Posted on January 13, 2022
MB had not traveled to Lebanon since the financial meltdown of recent years and the August 2020 Beirut Port bomb blast. But in recent months, he received an invitation to the wedding of a young friend and work colleague and found himself on a 29 December flight to Beirut for the wedding festivities on following day.
Since MB’s last visit, Lebanon has changed.
The collapsed currency means that when you exchange 200 or 300 USD or Euro, you receive in return, (assuming you use a black market dealer and not some rip-off governmental controlled exchange) a very fat wedge of Lebanese pounds. In times past the same wedge would have been 5% of its current thickness, when the currency traded at 1,500 to the USD. Now, it’s hovering around 30,000; a loss of 95% of its value. Those that have access to foreign currency are doing well, such as relatives of those working overseas, which is, thankfully, a substantial portion of the country, maybe 40% of the population. For the remainder, however, life is a desperate struggle to make ends meet. The average Lebanese army soldier, for example, now takes home the equivalent of USD 30 per month, when previously his salary was worth USD 600. With many goods and services priced in dollars, the struggle is easily imagined.
Mostly, there is no electricity. On a good day, the governmental electricity company can supply 2 to 3 hours of power. After that, businesses and the public at large, depend on diesel generators to supply light, work their air conditioning, or whatever. When the electricity is out, naturally enough, there are no working traffic lights. It’s surreal to drive around a darkened capital city of some 2M people at nighttime with drivers playing chicken at every traffic intersection. Bigger or faster cars have right of way, smaller slower cars await their turn, seems to be the general rule.
People with education and skills are leaving in droves, to any country that will have them. And with the Lebanese Passport being one of the worst on the planet, the choices are limited. The Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar are especially popular. MB had a sad interaction with the immigration official which sums up the whole Lebanon situation.
MB hands his Passport to Passport Official (PO). PO scans the passport onto the system and looks carefully at it. And looks some more. And some more. And more.
MB is starting to wonder what the problem is and the people in the queue behind MB are getting a tad annoyed that MB is holding up the entire show. MB is thinking of many things that could be wrong. He worked in Saudi Arabia for a few years, and now Saudi and Labanon are having a bit of a spat about political issues. And other stuff.
Finally PO says to MB………
“Yes?” replies MB quizically.
“How can I get a job in your country and travel there?”
‘Phew’ – thinks MB to himself.
“Well my young friend, I see you are working all this IT Security technology here today, so I suggest you go online and try to get a job with one of the big IT/Social Media companies who are all hiring like crazy in Ireland. With your IT skills, MB is sure they will snap you up. Then try to get a working visa” says MB, giving the young lebanese lad some hope for his future, probably false hope, given the Passport situation.
[For the benefit of HX followers, the Passport of North Korea gets you ‘visa on arrival’ at more countries than a Lebanese Passport. Seriously. Reason – that’s a whole other story!]
“Actually Sir, I am not an IT professional, I am an Interior Architect.” – replied PO, looking pleadingly into the eyes of MB.
MB then threw PO a few construction company suggestions in Qatar, which PO could google and try to submit his CV.
After that final suggestion, which PO scribbled down on a piece of scrap paper beside the Passport Scanning Machine, MB and PO said adieu to each other and bon chance.
MB discovered a few days later that immigration officials in Lebanon, such as PO, are earning the equivalent of approximately USD 15 to 20 per month.
MB was sad for PO.
And for Lebanon.
But the wedding was great fun. It lifted spirits. It was a mixed-Muslim wedding, between a Shia boy and a Sunni girl. Such mixed weddings happen frequently in Labanon, but not in any country outside, or very rarely, as far as MB is aware. Lebanon is mostly a tolerant country, with all religions living side by side and in peace. They have moved on from the days of the civil war, thankfully. And in that sense, they are an example to their neighbours.
In the following video, which MB shot at the start of the wedding party, followers can see and hear traditional drummers and musicians welcome the bride and groom to the wedding ceremony – welcoming them in a special way to their new life together. This special welcome ceremony is called the Zaffe (Arabic word). Its all a bit crazy and noisy but very atmospheric and great fun.
As followers can also see, the dress style is very modern, with many wearing western-style dress, reflecting the open Lebanese mentality and the fact that the young couple getting married, family and friends are not religiously very conservative. The guests are a mix of religions. Apart from the lively Arabic music, it would be difficult to say which country, region or religion this service belongs to. It could even be an Irish wedding!
Best wishes to Adel and Meerna for their future life together. Thanks for the invitation!
Posted on November 28, 2021
Posted on November 13, 2021
Thanks to Patti/Pilotfish blog for this week’s challenge. Take a look at Pattie’s related post HERE.
To look at most shapes and designs, you generally need to zoom in. However, MB has selected a pic for this week’s challenge where ‘zoom out’ is the order of the day.Read More
Posted on November 10, 2021
Thanks to Tina for a great challenge this week. Followers of MB can view Tina’s post HERE. MB suggests that you stop and take a look. Tina’s shots are always awesome and being a well-traveled lady, she takes followers on a virtual world tour on almost every post. Shukhran Tina!
