Jul 29, 2010

[Photos] Tweetup

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I had the pleasure of meeting few tweeps from Lebanon yesterday. It was my first tweetup and I honestly didn’t know what to expect.

I have to say, Lebanese tweeps are the coolest since Homer said “Do’h!”

The attendees were:

Thank you all for a great evening and special thanks goes to @FunkyOzzi (who I forgot to mention on Twitter last night) for organizing the amazing tweetup and @DanyAwad for suggesting it.
I recommend you follow all of them. Most of them are bloggers as well. I suggest you read their blogs. You won’t be disappointed.

I look forward to meeting all of you again soon.

P.S. I learned yesterday that there’s a Facebook page called LebTweetups. If you haven’t visited it yet, go ahead and do it now. 

Jul 27, 2010

Uncool hacks

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I don’t know about you, but I believe journalists who slam and mock their competition, publicly on Twitter, are unprofessional and uncool.

I have no idea if it’s acceptable within the journalism code of ethics and I don’t care. It’s still wrong.

A few pointers….
  • Spending your day scanning competition articles and tweeting their flaws - for popularity and a few giggles -  says nothing but a big LOSER. You are intentionally trying to tarnish their reputation. Do you honestly think this will gain you more readers?  Pathetic.
  • May I suggest another aphrodisiac? How about investigating and writing newsworthy articles?
  • Enough with the superiority complex. Your publication is not without its flaws. People who live in glass houses ….
  • You should stick to bashing PR folks. You are doing exceptionally well at that. And don’t worry about their feelings. They don’t give a crap. They get paid a lot. The more you bitch, the stupider you look.
  • Leave crappy journalism trashing to PR folks. Let them return the favor by tweeting your failings.
Remember, you are accountable for everything you tweet. Don’t let it come back and bite you in the ass. Seriously, stop acting like a child.

Peace out. 

Jul 26, 2010

Taking advantage of tourists

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I went to ABC Mall Achrafieh this morning to have breakfast with my cousin. After breakfast, we decided to hit the shops.

While browsing inside one of the shops, a Saudi women walked into the store. Naturally, the saleswoman ignored my cousin and I to attend to the ‘khaliji’ lady.

Items in the store had no price tags for some reason.

“How much is this piece?” asked the lady. Saleswoman replied without checking the pricelist:

Shocked, the Saudi lady put the piece back.

“And how much is this one? Saudi lady asked again.

Lowering her price, and again without checking the pricelist, the saleswoman replied “$500.”
Saudi woman looked at us, smiled, and put the piece back on the rack.
Right then, she decided to give the saleswoman a piece of her mind.

Imagine a Saudi Julia Roberts in that infamous Pretty Woman scene…

“You just lost a customer.”

“We have the same collection back home and it’s half the price. You still have this notion that because I’m from Saudi, it’s ok to rip me off. When will you learn not to take advantage of tourists? It’s my fault I chose to spend my shopping money in Lebanon. Let your items collect dust on your rack.”

Kudos to the Saudi woman. Other retailers, take note. 

Jul 21, 2010

Screw you all

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I am strongly against organizations going silent when in a crisis or under scrutiny (Hi, Etisalat). However, when you decide to be arrogant and hire nitwits for PR, it’s better to shut up.

Sharjah Electricity Water Authority, AKA Stopping Electricity Without Accountability, AKA SEWA, has been under a lot of heat lately because of power outages in the Emirate. Keep in mind the temperature in the UAE sores up to 50 degree Celsius in July. Read more about the Sharjah power outage
Not only did SEWA take their sweet time to respond to the issue, but they provided the public with one of the most heinous statements in history:

Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, which provides power in the emirate, said the cuts were not unusual. “They are just ordinary power cuts,” a spokesman said without providing further information.
Source: The National  
Here's my interpretation of SEWA’s statement: “Screw you all. We will do whatever we want and we don’t have to justify it to the public.”

SEWA, you disgust me. 

Et tu, UAE?

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Following my Watheeqa: A true-life tale of horror post, I received several message confirming that the United Arab Emirates has indeed stopped issuing visas to all Palestinians.

I’m testing this.

