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Essential Lebanon 2 - Books & Movies
RECOMMENDED READING  
  • The Broken Wings by Kahlil Gibran. In Beirut at the turn of the 20th century, a young man falls in love with a young woman already betrothed to the nephew of a prominent religious figure. The lovers begin to meet in secret, but the social and religious divides of the day may prove too great an obstacle for their happiness. Gibran’s first-person view of both the physical and cultural climate in Beirut is an exquisite background for this tale of tragic love, later adapted as the 1962 Lebanese film The Broken Wings.
  • