The supermoon sits among the clouds over the Beirut skyline in Lebanon. Nabil Mounzer / EPA
The supermoon sits among the clouds over the Beirut skyline in Lebanon. Nabil Mounzer / EPA

Strange time to be Lebanese



It’s a bittersweet experience being Lebanese these days.

On the one hand, the American Journal of Human Genetics recently reassured us that more than 90 per cent of our genetic ancestry is derived from the Phoenicians, those enterprising ancient Canaanites who created a trading empire across the Mediterranean and beyond, thus reaffirming our historic business credentials and distancing us from the ISIL hooligan element with whom we have apparently been lumped by the rest of the World.

But while Phoenician innovation is alive and well - our architects have redefined the Beirut skyline and a new generation of businesspeople have created hotels, restaurants, clubs and bars that have made our nightlife and hospitality the most vibrant in the region - the country has fallen short of the thriving, bijoux, trading and financial entrepôt  with a lucrative side line in niche tourism to which we aspire.

The reality is that we, the descendants of a people who created the greatest trading empire of its age, are “governed” by a gang of incompetents, thieves and warlords who appear to have left their mighty DNA, not to mention their integrity, at the door, and the people who perfected the art of the deal when the Trumps were mere hut dwellers, operate with infrastructure that would make many so-called third world African nations blush.

Electricity, water, roads, broadband, transparency are areas in which we fall short, forcing the private sector to do business with one hand tied behind its back. It’s either that or do what hundreds of thousands of Lebanese have done and move their talents abroad.

Take tourism. The “season” is in full swing and the indications are that 2017 will be more robust in numbers than previous years. Great! And yet there is widespread irritation across the sector that the government has never done enough to support the sector by cleaning up the country - environmentally that is - providing public transport, and drafting a well-defined tourism strategy. Tourism represents approximately 20 per cent of GDP and yet the ministry is allocated one of the smallest budgets.

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Read more:

Lebanon parking is in a world of its own

Lebanon rubbishes its tourism industry

Lebanon’s charm still a draw for expat workforce

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I suppose banking works, after a fashion. But ever since the mid 1990s the top banks have been happy to simply hold debt government debt in the form of T-bills and this has slowed the development of the corporate and investment banking sectors. More worrying is how the banks have become so butch that they will brook no criticism and, flying in the face of Basle regulations, are able to dictate terms to the central bank because they know their deposits have prevented the country from collapse. It’s not healthy.

So what are doing right? What are we exporting to show the world that our Canaanite genes are still in tiptop form? Apart from our human capital, our cuisine and a tiny wine industry that can trace its heritage directly back to the Phoenician golden age; you’d think there really isn’t much to go on. But we do have two products that very much capture the Lebanon de nos jours, and which have rather tellingly emerged from the rubble of the 1975-90 civil war.

Solidere is a dirty word in Lebanon for many people at the moment. The company that was founded in 1994 by the late former prime minister Rafik Hariri and tasked with rebuilding the bombed-out centre of Beirut, which admittedly it did with aplomb, is now seen as a bastion of nepotism and corporate monster that is blamed for pursuing greed over what best for a once-throbbing city centre. What was meant to be a showcase 472 acres on which the Arab elite would come and shop and dine and where the very, best Lebanese businesses would thrive, has been tarred with the brush of politics, political killing and sectarian demos and after the three turbulent years between 2005 and 2008, the area never really regained its lustre. Today, its hub, Parliament Square and the roads leading off it, is virtually empty. The business community, along with the restaurants and the bars, relocated to less volatile regions to the west and east of the city.

But Solidere, which once managed the biggest building site in the world, learned some valuable skills sets along the way and is in much demand for its property management expertise and its ability to handle property development on a huge scale. The company has an international branch and is currently involved in regeneration projects in Ajman in the UAE and in the Saudi Arabian cities of Jeddah and Riyadh.

And then we have another organisation that has used its post-war expertise to create a solid regional reputation: Hezbollah, the militant Shia party with an Iranian-funded armed wing that has turned into one of the most feared non-state armies in the world. Reviled by many in Lebanon for creating a state-within-a-state and advancing what is perceived as an Iranian agenda by bullying and the veiled (and not so veiled) threat of violence, Hezbollah supporters see the party and its militia as a regional game changer. Its combat experience against Israel and latterly against the opposition forces fighting the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Syria is now very much in demand among Shia fighters in Iraq and Yemen, where the Houthi rebels are fighting the Saudi-backed government.

So there we have it: construction and destruction. And yet it is ironic that two modern-day entities that have created such division, hostility and disappointment, having promised so much, are in their own way, thriving at the expense of those they let down.

It’s rather annoying actually.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Blah

Started: 2018

Founder: Aliyah Al Abbar and Hend Al Marri

Based: Dubai

Industry: Technology and talent management

Initial investment: Dh20,000

Investors: Self-funded

Total customers: 40

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).
Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Terra
Started: 2021
Based: Dubai
Founder: Hussam Zammar
Sector: Mobility
Investment stage: Pre-seed funding of $1 million

School counsellors on mental well-being

Schools counsellors in Abu Dhabi have put a number of provisions in place to help support pupils returning to the classroom next week.

Many children will resume in-person lessons for the first time in 10 months and parents previously raised concerns about the long-term effects of distance learning.

Schools leaders and counsellors said extra support will be offered to anyone that needs it. Additionally, heads of years will be on hand to offer advice or coping mechanisms to ease any concerns.

“Anxiety this time round has really spiralled, more so than from the first lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Priya Mitchell, counsellor at The British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi.

