Friday, January 20, 2006

Flavours of the Month

  1. Mandaloun Grill: A good bite in a buzzing atmosphere in Jemayzeh

  2. Pinocchio – Faraya: The cozy Acharafieh Italian trattoria  opened a new branch for the ski season

  3. Mayyas: If you want to feel bloated on a good Lebanese-Armenian meze in a homey place Mayyas is the place

  4. Lutecia: To enjoy this Saifi-based eatery you should have a significantly high credit card limit, especially if you order a good French wine from their reasonable list

  5. Bicce: Start with a bellini, order a bottle of Chianti, a few Italian starters in the middle for your guests and then a pasta of their speciality and come out fat and broke at this downtown eatery that could be affiliated to the Milan-based chain.

Cyrano serves pip riddled olive bread

At the spot of the old Vieux Quartier in Achrafieh, a new restaurant opened a few days ago called Cyrano. It is a French restaurant with a “haloum” salad in the starters menu.
The owner and manager of Cyrano said that his partners, over 10 ladies, insisted to have the dish in the menu. He could not but accept.

Lady partners are a good bet to get any restaurant moving. A lot of ladies with well-to-do husbands are happily investing in this business.
It is prestigious to say that they own a business, it makes a little profit that they will spend buying a couple of Roberto Cavalli evening dresses and a Jimmy Choo pair of shoes from Aishti.

Furthermore, they will take their friends to lunches and dinners at the place and that is free marketing & PR for the venture.

The French food at Cyrano is basic: the recommended salad of the day was a well presented endive and Roquefort salad. Another good starter is the fresh octopus that comes with a delicious vinegar sauce. As for the main dish, think of it as fish-salmon-entrecote-escalope and grilled potatoes. All this at a cost per person averaging $37, excluding wine bottles.

The strangest thing was the home made olive bread that was full of pips. The restaurant can be very noisy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

US Freezes Shawkat's Assets

The U.S. Treasury Department just ordered U.S. banks to block any assets found in the U.S. belonging to Assef Shawkat.
The Treasury Department also barred any US citizen from doing business with Shawkat.
The department alleged that Shawkat has played a role in furthering Syria’s “support for terrorism and interference in the sovereignty of Lebanon”.
For the full text please go to

Assad's top ten hit list

1- Singer: Walid Jumblat / Song: Let's Topple The Regime
2- Marwan Hmade / Who Tried to Blow Me
3- Saad Hariri / True
4- Fares Khashan / Private Investigations
5- Marcel Ghanem / The Ridicule of It All
6- Ali Hmade / Killers
7- Abel Halim Khaddam / Daret El Ayam
8- Elias Attallah / I Hate the President
9- Neyla Moawad / The Sound of My Voice
10- Michel Aoun / It Started with His Word

Did you know that:

  • The Zinc lounge in Dubai has a “multiple orgasm night” every Tuesday

  • The largest national population of camels is in Somalia then in Sudan (3 million)

  • About 4 million Sudanese live a nomadic lifestyle

  • Copying the Al Hambra castle in Spain, Abdel Aziz Bin Fahed, the favourite son of the late King Fahd of Saudi, built a palace in Riyadh for US$300 million

  • The homosexuality of an Arab Head of State is an open secret

  • "He's Coming" signs began to appear in Tehran three years ago, announcing the return of the Mahdi, "the restorer of religion and justice who will rule before the end of the world."

  • When addressing the United Nations in September 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s President, concluded his address with a prayer for the Mahdi's appearance: "O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace."

  • US President George W. Bush told Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Prime Minister: "God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan’, and I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’, and I did."

  • A bearded Bush would look a lot like Ahmadinejad. Just look at their eyes and their brows:

Long live Emirates!

Emirates, which will begin receiving Airbus A380 superjumbos from April next year, will hire 8,000 new cabin crew for its rapidly expanding fleet, said a top official to Dubai based Gulf News.
Arabs from all over the region will fill these positions.

