Posts Tagged ‘NowLebanon’

The very first short movie I shot, edited and produced in the summer of 2009 in New York City.


The details of the event that I covered are in the following article published in NowLebanon.


Here are some shots behind the actual images in the short movie. My friend Miguel Olivo from the Dominican Republic, who is particularly fond of Lebanese culture, assisted me in the  filming process. Carrying the equipment from Manhattan to Brooklyn and back, was not a walk in the park, especially when we had to switch trains and endure service changes during weekends on metro lines servicing Brooklyn. The whole experience was very rewarding, especially after the final project was done. I have met amazing people who were so passionate about their background and engaged in their community. The young generation of Lebanese immigrants were very excited about showing off their dancing skills. As for Lebanese music, it played till very late after sundown.

The notorious dabke (Photo by Miguel Olivo)

Some behind the scenes shots (Photo by Miguel Olivo)

Miguel Olivo, Assistant Producer (Photo by Carla Haibi)


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I think this is it…the cherry on top of the scone of shocking and yet perfectly accepted practices in Beirut.

A recent article published in NowLebanon, informed about the concept of beauty stores for children.I chose the following excerpt from the article that says it all.

 “Kids come in to take care of themselves, to look good and to pamper themselves.”

…such outlets are primarily avenues for Lebanon’s young girls to learn the importance of hygiene and cleanliness, a rationale echoed by the owners of the country’s other two children’s spas. 
“They become more and more aware, they grow up knowing that they have to have clean hands and clean feet,” said Hilal.


"If I saw that look in my kid’s eyes I’d do the opposite of whatever I was doing" and Photo credit:hoitycoity.com/post/ 151795543/highglitz

"If I saw that look in my kid’s eyes I’d do the opposite of whatever I was doing" and Photo credit:hoitycoity.com/post/ 151795543/highglitz


Shouldn’t basic hygiene standards be taught at home and at schools simultaneously? or have beauty parlors taken over the education and the upbringing of the next generation?

What would a young girl, who at the age of four,is a regular at a beauty parlor, be doing at the age of 15 to live up to the image she was groomed to have? or at 25 for that matter?

In Lebanon, some parents from certain social classes have evolved their upbringing practices. In fact, they chose to just deliberately set the social expecations for their girls at a very early age. Those expectations will not only shape their children’s self-esteem but will also take away some basic elements of their innocence. The preoccupation with appearance and grooming should not be even on the list of concerns of a four year old, or a five year old and not even before mid adolescence. What about classic children preoccupations? Should girls be raised to believe that they have to conform to the expectations of the society for their appearance before they can even spell?

Reading this article, made me think of my childhood and what my concerns were at the time. I grew up during the civil war in Lebanon. Like many children of my generation, the so-called “war generation,” I have been initiated to flee my house leaving everything behind whenever the bombing got closer.

Apart from Chantale Goya, Ton Amie Lilianne and Zora La Rousse, Remy Bandali was my ultimate childhood idol. Two years my senior, Bandali was a child prodigy and a star at a very early age. We were in the same primary school and I saw her perform live on several occasions in Lebanon. I knew her songs by heart, every single one of them. I can still sing them to this day, 22 years later. 

But the reason I mentioned Bandali is because one of her most famous songs landed her a performance at the Champs Elysees in France and stardom as the youngest performer in the world. The song is called: “Outouna el Toufouli” which literally means give us the childhood. Bandali sings in Arabic, French and English in the same song. I will transcribe the lyrics of the english section of the song which is a translation of the sections in the other languages.

“I am a child with something to say, Please listen to me

I am a child who wants to play , why dont you let me?

My dolls are waiting, my friends are praying, small houses are begging…give us a chance…give us a chance

Please, Please give us a chance” 

In arabic, she says to give the children their childhood and to give them peace.

This song was a hit because it really portrayed with innocent lyrics, the tragedy of the livelihood of many Lebanese children growing amidst strife and violence of the civil war.

The irony of our evolution lies in the fact that many children of my generation were craving a childhood and lived in fear during a very tumultuous period in the country.While in 2009, values of education and civilization are making way for social decadence. 

As a result, some children and girls in particular don’t have a childhood to claim, because it has been already taken away by their own parents.

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As some of you may know, Lebanon is considered by some historians the first site of wine production in the world. I found this Q&A in NowLebanon.com with Patrick McGovern, the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia.

McGovern is going to be a consultant for the opening of a wine museum in the Bekaa Valley.

From the interview in the article , I quote: 

 Because of Lebanon and coastal Syria’s pivotal role in transmitting the wine culture possibly as an indigenous development or from regions farther north (Transcausasia, Azerbaijan, or eastern Turkey) to other parts of the Near East and Mediterranean, such a wine museum should put the Levant on the ancient and modern wine map like never before.  It will become an impetus for further archaeological and DNA research, provide a direct connection between past and present (with the excellent wines now being produced in the Bekaa and elsewhere in Lebanon), reveal the crucial role of the Levant in laying the foundations for western culture (in contrast to current negative perceptions), and serve as a magnet for tourists.

The article speaks for itself. If the project of the museum gets through, it would be beyond amazing!!!

Actually, the video below may give a better idea about the wine culture in Lebanon.

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Ilili, or tell me, in Arabic, is the name of a Lebanese restaurant in New York City. Many friends have asked me which was my favorite Lebanese restaurant in the city. A question that would embarrass me because… you know what? I don’t like any Lebanese restaurant in the city. Truth is , I don’t like to eat Lebanese food at restaurants in New York. It is not worth it for me. And anyone who likes good food and appreciates homemade cuisine would agree with me…until i went to ilili in the Flatiron area. That place actually changed my views about Lebanese food in New York restaurants. 

First, the tabboule definitely competes with the homemade version. 

Although the service was not always great! Waiters take on the task of educating customers about the menu and the characteristics of the cuisine. And if they have doubts that the customer may be Lebanese , they ask  him or her , if they would like to break the Arak themselves. A gesture that made up for the mishaps that followed. But I will not dwell on that, because this place is a must-go destination, if you want to have a sense of what the cuisine in Lebanon tastes like.

 At the bar, you can choose from a special selection of cocktails with original combination of ingredients such as rose water and vodka to  warm up the palate for the upcoming culinary voyage. A complementary helping of creamy labne (strained yogurt) served with crispy pita chips drizzled with extra virgin olive oil imported from Koura in Northern Lebanon along with Lebanese olives; greet you at the table.

And about the rest? you can read it here.

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When i first came to New York, one of my professors who is Dominican — and now became one of my closest friends– told me that in the Dominican Republic, kibbe and tabboule, both traditional Lebanese foods, are essential elements of the Dominican cuisine. I wondered how this happened. How did kibbe become so popular from Lebanon all the way to Santo Domingo? From there, I got the idea to write the article that just got published in Now Lebanon.

Dominican Quipe in Washington Heights (Carla Haibi)

Reporting and writing this story was really fun and interesting. With the help of some Dominican friends, i got recommendations of one of the most popular Dominican restaurants in New York and  I got in touch with the president of an important cultural club, the Syrian-Lebanese-Palestinian club in Santo Domingo to understand how this fact came to be. I also interviewed the president of the Lebanese industrialists Associations and a researcher from the University of Austin -Texas among few others who did not make it to the finished piece.

I am going to Santo Domingo in less than a month, and I will do some live reporting from there.

Lebanese kibbe in Brooklyn (Photo by Carla Haibi)

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