Zambo participants march through the streets of Tripoli’s Mina district on February 26, 2017. Josh Wood for The National
Zambo participants march through the streets of Tripoli’s Mina district on February 26, 2017. Josh Wood for The National

Zambo in Tripoli – Lebanon’s Mardi Gras on the Med



TRIPOLI, LEBANON // In an alley in the conservative Lebanese city of Tripoli, it’s just before 10 in the morning as men painted head to toe in black and gold and dressed only in hula skirts swig from bottles. One young man smokes a cigarette through his Guy Fawkes mask while another prances about with a fake severed head.

You might want to call it Mardi Gras on the Med, but people here call it Zambo.

Every year, Greek Orthodox Christian residents of Tripoli’s seaside Mina district take to the streets in costumes and paint to celebrate Zambo on the Sunday before Lent and its 40 days of fasting and penance.

Pre-Lent festivals are celebrated across the world, with ornate processions like New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval and the Carnival of Venice enjoying widespread fame.

Tripoli’s much smaller Zambo festival has strong traces of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval and Caribbean Carnival celebrations. But it is an anomaly, existing all by itself far from any of the world’s other carnivals. There is nothing like it in the Arab world – or perhaps the whole world – and nobody is really sure how it got here.

Zambo’s hedonistic celebration is even more surprising given that Tripoli is not exactly a city known for its tolerance. A few years ago, you could easily buy ISIL flags from shops downtown.

It is a city that fed Sunni fighters into Syria’s civil war, with many joining hardline and extremist factions. To many, Tripoli is known more for processions of masked men clutching automatic rifles in their hands, not the public consumption of alcohol that is seen during Zambo.

How Zambo arrived in Tripoli is uncertain and everybody seems to have their own story.

It came from Greece and Brazil over 100 years ago, Zambo organiser Beshara Hassan told The National.

Participant Joseph Bahi, 38, said Zambo was influenced by Brazil, but that its roots and sometimes scary costumes went back to the advent of Christianity, when Christians in what is today Lebanon had to appear fearsome to escape persecution and spread the word of Lent’s arrival.

Alberto Rouhana, 25, traced it back to pagan times. “It passed from old religions to Christianity,” he said. “Like when people were worshipping the sun.”

Others believe that Zambo as it exists today was influenced by African troops serving in Lebanon when it was controlled by France, or that it is tied to exorcism or cleansing of the city and its people.

What everyone agrees on is that Zambo is celebrated every year, that anybody who wants to can join in, and that the theme is always “African” – which somehow includes, beyond the body paint, a proliferation of Native American headdresses, hula skirts and ghoul masks.

For hours on Sunday, hundreds of painted participants wove and danced their way through the alleys of Tripoli’s Mina district, beating drums and chanting “Zambo! Zambo!”

Bodies pushed against one another in the procession, as those in more frightening costumes tried to scare onlookers by jumping and hollering. When the procession ended in the early afternoon, men jumped into the cold Mediterranean to wash off their body paint with dishwashing liquid.

Tripoli is a city usually known for its divisions. Between 2011 and 2014, Alawite and Sunni militias fought battles along a war-scarred front line. For the most hardline militants, Tripoli was a city for Sunnis only.

But while a lot of things divide Tripoli, Zambo unites them. While it is primarily a realm of the city’s small Greek Orthodox community, Christians of other denominations and even Muslim residents join in.

The Mina district managed to avoid the chronic unrest that plagued much of the city in recent years, existing, like Zambo, as an anomaly.

At times when shops in the rest of the city were shuttered and masked fighters roamed the streets, Mina often remained an oasis of calm with life continuing relatively unaffected. Zambo celebrations have been held here every single year since the 1980s, when violence in the city last forced the cancellation of the festival.

“In this city, we all live together. Before you look at other peoples’ religion, you have to look at them as human beings,” said a middle-aged Muslim man who gave his name as Sindibad, as he dried off from washing paint from his body. “In my opinion, this is not for Christians, it is for everyone. It has gone on for a long time, before Islam.”

jwood@thenational.ae​

All The Light We Cannot See

Creator: Steven Knight

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Hugh Laurie, Aria Mia Loberti

Rating: 1/5 

UAE jiu-jitsu squad

Men: Hamad Nawad and Khalid Al Balushi (56kg), Omar Al Fadhli and Saeed Al Mazroui (62kg), Taleb Al Kirbi and Humaid Al Kaabi (69kg), Mohammed Al Qubaisi and Saud Al Hammadi (70kg), Khalfan Belhol and Mohammad Haitham Radhi (85kg), Faisal Al Ketbi and Zayed Al Kaabi (94kg)

Women: Wadima Al Yafei and Mahra Al Hanaei (49kg), Bashayer Al Matrooshi and Hessa Al Shamsi (62kg)

Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

Moving Out 2

Developer: SMG Studio
Publisher: Team17
Consoles: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox One
Rating: 4/5

How to avoid getting scammed
  • Never click on links provided via app or SMS, even if they seem to come from authorised senders at first glance
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  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for all your working and personal services
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MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League semi-final, first leg
Bayern Munich v Real Madrid