Young men and women are flocking to Dubai from all over the Arab world to live the regional version of the American Dream, the Dubai Fantasy.

Non-Gulf Arab Republics should thank the monarchies of the Gulf for the opportunities they are creating for their armies of unemployed skilled labour.
Without the Gulf those governments would have been toppled, because instead of opening up and deregulating their markets and taking advantage of their educated citizens, they are busy keeping themselves in power.

Until things get better, long live Emirates and long live Dubai!

Last Dance at Baghdad Airport

In 2003, I saw this picture showing American troops dancing in Baghdad airport and I said to myself the US is not going to last long in Iraq.
War, these US troops soon discovered, is not fun. And the dancing stopped.
I hope that those kids got back to their families in the US in good health.
These kids, unlike their political leadership, are innocent and just want to have a good time.
By then hundred of thousands of Iraqis were killed either by US bombs or by US backed sanctions.
The Iraqis today are biting back in the most violent way, killing US troops and each other along the way.

The Juffali Boys spotted in Beirut

Walid Juffali, Model Christina Estrada's ex-husband and his cousin Tarek Juffali were spotted in Beirut during the holidays.
Both are famous for living it up with gorgeous babes.
Tarek is "Haifa Wehbe" famous. They divorced after their union apparently outraged Saudi King Abdullah. Today they are back together again.
I guess Tarek is sweet'n'rich and Haifa well she's sweet'n'woooow.
The Juffali boys know how to spend the money their businesses, (they're the agents of Mercedes Benz in the Kingdom and own many other ventures), are making in Saudi Arabia. (Tarek cashed out of the family business after his father died.)
Meanwhile their infamous Jeddah neighbour, Osama BL, was spending his Eid in some cold cave in Afghanistan.
Either way the Saudis are a blast!

It's the economy, ya hameer!

They hailed Assad and Ahmadinijad, they burned the flag of Jumblat’s party and they sang “mabrouk Gebran”, congratulating Gebran Tueini for his death.
This is how thousands of Lebanese demonstrated yesterday against US interference in Lebanon.
After Jumblat’s verbal attacks on the pro-Iranian party made it lose its “resistance aura”, Hezbollah, the demonstration’s main sponsor, has stepped up its campaign against the anti-Syrians in Lebanon.
The well armed Shiite religious party decided to take it to the streets.
“Just tell us the word ya sayyid, just tell us,” shouted a demonstrator in last Saturday’s demonstration against the US under-secretary of state to Lebanon after the protest turned violent.
The protestor was calling Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, to give him the order to start another civil war.
Hezbollah are playing Syria and Iran’s game in Lebanon. Nasrallah himself shouted it proudly later last year “Hezbollah is the ally of the Syrian regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Today Hezbollah considers that Jumblat stabbed them in the back.
After the Syrian army ended its occupation of Lebanon, Jumblat formed an alliance with Hezbollah and Amal. He even went to Iran and met Iranian officials. And without Hezbollah’s electoral support the Hariri-Jumblat alliance would not be a majority in today’s parliament.
But according to As Safir newspaper, Iran stopped its financial support of Jumblat a couple of months ago, and it seems that things went sour after that.
Jumblat became a threat to Hezbollah today, especially after demonstrators protesting the shooting of municipality guards by Palestinian gunmen in the Naameh area cut off the Southern highway which links Hezbollah’s southern front against Israel to Hezbollah’s headquarters in the Beirut suburbs.
Last week the demonstrators, who insulted Nasrallah and Berri and blocked traffic for three hours, probably took to the streets in coordination with Jumblat.

I don’t know where all this might lead Lebanon, but what I know is that no one is optimistic and everyone is worried and that means that no one is spending. The economy is hurting even though the Beirut Stock Exchange is booming, (there are less than 10 traded shares on the BSE) and Arabs are investing in real estate projects in Solidere.

