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

Dr. Khraish:

Why is the internet so slow in Lebanon? “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.” Time to end Ogero’s monopoly. Read on…

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

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, in fact left the country just in time. Admittedly, it wasn’t quite an ‘Argo-esue’ escape from another Middle Eastern country, but 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. Furthermore, 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.

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: a highly entrepreneurial culture; incubators and accelerators; venture capital; some gradually favourable government policy and access…

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BBC: Political impasse stops Lebanon exploiting oil resources

An interesting article from the BBC:

The announcement was supposed to bring with it the magical solution for many of Lebanon’s ills, among them chronic public debt, power shortages and poor public services.

Back then, the prospect of major oil discoveries off the Mediterranean coast triggered dreams of a prosperous future, but today it seems like the Lebanese were the victims of false advertising.

Read more…

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Bike paths in abandoned tunnels?

When a population is not obsessed with Medieval sectarianism like the Lebanese are, one can imagine and innovate like they do in the city of London.

Bike paths in abandoned tube tunnels: is the London Underline serious?

Could the answer to London’s congestion be a network of subterranean cycleways? A new project from design firm Gensler suggests that maybe – just maybe – it might. Dubbed the London Underline, the project would turn London’s abandoned tube tunnels into living streets beneath the city. While there’s still a speculative, utopian look to the proposals – renderings showing the tunnels packed with youthful Londoners resemble an updated version of Logan’s Run – the London Underline is being taken seriously enough in some quarters. Earlier this week, it won the Best Conceptual Project gong at the London Planning awards.  Read full article.

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Beirut Film Festival Defies the Odds and Censors

Dr. Khraish:

Forget Dubai and Doha, it’s only Beirut that can showcase truly boundary-pushing, issue-driven films!

Originally posted on Variety:

Modestly tucked away below a Dunkin’ Donuts in Beirut’s built-up Ain el-Rammaneh district, the Abraj multiplex does not often play host to international movie stars. Yet while gracing its linoleum-floored halls on Oct. 1 for the Middle Eastern premiere of her film “Clouds of Sils Maria,” Juliette Binoche seemed sufficiently overwhelmed by the reception to tear up visibly before leaving the stage, reappearing in a more jovial mood for the more elegantly appointed afterparty.

The occasion was the opening night of the Beirut Intl. Film Festival, and Binoche’s reaction seemed appropriate for an event that aims for a delicate balance of glamour and gravitas. Pushing liberal social ideals and freedom of expression in a vibrant country still culturally scarred by the Lebanese Civil War, it’s a more intimate affair than other fests in the region like Doha or Dubai, which is how festival director Colette Naufal likes it: Its bijou…

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What Arabs can learn from the Scots!

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Saint Andrew’s Cross, the Flag of Scotland

Israel has decided to officially recognize Arameans as a distinct nationality in the country’s population. It allows Arabic-speaking Christians of Israel to change their status from “Arab” to “Aramean.” This has created uproar among Palestinians, and other Arabs, accusing Israel of dividing its Arabic-speaking minority to rule them much easily. While I am not here to defend Israel’s motives for this move, it is important to point out that in 1957, the Druze, an off-shoot sect of Islam, also requested that the Israeli government designate them a distinct nationality from the general Arab population even though they are native-Arabic speakers. So, there is a precedent.

Critics of this move often accuse the Arab Christians who reclaim their Aramean heritage of denying their Arabic one. But, why should it be this way? Is a Scot less of a Brit than an Englishman just because he is proud of his Scottish nationality, history and heritage? Why can’t an Arab Christian be also Aramaic? An Armenian a Lebanese? A Kurd also a Syrian? An Amazigh a Morrocan?  Why is it considered wrong or unpatriotic for Maronites to learn Aramaic, the tongue of their Church and forefathers, as they are doing in the small town of Jish?

Feeling a belonging to more than one cultural identity, be it national, religious or ethnic, doesn’t necessary negate one’s citizenship. In America, for instance, people are capable of reconciling their national, religious, or ethnic heritage with their American citizenship. People are proud to be Italian-American, African-American, and Jewish-American. In America and elsewhere around the world, Arab immigrants want, insist and often fight to hold on to their heritage, language and religion. It is hypocritical of Arabs to deny this same right to the minorities living in the Arab world.

The world, especially Arabs themselves, need to remember that not all Arabs are Muslims. Not all Muslims Arabs are Sunnis. Not all the citizens of the Arab world are Arabs. Enough homogenization of 300 million people!

It is time that Arabs realize, as was evident in the partition of Sudan, that homogenization does not lead to unification of people. It is time for everyone to acknowledge and accept that the Arab world, especially the Levant, is a multiethnic, multi-relgious, and multi-linguistic region just like Europe is.  And like the EU’s European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which protects, preserves and promotes its minority languages, including Cypriot Maronite Arabic, the Levant needs a similar multinational treaty to protect, preserve and promote its historical, regional, and minority languages.

What unites the Scots and the English is not their common language or their common religion. What unites them as this week’s referendum demonstrate is their belief in freedom and democracy and their acceptance of a very important democratic value: the belief that one has the right to self-determination and to freely join or secede from a union. Something Arabs, especially the Sunni majority, has yet to learn.

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What the Municipality of Beirut Can learn from New York’s Times Square

If this could be done on the busiest intersection in one of the most populated cities in the world, then what excuse does the Municipality of Beirut have?  The fact is that the people administering the affairs of our capital are visionless!  

Snøhetta Rethinks the Future of Times Square

The Norwegian architects on how they’re transforming public spaces into “platforms for living”

Designing public space is a tricky thing. It is often a contradiction in terms, since the best ones tend to feel organic and, in some mysterious way, undesigned, even inevitable. When public space is reimagined, the danger is often the overweening tendency of architects and planners to want to control it—to create Master Plans rather than Passion Plans. But as we like to say at Snøhetta: The best-made plans never get laid. People will appropriate space in unforeseen and wholly unpredictable ways. We shouldn’t fight this human tendency; we should embrace it.  Read more…

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Happiness in Short Supply in Lebanon

This post is dedicated to all the politicians and clergy of Lebanon.  Thanks to them Lebanon is one of the unhappiest countries in the world.  Read more at the Gallup link below:

Happiness is in Short Supply in Lebanon


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