Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Real Truth... On Dana and Lara


If you have been anywhere near a computer or a smart phone in the past few weeks, you probably already know about "The REAL Truth".

My own personal truth is, as an Arab (and more specifically an Arab woman) I have always felt cheated by Arab leadership. Our people are never heard and those who gain enough exposure use archaic (pathetic) and boring approaches to voice their causes (because it's usually their own causes although wrapped in a nice "for the people" package). 

We have become accustomed to the long - oh so terrifyingly long - speeches packed with overused and abused slogans and washed down with a cup of your finest propaganda (which, and this may come to you as a surprise, dear politicians, does not age well - it's propaganda, not wine).

Well, the disappointment ends here, folks:

All Hail The Women with brain, beauty and immaculate English accents!
Did you just see that? 
Did you just hear that?

These women rock!

Not because of their English proficiency which incidentally is an added value when talking to non-Arabs (no, we're not all bearded terrorists who speak like Bond villains and therefore must be evil). 

Unlike the usual  "no, that is not true, Israel is evil, look, they are killing our children" speech that we keep hearing and although true but never built on clear, intelligent argumentation; this video actually answers specific propaganda with wit and facts. Facts. Facts. Not just slogans and arab nationalism cheers. We are not robots who have been repeating the same thing decade after decade. We are human beings who have been fighting for our right to exist decade after decade. 

And they are women. Beautiful, intelligent, educated and well-read young women. Yes, it may sound like good PR to have a gorgeous face associated with the Palestinian cause, but mostly, to me, it is more than that. It shatters the stereotype that Arab women are submissive victims at the hands of their abusive men, societies and religions. We all know, far too well, that domestic and women abuse remain continuous problems worldwide (unfortunately). So for the West to patronize us about it, over and over again, depicting our Arab women as weak, uneducated and unable to fight for their own rights is simply laughable. Look at yourselves first. And look at our women. In the above video. Not all Arab women are that well-spoken and educated? True. Neither are all Western women. Or men for that matter.

Ok, clearly, I am a fan. 

And I could not resist contacting Dana Dajani and Lara Sawalha to find out more "The REAL Truth" and the brilliant people behind it.

So who are Dana and Lara?

Dana Dajani: My name is Dana Dajani, my father is Palestinian from Jerusalem and my mother’s parents are Syrian/Gazan. Born in Jordan, raised between the US and the Middle East, I studied theatre in the United States and received my bachelor’s of fine arts in Chicago. I moved to Dubai two and a half years ago to help promote the performing arts in the Middle East.

Lara Sawalha: My name is Lara Sawalha and I'm a professional actress by trade, trained at Italian Conti Academy of Performing Arts in London. My mother is British, but she likes to say she's as Arab as they come, even with her blonde hair and blue eyes, and my father is Jordanian. I am fortunate to have them both be in the arts.

Photo courtesy of Dana Dajani

How did you get into films? Was it your very first experience with that medium? 

LS: My mother is a writer and my father is an actor/director/writer, which is where I found my passion for all things dramatic. My first proper stage appearance was with my father performing a politically satirical play, which is his forte, when I was 17 and the road was paved from there. I've been working in theatre and film for a while, but this specific genre (the YouTube clip) is a first for me and hopefully not my last ;)

DD: My passion is theater but I started working on films in Chicago and have probably acted in over 30 short films. This film was my first time working on a white screen interacting with animation!

How did the two of you meet and have you collaborated on common projects in the past? 

DD: Lara and I met on set at Kharabeesh studios in Amman in April 2012. We had never known about each other, but we ended up working together on another project for Bath Bayakha soon after, and have plans to collaborate on more work soon!

Photo courtesy of Dana Dajani

Why did you feel the need to answer Danny Ayalon's ad? Israeli and Zionist Propaganda isn't a new phenomenon, so why now? What was it with Ayalon's ad that made you tick? 

DD: I saw the video when it first came out two years ago and thought, how can there be such straight-up propaganda disseminated in our day and age, as if it was regular creative content for consumption? But honestly, all it takes is a good script and a production team and you can make anything happen. It angered me but I knew that personally I didn’t have the resources to properly respond. Lara and I were lucky to be presented with a good, punchy script, and a willing team to make it happen, so the question became why not? If not now, when, and who?

LS: I hadn’t seen the video until I got approached with the script, and when I saw it she I compelled to answer. We were given a chance to present an alternative view and we stepped up to the challenge.

