Mleeta; The Resistance Tourist Landmark (and Me).

This past week has been overwhelming. I visited (yesterday included) four historical places in Lebanon that I intend on sharing with you all. My first post was of the city of Tripoli which you can read all about over here https://patylsperspective.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/tripoli-city-of-wonders/ (and let me know what you think of it) and the rest three of different and interesting landmarks taken from the history of Lebanon which will follow shortly.

Today I will be taking you to another era of different space and time. A one of a kind discovery, a natural museum surrounded with mountains and greenery. A place where the Mujahideen (freedom fighters) lived and fought against the occupying enemy. Today I will be taking you to Mleeta. Mleeta offers a unique experience to tourists in immersing them into their lifestyle during the occupation of Beirut in 1982 and truth be told I felt a fighter myself.

First, a bit of history.

The south has always been a controversial area which witnessed a lot of turmoil between the 1980s and 2000. The name of this landmark originates from the mountain where freedom fighters garrisoned during the war against the Israeli occupiers from 1982 until 2000, the year of the liberation. The landmark has been preserved to give tourists a glimpse of the mujahideen’s life during the occupation.

And now my take on the road trip.

We arrived at Mleeta around noon. The entrance is imposing and it was unusually quiet. The guide that welcomed us at the entrance gave us each a pamphlet (one in arabic and one in english) and directed us to the Hall to a watch a 15min documentary introducing us to Mleeta and the origins of the Israeli-Lebanese war of he 80s. During the whole seance I was dumbfounded. I remembered the 2006 war in which me and my siblings lived through by ourselves in our home in Beirut. I teared up a few many times and came out of the room silent. The guide waiting for us instantly knew that I had witnessed the 2006 ordeal.

We started our walk by the ‘Abyss’, a circular shaped pathway where military equipment stranded by the enemy were left as they are. At the center of the abyss is the famous Merkava Tank 4, the pride of the Israeli military sank in dirt.

Further more we started walking downwards along a bushy pathway. A trail that is filled with human sized mujahideen look a like reliving the combat scenes of the war.

That is where I noticed we were being followed. Anyone who knows me, knows how paranoid I am (maybe it is due to the many conspiracy theory and murder investigative documentaries I watch on ID) and after turning one two many times, the person who turned out to be one of the guides securing the perimeter explained to us that he isn’t following us (yeah I was that obvious) but  just wanting to unlock the door taking us into the bunker.

The bunker, now that is a treat of another kind. We entered the bunker (I, forgetting totally that am entering the mountain). The path was semi-lit and we followed its trail. I was shocked. So this was one of the famous undercover places the freedom fighters used to  move around shy from enemy’s scrutiny. The cave was dug by more than 1000 fighters over the span of three years. Being 200 meters deep it has garrisoned more than 7000 fighters. There are several rooms linked with to a water supply and equipped with electricity, ventilation and supplies.

The tunnel led to an opening space named ‘The lookout’ that overlooks the villages of Iqlim el Touffah region, Zahrani, Nabatiyeh and Saida. The view is mesmerizing. I was completely in awe at the view before my eyes. We could see small villages spread here and there made of cute little houses. This is the area that was liberated by the freedom fighters in 1985 from Israeli occupation. Of course we could not stop snapping pictures and trying a selfie (a fail) before resuming our walk back the hill.

It was at that moment that reality hit me; I walked the path of the many freedom fighters who gave their lives to free their land from the oppressor. I witnessed the hardship these fighters went through armed most importantly of their faith and belief that one day Lebanon in its whole will be back in the hands of the Lebanese.

When the south was liberated in the year 2000, I was far from interested in what was happening in the Middle East, although majoring in political science at that time. My trip to Mleeta re-opened in me the wounds of the 2006 war, a sort of patriotism arose as well.

I was happy to have overcome my fear of heights and reached Mleeta.

For anyone who has not yet visited this landmark, please do.

Trust me, it is a one of a kind experience.

Safe trip!

