Ellie Goulding Tomorrow!

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I don’t endorse single events much anymore. With so much going on, it’s hard to zero in on the stuff you shouldn’t miss.

I’ve been a fan of MixFM since I was a young teenager, long before I became friends with the entire MixFM team. I’ve clocked in so many hours at their events, that looking through my Facebook albums, you’ll know I’ve never missed an event when I was in Lebanon. From the massive stadium events like Armin Only and ASOT, to the intimate underground ones like Paco Osuna and Magda.

Blogging as long as I have, and with special interest in all things at night, I’ve had the honor to meet most if not all the promoters in Lebanon, and I’m very proud of having good relations with everyone, and always keeping it away from business, and that’s what I intend on always doing. Money should never mix with something you care so passionately about, and that’s why I’ve always turned away offers to feature events for money (or anything else for that matter.)

I can safely say, then when it comes to pulling off events and mustering up the hype and excitement for it, MixFM is the best. From their always-overbooked 80s night, to their monthly installments throughout the year that range across different genres, they always nail it. From organization at the door, to ticket sales, bar management, seating plans, sound and light, it’s always hiccup-free, and that’s hard to pull off. It’s not that they’re better than anyone else as individuals, I think it’s that they’re genuine fans of their work. I know Rodge adores spinning 80s nights and Decadances more than anything else, and I’ve seen him gleefully mix classic hits depending on how the crowd is reacting. Kareen shares a love for electronic music as deep as mine, and she always cherry-picks the absolute right ones.

At a time when all the news is bad, when the only certain thing is the uncertainty we all feel in the future, it’s nice to let go for a few hours. But, clubs get boring, and the same events week in and week out get old. We need a concert like the ones we used to get every other month in Lebanon. We need those big productions, the crowd singing along, hands waving in the air.

I for one, am extremely excited for Ellie Goulding. I firmly believe that woman is a hit machine, and every song she’s sung resonates with me somehow, despite is mainstream nature. I bought my regular tickets and I have them ready in my car’s dash. I’m hoping it’ll bring back a few hours similar to when I was a teenager, counting my liras to make sure I had enough for a taxi and a ticket to BIEL and watch whoever was headlining. Back when our concerns were as simple and mediocre as that, before all this, before all the worries and responsibilities and troubles. Just have some fun.

I’m sorry this turned into such a dramatic post, but, I felt the need to take a load off my chest and give some attention to a simple pleasure that is very dear to my heart, and which I miss terribly, mediocre as it may seem…

Here’s the details for those of you who don’t already know. And when you see me down there, let’s all hug <3.

Is There Life After Kids? By MamaRowana

This post was written by one of the coolest moms I know, and her column will feature on Mondays on Gino’s Blog!

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Being a mom of 2 and in Beirut, the topic of discussion is always kids kids kids. When are you getting them? Why not? How many? Bla blah… Growing up in the Middle East where becoming a mother is seen as such a “look at meeee” moment “I’m so great”, I am always intrigued by those I have met who have decided not to go down that path. Reasons are good and many. Some admit they are selfish and will miss their own personal time, some are hypochondriacs and don’t think they can handle the stress of caring for a child and some simply just aren’t ready to change their lives. Whatever reason people have, it’s their choice and I fully respect that they know what they want. Are you missing out? Yes. For those still deciding, I am here to write not only about the awesome life that my kids have brought me but also the harsh reality of it that our mothers before us forgot to mention and document.

Even my 3 year old understands. Today she pretended to have a full grown baby inside her tummy that was ready to pop out!  I had to react quickly to hide my “oh fuck, you’re already talking about this stuff” face. When I reminded her she couldn’t play as much and would have to take care of her baby all the time, she even knew enough to declare that her pretend baby had magically disappeared. Phew!

Yes, my life has changed a whole lot since having children. It’s like night and day, more like trance and Walt Disney records.  It was so easy to take for granted how much time I had before I produced two amazing children whom I take care of and raise on my own with the help of my very, very, super patient husband.

