Monthly Archives: February 2012

Who Can Own a Police Siren? Just a Lucky Few


our local version of the beagle-boys

Have you ever wondered who dwells behind the steering wheels of cars with tinted glass? Did you know that they are above the law thanks to “divine intervention”?

On a nice Sunday afternoon, one Mercedes ML350, a big black SUV, was heading towards Faqra. On board were two couples who were on their way to have lunch in a restaurant in the area. The car has tinted glass all over– remember, the installation of this type of glass in civilian vehicles was ruled illegal a long time ago.

Passenger #1: “Cool ride dude.”

Sami: “Thanks man. It’s my dad’s you know, but all of the extras are the handy work of yours truly.”

Passenger #1: “What extras?”

And ON it wailed.

For no more than $100, Sami had managed to buy the most outrageous and illegal of gadgets. He had in his car a police siren device complete with a public address system and a sound amplifier. Is there a need to mention that such a device should be exclusively installed in Internal Security Forces’ (ISF) police cars?

Sami then held the microphone to his lips and mimicked the line usually repeated by ISF when “someone important” is blessing the commoners with his presence among them on the streets: “silver Toyota, move to the right!” And the poor woman driving the silver Toyota actually moved to the right side of the street. The incident had a surreal quality to it: a typical Lebanese– Sami had actually perfected the aggressive tone of ISF officers who always sound like caffeine addicts deprived of their daily dose of the drug. He was maniacally speeding down the sloping hills of Rayfoun, pushing the siren on and on again (the image of a laughing Joker from Batman movies comes to mind), and cars around were frantically moving out of this menacing death machine’s way.

The truly scary bit came later though. Sami confessed that he had tried this trick with a genuine motor officer. He sounded the siren while his tinted windows were rolled up and the policeman moved his motorcycle out of the way of “important man’s car”, no questions asked.

Sami had also added a fake antenna to the top of his car to imply that he had a transmission set in his car, a device usually used by politician’s bodyguards. He put his full gear to use when he was picking up his cousin from the airport. Of course, we commoners get hassled by police officers when we park in front of the airport even if for just a few seconds, however, the ISF officer didn’t even dare look in the direction of Sami’s car. What else could he do? It was an “important-looking car” and he was just a policeman stationed in a hostile territory.

*This post was published a while ago in The Daily Star


Damn You, Google Translate!


This post was featured on LBC Blogs 

I have a habit of reading food labels. I read the nutritional information, the list of ingredients, and I search for grammatical and spelling mistakes in the commercial copy – like your typical teacher of English. I usually find handsome booty in Chinese products, the labels of which are notoriously fraught with typos and grammatical atrocities.

The other day, I was enjoying a roll of Ghazl El Banet (cotton candy), minding my own business, when I decided to look at the label inserted in the package. And boy did I find something worthy of a blog post:  just look at the below wonder of man and nature:


Where do I begin? This is so wrong on so many levels.

The manufacturer of this cotton candy (whose factory is in Dora, Rue “Saing” Joseph,) claims that “our good is our propaganda”. And sure enough, their goods are very tasty, so back off Mr. Goebbels, your services are not needed here.

The cherry on top of all of these copywriting disasters came to my attention a bit later than did the ones I just mentioned. Even though I am English educated, I was highly suspicious of the French in this prodigy; a quick search revealed that “barbe du pup” means ‘puppy’s beard’, and upon more research I discovered that this term does NOT refer to this candy neither in French nor in any other known language. To solve this mystery, I asked a French educated friend what Ghazl Lbanet means in French, and guess what I found out? It means ‘barbe a` papa’. I mean, ‘pup’and ‘papa’ are two different species of living things, so how could a person confuse one with the other? Beats me.

Several questions come to mind here; first of all, this product is obviously not intended for export (thank Goodness), because the label doesn’t say “Made in Lebanon” and even the phone number doesn’t have the international code included. Thus being the case, why did the manufacturer feel compelled to use a foreign language he is obviously not competent at? And why didn’t he hire a copywriter to do the job for him? Better yet, the obvious, easy solution in this case would have been using Arabic instead of English to avoid the whole embarrassment, but no; we Lebanese are proud of our multilingualism. Aren’t we the people who speak three languages in the same sentence and thus are superior to our Arab neighbors? We have to keep up with the appearances since Arabic has become a low status, outdated language that’s reserved for the “uneducated” and the “anti-modern” bums.

Sadly, this is an Arab country where school children think of the Arabic session at school as an absolute waste of time and where parents boastfully announce their kids’ weak Arabic language skills “ibne d3eef bil Arabe”. Would they be so willing to publically admit such weaknesses in Math or French? I highly doubt it as that would be

Mission: Impossible – Push Your Stroller Down Those Streets If You Can


Yesterday, I shot one more scene in my Mission: Impossible movie. The movie stars my toddler, me, and my toddler’s stroller and it follows our adventures around the pot-holed and broken pavements of Hamra. Good times. This episode features my husband.

Pushing a stroller down a street in Beirut involves so many levels of difficulty, the experience is just like a Super Mario game (yeah, I’m an 80’s kid, get over it).

As we leave the house, we have to maneuver the stroller down a 30 cm high pavement with my poor girl having to endure the bumpy ride.

one could break a leg if they jumped off of this height

Just when you take a deep breath as you finish Level 1, you arrive at Level 2 which is even harder because you encounter two consecutive hurdles in the form of a high-pavement island. You have to jump across the island and save the princess. Mind you, while pushing the stroller.

Level 3 is tricky, because when you think that the high-pavement level is over, you discover that there is a twist at the end: there are two steps that you have to sort of roll the stroller down over without upsetting the baby too much. Tricky.

the tricky level 3

At level 4, where miraculously, the pavement is made low to allow for strollers to glide, one encounters a block; a car is parked all across that space dedicated to ‘wheeled’ citizens. If you find another space to access the pavement you get a bonus point.

increasingly difficult levels

We arrive at the bank which is our destination at Level 5, only to encounter a major obstacle: 6 steps of a sharp incline. My husband flexes his muscles and carries the stroller, baby and all, up the steps. He needs a fuel replenishment after this exercise.

hmm..any shortcuts for this level?

At Level 6 on our way back, and just when we’re thinking that this side of the pavement is better than the other side, we encounter the final challenge: the huge pot hole. The pavement is broken due to some mysterious “construction” project that was never completed. We maneuver around it and gain more points for being so dexterous.

and the final challenge

And now the million dollar question: if perfectly healthy and capable people struggle so much to push a stroller down a pavement on one of Beirut’s prestigious streets, then how do disabled people manage to get around? The obvious answer is that they just don’t. This is why we almost never see any disabled people anywhere in public, they simply can’t exist in such a crippling public space. Pun, unfortunately, intended.