 

You can visit their website by clicking the link below; 

http://mleeta.com/mleeta/eng/definition2.html

 

 

 

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The Friends from the past; a blast!

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“There is something about childhood friends that you just cant replace” Lisa Whelchdel

If you are at university , even in high school, then this post’s timing couldn’t have been perfect. Mark my words when I say that, flash forward ten years, you will come to realize that good friends were, are and will forever remain the ones you spent most of your childhood days with.

Your childhood friends are those;

you have spent all your recess time with,

you hung every Friday after noons together at the mall,

you went to the movies, grabbed a bite, gossiped over your crushes,

all these and more will forge a place in your heart and will forever remain your most cherished memories of your past.

Come university years, many of you will separate and your path will diverge. Your dreams will take you to distant lands, different educational systems and rare, rare are those who will remain in contact with one other.

Within the confines of your new environment you will meet people that will share the same interests as you. The physicality, the distance, will play an important role in the separation of your childhood friends. Maybe not the first semester, but later on. Trust me (again).

I am sharing this with you because I experience this first hand (twice).

Georges was my best friend in high school. He was like a brother to me and always there for me. The true definition of a best friend. At university we separated and each went to its own. Thankfully the rise of social media brought us back together (online only). However, after 16 years of separation we finally made it and met over coffee. I did not know what to expect, yet I found my old friend. Same old Georges + married + wiser + as witty as before. I realized that after two decade of separation (HEY! I’m rounding the years here) we turned out to share more similarities in thoughts and how we viewed life and society in particular.

I really enjoyed my time with him and I anticipate our next get together before the distance separates us again.

An old friend of mine, whom I met a couple of months back (after 6 years of separation) told me something that struck in my mind “Your good friends are always going to be those that were in your life during your late teens. Those that no matter the separation, once met for coffee, will make you feel as if it were yesterday you last saw each other. And you will pick up the pieces and forge a stronger bond ..as if nothing ever happened”.

To you my friends, the day will come and when you go and catch up with your high school bestie, remember this; she/he will always be there anytime anywhere and any way imaginable.

xo

ps: do not misundertand me ; the friendships forged later on in life are genuine as well. However, those will never understand you fully, deeply as they were never there when your roots were being built.

pps: same goes to those childhood friends that were always there all those years; you grew up together only to be set apart unexpectedly suddenly…

 

From Bentley to Uber; an upgrade!

I was 18 years old when I started taking driving lessons with my father’s driver. I was not to keen to learn ‘manual’ and opted for the easy ‘automatic’ because like most Lebanese drivers I wanted to buy my license. However to clear my conscious (and that of the driver/teacher) we decided that I would get my license only after he didn’t feel threaten for his life on our daily lesson. And the day came and I graduated from “Anto’s Driving Academy” with flying honors and started cruising in the city in my mom’s car (to the rather arched eyes of hers).

Flash forward 13 years, after three car change and a promise of a Bentley Continental GT as my wedding gift, I made the drastic decision of selling my car as I was moving out of the country for good. For someone who has, all her life, been used to being chauffeured around and driven herself from a place to another, the mere thought of being car-less brought a panic attack onto my pampered ass.

Abroad we are all use public transportation whereas in Beirut we do not acknowledge them, which is understandable when looking at those filthy buses roaming the roads of the capital. Thankfully, the ‘service’ has upgraded itself from the famous 1980s Mercedes. But then again, we think twice before riding one (rather I do).

I learnt a lot from letting go of my comfort (place/toy/zone) and here is what I have come to realize:

We are way too attached to material things. We think that we will not be able to survive without them in our life. That they are what keep us going everyday. Slight wake up call guys! We can do without them and there are alternatives to ease us around (Uber? Private cab?).

We only acknowledge BMW, Audi and Mercedes in this country. These cars bring status. As a previous owner of one of this brand, I admit that was my sole reason behind owning one, although the gift came unexpectedly one spring day 6 years ago. I realize now that this is so over rated given the number of people who can afford one if their credit history permits them through the bank. + you cannot buy class through material things (thats a proven fact. Look around you!).

