A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘cedar’ Category

“When the midnight camel leaves for Tripoli…”: Bing Crosby’s “The Road to Lebanon”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 23, 2009

Inspired by QN’s recent musical turn (“it took five minutes,” he claimed when I spoke with him yesterday. “Much less time than researching and writing another analysis for the blog.”), I thought I’d share another musical gem with all of you: The Road to Lebanon, a bizarrely enticing 1958 television special. Think “movie of the week” meets “vaudeville”, with a splash of camels and some belly dancing.

The entire production is viewable online at Retrovision, which describes the show as follows:

A rare, television-produced “road” picture which most fans don’t know about. Bing Crosby is scouting locations in Beirut to do another road picture – without his [usual] partner, Bob Hope! When he runs into Danny Thomas, who is judging a local beauty contest, Bing and Danny are kidnapped by a sheik who is out to punish Thomas because one of his ancestors committed the sin of getting a nose job. Many musical numbers, live camels and even Bob Hope himself add to the fun in this TV rarity.

The twist here, of course, is that Danny Thomas was Lebanese – and spoke Arabic. He plays all the male Arab characters, including Ali-Ali-Oxen-Free, the sheikh who seeks to put him to death because Danny’s emigrant ancestor supposedly got a nose job after arriving in the United States. While the story itself is beyond light, and the stereotypes are rife (the title of this post is taken from the opening song), the Arabic is hysterical. Clearly, he and the producers anticipated at least some Arabic-speakers among the viewers, and cared enough about them as an audience to give them a good laugh.

Let me give you an example.

While wandering through the desert (I know: its not Lebanon. But in the story, its a desert) to escape the sheikh, Danny tries to plead his case before an unsympathetic armed guard. “Amil maarouf,” he starts. “Bt7ibb la7m bi-tanjara, kibbe nayyeh, ou baba ghannoush?” The guard nods, grinning, and turns away.

“What did you say?” Crosby asks. “I don’t know,” Danny replies. “I either said, ‘Take me to your leader’ or ‘someone’s taking a bath in the water hole’.”

But he did know, and so would any Arabic speaker watching, and so will you.

Happy watching!


Posted in Arab world, Arabic, Beirut, cedar, music, women | Leave a Comment »

Cedar Island: still building that treehouse in the sea

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 12, 2009

At the end of January, many of us began writing about Cedar Island, the planned tree-shaped island luxury housing development taking root (bet you saw that cliche coming!) on the coast down from Damour. Or, as some might know it: a few miles south of Ouzai.

Despite the generally negative blogosphere reaction, the project seems to be going strong. This morning I received an invitation to check out Cedar Island and other properties available through Dagpa Iqari, a conglomerate of real estate firms headquartered in Sin al Fil (“Dagpa”? Is this an acronym for something?).

Here is the Cedar Island advertisement:


The text reads: “The Cedar Island Project / in the Land of Cedars”.

One might think that the current economic climate would have led the developers to rethink this project. If so, may I suggest a “Cedar Stump Island”, or a “Cedar Sapling Island”?

In any case, its not my business – and I’m too busy penny-pinching to be in the market for an island property, natural or manmade. But if you are, I suggest that you bargain hard to get the lowest possible price. After all, home-buying in the rest of the world is a buyer’s market right now – so buying a home on an as-yet-unbuilt island should be a breeze.

Update: Lebanon News has a link to and very interesting analysis of a recent Zawya piece on Cedar Island and its financing as well as logistical woes. You can read Jad’s take on the article and the project here.

Posted in advertising, Arabic, Beirut, cedar, economics | 5 Comments »

branded snow

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 5, 2009

How did we miss this event last year? I asked H in an email, attaching this advertisement:


Last year’s March calendar was pretty empty around this time – not even a facial or a lunch date penciled in.

I like the “Cedars’ snow” stipulation for snowman-building materials, H replied. I do too – partly for eco-friendly reasons (no fair carting in “foreign” snow just to build a bigger snowman) and partly because as a former marketer, I love branding.

You know, H continued, a cynical view would suggest that this is meant as a diversion to any Mouarada activities taking place on the 8th.

I hadn’t thought of that. Politicizing snowmen? In Lebanon, anything is possible :).

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Beirut, cedar, holidays, Lebanon, mountains | Leave a Comment »

a treehouse in the sea

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 28, 2009

Has anyone else heard about this? Qifa Nabki wrote in a group email that I received this morning. Am I the last one?

