Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic religious calendar and a time of fasting for Muslims around the world. Muslims in Lebanon and many countries around the world are expected to start the one-month fast Saturday. Many Muslims during this month perform additional prayers and charitable acts. Others like to enjoy traditions associated with the holy month.
In Lebanon, many Moslems like to gather in Ramadan tents after breaking their fast at sunset. They visit these tents to meet friends, play cards, and enjoy the songs of the old days and the nice food. Many believe these tents give Ramadan a special taste.
Restaurants across the country have been preparing for one of their best seasons, a month-long maximization of profits. Caterers and hotel managers are also competing this year on boosting their services for "Iftar", the meal of fast-breaking and "Sohour", the last meal before the fast begins.
After one month of fasting, Muslims celebrate the feast of fast breaking, or what is known as Eid Al-Fiter, over a period of three to four days. This feast is a major festival for Muslims in Lebanon and around the world.
For the second consecutive year, Ramadan and Christmas come in the same month giving a chance to Christians and Moslems in Lebanon to celebrate together.
In Beirut and in many other Lebanese cities and villages, preparations for Christmas and New Year celebrations are underway. Walking in Hamra Street, one cannot but enjoy the Christmas spirit with people shopping for gifts and Christmas songs and carols heard in the background.
The bright lights are also going on all over Lebanon in preparation for the holy season. Sassine Square in Ashrafieh was ablaze with color Tuesday night as even the cold and chill of the evening air failed to dampen festive spirits.
The tallest Christmas tree in Lebanon came alive with light Thursday night, bringing holiday cheer to Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut. The 20-meter-tall tree is actually made of individual branches tied to a metal skeleton and surrounded with huge red presents. It is decorated with shooting stars and shiny red and silver balls.
The famous US fast food chain, McDonald's opened its second Beirut branch last week in Ain Mreisseh. The two-story restaurant can seat 150, half as many seats at the McDonald's first branch at Dora that opened in September.
The owners of the restaurant seem adamant to spend $10 million over the next few years in a bid to develop the Lebanese market for McDonald's. Lebanon Fast Food, a company owned and run by the Zoghzoghi family, was awarded the license to open McDonald restaurants in Lebanon in October 1997 after five years of correspondence.
Jean Zoghzoghi, Chairman of Lebanon Fast Food, revealed the benefits of McDonald's presence in Lebanon saying it employs 350 people, 200 of them full-time. The company also spends a huge amount on advertising and related services. Moreover, all vegetables used are bought in Lebanon and McDonald's is working with local suppliers to develop bread and diary products that would meet their specifications.
During the last 10 days, around 22 European films were screened in Beirut and Tripoli as part of the fifth European Film Festival. The event was organized by the European Union Delegation in Lebanon in cooperation with embassies and cultural centers of EU member states, the Ministry of Culture, and Lebanese film schools.
This year's festival was described by most viewers as an "unprecedented success". Organizers attribute this to the efforts of the EU delegation in Lebanon and dedicated moviegoers. More than 12,000 cinema fans attended the festival this year in comparison to 9,000 viewers last year. Organizers also say most festival screenings were sold out soon after the box-office opened. The festival closed two days ago with a screening of "Beyrouth Fantome", a film co-produced by Lebanon and France depicting the Lebanese civil war.
From December 14 until January 8, around 200 photographs will be displayed in different Beirut universities depicting the events of the year as part of the World Press Photo Exhibition.
It is a traveling exhibition that is organized by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Lebanon. Photos will be displayed for five days at the American University of Beirut, followed by 10 days at the University Saint Esprit in Kaslik, and finally for five days at the University of Balamand.
The exhibition in Beirut is thus part of an annual event organized by the World Press Photo Foundation established in the Netherlands in 1955. Its main objective is to promote the free and unrestricted exchange of information, while encouraging high professional standards in photo-journalism. This year, the exhibition toured about 65 venues in 35 countries across the globe.
The first award to honor creative achievement in Lebanese print advertising and marketing-related communications was launched last week by the International Advertising Association (IAA).
Ibrahim Tabet, IAA Lebanon Representative, told a new conference, "Print, the oldest form of media, is paradoxically the only media form not awarded for creative excellence in advertising".
There are 26 award categories divided into 12 groups including Food and Drink, Services, Health and Beauty, Automotive, Fashion, Business Products, Real Estate, and The Home. In addition to the gold medal, silver and bronze medals will go to the best advertisement and the best advertising campaign. The ceremony will take place on January 29 at the Casino du Liban.
At the UN House in Beirut, water experts and delegates from eight countries belonging to the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia met to evaluate what was achieved in the water sector in each country since 1996.
ESCWA member states also discussed ways they should cooperate to face what could become an aggravated water scarcity problem in the region.
The meeting addressed problems such as the deterioration of water quality and the mismanagement of ground water resources in addition to a lack of reinforcement of ground water release legislations in each country.
Another topic that the delegates have debated is the issue of how countries in the region may have to share water. In the coming two years, these countries will be focusing on a mechanism to manage and promote water resources in the region.
The Greenpeace Mediterranean Office issued a statement in Beirut welcoming the aim of the Lebanese government to tackle environmental issues seriously. In his statement to deputies Monday, Prime Minister Salim Al-Hoss pledged his government will work on preparing an environmental policy for the state.
The policy statement also stressed the need for a "mechanism of cooperation between public institutions and municipalities when making decisions and carrying out projects with an environmental impact". But, the Greenpeace statement added, the premier did to include non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in this mechanism of formulating and implementing environmental policies.
Fouad Hamdan, Lebanon campaigner of Greenpeace Mediterranean, said the organization is ready to cooperate with the new Lebanese government to tackle all land-based sources of sea pollution - from industries, coastal waste dumps and sewage. Asbestos must be banned, he added. Waste management plans must be corrected, meaning a clear no to incineration and to landfills receiving organic and hazardous wastes. The issue of imported toxic waste from Italy must be solved once and for all, and all protocols related to the regional Barcelona Convention must be signed and ratified, Hamdan said.
Greenpeace had sampled the Lebanese coast and proven that the industry is a major polluter of the Mediterranean. The organization has also published a study to solve the country's waste crisis, based on waste reduction, separation at source, reuse, then composting and recycling.
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