Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Bassam Jalgha

#‎YouStink‬ ‪#‎DemandDignity: Lebanese overwhelmed by the stench: Politically and garbage mountains

 A fitting autopsy by an honest eyewitness
Lebanon is an incredible country teetering on the edge of utter dysfunction

(You don’t need to be Lebanese to understand this country, no more than you need to be German to understand German philosophy.

If anything, it’s an advantage to witness Lebanon without local bias)

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin's photo.
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin's photo.
Ahmed Shihab-Eldin's photo.
'Photo by:'
'Photo by Karim Mostafa (@TheKarimPhoto)'

Lebanon has been without a president for more than 460 days. It has absorbed almost 2 million Syrian refugees (Half its population).

For decades it has suffered widespread power outages. And last year, the very members of parliament tasked with tackling these problems extended their own terms until 2017, continuing to ignore calls for elections and real representation.

In September, when the mandate of the commander-in-chief expired, the minister of defense unilaterally extended the term by a year.

Instead of appointing a new chief — as is too often the case in Lebanon — another band-aid was slapped on, procrastinating a problem, instead of solving it.

But Lebanon, like many of the protesters in the streets this weekend, is still bleeding.

When thousands took to the streets this weekend to protest these indignities and raise their grievances, the government — infamous for failing to act — ironically, overreacted.

Riot police and soldiers deployed by the commander in chief used tear gas, bullets and batons on protesters, injuring dozens. Only adding to the irony, despite Lebanon’s widespread water shortages, police also used water cannons to disperse the protesters.

But there is reason for hope.  (We are bound to hope as Gramsci said)

The public, which has become rightfully and notoriously apathetic to the cycle of government paralysis, political bickering and factional infighting, has reached a breaking point.

The stench of garbage piling up on the streets of the capital during this unusually hot summer seems to have awakened even the most disinterested of citizens to the growing reality that Lebanon growing problems are not only an unsustainable tragedy, but may soon be an insurmountable one.

The joix de vivre attitude that many Beirutis have come to live by, boast about, and rely on to distract themselves from the unnecessary obstacles of daily life is increasingly threatened by the fact that the problems are no longer out of sight and out of mind. Instead, like the trash piling up on the streets, they are not only visible, but now impossible to ignore.

And sadly, the solutions so far, are as make-shift as ever. Some residents are burning the trash, municipalities are hiding it in tucked away corners and burying it in empty yards and far too many hoping the problem will – one day in the not so distant future – solve itself.

A people continue to gather in the streets, demanding the government resign, others are taking to Facebook and Twitter asking whether the protests and government’s heavy-handed response will inevitably result in a fate similar to that of Syria, Libya, Iraq or Yemen — a failed state. But the more pertinent, more fundamental question is whether there is a state that exists in order for it to fail.

Others bicker about which political parties have the so-called “right to protest”, when the real question is why the people, Lebanon’s citizenry — as individuals — are robbed of the right to protest.

This is one of the country’s fundamental problems.

People here love to argue, to complain (even expats – and in some cases especially expats). But all too often the very basis of these arguments are founded under a false premise built around entrenched political and sectarian affiliations (and the perceptions that come with them), instead of the realities on the ground that perpetuate these all too often inherited perspectives.

Admittedly, I don’t live in Lebanon. So I realize that it is easy for me to say this, but it remains true: all of this energy and time serves only as a distraction.

A sobering reality is now too obvious to ignore: The political elite, while still seemingly somewhat in control, have proved themselves to be completely incompetent. Not once, not twice, but relentlessly. (I call it an extension of ruling of the militia leaders of Nabih Berry and Jumblat)

Still, the argument will continue to be made that Lebanon, despite all the internal and external challenges it faces, has remained relatively secure precisely because of the ruling elite and unique, if somewhat dysfunctional sectarian power-sharing system.

They’ll say the regional climate and neighboring circumstances make it too fragile a time to challenge the status quo. Sure, the politicians are corrupt. Sure, they don’t solve problems. They’ll say, look at Egypt, there security trumps freedom.