What was the goal behind this casting? I'm loving the fact that Ayalon is massively arrogant and pompous and instead of having someone of his "caliber" speak to him, you opted for the totally opposite and in turn managed to ridicule him even more. 

DD and LS: Often times the Palestinian resistance is mostly comprised of young men, and overall this whole conflict is plagued by men- “old men dreaming wars for young men to die in”. We added a feminine element, we spoke for the youth. And at the end of the day, it’s all about public appeal: here were two females talking, more or less, like men, a bit cheeky and totally confident. It worked.

Where was the video produced and why? 

DD: The script was written in Ramallah, Visualizing Palestine is an international company, and Kharabeesh is in Amman, Standub.com is based in Dubai. I was living in Dubai, Lara was living in Amman. So we all gathered in Amman to make the video over two days. We shot on a white screen in one of Kharabeesh’s studios, using a simple Mark D7 (I think). We had lapel mics, and we macygvered a sweet-ass teleprompter out of an ipad, a reflective piece of glass and a podium.

That sounds so cool! How long did the production take and what tools did you use? Can you tell me more about the technical crew behind the film and how they worked? 

DD: Lara and I performed pro bono, it was a passion project for everyone. I’m pretty sure the animators worked pro bono too, which is why it took a year and a half to edit. As for Kharabeesh post production tools and team.

Jamil at standub.com, who directed the piece insisted "My aim is to highlight the fact that the writing and research was done by VP and Standub and the execution by kharabeesh. It was a group effort.

The 'nuances' and comedy was thought of and directed by the people from these 3 companies. The cost is that of research, scripting, actors, filming in a studio with green screen, editing, and then seperately days and days of animation and fact checking.

The point is, although this was a collaboration, modern day technology means that all you people need is a camera with some lighting and a laptop to make it happen. The important part is a) making it factually correct and b) getting the 'tone' right with people who understand humour. And we were lucky to have that behind and in front of the camera in this case.

The elements that went into producing this video were thought through and intentional. We would like to encourage others to collaborate and answer fiction with fact".

Photo courtesy of Dana Dajani

Now the content is brilliant! Who was behind the research and the script? It is so well written, not crowded with information and yet informative enough to discredit Ayalon and any previously heard lie about Palestine or Israel. 

I believe the writer would like to remain anonymous. Here’s something he wrote:

"Let them not know who's behind it, which is what I would prefer, hence why I did not take credit. People fear what they don't know. I want the Israeli government to fear that there is a growing movement of young Palestinians ready to respond to their rubbish propaganda. In a recent report issued by an Israeli think tank, The Reut Institute, they concluded that the BDS movement was the greatest threat to the existence of Israel because it was not one body they could target. Rather, it was a loose coalition of individuals and organizations united by ideology with no commander-in-chief.

Ayalan's argument was that because a Palestinian nation did not exist, Israel did nothing illegal. That's like saying nothing illegal was done to native american's because they didn't have an official 20th century style "nation state". What we were essentially saying was that we didn't invent our identity homie - Palestinians, the identity of the people who lived on this land, always existed. Our self-determination - and Israel's denial of our self-determination - is not contingent on any past form of "nation" status. To quote Shakespeare "What is the city but the people?

Except we chose to say this in a different way. No one has ever responded to official Israeli government propaganda like this. We just upped the ante".

I love the fact that for once, Arabs (and women at that, the stereotyped gender of weakness and submission) with immaculate English address the Western world. We can agree that PR-wise, the Arab world hasn't done very well. This video is a fantastic respond to all of that. At one point, you make fun of Ayalon's English accent which to me is so funny because Israelis love to emphasize their "Western" side when talking to the West and of course, directly or indirectly make fun of Arab politicians, leaders and general people for being or sounding too "Arab", as if being Arab is a characteristic rather than an identity. And a ridiculous characteristic at that, a characteristic that they feel are entitled to mock because it inferior and a reflection of terrorism (if we are not all white, English speaking folks, then we must be terrorists). How and why did you decide to do the same by mimicking the Israeli accent and what were your goals? 

DD: Honestly, it wasn’t a planned malicious attack. I was getting carried away in the moment of talking. What we do for a living a living is PLAY, so we tried bringing the element of play to more serious content. I’ve honestly been getting a lot of flack from Israeli’s calling me racist. My response is this: check out my comedy on my youtube channel. I make fun of many accents. Watch any good stand up comedian, see how long they go before putting on a character accent. It was all in good fun. And besides, If you cant laugh at yourself, no one will take you seriously.