I’ve gone from driving a scooter while transporting a penis piñata carefully balanced between my legs from Jounieh to Beirut to screaming at my 1 year old son to stop pulling at his own. Yes, life has definitely changed after kids. I have my moments of victory where I secretly put myself on a pedestal because I think I’m the best mom EVER, and wonder why I don’t walk around with a medal around my neck. Then I have other moments where I just dream of being left alone for some “me” time. Oh no! The shame and guilt will surely be directed towards me (a mom) for saying that! “forget the guilt” is what i have to say to myself sometimes (ok fine, all the time).  You are not normal if you don’t miss a few pieces of your “pre-children” life just a teeny tiny bit! Actually missing it helps you take care of yourself and forces you to remember the real you on a personal level, rather than letting yourself go and becoming your children’s personal everything.  Kids can bring out the best in you most of the time and then, on bad days, they have this amazing ability to bring out the monster in you. I become so tense and annoyed at the littlest things if I don’t catch a freakin break every once in a while (definition of once in a while: once a month). NO, I do not have a live-in maid to watch my kids as I prance around town.

Had I not milked my pre-motherhood life as much as one could, I would probably be struggling right now to embrace motherhood so happily. The process of having children and being pregnant for 9 months (liars! It was 10 months!) really preps you to be ready for the next stage in your life and welcome it with open arms.

So for those debating whether or not to do it then get on it and do it! For those pretty sure they want nothing to do with it then don’t do it! It’s a huge job, the biggest (yet most fulfilling) job you could ever have, and you’ve gotta feel it to actually wanna put your current life on hold. Divide the amount of times you go out now by 5 and that’s how often you’ll feel or actually care to go out after children. My promising career had to be put on hold by choice. Three day Amsterdam trips – gone! Ten day trips to Barcelona and Ibiza – gone! Eight hour beach days in Jiyeh with wine – gone! Parties that used to require a recuperation of 2 days – gone! Although you will try to make the best of it while you’re in the kiddie pool drinking your vino in a plastic cup. Happy face palm.

Calm down. It’s fine. It’s temporary. You will have the coolest vacations once your kids are older and think they’re too cool to hang out with their parents – or at least that’s what my future booked ticket to Ibiza says and once I’m there I will look back at my life and be the happiest ever.

Although, children can cramp your style they can do so much more. Life is better, my relationship with my (did I mention very patient husband?) is better and love is sweeter.  So boys and girls, I leave you on this note, go get knocked up!

This is the life and this is the best life I could’ve ever asked for. Join me as a new mommy taking the plunge into blogging to express, record and share all the good stuff  and stinky stuff happening in the life of a mama of 2 living in Beirut.

Evolution Graffiti in Verdun Vandalized

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After memos banning public eating and a string of religiously fueled suicide bombings, coupled with scathing criticism and absurd allegations towards Lebanese nightlife and beach parties, the putrid hand of religious intolerance strikes again, and this time on an iconic piece of graff in Verdun.

It’s actually kind of funny, given that the person who did this, probably looks like the last stage of that evolution (complete with gun and explosive vest). It’s sad that many Lebanese folks still lack the most basic education when it comes to human biology and evolution. I blame religious schools for omitting it from their curricula, producing specimens like the one that vandalized this mural.

Let’s hope the dumbass that did this doesn’t evolve into a suicide bomber…

UBER Launched in Beirut!

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WOOOOOOW! I can’t believe Uber is now in Beirut! Uber is the awesome app I use to get around when I’m in a hurry and don’t feel like taking public transportation abroad.

It’s simple, you download the app, link your credit card to it, drop a pin on the map showing your location, and a car will pick you up and get you to where you wanna go. It’s much more convenient, and generally cheaper than a usual taxi. Best part is, you don’t have to call and take hours to give directions, you just drop a pin!

So, download the app. Here’s the Android one, and here’s the iOS one. And once you register, use the promo code “PRNIB“, that way we both get $30 of free Uber rides!

source: Uber Blog (thanks Sandro!)

Everything You NEED to Know About Civil Marriage in Lebanon

Some Background

Most of us believe that the reason we can get married a civil marriage in Lebanon, is because of a loophole left over from the days of France’s mandate over Lebanon post World War I. It’s called “Karrar 60″ and was issued in 1936, and it elaborated that individuals who do not belong to the 18 recognized sects, can choose to get married a civil marriage.