The country’s infrastructure is not too well developed to be parading with the latest model of any given high end car. I know too well how many times I had to change a tire because a nail had ruptured it. It is only these past couple of years that I came to realize how much money is thrown on unnecessary luxury when we can all do well without (what if you owned a Honda?). Here it is wise to mention that with each passing year, the price of your car depreciates. My 51K straight from the dealership merely brought me back 13K. Talk about fairness (and another panic attack).

Too much traffic. Yes. Too much due to unnecessary cars on the roads. Carpooling anyone? Or has that concept not reached the shores of Lebanon? I guess it hasn’t yet.

Now that I am back for a couple of months I am happy that I do not own a car. Why? well for the simple fact that I got my sanity back from this stressful sport. I gotten used to being driven around in Canada, (hey!!) subway station everyone. Buses too. More importantly I walk walk and walk. Just a few days ago, I walked under the rain to get to my appointment. 40min walk daily > what better way to keep your blood flowing. And I realized once again how shallow and Lebanesey I was by driving from X to Y instead of just walking the 15min trajectory (and instead of drowning in traffic for 30+min). If those reports of 500K tourists visiting Lebanon in a few weeks true, I wish you luck my fellow people.

Btw did I tell you how addicted I have become to Uber? Yeah that too.

Good Week to you all 😉

 

Why I am done with Lebanon for good.

Disclaimer: This post is my ever frank opinion of what I have left behind in Lebanon. An honest direct post I did not intend to write in a politically correct tone, for once. 

It is no secret that I am not fond of Lebanon. No wait let me start again. It is no secret that I hate Lebanon and everything that is related to its population and way of life. Ever since we moved back to Beirut in 1993 (from Montreal) my relationship with this Middle eastern country went from hectic to down right estrangement. Earlier this year, I decided that it was high time to leave everything and everyone behind and move back to my adoptive country. A very tough decision, tough not because I am going to leave everyone behind (those who know me know that I don’t give a flying fuck about anyone) tough because it is a huge irrevocable step once you set foot abroad, as I have a few days ago.

For the 23 years I lived in Beirut, rare are the memories that I cherish and hang on to. Why did it take me 23 years to take my decision to go back to Canada? personal matters. Now that I am settling back, I want to share with you few of the points that I am sure many of you relate to and that led me move back and enjoy North America very much these last couple of days. The points that I am about to share are more related to a human level than any of the usual rants people direct towards politics.

1- It’s mind blowing how every single Lebanese thinks he/she is God sent on earth. I have never seen a snobbish society as a whole. Its as if every single person became amnesic all of a sudden and woke up with a silver spoon in his/her mouth (in his/her mid twenties+). We tend to notice clones of women at any given event, at the mall (yeah plastic surgeons have all graduated from the same medical establishment abroad) yet at a closer look, we realize that their personalities is much worse defective than their face. Have you ever seen a Lebanese smiling at one another? Even in front of their cameras their (siliconed) lips are pouting and their faces ever so bored and high mighty. To be honest, I so many times wanted to bitch slap (verbally) snobbish friends back to their village, reminding them of their farming ancestors every time they tended to act superior when in public. I mean, fuck you bitch, if it weren’t for your dad slaving away in Saudi Arabia, and sending you a monthly salary (age 30+) you wouldn’t have dreamt eating at newly opened fine dining restaurants and mocking/yelling out orders to the staff and rolling your eyes at a passerby. And let’s not start with the employee with a 1000$ salary (tops) behaving as if she made 3000$+ parading & glowing with her signature outfit & attitude.