I applied for a visa to the UAE last week. So far, it has not been approved. The feedback I’m getting is “it’s still with immigration.”  This is never good news. In the past, I used to get the visa in two working days.

I guess I will have to wait until I get a definite ‘approved/rejected’ answer. I will keep you posted.

Before I forget, I would like to thank everybody who read, tweeted and commented on the Watheeqa post. A special thanks goes to Palestine Note, Arabist, Malarky News and Arab News Blog for publishing / linking the article. I did not expect the post to be this popular. I am honored.

Jul 17, 2010

Where do you live, man?

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Watching American TV teaches you many things about the US, its culture and its history (history?). Take Political Correctness (PC) for example. Without my addiction to movies and shows, I wouldn’t have heard of the term.

According to Wikipedia, PC denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, disability, and age-related contexts.


But much like any ideology in the good ol’ US of A, extremism takes center stage. If interested in hilarious examples of political correctness, Google is your friend.  
For kicks, let’s see how some of these terms would fit in the Middle East. 

Did you know it is politically incorrect to say ‘black coffee’? The correct term is ‘without milk’, racist! Well that memo certainly did not reach baristas in the Arab world.  Every time I order Americano at Starbucks, the barista asks: “Black?” Should I correct him? Does he really care? More importantly, do I really care to invest in such conversation? “I’ll have it black, please.” 

The politically correct term for a midget is ‘little person’ or ‘vertically challenged’. The translation of both in Arabic is terribly insulting. I wouldn't dare blurt them out to find myself surrounded by a gang of midgets punching the butter out of my nuts. (Get it? It’s because they can’t punch higher, says the person writing about political correctness.)

It is politically incorrect to say garbage-man. The correct term is ‘sanitation engineer’. (Okay, w
as your reaction ‘WTF’, too?)

Arab reaction to Sanitation Engineer
 Knock Knock
“Who is it?”
“The sanitation engineer.”
“Is there something wrong with the building?”
“No, I’m just here to collect the garbage.”
“Ya akhul sharm...Zabbel wo 3amilli 7alak mhandes?” (You are a garbage-man posing as an engineer, you SOB?)

It is politically incorrect to say Merry Christmas. The correct term is ‘Happy Holidays’. Can’t you just picture it? Call it 'happy holidays' in the US and you are a politically correct liberal. Call it 'happy holidays' in the Middle East and you are an extremist. I will stick with Merry Christmas, thank you. 

But enough with the American examples.

The idea behind this post stemmed from a tweet I thought was politically incorrect. The tweet was by fellow Arab on my Twitter timeline. When I argued, his reply was “where do you live, man?” 

He does have a point. I mean let’s face it, in the Arab world, the term ‘politically correct’ does not exist. We grew up politically incorrect and we were never corrected. PC was never part of our tradition or upbringing. In fact, the more politically incorrect you are, the more chuckles you get.

And am I that of an idealist to enforce an American ideology (
criticized by many Americans, mind you) on people in this part of the world? I certainly am not and to each his own, I say.

For ‘educational’ purposes, let me share with you some of the politically incorrect and racist terms in our part of the world.

Disclaimer: Do not take offense in the list below. It is nothing but stereotypes and many, including myself, do not condone such terms. Not all Arabs are politically incorrect.

  • Maid of any nationality = Sri Lankan (common term in Lebanon)
  • African = Slave/Negro 
  • People from Al-Said (Egypt), Al-Tafila (Jordan), Al-Khalil (Palestine), Homs (Syria) = Dim-witted
  • Lebanese man (as viewed by other Arab nationalities) = Effeminate accent, showoff
  • Lebanese girl (as viewed by other Arab nationalities) = Easy, plastic and materialistic
  • Jordanian man = Grouchy, blatant
  • Jordanian women = Butch accent
  • Palestinian = Bebsi  (Pepsi)
  • Palestinian in Lebanon = Dark skinned refugee, country destroyer
  • Syrian in Lebanon = Labor, undercover intelligence agent
  • Lebanese in Syria = Cheap clothes shopper
  • Kuwaiti = Rich, arrogant
  • Saudi men = Rich, deprived
  • Emarati = Rich, lazy
  • Saudi women = Ninjas
  • Indian man in the GCC = Cheapskate, Hindi (said mockingly)
  • Westerner in the GCC = Condescending, loser in his country
  • GCC organizations preferring westerners = Inferiority complex
  • Russian women in UAE = Khow much?
  • Filipino = Gay
  • Journalist in the UAE = Copy & paste, spoiled, lazy
  • Animal rights activists = Idiots
  • Single women working abroad = Spinsters
  • Single adults moving out of their parent’s house (applies to males and females) = Whores
  • Gay = Abnormal
  • Fat = Cow, mule
  • Seeing a psychiatrist = Crazy
  • Arab professional belly dancer = Prostitute
  • Shakira belly dancing = Artist (the double standards in this region, sigh!)

