Archive for the ‘Lebanese Shenanigans’ Category

Going to restaurants used to be fun. It was all about trying out new foods and enjoying the company of whoever you happened to be dining with.
Now, and especially with the massive tourist influx, the fundamentals of dining out includes a bunch of waiting: to be seated, for the waiter to take your order, for the food to arrive, and finally for the bill and the change.
First there was the World Cup frenzy. For those who are unaware, during that month, it was impossible to dine out without having to pay some sort of entrance plus combo fee at even the tiniest of restaurants. Add to that the already expensive prices and the above-mentioned waiting, and you’ve gotten yourself an experience for the ages.
But that’s nothing in comparison to the waiters declining to serve you, because apparently the entire premise is fully booked, when in reality, it’s just a sea of empty chairs. The pathetic excuse they present is normally along the lines of “Oh, but they’re expected in an hour, and we don’t want to rush your dining so you can enjoy it” which in my opinion, roughly translates to, “In one hour, you won’t even have the chance to look at your plate because we’re going to be procrastinating as much as possible before you get your order.”
Call me a cynic, but it has happened before, and on countless occasions.
And now that the tourists are here, we Lebanese are second-class citizens to our own countrymen.
Which is something I don’t understand.
Do they really think that the foreigners, who would rather save every cent of their money, tip more than the citizens? Or do they think that by paying them more attention then more positive things would be said about the place?
I beg to differ.
Consider this as a real-life situation. You go to a very popular restaurant chain and decide to order the chocolat mou. This is a fairly simple dish to prepare as all it requires is scooping out the ice cream into a glass and topping it off with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It could be done at home if the ingredients are available.
But no.
At this popular place, that very same order takes around 30 minutes to arrive. And when it does, all the waiter could say to excuse himself was that they were having a busy night and everyone was ordering deserts. The dish wasn’t even that good!
Restaurants are supposed to be a place where only utter courtesy comes into play. They are not supposed to be a place where people are scammed off thanks to low-quality food and horrible service. They are not supposed to be a place where costumers consider the waiters to be subordinates either.
They are supposed to be a place where people can come together to focus on the most important aspect: the food.
Plus, in a country where recreational facilities are oh-so very limited, taking our families out to eat on weekends has become some sort of ritual.
Well, if things keep going the way they are, that’s yet another ritual we’re going to have to kiss goodbye.
And if things keep getting worse, we may even have to kiss the tourists goodbye.
Don’t get me wrong, I happen to have an immense respect for people in this profession and a complete understanding for how tiresome their jobs can be. But it is not up to them to decide who to and not to serve. And it is certainly not understandable when they chose to do so.
But then again, this is Lebanon, where anything goes, and where laws are just words thrown around to appear to sound fancy.
As long as the law is not clear-cut and protecting us, we are always going to fall victim to our own terrible actions and remain stuck in this utter state of chaos.


As I type this post up, the whole world now knows that Spain have been crowned as World Champions, over the Netherlands, at the 19th edition of the FIFA World Cup, held in South Africa.
The whole world now knows that for a moment there, it really didn’t feel as though this was the very-much hyped final between two possible first-time winners.

Robben, one of the many recipients of a yellow card

As a matter of fact, the game was a race to see who would collect the most yellow-cards, a feat accomplished by the Dutch in the 120-minute game.
And after the whole world had accepted the fact that yet another World Cup would determined by penalty-shootouts, Andres Iniesta, the little Barcelona midfielder, worked his magic thanks to a pass from Cesc Fabregas, and ensured that the Spaniards would lift that glorious cup that evening.
But everyone knows that, and if you don’t, I suggest you read a sum-up right here You know, just in case it comes up in a conversation sometime this week.
And it will.
As many have established by now, no one gets caught up in World Cup fever the way the Lebanese do. All the buzz surrounding Paul the Octopus’ predictions pale in comparison to what’s been going on here.
The streets of Beirut have been decked out in other nations’ flags for around three months now.