So I urge those great politicians of ours to stop flexing their political muscles and start using what is left of their brain cells and shut up and start working on improving our economy.
And I urge my decent Lebanese brothers and sisters to demonstrate against the current political mayhem by taking to the streets and shouting a Lebanese version of Bill Clinton’s election slogan : it’s the economy, ya hameer(donkeys)!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Dubai Fantasy...Dubai! Dubai! Dubai!

Recently an Egyptian lady from the old Cairo aristocracy was shopping at Harrods in Central London.

Indeed rich Arabs shop there. After all it is the pyramid of luxury owned by the Pharaoh of London, Mohammed El Fayed whose face was used as a model for the sphinxes decorating a large section of the shop.

When the Cairo patrician stopped to buy her perfume from the ladies cosmetics department on the ground floor, a recently hired young and wide-eyed saleswoman asked her where she came from and very proudly the fur-clad Egyptian said: “Egypt” with an Al Fayed innuendo.
Innocently the saleswoman asked with an Essex accent: “oh, lovelay, ees it far frum Dubaaai”.

The lady was shocked, outraged and electrified: “Dubai! Dubai! Dubai! is only 20 years old my child with barely anyone living there, while we, the Egyptians, are a 7 millennia old nation with 70 million people. We are history, they are …you are…” she dropped the perfume and walked away.

Dubai is indeed the best marketed city in the world. It has become a brand thanks to the “product” itself and its very astute marketing policy. Tens of millions of dollars is spent everywhere in the world every year on Dubai, Emirates airlines, Dubai airport and many other ventures.
At least once a week Dubai is in the news thanks to a new mega project or some other mega event or because its government spent a mega amount of money to buy a world known asset or company.
And then there is the flash and the “my skyscraper is taller than yours” syndrome and the “I spent more money on my project than you did” disease, and of course I will not forget the “my malls are bigger than yours” disorder.

Meanwhile, old people are barely seen in Dubai. Everyone is young, full of energy and ambition, most men are horny and a lot of women are loose.
The Dubai Fantasy has beaten the American Dream for many young Arabs, Indians, Pakistanis, Iranians, Russians, South Africans, Australian, Brits, East Europeans and other exotic nationalities.

But in general the Dubai Fantasy ends when you are 60. Indeed residency is not renewable for foreigner above 60. Moreover, there are some who think they are coming to the lands of fairies and they work for no pay under a 48 degree sun, and others, like the small kids who race camels, are sold by their poor Afghani or Pakistani parents to inhabitants of this wonderland.

But on the whole it is a great place for young people from the region. Young men from Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt who want to forget the politics to make enough money to survive the luxuries of Dubai and send a little to their folks back home.


Dubai goes mall crazy

According to an industry analyst, at Dubai's current demographic levels, retail facilities would demand that every man, woman and child spend a minimum of $7,800 annually to sustain an average sales figure of $3,500 a square metre a year in more than 30 shopping malls.
The UAE, which continues to dominate the Gulf shopping mall sector, is expected to record a 145 per cent growth in Gross Leaseable Area (GLA) to 2.7 million square metres or 0.57 square metres per capita by the end of 2006, according to a survey by the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres (MECSC).

Recent statistics also indicate that the AGCC states have a potential of 9.4 million square metres of retail space, of which Dubai accounts for a major share. By 2009, retail activities in shopping centres in Dubai are expected to contribute over 50 per cent to GDP, according to a report in Khaleej Times.

Dubai is currently experiencing a major boom in the retail sector which is attributed to tourism, shopping festivals and high disposable income.

The growth of the shopping mall sector includes new projects such as the Mall of Arabia, Dubailand, Dubai Festival City, Dubai Outlet Mall, Burj Dubai Complex, Dubai Pearl, The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

According to sources, the Mall of Arabia will cover 600,000 square metres of GLA and will be the largest mall in the world. The current record is held by the West Edmonton Mall in Canada, with a GLA of 490,000 square metres.