If you think of other terms, leave a comment.

Jul 14, 2010

Holy Father Google

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A friend posted a link on Twitter to a blog post on the France Burqa Ban. The post is by Saudiwoman’s Weblog. I suggest you visit the page. She has an interesting point of view on the topic.
But my post is not about the Burqa ban.

What caught my attention on that page was the targeted ‘Ads by Google’ part.  The ad was for an Arabic website called Almaseeh2020.com (Christ 2020). I am not very religious so I won’t read much into it but it’s interesting how Google Ads work. An ad for site that preaches love for Christ and Christianity on a Saudi based blog with several topics covering the Islam and the Muslim communities. Hallelujah!

Note: Due to the length of Saudiwoman’s Weblog post, I took one snapshot of the first paragraph and another one of the ad (placed at the bottom of the article) and pasted them together. 

Jul 12, 2010

Watheeqa: A true-life tale of horror

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What is that dreadful looking thing in the below picture, you ask? Why it’s a Watheeqa.

In English, a travel document that has suffered a neurodevelopment disorder and could not fully mature to become a passport. Sad? Not quite there.

I, disgracefully, was born with one.  I didn’t ask for it. I don’t care for it. But I’m stuck with it.

I am not unpatriotic. I love Palestine. But this hideous excuse for a passport does not identify the nationality of its holder. Neither a Palestinian, nor a Lebanese. I am labeled as a refugee. Tragic? Not quite there.

The story began when my grandparents were ‘shortlisted’ to be amongst the 1948 Palestine Exodus ‘elites’. Yes, that was a joke. They were actually expelled from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. They fled to Lebanon and were given the Watheeqa, a you-have-no-rights-whatsoever-except-to-live-here gift. My father inherited it and so did I.

It’s been sixty years since the exodus and  leaders of the world still can’t figure out what to do with us.  Our issue is apparently beyond any level of intelligence or attention. The world sees us as the plague or as the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s. No one wants to deal with us. No one wants to acknowledge us. No one cares to help us.

Oh, did I mention there are several version of the Watheeqa? There’s the Lebanese one, which I hold and the Syrian one. But the worst of them all is the Egyptian one. If you hold that ungodly Egyptian Watheeqa, you might as well give up and pray there’s a better afterlife.

What are the perks of holding a Lebanese Watheeqa? We’ve covered that already. You get the right to live in Lebanon. Oh, and you don’t need a visa to get into Lebanon. Joy!

Now let’s cover the other side of this cosmic souvenir. The drawbacks.

Holding a Watheeqa instantly makes you the lowest common denominator. You and livestock share the same privileges.  

Let me shed some light.