Security trumps dignity. Security trumps humanity. But that argument is as corrupt as the leaders themselves.

Mocking the absurdity of Lebanon’s politicians and complaining about corruption has become a national past time. But if we are to learn from the lesson of Egypt’s revolution, we should ask what would happen if the new generation was able to organize to become the politicians, all while challenging them in the street simultaneously?

It is impossible to know what will come of this moment in Lebanon’s history. It is impossible to tell whether this is the beginning of a revolution or another blip in the ongoing post civil-war devolution.

Because when Lebanon is in the news, the focus is always on its role as a survivor — and it is true.

It has “survived” the Arab uprising.

It has survived the enduring war in Syria, and the refugees straining its economy.

It is surviving the Islamic State and the threat it poses to its security.

Lebanon is undoubtedly surviving, against the odds. But what if, instead of surviving, Lebanon started thriving again? (Lebanon will  constantly be under the survival status until the power of the militia leaders is eliminated)

Admittedly, I’m not Lebanese. But like many people who spend a lot of time in the country, for as much as I complain about certain things when I’m there, I happen to be in love with Lebanon. I also happen to be a dreamer.

And I know enough young Lebanese dreamers to still hold on to the belief that this could be a pivotal moment of transformation, without feeling completely naive in this convictions. From my limited, though intimate experience with Lebanon, I’ve learned that the paradox of life here is that it can be everything and nothing all at once: as depressing as it is enchanting, as resilient as it is resigned.

On Sunday, Lebanon’s prime minister made a promise — that members of the security forces will be held accountable for the violence against protesters.

Yet, while protesters languish in jail cells, nothing has happened to the security forces that attacked them.

Of course, much like the disappointment that we’ve all felt from a lover’s broken promises, Lebanon’s leaders have left us all in despair too many times. Put simply, the government here is all talk, a bit of torque, but no action.

So while it may be true that you can’t choose who you love. What you can choose is how to react to their disappointments.

You can keep asking them to change, or you can change yourself, and in doing so, change your circumstances.

As Ambassador Fletcher reminded us with his parting words:

“I believe you can defy the history, the geography, even the politics. You can build the country you deserve. Maybe even move from importing problems to exporting solutions. The transition from the civil war generation lies ahead, and will be tough. You can’t just party and pray over the cracks.

But you can make it, if you have an idea of Lebanon to believe in. You need to be stronger than the forces pulling you apart. Fight for the idea of Lebanon, not over it.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. ‫#‏طلعت_ريحتكم‬ ‪#‎YouStink‬ ‪#‎DemandDignity










Is Beirut promised to become a Tech Hub?

As my flight out of Beirut reached cruising altitude, and the seat buckle lights flickered off, I leant back in my chair and wondered if I had left the country just in time.

Admittedly, it wasn’t quite an ‘Argo-esue’ escape from another Middle Eastern country: labelling a controversial government minister on a conference stage as an “idiot” maybe wasn’t the wisest of moves. Beirut is not a town known for its placid history, after all.

My comment had made the front page of the Beirut Daily Star the next day. Perhaps it was just as well that I left the next day.

Beirut’s Bright Future As A Tech Hub For MENA, If Its Politicians Will Allow It

But the trip was worth it. Beirut is rapidly shaping up to be a powerhouse for startups in the Middle East.

It has many of the key elements:

1. a highly entrepreneurial culture;

2.  incubators and accelerators;

3. venture capital;

4. some gradually favourable government policy and access to growth funding.

The exits and the ‘PayPal mafias’ may be a ways off but its a beginning. In part because it is the most liberal state in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa)region, and has a western-style banking system bequeathed to it by the French a long time ago.

Lebanon is uniquely poised to generate startups which aim both at the Arab world and the wider world at large.

Last week a new $71 million MENA-focused VC fund was announced by Leap Ventures, based out of Beirut.

And the Lebanon Central Bank “Circular 331” initiative promises to put up to $400 million into the local startup economy.

In addition, this year, the UK government is supporting a scheme to bring Lebanese startups to the UK and to the attention of London-based investors.

