So We Had A Religious Marriage

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Yes. We had a religious marriage. A civil marriage, the option we really wanted,  would have cost us 4000$ which we couldn’t afford at the time (5 years ago). Long story short, we went for the local, and cheap,  religious option. That day, my then-fiance and I went to the confessional court that vets the affairs of the sect we were born into. We stood at the court’s door with so much dread and disdain in both of our hearts: we had taken a vow that we were not going to allow an employee in a religious costume to pretend to “bless” our marriage. But these were our circumstances and we had to compromise.

We stepped inside, curious to explore what we imagined to be a world of sanctity and piety – of hushed voices and mystic rose petals. Well, not to burst any bubbles, it was a very bureaucratic-looking room, bare but for the basic needs of chairs and tables and some shady carpets.  We were given forms to fill out with our information, and unlike what I’d imagined, the paper work contained absolutely no reference to religion. They were just regular surveys of names and birth-dates and  blood types. Where’s the mysticism and piety in that? Well, no where we looked.

The sheikh who filled up the forms was aloof and very business-like, which didn’t at all match the mood of the happy occasion he was presiding over; he made sure that all the “females” in the room had their heads covered in his holy presence. My husband was grateful he didn’t have to wear the head cover “2allouseh” because I would have dashed. Once the paper work was done, the sheikh hurriedly chanted a religious verse and dashed. Bam! That was it. Husband and I stared at each other skeptically: had we just had a “religious” marriage? We honestly couldn’t even tell.

Bottom line: there is nothing religious about religious marriages, just like there is nothing non-religious about civil marriages. They are both contracts that are filled up by the concerned parties and presided over by a uniformed employee.

Oh but wait, there is a single difference between a religious and a civil marriage and it is indeed profound: the fee for the procedure after all goes to the pockets of the confessional institutions that hold our reins. Oh, and you get a free performance thrown in at the end.

Sales Season in Lebanon: Do We Look Like Idiots?

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mobilitop

Exactly what do the folks over at Mobilitop think is delightful about their fraudulent “50% sale”?

My husband and I checked a kids’ bedroom at their showroom in Zalka last month, and since we were in a hurry and not really shopping for a bedroom at the time, we just browsed the displayed items and their prices and then left. However, when I received this promotional sms last week announcing “a delightful 50% sale” at Mobilitop, well, we thought we should grab the priceless opportunity (pun intended) presenting itself to us. The room we had kind of liked was at 2400$ VAT included, so naturally, we went to Mobilitop this Sunday expecting it to be at 1200$. But how gullible we were. They had placed a new price tag on the bedroom with an inflated price of 3400$, and discounted the price down to 2400!

I realize that this practice of faux-sale is common in Lebanon, but I used to think that only small shoe-shops and the likes do it; I wasn’t aware that even a big enterprise like this one which advertises its sale season on its website and Facebook page would engage in such a fraudulent campaign that aims to so bluntly deceive customers.

This, ironically, comes in the wake of minister Fadi Abboud’s announcement of  the “50% for 50 days”  shopping festival in an attempt to revive the martyred tourism sector. But the typical Lebanese can’t help but play the 7arbou2 part, digging his own grave in the process. People travel from all over the world to the States, France, and Dubai and queue for hours in front of their favorite stores during the sales season because these discounts are real. Genuine. That’s a word which the Lebanese psyche has yet to learn.

No Words..

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My little baby girl.. How many times have I told you not to lie down on the floor or you’ll get a tummy ache? I can’t bare seeing you in pain; I prefer to die a million times over than allow anything in the world to break your smile that is my sunshine. Here, you want a hug so you can go to sleep? Here, you want me to whisper a lullaby in your ears? I’ll tell you a fairy tale which I’ve invented just for you, and then I will tease mommy that you love me more than you love her. Where does it hurt my baby? Can I take the wawa and make it mine? Where are you going? To a place far away? What, are you leaving me behind? I am coming with you baby, I am dead anyway.

Lebanon: And It’s Finally Smoke-Free

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Yaaay! At Last!

Of all the social and economic disasters which afflict us, nothing but the smoking ban has moved the Lebanese people into a state of outrage and mutiny. You know, because a free individual has the right to burn their health and money and brain cells with out being bothered by a smoking ban, or so the ban’s opponents’ argument goes. But do smokers give a thought to the rights of non-smokers? No. You, dear smokers, have enjoyed the right to fill our lungs with second-hand smoke for far too long – now our time has come. We will breath fresh air.

And this brings me to the following question: Why, as a people, do we commit to rules and regulations when we’re abroad only? Why do we queue, wait for our turn, hold doors, give our seat to the elderly and the weak? Why do we act civilized everywhere in the world except in Lebanon? The “wayniye ldawle” attitude is not a fleeting phenomenon, it is a wicked tumor that tenaciously grips this country’s brain; we blame all our shortcomings and savageness on some vague entity and then turn around and continue chipping away at our country’s basis.

The argument that the government should take care of  more “dangerous”  violations first is a fallacious and, dare I say, malicious one: this smoking ban is a dire need in Lebanon especially because of the armed gangs and the lawless activity that’s been plaguing us of late.  If we were to put aside the small attempts to reform and improve our day-to-day living conditions until the more “global” issues are solved, then I can assure you, we will never get anything done on neither fronts. And besides, in a more civilized country, 3500 casualties per year caused by smoking-related illnesses would call for a red alert emergency plan, so this is no joking matter.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, tomorrow, smokers and restaurant owners organize a demonstration against the smoking ban. Bya3mloowa. But Lebanon, I beg you, we have enough pollutants and health hazards to worry about as it is, so let’s embrace this simple opportunity of resembling a nation that has the basic requirements of a normal, healthy life.