Disclaimer: The below list is based on a personal experience. Your garbage bin experience might vary.
  • I was denied the college major I desired because my choices, as a human being nobody Watheeqa holder, are limited. See my previous post.
  • In Lebanon, I cannot be a white collar employee. I once applied for a job and the company owner did not shy away from saying: “You are qualified but I would rather give this job to a Lebanese.” Charming, isn’t he? I was waiting for him to say, “if we ever needed to paint the office, we will call you.” Nevertheless, I managed to get a job in a different company through a family connection. When I asked for a Letter of Recommendation, the request was denied because I was working ‘illegally’ and the owner did not want any legal hassle. If I had gotten a legal work permit, I wouldn’t hold a white collar position. You see, as a refugee, I am only allowed blue collar jobs.  That’s $50,000 worth of university education down the drain.
  • I mentioned earlier that Watheeqa holders are avoided like the plague. Example: If you plan to get married, forget it. No father wants to give his daughter to a refugee. I have been told this to my face. Even women holding the same document don’t want to marry a Watheeqa man. Which is fair. After all, why should they and their future children suffer?
  • What’s worse than a Watheeqa holder? A Watheeqa holder in the Arab world. Except for the United Arab Emirates (bless them), not one single Arab country will give you a work permit and a residency. Most Arab countries won’t even grant you a visit visa. When my parents were living in Kuwait, I couldn’t visit them. I tried for two years to get a visit visa. It was denied every single time. On the other hand, the USA granted me a 5-year multiple entry visa in five seconds, but Kuwait still refuses to recognize me as a person. Another example, when my ex-boss in Dubai offered me a position in Qatar, the opportunity did not come to life as my Qatar visa was denied. Similar incident with Saudi Arabia.
Arab countries will grant westerners visas on arrival. I have to suffer. Shame on you Arab world. You deserve every word of criticism. And you pretend to care and wonder why most Arabs migrate to Canada, Australia and the US. When in reality, you are thrilled to wash your hands of our issues. You are labeled as ‘weak’ and you will be weak for centuries to come. 

Again, it is truly shocking that after 60 years, the Watheeqa dilemma still exist and no one is willing move a bone and find a solution. How much longer do we have to endure this unjust and appalling hardship? Is there anyone strong enough to answer that?

For the record, as a Watheeqa holder, I am not allowed to visit my home country. Heartbreaking? Yes.

Jul 11, 2010

If you don’t like it, leave

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A common phrase uttered by those with an average IQ of 50. I’ve heard/read it many times by imbeciles who can’t engage in a rational conversation.  Not a day goes by without someone posting this phrase on the comments section on Arabian Business.

They barf: “Don’t criticize. If you don’t like it, leave.”


Lately, it’s been heard a lot in Lebanon. You see, Lebanon has solved all of its political, social and economical issues (get the sarcasm?)and now the people are focused on one single problem: the right for Palestinians to be humans. Or as media would put it: the right for Palestinians to work.

Social security? Well, I never.

How dare Palestinians get any civil rights in Lebanon? How dare they major or work in medicine, journalism or law? The blasphemy!

Yes, we will take their $50,000+ tuition fee but to have the choice of what to study? like human beings?  Na-ah!

Yes, they can spend a fortune buying houses and register them in their Lebanese wives’ names, but for their children to inherit those houses? Ain’t gonna happen!
And “ If you don’t like it, leave.”

Well Mr. Imbecile, allow me to paste an excerpt from an article published in the Daily Star titled: ‘Lebanon wins if Palestinians are granted the right to work’. 
More than 90 percent of Palestinian refugees spend all their income in Lebanon contributing directly to the Lebanese economy. Allowing them to work will, it is estimated by the International Labor Organization, double this figure and dramatically spur growth. Current financial benefits to the Lebanon economy from her Palestinian guests include the following: 
As a large percentage of Lebanese continue to leave the country for study and employment, this creates serious gaps in Lebanon’s economy as well as a steady demand for skilled and unskilled labor in the Lebanese labor market. Palestinians refugees are willing and able to fill this chasm. Yet the economic benefits of full and legal participation by Palestinian refugees in the Lebanese labor market have been willfully underestimated through political resistance to granting them basic rights.Granting Palestinians the right to work will not take Lebanese jobs. 
In stark contrast to the non-Palestinian work force, Palestinians represent a numerically modest fraction and pose no threat to job opportunities for Lebanese employees. Indeed, granting the right to work which includes improving the work conditions and safeguards for the Palestinians currently working in the so-called “informal sector” (i.e., illegal employment or black market rendering them potentially liable for exploitation, dismissal, fines and/or jail) will also benefit Lebanese who are forced to compete against below minimum wages earners who are non-Lebanese. 
Another interesting article (Arabic) worth reading was published in Al Awda Magazine, titled 'The Palestinian in Lebanon 2010'. Thanks to @Ammouni for sharing the link. 

The above post is based on my personal life and the unfairness I endure as a Palestinian in Lebanon. Even as half Lebanese, I don’t get any rights in Lebanon. I soon plan to write a post on the horror of being a Palestinian in the Arab world. Stay tuned.
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