Late last year the country saw the launch of its very own Disrupt-style startup-focused conference.

Banque du Liban Accelerate wasn’t the first conference about technology in Lebanon, but it was the first to focus exclusively on startups, and specifically, the Beirut tech startup ecosystem.

It therefore benefitted from that far more laser-like focus, and even managed to attract over 50 international speakers from over 20 countries and 1,000 attendees (Video of the event here). Given that a civil war in Syria is raging on the border, this was no mean feat.

Some parts of Beirut are awash with Syrian refugees, and yet delegates were treated to a startup conference close to any other they might encounter in the US or Europe.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 16.32.46

One of the attractions of the tech scene in Beirut is the city itself. The city’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs, equal anything you might find in San Francisco, New York or London.

The safe areas of Beirut are well documented and patrolled by armed soldiers. Personally, I have never felt in danger in Beirut.

The conference was also a leap of faith. Banque du Liban Governor Riad Salameh green-lit the sizeable event, while director Marianne Hoayek put the project into gear. She in turn brought in Samer Karam, who was previously involved in Beirut’s first attempt to create a Valley-style accelerator.

The conference was also attended by some heavy hitters from the financial and political world including Marianne Hoayek, Director of the Executive Office at Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Francois Bassil, Chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, Mohamed Choucair, Chairman of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Lebanon, and Tom Fletcher, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Lebanon.

But one heavy hitter that didn’t attend was Abdel Menhem Youssef. And perhaps it’s best that he stayed away. Let me explain.

Unfortunately, it’s his policies which stand in the way of Beirut motoring ahead.

The current average Internet speed in Lebanon is 3.11 Mbps, far lower than the Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates, which enjoys an average 27.9 Mbps.

It’s been estimated that doubling Lebanon’s bandwidth could improve GDP by 0.6 percent. That’s a healthy amount for an emerging market economy which currently has a war on its doorstep and a refugee crisis.

To improve the speed, in 2011 the country was connected to the India-Middle East-Western Europe (IMEWE) maritime cable. But while an improvement was felt., Lebanon still sits at 177th out of 200 countries on the Ookla list for Internet speed.

The reasons for this are simple. It’s entirely due to local politics.

Youssef, the head of the public-private organisation (OGERO, set up by the late Rafik Hariri) has blocked the utilisation and distribution of the IMEWE and other cables that have been hooked up.

As of today, less than 10% of the available capacity of the already operational Internet cables is made available to the market. It’s scandal which ought to have those at the highest levels of government fuming with anger.

Even former Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui estimates it would take only a year to organise fibre to the Home to every Lebanese citizen. If they could just connect up the IMEWE.

The finger has therefore been pointed at Ogero, run by Youssef.

The company is responsible for distributing the boosted Internet capacity enjoyed from the IMEWE to different Internet service providers as well as building the network. It also sells internet access direct to consumers. But, in a bizarre twist, Ogero’s chairman is not only the state regulator of the telecommunication industry, but also in charge of Ogero itself.

So the body charged with widen gin broadband internet, is directly hindering the development of Lebanon’s internet economy and ultimately the development of the country.

Indeed, Marwan Kheireddine, the chairman and general manager of Al-Mawarid Bank, has been quoted as saying that there is a conflict of interest within the Telecommunications Ministry, given that the general director is also the chairman of Ogero. “That doesn’t work. It is designed to fail,” he recently told The Beirut Daily Star.

Certainly the implication is that Youssef is either incompetent (hence my ‘idiot’ remark) or worse.

All this, despite a law drafted in 2001 which recommended that Lebanon fully privatize its telecoms industry.

But this never happened. It never happened because the government at the time completely destroyed the telecom infrastructure in the hope of privatising it cheaply to cronies, and then reaping the benefits a couple of years down the line.

For example, DSL deployment in Lebanon was actively stalled until 2006 in the hope that this privatisation would occur. This would partly explain why Ogero behaves in the way it does.


However, there is light on the horizon for Lebanon’s emergent tech ecosystem.