QN was talking, of course, about Cedars Island, a planned cedar-in-the-sea more-Dubai-than-Dubai development. I had heard about it, thanks to a Facebook status message that M posted last week:

M wants to move to Cedar Island.

Okay, I thought – M is fairly peripatetic – after which it slipped from my mind. Luckily, QN was a bit more on the ball – and has a hysterical, very on-point post about the development, which you can read here.

The project’s website is a laugh-out-loud hoot to read. Its news section recounts Tourism Minister Elie Marouni’s recent visit to developer Noor Holding’s offices, in which he “expressed his blessing” and wished them “big success”.  The project promises residents an “exotic, pleasant, and peaceful environment”, which will “mainly consist of 8 distinct zones.” What are these distinct zones? you might ask.  They are “zone a, b, c, d, e, f, g, & h.”

Curious to know what a cedar in the sea might look like? Me, too. After all, how one draws a Lebanese cedar often tells much about one’s political affiliations.

Here is the official rendering of the project:

cedar-islandSigh. It looks like a joke, doesn’t it? But as QN says: this is the real thing. And it will be located on the coast of Damour, between the airport (easy exit in case of troubles: a plus. distance from Beirut: a minus.) and Jiyyeh (easy access to a power station: a plus. increased likelihood of Israeli bombing raids: a minus.), where cedar imagery has been few and far between.

So.  Which cedar do you think Cedar Islands should most resemble?

Chamoun’s cedar?


The Kataeb cedar?


The Ouwet cedar?


The Lebanese Communist cedar?

lebanese_communist_party_flagThe national flag cedar?

lebanese-national-flagOr – my favorite, thanks to its slightly goofy shape – the AUB cedar?aub-logo

Cedars are a serious topic in Lebanon. If Noor Holding doesn’t fully understand what it is getting into, the lifestyle it promises residents could be “exotic” indeed.

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Beirut, cedar, construction, economics, friends, Lebanon, media, politics, tourism, vanity | 5 Comments »

a pen from Sukleen

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 25, 2008

I have mentioned Sukleen’s advertisements/PSAs in several posts in the past couple of years – primarily because I find that the company/public utility/gift of the Hariri family takes interesting positions on the array of issues that Lebanon and its people face.

This is from yesterday’s newspaper:


And here is my translation of what the text says (with apologies as I am not sure that I have gotten the first bit entirely right – so if you are a native speaker, please feel free to jump in with corrections!):

We’re getting by with a green pen*

*the green space in Lebanon has shrunk to only 13%

Between forest fires, unregulated development, pollution, and generally weak environmental policies, the size of Lebanon’s forests has shrunk dramatically from year to year. (You can see a surprisingly good story that CNN’s Brent Sadler did earlier this month on this same issue here.) Sukleen’s ad suggests that using a green crayon to draw a cedar will be an adequate replacement for the actual tree.

This ad is intriguing on a textual level as well. The Arabic used is Lebanese Arabic – “pen” is spelled “2alam” and not “qalam”, for example. Yet the words are highly voweled: I count four fathas and two shaddas. As Arabic speakers know (and I have mentioned before), vowel markers are used when a word is unfamiliar, or might be mistaken for another word with the same consonantal spellings. In other words, they are used for clarification, and for formal writing.

Although I’ve seen vowel markers used with spoken Arabic in other advertisements, I still find it a bit jarring – an odd mixing of language levels. I’m also a bit surprised by the use of the alif in “2alam” – it looks confusingly like “alam”, which is a regular Arabic word meaning “pain”.

I think here that the similarity might be intentional – after all, losing Lebanon’s cedars is a source of pain for many people – but in general my understanding is that the hamza’ed qaff is written in Arabic as just that: a qaff with a hamza over it, so readers recognize both the original Arabic word and the regional pronunciation of it.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this – either the ad in general, or on the use of colloquial Arabics in standard Arabic script?

Posted in advertising, Arabic, Beirut, cedar, fire, humor, Iowa, Lebanon, words | 3 Comments »

planes, maps, and vistas: more old Lebanese stamps

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 18, 2008

Today I am holding my tongue, as otherwise I would find it lashing out at the Lebanese Forces and the Marada, two Christian militias-turned-political-parties. The night before last, partisans from both sides got into an argument over where the Lebanese Forces could paste posters advertising its “Martyrs’ Mass” this Sunday – an argument in which neither group was probably as innocent as they now claim, and which ended in the shooting deaths of one man on each side.