TFEH!

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This is a world where children are slaughtered in Syria, their soft little bodies discarded like used dolls.

This is a world where UN peace keepers in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Cambodia and other war-torn communities rape and sexually abuse girls as young as 12 years old.

This is a world where toddlers asphyxiate in a mall’s nursery in Qatar because the owners thought it would be cheaper to scrap the water sprinklers and fire alarm system.

This is a world where 8 year old Yemeni girls are forced to marry and then bleed to death on their “wedding night”.

And this is a world where Lebanese girls between 6 and 8 years of age get raped and sexually molested by their teacher at one of Mount Lebanon’s prestigious schools.

And this is news which I read in one publication within 30 minutes.

Tfeh.

I Will Beat You Up, and You’ll See

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Guy to Guy Advice

The gigantic sound system in the random car going down my street right now is blasting the following song for the whole neighborhood to enjoy:

كبراني براسا وما بدا تحاكيني ومش عام تتهدى ما يخليني إن ما خليتا نجوم الضهر تشوفن حدا

And this summer, when you’re off to party at one of those Lebanese restaurants that feature a one-man-show, or, when you’re attending a cousin’s wedding, you will most certainly be dancing to the following lyrics:

بدي ربيكي حالف بدي فرجيكي إذا عصبت بكسر روس لا تتحديني

مجنون ومبتحمل اختي تهينيها بخلأ كون من الأول حوا بمحيها

So, fellow country women and men, how and when did we stoop so low?

A couple of years ago, Mohammad Iskandar and his son Fares started this phenomenon of producing music that revolves around violent,  misogynistic and homophobic themes, and today, so many ‘artists’ are scurrying to join the band wagon of  insulting and demeaning women in their ‘works of art’. The stoic philosopher Seneca claimed that “all art is but imitation of nature”, so by that measure,  the violence inciting, humiliating messages in such songs merely reflect similar tendencies in our Lebanese society. I mean, think of it for a minute: those performers gain in popularity by  the day; there is a slew of such material incessantly popping up and crowding the waves of radio stations and T.V. channels. If such products didn’t have an audience that accepted and consumed them, then producers wouldn’t have spent time and money making that sort of trash. This society is rotten to the core.

I can’t begin to explain how dangerous this phenomenon is: such songs are desensitizing people to the fact that threatening the woman in your life and abusing her physically, emotionally or psychologically is actually a crime, that forbidding a woman from joining the work force is going against her basic human rights, and that extreme jealousy that leads to crippling a woman’s life and curtailing her options is simply a symptom of a very sick mind and society.

A Real Life, Horror Story

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Ready to read a horrifying story about the trials and tribulations of some expatriates?

My friend, and I will call her Maya for privacy purposes, is divorced and the mother 2 two children, a 9 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. She’d been struggling to make ends meet when she received an offer from a recruiting agency in Beirut to work as a secretary in a European city, which I will call Baris.  Maya jumped at the opportunity of providing a better life for her little ones; she daydreamed for weeks before she boarded that plane of the new clothes and the sumptuous meals she would finally be able to afford.

As soon as Maya set foot in Baris, her life had come to end. She was met by a cheesy looking man at the airport who whisked her off to a shabby, dirty office which he claimed was the company’s headquarters. Maya was locked into that office for 3 days and nights, forced to sleep on the bare floor, only rarely given anything to eat during that time. Her passport and money were confiscated, and she was beaten and insulted repeatedly by strangers who seemed to detest her very existence. There was no secretarial job, there was no salary, there were no dreams that were going to come true: Maya had walked willingly into the trap of modern day slavery.

After those three horrible days that she’d spent in that hell hole, she was forced into a car by two men and taken to an apartment where she was to perform her “job”. In that apartment, she met her tormentors: a man and a woman who, over the next year, would make her wish for the sweet release of death every single day. Maya’s daily work regimen looked like this:  she was forced to wake up literally at the crack of dawn in order to start her daily chores ; she had to scrub every inch of that place to a spotless shine all day and late into the night. She also had to cook, take care of three imps which were the couple’s children, iron heaps of clothes, and more often than not, repeat everything she’d done all over again if the work was deemed not up to standard by the monster who was the “madame”. On many occasions, Maya would also be beaten by the “mister”, the “madame”, the little kids, or all of the above for the silliest of reasons. Occasionally, she was denied food and water as a form of punishment whenever she “misbehaved”. Maya had no days off, and often, when “madame” had visitors, Maya was ridiculed and humiliated in front of them for no reason she could fathom. The final blow was dealt when “mister” came back home late one night, drunk, and barged into the hole in the wall that they called her room. He raped her while holding a knife to her throat. Maya was broken inside out; she was in a deep state of depression and she knew that she was never going to see her children again.

Stagnating in that dark state of mind, Maya stepped on the balcony of that prison and looked down the 8 floors. For a fleeting moment, the idea of being unreachable, beyond humiliation and torture, lifted her spirits and alleviated her body: She was standing on the railing and the image of her two little ones was dancing in front of her eyes. She knew that if she just reached, if she just took one step,  she could touch their faces and hug them again. And she did.

Maya’s real name is Abeba. Or Negasi. Or Shanika. She is not Lebanese, but Ethiopian, or perhaps Sri Lankan. Baris is really Beirut, and the above story happens in this city on a daily basis.