The current UK Ambassador to Lebanon and former Private Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister, Tom Fletcher, is powering a new initiative – a UK Lebanon “Tech Hub” would be formed to bridge the startup communities between Lebanon and the UK.

The private sector initiative begins this year, with the support of Lebanon’s Central Bank. As the ambassador says, the idea is to bring “British expertise and investment and connect them with Lebanon startups.”

But time is a-wasting. Lebanese startups need access to regional and international markets, as their success depended largely on their ability to sell products and services abroad.

In that respect their fate matches many other smaller Middle Eastern countries. On Lebanon’s side however is it’s relatively liberal culture, it’s multi-language society and its reputation as a cultural engine of the Middle East.


Lebanon’s investment scene remains small, but shows promise.

So far 3 venture capital firms have established funds that have raised decent amounts of money. Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), Berytech Fund and LEAP Ventures have each raised at least $50 million.

MEVP has $75 Million in capital and is growing.

So far it’s invested mainly in Lebanon-based startups, but also in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt.

One of the first VC firm across the Arab World, it’s been investing since 2010, putting between $200,000 up to $5M per startup. In addition, Wamda Capital (recently spun out of a company best known as a media site, Wamda Platform) has also built a $55m fund. A newer player is Y Venture Partners (YVP), a new, early stage investment and advisory firm created by brothers Abdallah and Ghaith Yafi, who founded Lebanese ecommerce site ScoopCity as well as Canadian ecommerce site TheVolts.

Henri Asseily (above), managing partner at Leap Ventures, a growth fund, is amongst the biggest supporters of the Lebanon tech scene and a former founder of Shopzilla which was sold for $500m. (He also happens to be a cousin of Alexander Asseily the co-founder of Jawbone).

And these investors have been boosted by Circular No. 331. This announcement was issued by Lebaon’s Central Bank in August 2013, and it encourages commercial banks to invest in startups.

The Central Bank now guarantees up to 75% of the value of a commercial bank’s investments into a startup. That move opened up a potential of $400 million that could be invested into venture capital funds or directly into startups. Over 15 Lebanese banks have already taken part in the scheme.

One of the first startups to benefit from this scheme is Presella, founded by Walid Singer and Louay Al Kadri, which is aiming to become the “Eventbrite for the Middle East”. Presella has so far raised in the region of $400,000 and expanded out of Lebanon into Dubai, and is rapidly growing its user-based across the Middle East.

Angel investors are thin on the ground, but are gradually being herded by Beirut Angels (an initiative by Samer Karam and Ex-Minister of Telecom Nicolas Sehnaoui).

In addition there are two large organisations of the considerable Lebanese diaspora in the US who are starting to impact the eco-system.

There is Lebnet (based in the Bay Area). And then there Daher Capital, a Lebanon-based family office that only invests in the US market and has had a few successful exits and IPOs.

There’s also LISA (the brainchild of Mark Haidar) and TheList (Lebanese entrepreneurs and investors network).

Other players include Hala Fadel, chair of the MIT EF Arab, also angel investor; Fadi Ghandour, Founder of Aramex and chair of wamda Capital, also angel investor.

On the debt side, Lebanon is home to more than 50 retail banks with $140 Billion US (three times its GDP) in deposits.

The reputation of Beirut being the Switzerland of the Middle East is well-earned. These banks are fueling debt financing to tech companies through a subsidised government loan program named Kafalat – a very innovative public sector initiative. Circular 331 has of course taken that up a notch by encouraging venture financing.


As well as being spaced around the city, Beirut’s tech clusters include the “Beirut Digital District”.

This is not state sponsored, but rather is afforded benefits like cheaper internet connectivity, and some favourable legislation around company formation. Unfortunately, most of these are not operational as the politicians that supported the creation of the BDD are now no longer in power. In addition the rental prices remain too high for the average startup.

But office space is far cheaper in Beirut than in Dubai, where sales, marketing and business development offices are often put.


Lebanon has one of the best educational sectors (and engineers) in the Arab World. Beirut has more than 18 universities/tech campuses. It is places like this which are fuelling the rise of the startup ecosystem.