“Some have got used to being at home don’t want to go back, while others are desperate to get back.

“We have seen an increase in depressive symptoms, especially with older pupils, and self-harm is starting younger.

“It is worrying and has taught us how important it is that we prioritise mental well-being.”

Ms Mitchell said she was liaising more with heads of year so they can support and offer advice to pupils if the demand is there.

The school will also carry out mental well-being checks so they can pick up on any behavioural patterns and put interventions in place to help pupils.

At Raha International School, the well-being team has provided parents with assessment surveys to see how they can support students at home to transition back to school.

“They have created a Well-being Resource Bank that parents have access to on information on various domains of mental health for students and families,” a team member said.

“Our pastoral team have been working with students to help ease the transition and reduce anxiety that [pupils] may experience after some have been nearly a year off campus.

"Special secondary tutorial classes have also focused on preparing students for their return; going over new guidelines, expectations and daily schedules.”

Voy! Voy! Voy!

Director: Omar Hilal
Stars: Muhammad Farrag, Bayoumi Fouad, Nelly Karim
Rating: 4/5

MATCH INFO

Al Jazira 3 (O Abdulrahman 43', Kenno 82', Mabkhout 90+4')

Al Ain 1 (Laba 39')

Red cards: Bandar Al Ahbabi (Al Ain)

SPEC SHEET: APPLE IPAD PRO (12.9", 2022)

Display: 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR, 2,732 x 2,048, 264ppi, wide colour, True Tone, ProMotion, 1,600 nits max, Apple Pencil hover

Chip: Apple M2, 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Memory: Storage – 128GB/256GB/512GB / 1TB/2TB; RAM – 8GB/16GB

Platform: iPadOS 16

Main camera: Dual 12MP wide (f/1.8) + 10MP ultra-wide (f/2.4), 2x optical/5x digital, Smart HDR 4

Video: ProRes 4K @ 30fps, 4K @ 24/25/30/60fps, full HD @ 25/30/60fps, slo-mo @ 120/240fps

Front camera: TrueDepth 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.4), 2x, Smart HDR 4, Centre Stage, Portrait, Animoji, Memoji; full HD @ 25/30/60fps

Audio: Four-speaker stereo

Biometrics: Face ID, Touch ID

I/O: USB-C, smart connector (for folio/keyboard)

Battery: Up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi; up to nine hours on cellular

Finish: Silver, space grey

In the box: iPad, USB-C-to-USB-C cable, 20-watt power adapter

Price: WiFi – Dh4,599 (128GB) / Dh4,999 (256GB) / Dh5,799 (512GB) / Dh7,399 (1TB) / Dh8,999 (2TB); cellular – Dh5,199 / Dh5,599 / Dh6,399 / Dh7,999 / Dh9,599

The language of diplomacy in 1853

Treaty of Peace in Perpetuity Agreed Upon by the Chiefs of the Arabian Coast on Behalf of Themselves, Their Heirs and Successors Under the Mediation of the Resident of the Persian Gulf, 1853
(This treaty gave the region the name “Trucial States”.)


We, whose seals are hereunto affixed, Sheikh Sultan bin Suggar, Chief of Rassool-Kheimah, Sheikh Saeed bin Tahnoon, Chief of Aboo Dhebbee, Sheikh Saeed bin Buyte, Chief of Debay, Sheikh Hamid bin Rashed, Chief of Ejman, Sheikh Abdoola bin Rashed, Chief of Umm-ool-Keiweyn, having experienced for a series of years the benefits and advantages resulting from a maritime truce contracted amongst ourselves under the mediation of the Resident in the Persian Gulf and renewed from time to time up to the present period, and being fully impressed, therefore, with a sense of evil consequence formerly arising, from the prosecution of our feuds at sea, whereby our subjects and dependants were prevented from carrying on the pearl fishery in security, and were exposed to interruption and molestation when passing on their lawful occasions, accordingly, we, as aforesaid have determined, for ourselves, our heirs and successors, to conclude together a lasting and inviolable peace from this time forth in perpetuity.

Taken from Britain and Saudi Arabia, 1925-1939: the Imperial Oasis, by Clive Leatherdale

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Racecard:

6.30pm: Mazrat Al Ruwayah (PA) | Group 2 | US$55,000 (Dirt) | 1,600 metres

7.05pm: Meydan Sprint (TB) | Group 2 | $250,000 (Turf) | 1,000m

7.40pm: Firebreak Stakes | Group 3 | $200,000 (D) | 1,600m

8.15pm: Meydan Trophy | Conditions (TB) | $100,000 (T) | 1,900m

8.50pm: Balanchine | Group 2 (TB) | $250,000 (T) | 1,800m

9.25pm: Handicap (TB) | $135,000 (D) | 1,200m

10pm: Handicap (TB) | $175,000 (T) | 2,410m.

Racecard

6.30pm: The Madjani Stakes (PA) Group 3 Dh175,000 (Dirt) 1,900m

7.05pm: Maiden (TB) Dh165,000 (D) 1,400m

7.40pm: Maiden (TB) Dh165,000 (D) 1,600m

8.15pm: Handicap (TB) Dh190,000 (D) 1,200m

8.50pm: Dubai Creek Mile (TB) Listed Dh265,000 (D) 1,600m

9.25pm: Handicap (TB) Dh190,000 (D) 1,600m

The National selections

6.30pm: Chaddad

7.05pm: Down On Da Bayou

7.40pm: Mass Media

8.15pm: Rafal

8.50pm: Yulong Warrior

9.25pm: Chiefdom


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