Photo courtesy of Dana Dajani

The video went viral in a matter of hours, and with good reason. I am also confident the "debate" online must be heating up. What was the response from the Western world. I guess the Arab and Israeli responses are pretty straight forward but I'm wondering how other parties are responding and viewing this? 

LS: Arabs love it, they send us lots of praise, “we’re proud of you, bterfa3o il ras”, for a while we were getting a lot of support mail. Some Israeli’s have reached out to tell us that we “cannot change the course of history”. They’ve also dedicated blog posts to bitching about this video and the comments are pretty hateful. There was a British Pakistani ex-Muslim pro Zionist who blasted me on twitter, and now she follows me.

DD: One blogger actually investigated us and went so far as to call me a “whore” because I am a model and “Hamas would disapprove of my photographs”. For a few days it was pretty stressful because all of my social media sites were being trolled by Israelis posting really hateful and disgusting things (“you’re an arab, this is what I think of you.” then posting a link of a Syrian girl being decapitated). I’ve also gotten responses from Americans, Spaniards, and people from the Netherlands, thanking us for making this video and opening their eyes.

If someone decides to poke at your video and its content, do you plan to retaliate? 

DD and LS: So there have been blog posts and a debunking video. Also someone has asked to do a response video for another film. I don’t know if the whole team will be involved. But we definitely want to keep up the energy now that this is out.

Your video has done tremendous good in spreading information that people tend to forget or don't even know. Do you plan on making more of these videos to educate the West about our issues? 

DD and LS: We would love to do another one, even in response to the rest of his videos. Because this is fresh, it’s the most commotion that’s happened about Palestine in a while. Usually it’s the daily article on something or other being destroyed. So we’d like to keep generating creative content about the causes dearest to our hearts.

Photo courtesy of Dana Dajani

Any final words to Ayalon? 

DD and LS: We’ll be back.

I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.  ~George McGovern

One determined person can make a significant difference; a small group of determined people can change the course of history. ~ Sonia Johnson

As you're about to click away from this site, don't forget, sharing is caring, so keep the momentum going and help spreading "The REAL Truth" all around you.

And stay tuned for more by Dana Dajani as she prepares to release her upcoming video:
Love Letters From Palestine
A Poem Filmed in Bethlehem   


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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Twice Upon A Time


My friend Niam Itani will be celebrating her birthday soon. Why is it relevant to this blog? Well it is not really. But her wish-list at the moment includes only one gift: to have the opportunity to produce her upcoming film.

So I thought, what better way to celebrate the birth of a kind and talented soul than by supporting the birth of her wonderful project:

Source: Placeless Films

The cinema industry in Lebanon and the Arab world is usually brutal. Especially for young talents who do not have influential connections in the entertainment world, let alone those in the documentary field. Money does not come easy and yet, those films are how we can write our history. Our legacy. 

So why should we care?

Because although a little fun is always welcome, we have a responsibility to leave behind a trace. Something that speaks of our humanity, not only our surgically enhanced beautiful women or unbelievably brain-numbing (so-called) arts. 

How can you make a difference?

The internet is a fantastic medium because it connects people together in ways like we had never knew possible before. It is brilliant because it opens doors to infinite information and knowledge. And it is fantastic that way because people who want to make a difference can reach other people willing to help them and get the support they need to follow through and actually do something. 

This is how inspired independent filmmakers who wish to keep their integrity intact and tell their stories, genuine stories, are now reaching out to all of us. Through crowdfunding

You can now be part of the making of films you care about. How amazing is that?

What is Niam's story?

In her own words, "In 1989, my parents left Beirut for a small village in the Bekaa Valley called Ghazzeh. I was eight years old. In 2012, Khalil's mother left Syria and took refuge at our house in Ghazzeh. Khalil was ten years old. This film tells the story of my friendship with Khalil, and our efforts to find hope and joy in the midst of madness and despair. It is also a personal reflection on childhood, nostalgia, home, belonging, memory and war".

To find out more about the film and Niam, please follow this link. Trust me, you will not regret it.

And if you can, please help us tell the story of Niam and Khalil. Leave a trace with us. Donations can be made through that same site, and the smallest gesture is impactful. Even if it is to simply spread the word. So please do! And if you decide to be part of the film and donate, then that would simply be phenomenal and unbelievably generous!

This is one story Niam cannot wait to tell with you and to you.

So thank you for taking the time to read.
And thank you in advance for taking a moment to help.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013


So I've been on a major Blog-Out.

I've neglected both my blogs not intentionally but let's just agree that sometimes priorities shift and we need to adapt and move on as we see fit in that particular moment in time.