One of many flag-sellers on the Lebanese streets

Wild enthusiasts have taken over Facebook and other social networking websites to show unyielding support for their team of choice. Fireworks have been blasted in the sky whenever a team won, or even lost, and celebration parties have gone on all night long. That’s not mentioning the most incredible ability that emerged this year: instantly organizing conveys that trekked most, if not all, the Lebanese roads.
And here’s something else.
The Lebanese are so passionate about football, that they have gone out of their way to create a non-existing rivalry between Brazil and Germany, and even raise their children upon that. In fact, if one of these teams loses, which happened to both this year, fans would rather support the team the entire world considers to be complete opposites, than cheer on the other of the two.
To everyone elsewhere in the world, the final was Netherlands versus Spain, but right here, it was the classic (Really?) Germany versus Brazil, decked in different kits.
Which brings me to my point.
Football is exciting. Rooting for a team and witnessing their triumphs is gratifying. Which is why I can understand this sort of behavior, to a certain extent, of course.
But this over-hyping fad just needs to go away, now, and the English are the greatest testament to its consequences.
I’m no expert on soccer, but last time I checked, Lebanon doesn’t even have its own national team that can compete along with the Brazilians and the Germans.
If we did, would we really stand behind them as we do for the others? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, no. No, because being patriotic is an awfully hard thing to do for us and we’d rather support anyone that doesn’t evoke memories of our own country.
I only wish that we receive some form of gratitude for all the support we pour in to those countries, like facilitating visa procedures, though that is a long shot.
The World Cup is over now, and won’t be back for another four years. During that time, only a quarter of those who tuned in for the “Mondial” will watch club matches, while the greater majority will remain in oblivion. It’s a sad, sad fact, but at least in the meanwhile, we can assume that nothing of what went on this past month has ever happened.

Last night, I was lured into watching the elections of Miss Lebanon 2010 because there were no football matches being broadcast and no newly downloaded episodes of Glee on my laptop. But the main reason I tuned in was out of pure intrigue. The newly crowned Miss, Rahaf Abdallah, and I are both alumnae of the same high school and naturally, former classmates and teachers took their Facebook accounts to show their support and encouragement once news broke out that she would be participating in this year’s pageant.

Rahaf Abdallah, Your New Miss Lebanon

The result, as determined at midnight, did not disappoint her supporters, and I, for one, would like to extend my congratulations to Rahaf, who is pleasantly the opposite of the classical “type,” and hope that she goes on to achieve many good things in her reign, and not fade into obscurity like most of the former title-holders.
The show last night, however, got me thinking about what the exact message these pageants try to convey to the general population, especially given that Lebanon’s beauty queens rarely go on to receive worldwide acclaim, such as Miss World and Miss Universe.
Year after year, the Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC) dishes out a large amount of money to organize these extravagant soirees, making sure the competing ladies are decked out in only the finest of couture (which this year was absolutely horrible) and are styled by only the best in the world of fashion. That’s in addition to getting only the most notable Lebanese “superstars” to entertain the audience, because you know, the show would be nothing without them. And let’s not go into how much they spend on sets, choreography, stage effects, and of the course, the prizes! I am assuming that the resulting electricity bill for that one night is equivalent to what an entire Lebanese village generates in one month.
And that’s only the beginning.
The true heart of the competition lies in its outdated format. Assuming that we are electing beauty queens to promote the touristic qualities of our country (which are now being replaced with a notorious reputation for being a party-town), the concept of having the contestants strutting around in barely-there swimsuits just doesn’t make any sense to me. So the Miss looks good in a swimsuit, but what is that going to do to the country’s tourism? Gain the reputation of having the hottest women? Really now? Are we forgetting that despite having different religious sects, the majority of the population are conservative and would be appalled at the notion of having their wives, girlfriends, sisters, or daughters wearing nothing but a bikini and having every creature out there staring at her?
I won’t even go into the effect of that on little girls and the change in perception of their body image. Too much has been said already.
But that’s not the real problem. As any beauty queen would tell you, it’s the “inner beauty” that counts, and by inner beauty they mean, answering those nonsense questions, that seem to be adopted from a how-to-book on making people cringe, in hopes that people would see that these girls have something up there and are not just bone-skinny victims of a merciless industry.

The poor girls who had to endure the questions

Watching the girls being forced to answer a question like “What would you prefer to have between money, authority, and knowledge?” just made me want to hurl the closest piece of furniture at the television. That’s not including the fact that the five finalists all gave the exact, same answer, “Knowledge because that would give me authority and being in authority helps me make money.” Don’t be quick to blame the girls for that ingenious answer; it’s really not their fault.
Why can’t the organizers ask something more constructive?
It’s obvious the ladies have the brains; otherwise they wouldn’t be enrolled in the best universities in Lebanon. It is a true pity that these young women have to dumb themselves down to be accepted by a shallow, materialistic society.
Allowing that above-mentioned aspect to come into full-focus would just throw off the whole notion of electing beauty queens. After all, the French said it perfectly:
“Sois belle et tais- toi” which roughly translates to “Be beautiful and keep your mouth shut.”
But then again, some girls want to be the president of their country and others just want to wear that glittering tiara.

The prized tiara

And to get there, you have to pay the price. Even if it means enduring a ridiculous event like the one broadcast last night.