Dubailand will have a huge mall which will be called Dubai Outlet City covering a GLA of 375,000 square metres. It will include the Dubai Outlet Mall, a business park, a web marketing centre, an artificial beach with restaurants, residences and a hotel.

Dubai Outlet Mall will be built by Al Ahli Group and once completed will offer a complete range of branded products without the associated premium price.

A further project, the Dubai bazaar to be built at Dubailand and will comprise of a traditional Islamic souq covering an area of more than 180,000 square metres of land.

Apart from Dubailand projects, Emaar Properties will build the largest shopping centre in the heart of Dubai, the Dubai Mall with a GLA of 351,000 square metres. It will offer specific zones dedicated to various merchandise categories including separate zones for fashion, children's garments and flagship stores.

The biggest shopping mall to open this year, is the Festival Centre at Dubai Festival City which will cover more than 160,000 square metres of area and will offer multi-use retail and entertainment complex featuring a variety of distinct zones. There will be 100 shops and kiosks behind the waterfront promenade and the Cresent Shopping mall will have more than 300 stores.

Slower GCC economic growth in'06 after '05 boom

The year 2005 was the year of Gulf economies, but according to some analysts there will be a growth slowdown across the GCC this year oil prices will not rise anymore.
Indeed, the UAE's gross domestic product (GDP) at current prices is seen to have grown by 17 percent to 443 billion dirhams in 2005 mainly due to the record prices for oil in the international market. The growth compares with the average global growth rate of 4.3 percent forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Official figures showed that the GDP of the UAE was AED378.7 billion in 2004 and with the increase in 2005, the country retains its position as the second biggest Arab economy after Saudi Arabia, according to a study made by the Emirates Industrial Bank.

In comparison, Saudi Arabia netted the highest income in OPEC of around $153.3 billion in 2005 and its earnings are expected to climb further to nearly $162 billion this year before slipping to $150.2 billion in 2007.

As for the other GCC members of OPEC, Kuwait's earnings were put at $39 billion in 2005 and nearly $44.1 billion and $41.1 billion in 2006 and 2007 while Qatar's income was estimated at $19.1 billion last year and around $23.3 billion and $23.0 billion in the next two years.

However, according to Richard Agnew from Arabian Gulf, “the region’s economies are officially slowing down.”
According to a forecast from the Department of Economic Development in Dubai after a strong performance in 2005, growth will ease in the main energy producers as oil output and prices plateau. And the slowdown will be most pronounced in the region’s largest economies.    

Hit it or love it, but make up your mind already!

The US should make a choice both for its sake and that of Syria's neighbours.
It should either take the decision to hit it and affect regime change, or engage Syria in constructive diplomacy.

If it wants to hit, it has the perfect excuse: During the last couple of weeks Syria and its Lebanese allies have made a major mistake in Lebanon.
It seems that they have created and backed Al Qaeda in Lebanon. It is clear that the rogue missile strike on Israel a couple of weeks ago was the work of Syria with the tacit consent of Hezbollah.
Later on Al Qaeda claimed the strike.
Furthermore, the Lebanese authorities arrested in the last couple of days members of a Al Qaeda cell that infiltrated Lebanon from Syria.
This is a neocon dream come true. The fable of Saddam and Al Qaeda is true about the Syrian regime.
That is enough to “cruise missile” the Baath regime in Syria to death.
If a Sunni government is put in place and the safety of the Alawite community is guaranteed than there will not be another Iraq on the borders of Israel.

On the other hand, the US can also assuage the regime's fear and open a positive dialogue with President Assad that will take into consideration Syria’s strategic needs to have some kind of political control over Lebanon. In the process it will get Syria to cooperate in Iraq.

Whatever policy it chooses, the US should make a decision soon. Because what is happening right now (pity pressure that tickles the Syrian regime and makes it stronger and kills US marines in Iraq and create instability in Lebanon), is bad for everyone except Syria.