Lebanon is also producing a number of successful entrepreneurs.

Force of nature entrepreneur Hind Hobeika created the Instabeat health tracking hardware and app for swimmers which was a smash hit on Kickstarter.

Elie Habib is the founder of Anghami — the first to start a music streaming platform in the MENA region which now has over 11 million users.

Paul Salameh created Pou, a game making millions on the app store.

Ayah Bdeir founded LittleBits, an award-winning library of Electronics dubbed “LEGOs for the iPad generation.”

Karim Safiedine founded Cinemoz, which is aiming to become the Hulu for the Middle East.

And Lebanon is also sending entrepreneurs to the Valley.

Elie Khoury founded Woopra, but has since relocated to San Francisco.

As has Paul Saber who founded Etobb, a Q&A platform to allow doctors to meet patients virtually in the MENA region. Then there is Roadie, the automatic guitar tuner and app featured on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt New York last year, and created by Bassam Jalgha and Hassane Slaibi.


Beirut is also producing new startups at a lively rate. These include Ki an enterprise mobile app that eliminates the need for usernames and passwords.

Zoomaal is also quickly becoming the Arab region’s main-kickstarter-style startup. Sohati, a content website and interaction platform providing health information and services to patients across the Arab world

Feedeed, a marketplace for services that give talented people the opportunity to transform their skills & services into a viable business.

And Saily a second-hand local marketplace. There is even an app for real-time traffic conditions, not unlike Waze, called Tari’ak.


The wider ecosystem is also buzzing with accelerators and events.

These include Co-Working 961 (Co-Working); Startup Bootcamp (Pre-Accelerator bootcamp); Startup Megaphone (International promoter of Lebanon startups); SETT (a think tank based out of Beirut that is working on a 20 year plan for Lebanon’s startup ecosystem); Speed Lebanon (a community accelerator); LFE (NGO); and ArabNet (a large regional digital and tech conference).

There’s also the Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program run by Fadi Bizri. And Altcity, the co-working and startup hub started by David Munir Nabti has also made waves as an enthusiastic supporter of the scene.

Lebanon is also host to many startup events.

These include BeryTech’s YallaStartup Weekend; Bader’s Networking 961 event; and the MixNMentor events put on by Wamda Platform, which also has an accelerator, combined with consulting and research arms). The MIT Enterprise Forum also organises a huge event for their award ceremony.


So the building blocks are all there. Beirut is using its culture of freedom, its diversity, its low-cost high fun living standards and its location to its advantage in the Arab region.

Hopefully its politicians will begin to realise that its emerging Internet startups need and require decent internet access. (And, that I’ll sail through immigration next time).

Patsy Z shared this link on FB

“Beirut is rapidly shaping up to be a powerhouse for startups in the Middle East. It has many of the key elements: a highly entrepreneurial culture; incubators and accelerators; venture capital; some gradually favourable government policy and access to growth funding.”

Beirut is rapidly shaping up to be a powerhouse for startups in the Middle East.

Beauty of Arabic language? Tedblogguest “From Lebanon to the world”

Archaeologists believe that Phoenician traders, who set out from the shores of Lebanon, spread their alphabet across the ancient Mediterranean world, unleashing a chain reaction that they couldn’t have conceived of even in their wildest dreams.

Tedblogguest, organizers of TEDxBeirut, posted this Jan. 6, 2014:

From Lebanon to the world: Why today’s talk on the beauty of Arabic is so important right now

Today, we are honored to spread that word again as Suzanne Talhouk’s talk from TEDxBeirut,

Don’t kill your language,” becomes the first talk in Arabic featured on Talhouk: Don't kill your language 

Like the alphabet of those Phoenician traders, this talk emerged from a deep-rooted need that TEDxBeirut has come to satisfy — the itch to speak out on the issues that matter to people here in Lebanon.


The stage of TEDxBeirut 2012. This annual event has become a beacon of hope in the Lebanese city. Photo by Assaad Chbeir

To Speak the Truth

The release of this talk comes at a particularly difficult moment for the Arabic language and for Lebanon, as both are still trying to find their place in the world.