Might be the biggest mistake in the history of mankind or just a simple misstep. Might be the ultimate brilliant chance of a lifetime. Might be none of these, just something mediocre, but comfortable in that middle ground.

In any case, I haven't been blogging for a while. And I am not back on track yet.

In fact, I am typing this post on my phone, in bed, in the dark, with one of my ears detached from my head and focused on the sleeping kids.

I am one of those paranoid, freaky moms who wake up ten times a night to make sure baby's still breathing. Not ideal to maintain a clear head, mind and blog.

Good thing we're not in an actual exchange either, where I would be expected to actually listen and respond accordingly. You would've thought I was the most obnoxious person in the world. But at least, you can't say I'm a fake. I lay it all out, and happily so.

I was approached three times about monetizing my blog in the past year. Good thing I passed on the offers or I would have been forced to write, even when uninspired and as clichéd as this will sound, I started blogging because it made me feel good. So turning the whole thing into homework wouldn't have worked anyway.

That being said, I plan on coming back. Soon I hope. Because it's not the inspiration that is lacking right now, believe me. But only when the time is right. When I know I can be back to a regular rhythm.

If after this long absence, you're still here, reading: Thank you. It's nice to be in good company and I look forward to more of that soon ;)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Qi is the juice!


When I first heard of Qi Juice on Facebook, I thought "oh great, just what Lebanon needs; another weight-loss craze that promises to transform anorexic fantasies into healthy optimal weights" and which usually and typically end up being nothing more than bait and switch for women longing to weigh and look like unrealistically airbrushed supermodels. 

And since 'Tis The (Bikini) Season, naturally, I was intrigued (because who doesn't want to look like a airbrushed supermodel, right?)
Original Photo: Qi Juices

But when I reached the beautiful old Ashrafieh neighborhood where Qi is based, I had to leave my high horse at the door because as I met founders Hana Alireza and Leila Fakih Nashabe, I immediately realized these ladies are not your typical quick-buck scammers. Far from it, both are highly educated women with degrees from prestigious universities under their belts and a proven track record in entrepreneurship. 

Furthermore and as would be expected from any true professional, they did not simply copy a business concept from abroad but instead made sure they gathered other talents to offer a comprehensive and successful experience by enlisting the guidance of nutrition consultant and juice cleansing expert, Natasha Henry who has been running smilar practices for years in the US and worldwide and has the following to say "After conducting numerous raw-food cleanses, green-juice fasts, liver flushes and other detoxification protocols (...) over a  number of years, I can confidently say that this preventive approach really works". Henry is also in charge of creating the various juices recipes in order to ensure each provides maximum nutrition and detox value.

So when they invited a number of journalists and bloggers to visit their "Qitchen" as they like to call it and try their freshly cold-pressed juices while learning more about the program, I was delighted to join in!


The "Qitchen" is located in a nice Ashrafieh neighborhood in Beirut that seems to have grown to love Qi as when I enquired about them, their neighbor told me "They are in that street, to the left, let me walk you. You've never been? The shop is lovely!"

Good start, wouldn't you agree? It can only mean positive things when your neighbors like you!

Photos: R. Abouzeid

A beautiful "summery" greeting space was set-up on the sidewalk with green parasols and a juice tasting station. All the guests gathered there for a warm and friendly chat over juice shots. It was indeed lovely and both Hana and Leila were pleasant, welcoming hosts. It felt like they were inviting us to visit their home rather than a business. No wonder the neighbors find them "lovely". Another one passed by during the tasting, and she was promptly invited to join in. Small businesses with a soul are the best kind!

A friendly neighbor passes by and is invited to a taste of Carrot!
Photo: R. Abouzeid

We had a nice chat outside while we discussed and enjoyed Qi Juices before we were invited to visit the now famous "Qitchen". 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

The minute you walk in, you can immediately understand the kind of people Leila and Hana are. The main door leads to their office where desks are located in an open, personalized and super organized space, that is surprisingly small when it is compared to what would be expected from an owner or CEO. No arrogance, no coldness. Just a humble, "human" space from which you can see the "Qitchen" through a glass window and door. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

That would be the heart of the locale. It is a fairly big space and I guess choosing a location in an old neighborhood gives you one major advantage: high ceilings. They are just brilliant! And unlike usually claustrophobic, dark factories, wide windows allow for sunlight and basically, happy, smiley staff! 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

The work stations are spacious and offer enough room to work comfortably.