2- Let’s shift to the employment sector. It is simple, if you don’t have a “wasta” (its funny how that word auto-corrects itself to ‘waste’ whenever I type it) you are a nobody and you will never achieve your potential in Lebanon. And if you are under valued, all you need to do is master the open split and you will get to places. Higher places. Yes why are you looking at me like this? I have always said that among the people that easily succeed in Lebanon is the whore. The Lebanese whore is the all of a sudden successful female thrown in society and very much respected by her peers (for her position..). Men wanna fuck her (which she will hand fully pick depending on her future ambition) and women wanna befriend her (for the new alliances and doors she will be opening to them). The worse part of all this scenario is that the ambition and status of this woman is shallow and irrelevant to the big picture which is life. Many of these people find solace in social media with thousands of fake followers to give them the much needed boost to their fragile self confidence and ugly stature and personality. You wanna know what is pitiful for employees with wasta? Some mothers go to the extreme of whoring themselves or make big donations so as to ensure their children’s future at X and Y organizations. (true story).

3-Friends? What friends? this terminology is over-rated. Alliances yes. Friendship no. Over the years, I realized that I was surrounded by shallow hypocrites who secretly awaited my downfall in work as well as my relationship status. Hence the drastic cut of my ‘friends’ list. From one day to the other, best friends became strangers. I look around me and rare are the relationships that I define as friendship among the people that I know. Everyone is in constant competition with one another. Gatherings are occurred so as to fill social media pages with (fake) fun and a bubbly way of life. Of course, everyone is a hedonist whether they can afford the lifestyle or not (thank you Lebanese banks for the loans). Conversations are superficial and revolve solely around the fashion designers to be, the events that were launched, the dresses that were worn and the ‘celebrities’ that are popping like chicken pox. If you do not relate to this ever growing shallow society, then you tend to find yourself the odd one out and castrated. I do not tend to make an effort to anything that does not interest me nor would be an added value to my life. And by being that person, I, thankfully, realized who is the real friend that stood by me and I continued to genuinely enjoy his/her presence in my everyday life. Those that lingered away so as to establish themselves within this fake surrounding (knowingly aware of my adamant stand against) granted me the gift of discovering the meaning of true friendship. Here I take a moment to thank Meena, Angie and Rony for being the best friends one can ever wish for. The rest of you can go fuck yourselves.

4- The clash between life abroad and in Lebanon, I discovered when I went to pursue my studies in London. There I met genuine, caring and interesting people. People from around the world, from different culture and upbringing that further assured me of one important thing; my non-belongingness to the Middle East. Men respect their women when out and about. They are cultured and interested by you and not only your boobs and loubs. They are fine gentlemen. The women have intellectual discussions and gatherings revolve in open spaces, museums, walking, canoeing and taking pictures in which one can witness the big smile on their faces. Dates are respected and not cancelled at the last moment, or worse dismissed without any advance notice. To those who continue giving a self important image of themselves by not notifying a cancellation in appointment, I do not wanna say anything to them; their pitiful stand is more than enough.

Unfortunately, Lebanon proved to me a haven for the hypocrite, the fake, the whore, the loser and the self proclaimed celebrity.

In Lebanon, I did not find myself. I only found jealousy mastered at a professional level. I only found myself being judged and labelled. I found myself in professional situations where my family name played a role leading me in handing  my resignation letter. The honest hard working person is not appreciated. The liar and the whore is King/Queen.

I am thankful that as a Canadian citizen I am going to be able to fulfill my dreams with my own potential and certificates at hand. I am thankful that Canada is far away from the Middle East. And I am thankful that I have my family and best friends next to me forever no matter the distance.

xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mukhi Sisters; On a Good Note, What are you really giving?

Over the last few years, Lebanon has witnessed many treacherous tragedies.

The on-going war in neighboring Syria and the flood of millions of refugees in our cities, the trash crisis and scandals revolving around the government officials, we, as citizens, have been living in turmoil, some trying to find solutions, others nonchalantly going on with their lives.

Every new crisis reported by our local television (international too, mind you) have  made us further dwell on our misfortunes and forget about the human sufferings of the innocent victims of war.

Back in December I had read about an initiative founded by local chain Bou Khalil supermarket into turning around the misfortune of the refugee beggars. Instead of giving cash money to street beggars, Good Notes (given to those in need) provides basic necessities such as food, water, personal hygiene items when exchanged at your local above mentioned supermarket.

Today as I was visiting my dear friend, Meena Mukhi at the Mukhi Sisters in Beirut Souks, I could not not notice the display on the shop’s window.

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After enquiring about the involvement of the Mukhi Sisters with this campaign, Meena explained to me that any person in need who was given these notes can go to any Bou Khalil branches(located in Baabda, Feytroun, Mkalles, Tripoli, Koraytem, Zahle, Jbeil, Antelias, Kousba and Damour) and buy items that are crucial to their well being and survival in these bad circumstances. It is interesting to know that a Good Truck (a mini market on wheels) has been created to roam the city and  go to highly refugee concentrated areas and offer their services. Yes Bou Khalil has thought of everything right?

For more information you can check the following website :

http://www.thegoodnote.com

I know there are many people out there who are suspicious of giving money to street beggars, I know that because I am one of those persons. We have all heard tales about where the money really goes (whether true or false) hence accelerating pace when a beggar approaches you on the street or turning your head when they get near your car window.

However, today I realized that my three friends are not only talented in what they do, but they have a big heart and a philanthropic civic duty towards humanity.

I left the shop with a couple of notes and a hope in the future. Thanks to the Mukhi Sisters.

With  Peace & Love

xo

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Why I will never work a 9-5 job in Lebanon again!

Note to you my readers: Yes you read right! and let me take a few minutes of your time to elaborate the above mentioned statement.

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I graduated from the Lebanese American University with a MBA and I can assure you the university gained (financially) more from my presence throughout the two years than I did its aftermath (4+ years and counting).

To be honest with you, my cv does not consist at all of the two pages every Lebanese loves to fill with extensive working experience so as to brag about at each interview and during family reunions/ friendly gatherings. I am happy for anyone out there securing him/herself with jobs whether they like what they are doing or not (especially nowadays with the economical crisis our country is going through).

My working experience in this country has taught me a lot. It emphasized further more the disgusting Lebanese mentality (that I dread) that I live in and can not wait to escape in the future. A mentality that is here to stay no matter what and the generations to come.

The following are the points that led me to stop doing an effort and looking for a bureaucratic job in this city:

  1. First and foremost, you cannot land a proper job without a ‘wasta’ i.e. some big shot vouching your cv regardless of you having the proper diplomas required to fulfill your task. Hence, us wondering how a history major is working in a bank.
  2. Second of all, you can amass as much degrees as you can and obtain a graduate diploma, you are as good as the fresh graduate recruited in your department.
  3. A MBA won’t guarantee a bonus nor a raise. Say bye to the $$$ invested at one of the elite universities in the country.
  4. This goes to the women out there: If you and your boss share the same gender, then be prepared to a challenge. By experience, I have learnt that women managers are a pain in the ass. They just don’t seem to be professional and focused on their jobs as much as on your personal & social life (de preference gossiping). And if you do have one, a social life i mean, they will do their best to drown you with extra work and demands to fulfill on weekends.
  5. We all have gone through that moment where we wondered how the hell did X get promoted to being a “supervisor” or a “manager”. I have seen many who thought so highly of themselves that they forgot how they started.
  6. Most business owners in Lebanon (the most covet status in the workforce) believe that once they hire you for the job, they basically own you. With a salary less than 3 digit, they expect you to be 110% committed to the job 6 days a week for hours exceeding the normal weekly quota of 45hours. And yes you read that right, less than a 3 digit $ (bare in mind #3).
  7. The status of an employee is not protected as abroad. Basically you will get harassed by your colleagues with no legal actions being pursued against them because let’s face, you do not want to face trials that linger for years (Lebanese Judicial System ….let’s not even go there) and the famous “ma 3am nemza7 wlo” (i.e. we are joking come on).
  8. If you come from a respectable family who has made a name in society, your colleagues will label you from the first day you enter the doors of the establishment you are looking forward to build a career in.
  9. Continuing on #8; you will constantly be reminded of your family status in lame/so-called funny uncalled jokes (emphasizing the stuck up mentality you live in). The most recurring example would be and I state “why are you working? you are in no need of it. Some other person is in need for it”. Ha Ha right? Well yes thank God I am not relying on your petty 900$ for survival but am trying to work out a career.
  10. The atmosphere in each work place is depressing and full of negativity. No one is happy and you constantly hear bickering and nagging. Your ambitions are crushed by some washed up loser on the desk beside you, or by your superior who has doubts and suspicions of you presence in the company.
  11. A small advice to those business owners out there, whenever you want to hire a person try to treat them equally, put yourself in their shoes from time to tie and at least, once in a while, pat them on the shoulder for their hard work. If you are going to just ignore them just so they pick up and leave then just don’t hire anyone. If you want to continue pulling the strings yourself then go running your business solo.