For both, the potential is all there: both are endowed with an amazing wealth of ideas. (The Arabic language can claim a vocabulary more than 12 million words; Lebanon can claim as many millions and more of its descendants scattered around the world.)

Both are warm and well-connected. (The Lebanese are renowned for their hospitality; Arabic script is cursive, joining letters together like Lebanon joins different communities, and sparked traditions of literature and calligraphy.)

Both can lay claim to a rich heritage. (Arabic gave the world Averroes and Avicenna; Lebanon gave the world Kahlil Gibranand Fairuz).

Yet, all this potential is weighed down by baggage from the past. You may know that Lebanon went through a civil war from 1975 to 1990. Like Belgium in WWII, Lebanon became the fighting ground of many nations. Beirut, at its center, was the cosmopolitan scene where warring languages were, and still are, spoken.

Not much has changed.

Lebanon is more cosmopolitan than ever and even more hotly contested. The Lebanese continue to speak in different languages with each other, and public discourse focuses on issues beyond our borders — so much so that there is rarely an honest public conversation about the issues that affect the lives of people living here.

This leaves people feeling helpless in affecting real change around them.

It is a lot like the divide between formal and vernacular language in Arabic. Except the cost of the conversations we never have in Lebanon is hefty and paid for in intermittent violence as well as in gridlock in education, healthcare and the economy.

It is no wonder why Lebanon, for all its Mediterranean charm, is also among the countries with the highest rates of depression in the world.

The Right to Bear Good News

We started TEDxBeirut as a way to share big ideas and real issues with a small local community. It grew, quickly and organically, to become the bearer of good news in Lebanon, a counterweight to our grim public life — which remains mute on issues like education or the economy.

When we talk to people about TEDxBeirut, our speakers and the work they do, we see their faces light up as if they suddenly found hope again.


Attendees at TEDxBeirut fill in the blank on the question, “All we need is _____.” Photo by Nina Sharabati

Finding a Lost Generation

Many of our speakers are over the age of 30. That means we have speakers who grew up in the civil war, who worked on rebuilding and who continue to do so. Most — if not all of them — grew up speaking at least two languages and — more likely — three as is the norm in Lebanon, where the native Arabic is also the least appreciated language.

What makes these speakers so exceptional is their flair for addressing the toughest problems we face in Lebanon, from recycling (Ziad Abichaker: A garbage love story) to technology start-ups (Bassam Jalgha: Why can’t we have our own NASA?).

The work these speakers do today shows the potential of their lost generation, which has so much more to give than war. TEDxBeirut puts these speaker front and center — in plain sight — for people to meet, learn from and be inspired by. Allowing this generation to be discovered sets off positive chain reactions with amazing effects.

Lebanon is Full of Potential 

Beirut is brimming with incredible people with bold ideas. We loved Suzanne Talhouk‘s candor from the first moment we met her and, as we worked with her, her talk began to change how we talk and write in Arabic and how we think of our native language.

It even began to change our habits. But the reception the talk received on the web went even further than we could have imagined. The talk went viral soon after it was posted, and it unleashed a conversation between Arabic speakers from Morocco to Iraq, and the curious from across the globe.

Suzanne’s movement, which started in Lebanon, was soon enthusiastically carried forward by volunteers to countries like Jordan.

Lebanon is a place that can be difficult and, at times, violent. But we at TEDxBeirut choose to press on and be witnesses to the good news and hidden heroes working here. Otherwise, we’d miss the greatest opportunity of all: to stand for something more than the sum of our parts. That is everything to us.

Now, on with the conversation — in as many languages as possible.


A TEDxBeirut balloon. Photo: TEDxBeirut

The next TEDxBeirut will take place in mid-2014. It is organized by John Chehaybar, Reem Maktabi, Farah Hinnawi, Rim Baltaji. Find out much more here »

Session 2 of TEDxBeirut: “From limitation to Inspiration”

My previous post on Session One was “Inspiration regardless of lack of limitations”.  I decided to be a tad generous today.