When: April 25, 10.45pm kick-off (UAE)
Where: Allianz Arena, Munich
Live: BeIN Sports HD
Second leg: May 1, Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Kinetic 7
Started: 2018
Founder: Rick Parish
Based: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Industry: Clean cooking
Funding: $10 million
Investors: Self-funded

UAE SQUAD

Jemma Eley, Maria Michailidou, Molly Fuller, Chloe Andrews (of Dubai College), Eliza Petricola, Holly Guerin, Yasmin Craig, Caitlin Gowdy (Dubai English Speaking College), Claire Janssen, Cristiana Morall (Jumeirah English Speaking School), Tessa Mies (Jebel Ali School), Mila Morgan (Cranleigh Abu Dhabi).

England World Cup squad

Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wkt), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Gran Gala del Calcio 2019 winners

Best Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Best Coach: Gian Piero Gasperini (Atalanta)
Best Referee: Gianluca Rocchi
Best Goal: Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria vs Napoli)
Best Team: Atalanta​​​​​​​
Best XI: Samir Handanovic (Inter); Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Joao Cancelo (Juventus*); Miralem Pjanic (Juventus), Josip Ilicic (Atalanta), Nicolo Barella (Cagliari*); Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Duvan Zapata (Atalanta)
Serie B Best Young Player: Sandro Tonali (Brescia)
Best Women’s Goal: Thaisa (Milan vs Juventus)
Best Women’s Player: Manuela Giugliano (Milan)
Best Women’s XI: Laura Giuliani (Milan); Alia Guagni (Fiorentina), Sara Gama (Juventus), Cecilia Salvai (Juventus), Elisa Bartoli (Roma); Aurora Galli (Juventus), Manuela Giugliano (Roma), Valentina Cernoia (Juventus); Valentina Giacinti (Milan), Ilaria Mauro (Fiorentina), Barbara Bonansea (Juventus)

How the bonus system works

The two riders are among several riders in the UAE to receive the top payment of £10,000 under the Thank You Fund of £16 million (Dh80m), which was announced in conjunction with Deliveroo's £8 billion (Dh40bn) stock market listing earlier this year.

The £10,000 (Dh50,000) payment is made to those riders who have completed the highest number of orders in each market.

There are also riders who will receive payments of £1,000 (Dh5,000) and £500 (Dh2,500).

All riders who have worked with Deliveroo for at least one year and completed 2,000 orders will receive £200 (Dh1,000), the company said when it announced the scheme.

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Where to buy

Limited-edition art prints of The Sofa Series: Sultani can be acquired from Reem El Mutwalli at www.reemelmutwalli.com

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Akeed

Based: Muscat

Launch year: 2018

Number of employees: 40

Sector: Online food delivery

Funding: Raised $3.2m since inception

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo

Power: 268hp at 5,600rpm

Torque: 380Nm at 4,800rpm

Transmission: CVT auto

Fuel consumption: 9.5L/100km

On sale: now

Price: from Dh195,000

The Year Earth Changed

Directed by:Tom Beard

Narrated by: Sir David Attenborough

Stars: 4

Defending champions

World Series: South Africa
Women’s World Series: Australia
Gulf Men’s League: Dubai Exiles
Gulf Men’s Social: Mediclinic Barrelhouse Warriors
Gulf Vets: Jebel Ali Dragons Veterans
Gulf Women: Dubai Sports City Eagles
Gulf Under 19: British School Al Khubairat
Gulf Under 19 Girls: Dubai Exiles
UAE National Schools: Al Safa School
International Invitational: Speranza 22
International Vets: Joining Jack

ASSASSIN'S CREED MIRAGE

Developer: Ubisoft Bordeaux
Publisher: Ubisoft
Consoles: PlayStation 4&5, PC and Xbox Series S&X
Rating: 3.5/5

SUCCESSION SEASON 4 EPISODE 1

Created by: Jesse Armstrong

Stars: Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong, Kieran Culkin, Sarah Snook, Nicholas Braun

Rating: 4/5

Barbie

Director: Greta Gerwig
Stars: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera
Rating: 4/5

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: 6.5-litre V12 and three electric motors
Power: 1,015hp
Torque: 1,500Nm (estimate)
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Early 2024
Price: From Dh2 million (estimate)

Persuasion

Director: Carrie Cracknell 

Stars: Dakota Johnson, Cosmo Jarvis, Richard E Grant, Henry Golding and Nikki Amuka-Bird

Rating: 1.5/5

Draw:

Group A: Egypt, DR Congo, Uganda, Zimbabwe

Group B: Nigeria, Guinea, Madagascar, Burundi

Group C: Senegal, Algeria, Kenya, Tanzania

Group D: Morocco, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Namibia

Group E: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Angola

Group F: Cameroon, Ghana, Benin, Guinea-Bissau

Manchester City 4
Otamendi (52) Sterling (59) Stones (67) Brahim Diaz (81)

Real Madrid 1
Oscar (90)

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Gulf Under 19s final

Dubai College A 50-12 Dubai College B