Do I need to continue?

You wanna know what is the most funny thing I hear of my ‘unemployment’ status (by choice)?

Why don’t you open your own business?

Well I am fed up from being polite to the constant losers who ask me this question ; I do not believe in the future of this beloved country and I do not believe that I should be investing any time anymore nor a cent in this city. What is funny is that the people who constantly ask me this question are themselves “business owners” whose business is not even doing well due to the turmoil the country is going through. Isn’t that ironic??

Life is too damn short. For fuck’s sake, just do what makes you happy”. Bill Murray.   Thank you!!

 

 

 

 

Lebanese Married Men; you disgust me.

What is wrong with Lebanese married men? Seriously if you cannot handle monogamy just don’t tie the knot, plain and simple.

Most of my friends & acquaintances are married for years now and I am happy for them. They respect their wives and have adorable cute little baby girls and boys. Facebook profile pictures are family picture perfect shots and captions under each post of family outings and date nights with their other half, lovey dovey (if you know what I mean). So let me elaborate what I am not getting and respect to the above mentioned guy friends (do not feel directed coz you are not).

When Facebook started we all added people left and right, right? especially those ‘friends’ we shared one class at university and never set a word to afterwards. This person (my bad) stayed on your friends list because you thought he was harmless and since was on a dormant status online you forgot he was even there in the first place.. until he tied the knot and it was a nonstop online fiesta of pictures and statuses.

Well I share your happiness for the simple fact that I know you thought you were never gonna get married, especially not to a gorgeous woman. Yeah you got her, made your nerdy friends jealous, established the perfect little family and now after ten years you are bored. Well let me tell you something; BOUHOU! You are bored? get a puppy! Do not think that inbox-ing your female friends on Facebook asking for coffee and catching up whenever you are back in town solo is gonna make us drop everything and run to you. Let me be straight; its not because you have gotten yourself a wife, that your failed macho behavior (from the back old days) is gonna work its magic now! She fell for it but I’ll tell you I never did nor will now that you are carrying a ring on your left finger. Respect that piece of jewel you have gotten yourself and choo.

Why do men stoop to this level? I think I got myself an idea why.

First of all, these are the boys from the past who never caught any girls attention. why? because am sure they used to pick and be all mean (like little boys are at school) when they got interested in a girl.

Second of all, they grew into men with a lack of everything likable to attract any decent woman in their teenage/university lives. They relied on materialistic objects to impose a self importance air on their entourage, for example Mo and his Ferrari. Mo will be associated with his car and trust me when I say he will always be womanless due to his attitude (am not counting gold diggers).

And Last, they will marry off the good girl from the well established family (same village, religion… you know the riddle by now).

Its the lack of dating & mingling with the opposite sex that has led most of the Lebanese married men to knock (poke here) on their female friends Facebook profile for a get together.  You think I am exaggerating? I think I am matured and experienced enough to know who is knocking on my door for a genuine friendly get together and who has a hidden agenda.

Lebanese Married Men two words for you; sod off!

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