Note: You may read detailed info on 8 speakers on this post

Session 2

Sessions 2 and 3 were more inspiring. Still, the speakers didn’t exhibit great limitations to inspire us even more.

After the coffe-break at 11:40, a TEDx speaker was displayed on the vast screen.  Mat Cutt? was haranguing audience to adopting small sustainable changes for 30 days, such as trying to write enough every day to finally producing a novel of 50,000 words in 30 day.  The novel is a start, but you may claim to be an author…You might bike to work for a month and experience the changes in your work habit, or taking a single picture every day…

Ali Jaber, MBC’s director, took the stage at 12:20 (read details in the previous link).  Ali said that the Arab States have 1,100 TV stations with operating cost of over $ billion and generating $5.5 billion in ads…Ali was behind the project of acceding to 100 MBites for the students of the Arab American University in Dubai.  The university is linked to 148 US universities via internet and the students (70% enjoying grants) can follow varieties of courses on-line.

Ali Jaber is the only speaker, so far, who answered my request for feedback to the link I have emailed him.  This failure in responses prompted me to prepare an article titled “Culture of contempt: Misplacement in comprehending personal failure?”

Mazen Hajjar, a beer brewer, talked at 12:38.  He said that civilization used barley 9,000 years ago to make beer, while using barley for baking bread is just 3,000 years old.   In Europe, people drank beer because water was demonstrated not to be safe for drinking and caused illness.  Mazen explained 3 guideline to better tasting beer:

First,beer must be bottled in dark color glasses: light ruins the flavor and taste

Second, pour beer in a glass for full inhalation of aroma,

Third, keep beer warm for a better taste; better, drink it warm…I tasted Mazen’s beer at lunch break and liked it.
Clara Sfeir improvised a dance performance at (12:48).  Liliane Chlela produced and played the music for the dance.

Joanna Choukeir Hojeili talked at 1:00 pm. (Read link for further details on Joanna).  She talked about her idea “Imagination Studio”, a workshop planned for 30 youth who answered her innovative interview methods on October 1st.  The youth are from different Lebanese background, location, religion, culture…

The next day, Joanna received the all of 40 volunteer experts and professionals to aid in making the workshop a success. The workshop is to allow the youth of coming up with a practical project to implement as a collective group. Details on the outcome of the workshop is to transpire within 3 weeks.

Reine Abbas spoke at 1:11 pm. The story is Reine and her husband were driving and were caught in between two mass demonstrations, blocking the road, and putting fire on tires.  This terrifying event catalyzed Reine into designing a video game Douma.  Now, you may shoot at politicians and sectarian leader, using a vast array of fire arms. Within a couple of days, 12,000 tried the video game.

Reine had to resolve this dangerous societal trend: First, how to react to violence; second, how to keep kids off the streets; and having a good understanding of Lebanon’s “leaders”

Bassam Jalgha talked at 1:20.  He was wondering why we have no car manufacturing facilities…He learned to play on the OUD, an Arabic traditional musical instrument when he was 12, but he could not tune it.  Now, he invented an equipment for tuning his Oud. It took Bassam two years to develop that instrument for lack of appropriate hi-tech spare parts.  He went on to tune the oud and play a piece.

Gilber Doumit talked at 1:30.  He tried to explain politically engaged activist entrepreneurship… Sort of researching, packaging, and negotiating social and governmental programs..  Do I have a purpose in life? Can I influence on system level? How to negotiate responsibly, by adapting to government requirement, and pragmatically influencing political programs?

We adjourned for lunch break.  The menu didn’t change much: Croissant in varieties of forms and shapes, bouchees of meat, cheese, juices, Nescafe, beer, but no vegetables or fruits. I know several vegan and vegetarian people who were dying of hunger. Time to be flexible and adaptive to fast culinary requirement and exigencies…In any case, the third session, after lunch and no siesta, is usually doomed to be more on the dosing side, regardless of how inspirational a speaker is.  Sort of the speaker must learn clowning to attracting attention first…




March 2023

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