And most importably, you can feel the cleanliness. You do not just see, smell or touch it. It is an overall feeling there. The spotless white walls and bright stainless steel work stations and refrigerators just shine thanks to the hard work of the staff that are constantly making sure the space remains immaculate.

Photos: R. Abouzeid
Every batch is pressed, stored in jars and immediately placed in refrigerators.
Photos: R. Abouzeid

After giving us the tour and introducing Qi Juices in detail, Leila and Hana disclosed a fantastic surprise: anyone interested was welcome to concoct their own juice recipe, make it and taste it. Needless to say we had a blast and the ladies that gave it a try actually came up with yummy recipes! So much fun!

Photos: R. Abouzeid
Photos: R. Abouzeid
Photos: R. Abouzeid

But let us be honest, fun is good but it does not guarantee quality or health, right? So how about we go through the main questions that we were all eager to ask?

The press kit and giveaways
Photos: R. Abouzeid


The first question that was on everyone's mind this swimsuit season was, naturally, "is juice cleansing a weight-loss diet?"

Ah, yes, the eternal existential booby trap.

But at Qi, there is no BS in anything. Just as the main ingredients are all guaranteed to be fresh and organic, so is the marketing. The answer was straightforward and utterly honest: "No". 

Of course, when you undertake a cleanse, you may loose some weight but Qi Juices do not claim to offer a weight-loss diet and whatever decreases you may notice will most probably be water losses. The importance of cleansing lies in a fresh start for your body. When you undergo detox, you clean yourself from the inside-out helping you take that step towards healthier lifestyles. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

"Some follow juice cleanses to lose weight but we like to promote it as part of a holistic shift to a healthier lifestyle and getting into better shape, inside out" explains Leila.

Following the cleanse, and after your body has adapted to cleaner intakes, all the while getting rid of all toxins, you will find it harder to go back to junk. Simply, you may still eat unhealthy but when you do, you will immediately feel uneasy. And it is not only remorse and your conscience raising a huge red flag. It is also because your body will find it harder to digest junk.

Environmental Pollutants Vs. Green Magic
Photos: R. Abouzeid

And because during the cleanse you will have to let go of poisonous substances like alcohol or tobacco,  as well as less obvious dangers such as processed and genetically modified foods (which by the way are not labeled as such in our parts of the world), it is the perfect new beginning.

By changing fundamental habits and acquiring new healthier ones, weight-loss will no longer be an issue. After all, shouldn't health be the primary goal? Weight will undeniably follow when healthy lifestyle choices are adopted. 


How about this "organic" label which has become the forefront of one of the fastest-growing... Marketing gimmicks? You thought I was going to say "industry", didn't you? We all know "organic" is very in style nowadays, almost as much as the fact that in Lebanon, trustworthy sources are scarce. 

Qi Juices guarantee that their ingredients all come from organic sources which are regularly audited. In fact, at any time, an inspector might come in the "Qitchen", take samples of ingredients and/or juices and send them for analysis. Should any result come back positive for chemicals, all the production will be halted until an investigation is launched, the contaminated sources are identified and proper measures are taken. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

There are currently three suppliers in Lebanon with which Qi Juices collaborate: Biomass, Biobox (Facebook) and Healthy Basket (Facebook), all approved by international and local quality assurance organizations.


Now of course, any ingredient, no matter how "clean" they may be, can easily be contaminated or simply turned into a health hazard. That is why "organic" does not necessarily mean healthy. Organic foods can be cooked into unhealthy meals, obviously.

So in order to ensure all the nutrients in their veggies and fruits are well preserved, all Qi juices are cold-pressed. The ladies explained to us that it has been proven through simple lab analysis and comparison that juices we find in regular shops on the street and which are supposedly fresh and healthy do not contain as much nutritional value because they are not cold-pressed. 

The equipment used at Qi has been carefully chosen to secure maximum health value in each juice bottle. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

Also, and this is not of small importance, since all locally-grown ingredients are seasonal (juices recipes vary depending on the seasons and the available fruits and vegetables that grow naturally during that specific time) the body will absorb a wide array of nutrients which can only be achieved through a diverse diet. 

My children's pediatrician always tells me that each fruit and vegetable contains a treasure. Why would we decide to disregard one while we know the others do not contain that same valuable nourishment? Variety is key.

Agriculture in plastic tents may allow for fruits and vegetables to be available all year long but that would be a loss to our organisms. Nature has offered us a large spectrum of choices to be enjoyed each in their own time. By doing so, we allow our bodies to take in all the nutrients available out there, during their respective season, and without any chemical contamination (which would otherwise lessen nutrients and raise health dangers).

