At midnight, the Lebanese will be celebrating the end of the year in a variety of ways. Some will be spending the evening in restaurants, pubs or nightclubs. But the majority seem to prefer to stay at home with family and friends avoiding the rainy cold weather outside as well as high restaurant bills.
As New Year's Eve this year also falls in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and thus many people will be fasting and abstaining from drinking alcohol, restaurant owners were prompted to be more creative. Some are trying to organize yearend celebrations in Ramadan tents that will be offering Iftar and musical programs in honor of both festive occasions.
The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism has recently announced a decision to force down prices demanded by restaurants, nightclubs, and bars on New Year's Eve. The ministry asked organizers of special parties on this evening to submit a list of prices, menus and entertainment programs to the ministry.
In a recent memorandum, the ministry said it would study the prices of year end celebrations and compare them to the menus and musical programs being offered. The statement added those restaurants and nightclubs that do not abide by the ministry's decision would be fined.
Thus, the Lebanese might hope this year to find places where they can spend this special evening without paying too much, in comparison to previous years when prices almost skyrocketed to unreasonable levels.
Although the Beirut shopping festival was postponed until May, shops can still discount their prices from January 9 to February 7 without obtaining a license from the Ministry of Economy and Trade. The decision was announced earlier this week by the ministry allowing shops to put their merchandize on sale starting next month.
But the ministry requested that merchants who wish to discount their prices should list the sales prices next to the original ones, the percentage of the discount, and the date on which the sales begin and end.
The annual shopping festival was earlier postponed by the ministry from late January until May. Minister of Trade and Economy, Nasser Al-Saiidi had announced the decision in a bid to make the event coincide with the tourism season and May seemed to be the best month for this, according to Saiidi.
Former Minister of Economy and Trade, Yassin Jaber had announced in November a decision to extend the previously held February shopping festival into January and March. There would have been thus 99 shopping days in the festival which would have coincided with the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when most Muslim Lebanese expatriates return to spend the Fiter holiday with their families.
Tourism in Lebanon is set to record one of its best seasons after the war this year with the total number of visitors likely to reach 600,000 by the end of December in comparison to last year's 482,556, according to the latest official figures issued by the Tourism Ministry.
The most dramatic increase has been in the number of visitors from the United States. Saudi nationals, however, continued to visit Lebanon in the greatest numbers. After the Saudis, the French are the next largest nationality followed by the Jordanians.
During a seminar on tourism, recently organized in Beirut by the International Chamber of Commerce, Lebanon's tourism professionals called for more and better place investment in tourism. Representatives of hotels, restaurants and travel agencies compiled five draft initiatives to develop and promote tourism in their country. Their report is to be studied by the Tourism Ministry.
A UN-sponsored program was recently offered in Lebanon to teach women entrepreneurs about business skills. The courses aimed at encouraging women to start their own business by offering them fresh opportunities that would eventually help them launch a successful career.
The courses were offered free of charge thanks to the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Ministry of Social Affairs. The workshops taught women on various entrepreneurial skills.
So far, around 900 women from different Lebanese areas have graduated from the program. UNIFEM then links them with organizations, which offer very much sought after micro-credit programs.
In another development, the Lebanese Businesswomen Association revealed plans to ask the government to lead the way in building a system that would allow women to make greater economic and professional progress.
The association aims at helping Lebanese women assume a more active role in the region's economy. It also plans to hold Expo Feminin 2000 in Beirut, an international economic forum hosting delegations of businesswomen from Belgium, France, Cameron, Egypt and the United States.
She was one of 13 recipients of the international Prince Claus Awards. Nazek Saba Yared was honored for her impressive list of contributions as a distinguished professor of Arabic literature, a successful novelist, a literary critic, and a women's rights activists.
The awards, aimed at promoting the arts and the freedom of expression, are granted annually to artists and intellectuals whose work on culture and development in their own country has had a wide social significance.
One of this year's awards was granted to Yared by the Dutch Ambassador to Lebanon, Ronald Molinger. The names of the 13 laureates were announced at the beginning of this month by Prince Claus in a ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
A candle light vigil held recently in Beirut helped rescue the "De Gaulle" building in front of the former Government House in Sanayeh. It is thought that Charles De Gaulle may have lived in the old building while here as a French army officer in the 1920's.
Architects say the building is a rare surviving example of domestic architecture between 1920 and 1940. One architect even asserted that it is the only one of its kind in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. The old building is also commonly referred to as the "Toy block building", because of the red and yellow bricks on its façade.
Students, architects and concerned citizens of the capital gathered in front of the building holding candles and banners that called for preserving Beirut's architectural heritage.
Although the dismantling of the heritage building's interior had already started, the Ministry of Culture ordered all demolition work to cease only one day after the vigil. The ministry decided to officially put the building "under study", thus freezing all work on it.
She was supposed to perform this evening at the Regency Palace Hotel in Adma on the occasion of New Year Year's Eve. But she withered away too soon when she chose to put an end to her life a few days earlier. Dany Boustros, a talented Lebanese singer and dancer, died Sunday from a brain hemorrhage after shooting herself in the head on Saturday afternoon. Investigations into her death affirm she had committed suicide. Security sources said Dany was facing repeated bouts of depression and financial problems.
Born in Beirut on October 8, 1959, Dany dedicated her life to the performing arts. As a singer, dancer, choreographer, actress and poet, Dany participated in art festivals across the region, performing in Jordan, Turkey, Dubai, Syria, Spain, as well as other European countries. She was best known for her successful blending of Oriental dance and Western dance forms such as flamenco and modern dance.
But according to her colleagues, Dany never got over her son's death who passed away in a tragic incident some five years ago; he was only 16 years old then. She even attempted to commit suicide by taking pills twice after the loss of her beloved. In her diary, she had always hinted at putting an end to her suffering.
Some friends describe her as a lonely sad person. They said her real death was when she lost her son. "I do not fear death. Death puts an end to man's misery on Earth," Dany said in a televised interview two years ago.
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