Posted on October 19, 2021
Posted on October 15, 2021
The Lens-Artists ladies have set The Ordinary challenge for MB.
On recent trip to Tbilisi, MB & daughter MB2 stayed in the cosy Amente Narikale hotel in the citys Old Town area. On morning Nr 1, MB got up for an early breakfast (as MB2 snoozed on!) and chose the outdoor courtyard to dine under the clear blue Tbilisi sky. The hotel cat was soon a beneficiary of MBs’ decision, and MB went to the breakfast bar for seconds to ensure he and Mr Cat had a filling start to the day.Read More
Posted on September 29, 2021
Posted on September 26, 2021
Posted on September 19, 2021
Posted on September 18, 2021
MB and daughter MB2 took a day out of their Georgia trip to head into neighbouring Armenia. The northern part of Armenia where MB & MB2 visited is a poor region, with a poor road infrastructure and architecture that harks back to the days of the Soviet Union. Tall featureless apartment blocks abound, giving a sense of depression to the locality, on the surface-level at least.Read More
Posted on September 16, 2021
Posted on September 3, 2021
Well done to Amy, Tina et al for keeping the weekly photo challenge going when others like MB were wilting.
Keep Walking, is Amy’s photo challenge this week.
But if you do, MB wants to issue a stern warning to you all – BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU WALK!Read More
Posted on November 13, 2020
Friends of MB are beginning to pop up Christmas decorations. MB can see a small Christmas tree twinkling brightly in the dim dark nights in the apartment block across the street. A few nights back, friends of MB played Michael Buble’s Christmas Songs CD as background hum to the consumption of a nice Chianti. Not a sliver of liver nor a fava bean in sight!
It’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
What a year of experiences. Boldly going where none have gone before. Thoughts to all who’ve struggled, and the many who continue to do so. Financially. Emotionally. Whatever.
MB won’t be home for Christmas. First time ever. Will miss it terribly. Too much logistical hassle with quarantine periods each end, and the mental hassle of spending 7 hours on a flight with a mask and the hustle and bustle of infection-controlling airports. Wondering if any fellow mask-face passenger is infected; praying not. Whilst trying to watch Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory on the inflight entertainment system. To get into the festive mood. Or listening to Shane McGowan. If Qatar Airways have him on the playlist. Doubtful.
Then there are those with real problems.
Few weeks back, MB’s phone pinged. Messenger. Old school friend. Still lives in HX land. Much of his adult life spent looking after kids football teams. Has Stage-3 colon cancer. Went to doctor to have something relatively innocuous checked out. One test later, the big C. Fuck-a-duck. MB wished him well and continues to check in with him. Here’s hoping he’ll have a merry Christmas. Hoping big time.
Time for MB to go look for a Christmas tree. Alas, no tree markets out here. No tree sellers with puffa jackets and scarfs and woolly caps and seeing their exhaled breath in the cold sharp air and asking too much before settling on a lesser sum. Maybe MB can find a small Made-In-China plastic tree, and plank it on his work desk. And another for the living room table. Here’s hoping.
The Doha weather outside is delightful, but having no fire inside is frightful. And the lights are turned way down low. On MB’s essential oils mist lamp.
Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow!
Posted on September 19, 2020
Thanks to Amy for the negative space challenge. Followers can view Amy’s post HERE.
As Amy explains, negative space in a photo is empty space, so to speak, around the main subject matter, allowing more focus to the main subject, and an overall feeling of calm or tranquility to the greater photo.
MB’s gone a tad lazy in recent months. No posts. No photo challenges. No nothing. Maybe MB is suffering from Corona blues? Possibly. Inspiration and inclination have been absent. For no great reason.
For many years, not a day went by without a few hits, at least, on the HX Report. Desperate people the world over (obviously says you!) landing at MB’s HX door, having searched some obscure word or phrase. And voila, their hit gets registered on MB’s blog stats. Then, on 22 August 2020, no hit. Which hit MB hard. Like a hammer!
Not really lads. The HX blog site is just a bit of craic for the self-amusement of MB. But still, no hit on 22nd August, only a few days after the Leo birthday of MB. Made MB think a little.
Maybe MB is surrounded by negative space. In a Matrix-like reality, or alter reality. He’s not sure. But he decided he needs to get back in the game. Post a few pics. Get off his ass.
So thanks to Amy for the inspirational post. Here’s MB’s effort, from 19 December 2019 at Doha Corniche:
Posted on August 8, 2020
Sofia, Maria and family recently celebrated Fathers Day, and the arrival of Maria’s first tooth! Next week, Maria will celebrate her first birthday. As followers can see in the below photos, Sofia & Maria look like most young sisters the world over, oblivious to the world around them. And thankfully, oblivious to the troubles around them at present, which are manifold in their passport homeland of Lebanon. Read More