Photos: R. Abouzeid

Finally, the juices are "completely vegan, dairy and gluten-free, and do not contain any additives or preservatives". 


I have always been a fervent fan of fair trade and businesses that support local industries. The locally-grown agriculture sector is the lifeblood of a large population in Lebanon and it is a must for entrepreneurs not to get overzealous about importing produces from abroad under the pretense that they are of better quality. Flying in and storing these products alone sheds a doubt on how healthy these foods will be/remain. 

However, instilling some sense of community, citizenship and corporate conscience is definitely as important as making profits. 

And this goes in line with Qi's philosophy. After all, healthy habits that apply to individuals should also apply to society as whole. You cannot pretend to better a person's quality of life and ignore the community. The community is made of these individuals and for better quality of life for us individually, we need better societies for us all. 

Impacting on other businesses and communities positively is a duty and a responsibility and I was happy to see Qi understands and lives by that philosophy. It is like I said before, and I can only commend them for that ethic: there is indeed no BS in every aspect of their business. 

Photos: R. Abouzeid

The cleanse is a one to five days program "designed to rest your digestive system and deliver a powerful boost of nutrition to your body". 

It is already hard enough to commit to such a diet so to make things easier on their customers, Qi takes care of everything, including home delivery, no matter where you are in Lebanon. No hassle, no stressful traffic rides to get to the shop and get the juices, no worries. They will come to you while "you can just focus on feeling better from the inside out". 

All you have to do is make a phone call and get on with the program!

The delicious shots I tasted at THE QiTCHEN COLD-PRESSED JUICE EVENT
Photos: R. Abouzeid

A menu of juices is prepared for each day, varying the tastes but also the benefits of each intake. Each recipe is designed to fit the hour of the day and energy needs at that specific time (morning start-ups are different from the last evening juice) .

"The body's digestion of processed food alone requires a lot of energy. Additionally, the body must contend with high levels of pollution found in the air, water and food supplies, as well as toxicity from medical drugs and increased exposure to radiation". 

"Going on a juice cleanse is a natural, safe and convenient way to give your organs a much-needed break, and supply your body with the vital nutrients it needs to function best".

So why don't you take a well-deserved break too? 
I know I will definitely schedule a detox this summer before I return to hectic Dubai ;)

Photos: R. Abouzeid

Hana Alireza
"Creative, entrepreneurial and eternally optimistic, Hana is the one who came up with the idea."
  • Education: Archaeology degrees from Brown University and Oxford University
  • Notable previous achievements: Co-founder of Bayt.com and The Brave Heart Fund. Also consulted on the renovation of the AUB Archaeological Museum and served on its Executive Committee for six years. 

Leila Fakih Nashabe
"Energetic, positive and a gifted problem solver, Leila has an amazing way of getting things done."
  • Education: Political Science degree from the American University of Beirut, MBA from Strathclyde University
  • Notable previous achievements: Corporate education at HP in Dubai for seven years where she increased consumer business by 60% followed by two years as Business Development Manager for UAE's Canvas Magazine and another two years creating the marketing department for furniture designer Nada Debs in Lebanon.

Photo: Qi Juices
The juice I ended up taking home :)
Photos: R. Abouzeid

If you are interested in learning more about healthier lifestyles, try to watch "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead". The film is available on YouTube. Thanks for the tip Qi! ;)
Here's a sneak peak at the trailer:

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dralion is back


A couple of days ago, I received good news straight into my inbox. A refreshing change from all the spam that seems to get around all of Gmail's filters.

DRALION is finally coming to Beirut!
October 10-13, 2013

As you may recall, I had posted about the show and then dates had been cancelled and we have been waiting for a rescheduling since. Well, it has happened.

If you want to learn more about the amazing performers and what to expect, you can always check the review I wrote following their Dubai show.

Also, and just because you guys rock and I love you so much, I am sharing my email and the secrets in it :) 

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Opening windows of beauty: Introducing Young Talents


While in Lebanon, I walked a lot. Mostly in Hamra. And Hamra is a street packed with art, beauty and vision. 

Fine, Beirut is not really the most beautifully designed city, I will grant you that. But the Lebanese have got a gift for marking their territory in very special ways. Be it street art, graffitis, festivals, and even trolling!

And while heading to BusyBox one afternoon, there it was:
Photo: R. Abouzeid (source)

The most beautiful window display I had seen in a very long while: book pages flowing in the wind, flying away from the gorgeous blue bike carrying them. 

