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Despite last week’s heartbreak with Dixon not being let into the country, it was a pretty good Garten night. I love My Favorite Robot, their sound and their remixes are always on my personal playlists, and after names like Ten Walls, NTFO, Wehbba and many others, this is a fine, fine addition to this summer’s lineup straight from Montreal!

RSVP and details here.

Saturday: Joakim at CUNXT SAT Sporting

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Despite how awesome the new venue, The Grand Factory, is, it’s nice to get a taste of the Sporting nights we all loved over the past two summers of CUNXT SAT there. This Saturday, it’s Joakim spinning the decks who wasn’t able to mak it a few weeks back! It’s right next to the sea, below the jets landing in Beirut and a stone’s throw away from Raouche!

RSVP and details here

Saturday Afterhours: B018 with Jimmy Van M, 3LIAS and Luxor T

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Jimmy, 3LIAS and Luxor T have been producing some pretty fucking insane tracks over the past few months. I’ve dropped by their studio a few times this summer, and every listening session is better than the one before it. It’s amazing to see such beautiful music being created from Lebanon by this exceptional international trio. There’s nowhere else you’d wanna be wrapping up your night on Saturday!

RSVP and details here.

Monday: Hip Hop Nights at Radio Beirut

I try to make it there as often as possible, because it’s the only place I know of that gives a platform for the many, many talented rappers and hip hop artists living in Lebanon. Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and other artists and hip hop aficionados from around the region get together and freestyle rap live at Radio Beirut.

The flow is awesome, with a back and forth between sometimes as many as 10 and more rappers, kept going smooth by good friends and veteran rappers Double A The Preacherman and Chyno and many others.

If you like rap, you need to be there Monday nights. You have rapping in English as well as different dialects in Arabic. The Arabic ones are the real gem, since we’re not so used to freestyle rap in dialects such Lebanese with a “Baalbek” or “Tripoli” accent, you’ll really enjoy that ride. It also gets really deep on a political, socio-economic level, but still has some “gangsta rap” with a Lebanese twist aspects in it too.

So, check it out!

SOLOMUN This Friday at SKYBAR

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I still can’t process how fucking epic this summer was for the underground electronic music scene. Between all the clubs and promoters, the entire world’s absolute best current talents are making their way to Beirut’s hottest venues and party crews. Whether its The Garten, CUNXTSAT, MixFM or one of the many other awesome organizers, they’ve successfully managed to educate the typical Lebanese clubber, transforming them from heels, plastic, cigar and too much gel, into electronic music connoisseurs in their own right.

SKYBAR’s foray into the underground world is good for many reasons. For one, it allowed me to go back after almost 3 years away. It also means that budgets skyrocketed for events we like. Solomun is very hot right now, which unfortunately put him at a bracket many in Lebanese nightlife can’t risk with the situation. Luckily, SKYBAR is going all out in the EDM scene this year, with their SUN.DAYS series with heavyweight names like HVOB becoming permanent residents!

Anyway, it’s SOLOMUN! And it’s this Friday. Be careful though, it’s not like Sundays, so you might wanna abide by the dress code and make sure you reserve. Here’s the Facebook event, and I’ve embedded two of my favorite reworks by Solomun.

Super heartfelt track

Reworked Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast”

and my absolute favorite Solomun remix