I imagine that they have both been added to each side’s list of “martyrs”, although thanks to ST’s helpful distinction (which you can find in the comments to my post on the meaning of “shahid”), I would say that they are both more accurately described as “maghdour” – deceived. After all, what deception to think that hanging posters is a cause worth dying for – and what a terrible self-deception that they and their living comrades commit, in thinking that this is how Christians should live. I suspect that Christ, whose fundamental message was “love thy neighbor” (followed shortly by “turn the other cheek”) is horrified by the acts Lebanese Christians commit in his name.

And as you can see, holding my tongue is one of my particular talents, ha ha.

Back to the stamps. Today I have a total mish-mash to show, starting with this trio. The top left has an image of a man … who I must admit I don’t recognize (help, Kheireddine!) and a map of the country. Feel free to try to pick out Shebaa Farms, the Litani, or any other area that has become a political hotspot since this stamp was issued.

The top right stamp shows a lovely view from the arches of what looks to me like Beiteddine, while the bottom set of stamps, whose cancellation mark also looks to me like 1958 (October 30, if I am reading the “X” correctly), show a lovely and very Lebanese landscape.

This second set of stamps also offers a mix of themes and styles. The top left stamp continues Lebanon’s message of technology, progress, and connection to the outside world by showing an airplane – a good message to send via international mail, since I imagine that many people in the 1950s would not have thought of Lebanon as a country easily accessible by air.

The next two stamps show two figures (hunters?) passing through a meadow ringed by trees. Its a bucolic scene, but it also offers a sign of Lebanon’s modernity: there is a plane passing overhead.

And the stamp at the bottom right celebrates another source of Lebanon’s beauty and natural wealth: a massive waterfall.

Posted in advertising, Arabic, art, Beirut, cedar, guilt, Lebanon, media, stamps, time, travel | 4 Comments »

Out of many, one: the superflag project

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 9, 2008

I stumbled across a terrific website yesterday afternoon: the New York Tenement Museum’s superflag project, WeAreMulticolored.com.

First, you choose three national flags (the site invites you to choose one for the country in which you live, one for a country that has affected you, and one for a country that you have dreamed of visiting – but you can choose according to your own criteria if you prefer).

Then, you get to design your own flag, using the elements of the three flags you chose. For example, in the US flag, there are three separable elements: the blue rectangle, the white stars, and the red stripes. In the Lebanese flag, there are also three: the cedar tree, and the two red horizontal bars.

You can change the size of each element, expanding or contracting. You can flip it or rotate it, and you can layer elements so that certain ones overlap others.

The flag I made wasn’t particularly beautiful, but the samples that run in a horizontal band across the main page are stunning. If you put your mouse over them, you can read the designer’s name and their explanation of why they chose the countries they did.

Wonderful, wonderful project! In fact, I wish the site let me choose additional countries: I’d like to build a flag from the flags of all the different countries in which I have lived, because they have all affected me.

H and I are off to a wedding this afternoon, and not back until tomorrow evening. I think I booked a hotel with wireless internet, but if not … see you on Monday!

Posted in Americans, art, cedar, citizenship, colors, Lebanon, politics | Leave a Comment »

familiar flag :)

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on July 20, 2008

This week’s issue of Time Out magazine included a quiz on flags of the world. Look at number five:

I’ve been spending far too much time and energy trying to deconstruct the hint that the flag’s tree “Kind of looks like a Christmas tree, but it probably isn’t”, wondering whether it was a commentary on Lebanon’s majority-Muslim population.

But then I looked at the Lebanese flag again, and the Time Out editors are right. That cedar does kind of look like a Christmas tree.

(As many of you probably know, Time Out is now publishing a Beirut edition again. Time Out Beirut published two or three issues starting in Spring 2006. Its premiere issue included a terrible interview with Haifa that had all my journalist friends snickering at its gaga tone, especially since they all knew the magazine’s editor, who had conducted the interview. But it was a welcome addition to Beirut’s social scene, and each issue was better than the one before. If it offered overseas shipping, H and I would definitely subscribe.)

Posted in Americans, Beirut, cedar, Lebanon, media, New York | 1 Comment »