However, that’s not the only piece of legislation that sanctifies this right. In 1990, Lebanon cemented its commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the prologue of the Lebanese Constitution. This makes it more binding that any piece of legislation or religious court. Meaning, even if legislation comes out against civil marriage, it’s useless, because in the Lebanese constitution, it’s clearly stated, and that, coupled with Lebanon’s ratification of International treaties and agreements, supersedes local legislation. So, it’s not just an ancient memo from 1936.

Fundamental Rights vs Legislation

For decades, legislators held our fundamental right to get married and start a family hostage, at the behest of the all-powerful religious courts in Lebanon. Today, it’s the other way round. Getting married and starting a family is not a right given to you by a bunch of legislators or religious figures. It is a fundamental right every adult human being has, regardless of where they were born or live.

It’s a major victory, that the tide has turned, and instead of legislators holding that right hostage, they’re now scrambling to see how they can keep up with it.

Why It’s Better to Get Married IN Lebanon

When you go to Greece or Cyprus, you automatically adopt the local civil marriage laws, which might not be suited to your personal preferences (along with your spouse of course!). In an ultra-liberal move I’m still shocked happened, the committee tasked with advising on civil marriage in Lebanon, left the choice of law to the couple getting married! That’s right, you can choose the law you want! So, for example, you could choose the French law, or American law, and ask that your marriage be governed according to those laws.

This makes that the excuse that sufficient legislation doesn’t exist yet, obsolete, since you can adopt any other country’s marriage laws.

You Can Have a Religious Ceremony Too!

Many people think that civil marriage is reserved for atheists or people of different faiths getting married. This is not true. Civil Marriage is the better option for everyone. The laws are fair, modern, non-sexist and based on human principles of equality and rule of law, not ancient religious texts. However, people think that getting married a civil marriage means that a religious ceremony to celebrate it is out of the question. This is not true. Once your civil marriage is registered, that’s it, you can’t get married again unless you divorce. So, a ceremony in a church when you’re already married a civil marriage, won’t count legally, but it’ll honor your faith and your families’ traditions and beliefs.

The only problem you will face is finding a priest or sheikh open-minded enough to do the ceremony, since civil marriage is a major slap in the face to the money they make off of us usually.

Your Status and Your Kids Status (Elections, etc.)

When you choose to remove your sect from your ID, you won’t be in limbo as suggested by some. Especially when it comes to things like running for parliament and voting. Remember the fundamental rights versus actual legislation argument above, and remember that the current sectarian laws don’t deny you the fundamental right to vote and run for office. So, even when you do remove your sect from your ID, you’ll still be listed on the voter lists of your sect, so, you will still be able to vote and run for office!

As for your kids, they will be on the same personal status lists as their dad, so for example, if their dad is a Maronite who removed his sect, they’ll be on that list too. So, don’t worry about not being able to vote or run for office. Your right to do so can never be taken away.

Mandatory vs. Optional

Personally, I’m in the mandatory camp. Why? Because people who really need civil marriage probably won’t be allowed to choose it by their families and surrounding areas. Educated, somewhat liberal folks in urban areas will go get married abroad in a worst-case scenario, but a young woman from a rural town with ultra-conservative parents will probably be unable to opt for the civil option. Also, for us to be all equal and start dismantling the sectarian system, we need to start with personal status and marriage laws.

But, I believe in people having the choice to do whatever they see fit, even if I feel it’s bad for them. With time, and as more and more people opt for civil marriage, I’m sure that option will gain much more momentum and be generally more accepted when compared with the broken, archaic religious marriage system.

How to get a Civil Marriage in Lebanon

  1. Go to your local mayor (mokhtar) and fill in the application to remove your sect from your ID.
  2. Go to the personal status directorate of your region, and submit the form
  3. Sit down with your Notary Public (El Keteb El 3adel), I highly recommend Joseph Bechara, he is an amazing lawyer and this post is largely thanks to him!
  4. Choose the law you want to apply to your marriage
  5. Get proof of address (ifedet sakan) for you and your spouse
  6. Get witnesses to your marriage
  7. Post a memo on the door of your future home declaring your intent to get married to allow for people to contest the marriage if they have a valid reason, like for example one of you is already married (like when the priest asks if anyone has any objections)
  8. Get a health check-up for both you and your spouse
  9. Head down to your notary public and sign your marriage contract
  10. Congrats! You’r now married in a civil way!

