Lebanese Diaspora Cuisine

– Yellow Fin Tuna kibbeh nayye in a Lebanese restaurant in Australia (source) –

A few years after my great grandfather immigrated to West Africa 80 years ago, he had his heart set on eating Kibbeh. There was a problem though: He doesn’t enjoy eating Kibbeh without Baba Ghannouj, and good eggplant, the kind that is used to make Baba Ghannouj, was not available. Moreover, unlike borghol which can be shipped easily accross the world, eggplants perished on the road and couldn’t be imported. So his wife, my great grandmother, had to improvise: They used a readily available ingredient, avocado, to replace eggplants. 4 generations later, we still occasionally serve avocado Baba Ghannouj when he have Kebbeh, and we love it.

I was thinking of my great grandfather when I saw the photo above of raw Yellow fin Tuna Kibbeh in a Lebanese restaurant in Australia. It occured to me that there’s a whole world of Lebanese cuisine out there that was carried with the diaspora to all the corners of the world and, like the diaspora itself, organically evolved to fit local conditions while doggedly trying to keep the Lebanese heritage alive. I’m sure that a lot of it, like avocado Baba Ghannouj, is delicious.  Continue…

Why the Lebanese iTunes Store may do Well

At first glance, the newly announced Lebanese iTunes store is destined to fail. Think of it for a moment: Who in their right mind in Lebanon will buy a song online when the illegal market for music in Lebanon is so rampant and copyright law-enforcement is completely absent? It is very easy to walk to a corner shop in Lebanon and buy a CD rom with hundreds of the latest Lebanese songs for less than $5, why would you download one song for a buck?

Add to that the crappy internet in Lebanon, the fact that not all Lebanese have credit cards, that many don’t use iOS and the fact that the store is entirely in english (that’s a completely different conversation), and you’ll realize that the Lebanese market can’t be big enough for such a store to be viable.

A piece of Lebanon

If I were to guess why the Lebanese iTunes store will actually do well, I would venture one word: The Diaspora. Lebanese who work abroad but maintain links with the homeland, those will be the real customers of the Lebanese iTunes store. Many of them, like me, have Lebanese credit cards (the requirement to open an account in the Lebanese iTunes store). They are numerous, relatively wealthy, have fast internet connections and have little other options to listen to hit music from Lebanon.

Lebanese songs are a pain to find in torrent websites, and having to wait for our relatives to send us CDs from Lebanon just takes time. There are streaming apps out there (like the excellent Anghami), but many people still prefer to own their music.

To the diaspora, the iTunes store offers the chance to buy a piece of Lebanese culture instantaneously. I think many will happily take it.

About that Expat Voting "Scandal"

A statue in Ghana depicting the friendship between the Lebanese expats and Ghanaians (full image)

Yesterday, the minister of foreign affairs dropped a bomb during the meeting of the joint parliamentary committee for the election law: Of all the eligible voters in the Lebanese diaspora (a diaspora that has more people than the inhabitants of Lebanon), only 3009 people have registered to vote.

The details behind that number can either reveal a sinister political scandal of epic proportions, or a simple truth about Lebanese voters and the effect of uncertainty on people. Continue…

Lebanese Expatriate Voting. How to Take Part in it.

I started this morning the process of registering to vote in the 2013 Lebanese Parliamentary elections. I figured I’ll share here some info and tips that you might find useful if you too are planning to vote. I’ll be using a questions and answer format (f.a.q) because I found it the best way to organize the different issues about the subject. Continue…

Pockets of Brazil In Lebanon

A fascinating look at Lebanon’s “Brazilebanese”:

A very interesting phenomenon has occurred in Bekaa: in that area there are towns such as Sultan Yakub where the first language is neither Arabic nor French, but Portuguese [...] Those travelling to Sultan Yakoub are advised that once in the town, they may request information in Portuguese since anyone responds instantly [...] This reporter took the test and, indeed, the first pedestrian who was approached did speak Portuguese


Anthony Shadid's Longing For His Lebanese Roots

This portrait (Arabic) by Hussain Abdul Hussain of Anthony Shadid paints him as a figure many of us are familiar with: The man with Lebanese roots who had a nostalgia for an ideal of Lebanon, an ideal that never really existed, who was willing to give up everything to return “home” and build a new life there.

Except Shadid died early and never got to finish the script that is typically associated with those people. He never got a chance to actually move to Lebanon and settle down there, only to discover years later that he had made a terrible mistake.

Bonus: The “end of an era”, why Anthony Shadid’s reporting mattered so much for America’s understanding of Arabs.

Facts and Figures From Lebanese Embassies On Expected Diaspora Votes

Make sure you check this first-of-a-kind report published by Annahar today on the figures provided by 70 Lebanese embassies around the world on expected vote turnout, conditions for voting and requirements to run such elections.

I don’t think embassies are doing a great job communicating the importance of diaspora voting to those of us who live abroad. My embassy for instance reported “No interest in voting” among us, and I’m pretty sure it based that opinion on a single text message it sent to us: This one.

Because there’s a wide disbelief that this is actually going to happen, the Embassies should be much more aggressive in spreading the word.

The Kind Of People Lebanon Does Like

Laurent Gbagbo

- Once a Friend -

Moncef Marzouki was treated by Lebanon as a pariah, but he is now the popular President of Tunisia. We also have the exact opposite of this story: A president who was once celebrated by Lebanon but who is now an international criminal.

I’m talking about Laurent Gbagbo, the ex-president of cote-d’ivoire who was shunned by the entire planet for stealing an election, but that Lebanon has rewarded by being one of only two countries to send official envoys to his fake coronation. Only a couple of weeks ago Gbagbo was unceremoniously shipped to the hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Honestly guys, we need a better way to choose our friends and enemies.

Related: Why the Lebanese in Cote D’ivoire are in trouble.

Lebanon's Dual Nationality Law is a Sexist Travesty

The cabinet with zero women strikes again.

If your father’s father was Lebanese, congratulations, you just earned the Lebanese nationality! Don’t worry, even if you or your father have never been to Lebanon, you deserve it (patting you on the back). That’s because you’re the man! You’re the son of a man who’s the son of a man who was once in Lebanon before he left at age 9.

On the other hand, if you lived your entire life in Lebanon, went to Lebanese schools, speak the language fluently and your mother is Lebanese but your father is not, tough luck. We don’t recognize your paltry lineage and dubious connection to this sacred land.

Also: Who needs bird brains? Lebanon’s cabinet has no women.

The Lebanese Diaspora and Revoked Citizenship

You know how many Lebanese like to “game the system” to obtain Canadian Nationalities? Those who actually live in Lebanon but travel to Canada every now and then only to prove they’re residents?

Apparently, the Canadian government is catching on to them and has decided to revoke their nationalities.

I would be tempted to say that this is a sad story about the lengths the Lebanese will go to leave Lebanon, but this isn’t the case. These people are staying and probably working in Lebanon. They got the Canadian and (insert name of 1st world country here) passports only as insurance policies and access to welfare and free high education for their kids.

The Canadians who are living in Canada (including immigrant Lebanese who played fair) have realized that this is fraud so they have decided to cut them off. Something tells me that those involved will now run to the Lebanese government to get compensation..