Naturally, I shared it on Facebook and someone who knew the designers was kind enough to tag them. I immediately got in touch and now have the utmost pleasure of introducing them to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you (in alphabetical order):

Hello ladies, how about a short introduction first? So who are the brilliant designers behind that outstanding window display?

Christina: My name's Christina Atik, call me Tina for short. I think what I live for most is getting out of the city and unwinding by the river... Oh and movies. I watch a lot of movies. I only have my Tumblr where I sometimes post some little things I make.

Lana: My Name is Lana Idriss. I love baking, cookies to be precise so please, do send me recipes if you have any interesting yummy ones! And I am an art enthusiast…

Mowana: My name is Mowana. I am a third year graphic design student in the American University of Beirut, minoring in studio arts. After three years of design and art, I realized that being a visual artist has became a big, rather huge, part of who I am. However, I still find time to cook and bake. I am good at it I must add. You can find me on facebook: Mowana Sabeh or twitter: @mowanasabeh.

Joanna: Hello! I'm Joanna! It's the small beautiful things in life that make me happy in life. I love to express myself through different ways such as the arts and dancing.

What led you to design?

Christina: Honestly, it was my dad who got me into photography. He taught me everything. There's also my uncle Camille Issa who's a fashion designer, I used to spend hours getting lost in his studio! It was quite wonderful! 

Lana: Actually my Teta is an artist. But I guess what really led me to design is my love for the arts… I could never see myself doing anything else! My sister did her BA in graphic design at AUB as well, and seeing her projects covering the walls (and floor… and ceiling) of her room, were what encouraged me to follow on her footsteps. 

Mowana: Design in general was rather a natural direction for me to take. My mom always wanted to be a fashion designer growing up, but I came along and messed the plan. And my dad works in the fashion industry. Graphic design seemed like the perfect major for an artistic direction in a disciplinary education.

Joanna: Honestly it was a mistake, I never intended to be a designer but I got accepted into graphic design in AUB so i decided to try it out.. Turns out I love it!

How did you come up with the concept for Antoine's display and what was the inspiration, the story behind it? In this era of digital, your focus on paper books is quite interesting and intriguing. I find it quite romantic but also a little sad, all these pages flying away, like paper books are in a way

Christina: We wanted to use paper art somehow, and relate the theme to spring.. It was actually one of Joanna Zeenny's sketches, and we just sort of made it happen.

Joanna: For some unapparent reason we all agreed in the group that we wanted to infuse life back into paper. Whether it's because as designers we really enjoy paper or whether we are paper enthusiasts, I'm not sure. But having looked at some paper art, we realized what a grand effect it can have on people and decided to use it.

Lana: We wanted to portray the feel, the joy in reading a book… I don't know if this would make any sense, but we somehow wanted to show how the words in a book, the story, the joy of reading can take you away… How it can free you and your mind… 

Mowana: I am not against e-books or the digital formats of books, however, I find that holding a book and flipping through its pages has its own charm. Touching the paper, smelling it, feeling the ink on the page… All are a major part of the reading experience. What we wanted to show in the display is that experience and how the book can take you to all whole new world. And after a lot of sketches we thought that the flying paper in an outdoors scene conveyed this message.

Sketch and Photo: J. Zeenny

How did you approach Antoine and why? What was their response to your proposal and how did they welcome and support you?

Lana: It's all because of a design project: we had to pick a shop in Hamra, and we had to design their window display. 

Christina: We were looking for stores for our project when we bump into my friend who used to work in Antoine, and he casually said why don't you do your display there. They didn't give us any restrictions, we were free do design whatever we want as long as it was relevant.

Is it your first project with a professional business? Did you work on other Antoine branches too? 

Joanna: Yup it was. And it was pretty scary for us to say the least but it was a great opportunity as well. But we didn't have the chance to work on other branches.

Christina: Yes, for me it is my first project with a business. So far everything I have done was for university projects. 

Lana: We did not get the chance to work on another Antoine branch. My work experience basically consists of some small design jobs here and there; nothing major.

What is your most inspired and favorite project and why?

Joanna: I'm a very hands-on person so my favorite project by far was the Antoine display. We were a good team that were passionate about books. It doesn't get any better!

Lana: I really enjoy branding and corporate design, creating identities for companies... But designing a window display was awesome and different from all our other projects. A SMALL SKETCH CAME TO LIFE! I would love to do that again some day. 

Christina: My favorite project was probably designing a book cover for Jack Kerouac's "On the Road". Mainly because it's one of my favorite books, and I got to use some photographs that I took with a pinhole camera which was really fun. 