Inheritance Issues

Unfortunately, the civil marriage laws don’t encompass inheritance. This isn’t a problem if you’re Druze for example, where inheritance is completely up to the person passing on their wealth and belongings, but if you’re a Sunni, it’s a problem if you don’t have a male “heir” or want your daughters to get a fair share of what you own. Heck, even sunni Prime Ministers like Riad El Solh and Salim El Hoss converted to Shiites, to ensure their fortunes would go to their daughters, and not extended male relatives, and they still sat at the helm of the “Sunni” governmental seats.

To avoid that, a final will and testament isn’t always enough, because there are rules and limits to that in each sect. That’s why the best thing to do is appropriate your real estate and wealth to your kids early on, but make sure you can use them till you die. For example, if you buy an apartment, register it in your kids’ name, but make sure to draft an “istithmar” for life for you, meaning you can live in it till you die, but it then goes to your kid, regardless of the unfair religious laws. Worst case? Sell your assets to your kids.

Final Thoughts

I hope this post helped, and cleared up a lot of foggy things when it comes to civil marriage in Lebanon. I’m happy to announce that over 40 couples have already tied the knot in Lebanon, and many, many more are in the process. If I ever get married, this is how I’m gonna do it, and I wish you the best of luck if you do. You don’t need to travel abroad anymore, you can do it right here, on your own terms, with your friends and loved ones!

Video in Arabic (sorry for the sneeze =P)

Pew: 92% of Lebanese are Concerned About Islamic Extremism

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Among Arab countries, and practically all the surveyed countries, Lebanon ranked #1 in terms of people being concerned over rising Islamic Extremism.

This is shocking because countries like Nigeria and Pakistan suffer considerably more at the hands of these extremists, yet, they’re just at 72% and 66% respectively. Even Israel, that centers its entire existence around the threat of these extremists, is 8 percentage points short of how much Lebanese are worried.

I think the reason behind this is the novelty. Even though Lebanon always goes through bouts of violence and bombings, the notion of suicide bombers is fairly new. It used to be rigged cars detonated at night that sent more of a message than aimed to kill and maim as many people as possible. In the last 24 months though, suicide bombers have struck at rush hour times in packed places like markets, mosques and security checkpoints.

Despite the shocking number, I find some consolation in it. It shows that the fear and anticipation, and hopefully stance against these extremists is pretty much unanimous. In a country where sectarian existential fears cloud people’s judgment and opinions, it’s good to see we all basically think these extremists are a threat…

What To Do When You’re Ripped Off in Lebanon (Fake Sales, Bad Food, Sham Jewelry, etc.)

CALL 1739

I don’t always do this, but the Consumer Protection Bureau in the Economy Ministry in Lebanon does a pretty decent job.

I’ve had the unfortunate chance on several occasions to deal with them, and so have several close friends.

On one occasion, my friend bought a gold bracelet for his girlfriend. A week later, the bracelet got discolored, making it obvious it’s a knock-off. My friend reported it, and a week later, the fancy place in downtown Beirut issued him a check with the full amount he paid including taxes.

In my case, a promoter had lied about the act he was bringing in from abroad. The next day, he was interrogated by the police and all the ticket-holders were reimbursed.

What I like about them is that they answer (unlike 112), and they patiently take down the details, prepare the complaint, then call you up to fill you in on what’s happening with the complaint.

The stuff you saw Zara and other places do (which honestlty didn’t come as a surprise to me) are the stuff we Lebanese see as “7araba2a”, and we think they’re legal. They’re not. Lying about a sale is not legal. Lying about a competition is also illegal. Rigging a competition to go see your favorite star in some European capital is also illegal. That’s why you see that government rep in the lotto draw every day, he’s there to make sure it’s not rigged. Being turned away from a club because your date is of Afrian or Asian descent, is illegal. Being asked to leave a beach resort because your sibling has autism, is also illegal.

But, the bureau can’t do anything if you don’t report it. So please, call 1739 whenever you encounter this, and keep us posted on what happens. Whining about things isn’t enough, and when we see a governmental body actually doing their job, it’s our duty to make sure we give them what they need to make our consumer experience better.

And for the folks who got excited about the Zara “scandal”, many other places do the same. Here’s an example I got sent this weekend:

You can also file a complaint online. Check their FB page here.