Photo: C. Atik

Photo: C. Atik

Photo: C. Atik

Photo: C. Atik

Photo: C. Atik

Where do you find inspiration? How and why?

Christina: I find my inspiration late every night at the end of my cup of tea. Mostly I flip through magazines and design books until my eyes give up. Gerhard Human is one of my favorite illustrators at the moment and Ryan Mcginley is absolutely the best photographer, but that changes depending on the phases I'm going through.

Lana: Personnaly, for inspiration for projects, I check everything I could get my hands on. You could find me in the library with piles of books, from historical to design books, staked around me, or in a cafe with a bunch of magazines and my laptop and coffee of course. 

Joanna: Inspiration can be found in anything really, books are a beginning but then music can help as well as any kind of visual research.

What areas of design interest you the most and why?

Christina: I really like design that imposes itself on the community, like installations, and I absolutely love print. Anything from books to magazines to comics!

Lana: I have always loved everything print. I would prefer working on a magazine or on a book, anything that would end up being printed and in front of me, that I would be able to touch, flip and move, than working on designing a website.

Mowana: I find print the most interesting. I like the process of choosing paper, test printing and seeing how the ink interacts with the paper. I love typography too, that is the design of letters themselves. I love letters. I love fonts. I love how it is black and white. 

Joanna: Print is a good start but I adore installations and how they end up working in a certain environment.

What are your best qualities as a designer? 

Christina: I'm not really sure how to answer that, I don't think I've perfected my skills as much as I'd like to yet, but I'm pretty handy with a camera.

Joanna: I'm not sure, but i do like everything to be perfected, and that is really helpful when it comes to design.

Your weaknesses?

Christina: Probably procrastination. I work best under pressure.

Lana: I have very hyper personality. And I am very clumsy.

Joanna: Getting to attached to a certain idea probably.

If you hadn't been a designer, what profession would you have chosen?

Christina: I would have probably went into something related to audiovisual or cinema.

Lana: That's a hard one… I can't see myself doing anything else other than design. But I would love to perfect my art skills and become a full time painter!

I think I would have been a psychiatrist. I love to study the mind, how it functions, and how you can cure an illness by changing how a person thinks.

Joanna: Dancing, definitely dancing!

If you were stranded on a desert island with only one item, what would that item be?

Christina: I wish it were a tropical island instead of a desert, I doubt I can stand the heat! But if the heat didn't kill me, the boredom probably would, so I'd take my music collection for sure.

Lana: A magical big music box filled with chocolate fudge ice-cream… I need my music and I need my ice-cream!

Joanna: Music.

What design softwares you cannot possibly survive without?

Christina: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects, Premiere.

Mowana: InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, all are Adobe products.

Are you MAC or PC?

Christina: Mac, because they're more design friendly, and they can handle all the programs that we use!

Lana: Mac, because it's pretty! (laughs)

Mowana: Mac. It is more design friendly. And it can handle simultaneous work on different programs. 

Joanna: Mac for technical reasons.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Christina: Catching a plane.

Mowana: I’d love to have a small studio where I can be working on selected projects that are a bit personal.

Joanna: Hopefully traveling all around the world volunteering and making someone happy.

Wrapping it up, in a few words

Christina, if you were a...

Font: I'd probably be Avenir, because it has so many weights that work so well together, it works with everything really

Color: Green

Shape: Circle

Song/Musical Composition: Feeling Groovy by Simon and Garfunkel

Book/Literary Piece: On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

Famous character: Anna Karina

Logo: Radiohead logo

Lana, if you were a...

Font: Futura! I like how its Os are super circular… (my answer might change next week though)

Color: A turquoise shade! Or maybe a pale pinkish orange (salmon). Or maybe a burgundy red! (I can't pick one!) 

Shape: A weird unusual bouncy shape

Song/Musical Composition: Any Nina Simone

Book/Literary Piece: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Famous character: The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland "we are all mad here"

Logo: The Penguin Books logo

Mowana, if you were a...

Font: Tough question. I think I would be Shawati’. It is an Arabic font designed for Shawati’ Magazine, Abu Dhabi

Color: Black 

Song/Musical Composition: Stay by Hurts

Film: Pocahontas

Book/Literary Piece: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Famous character: Hitler

Logo: The Starbucks logo

Joanna, if you were a...

Font: Probably Serifa

Color: Yellow

Shape: Triangle

Song/Musical Composition: The Great Gig In The Sky by Pink Floyd

Famous character: Legolas

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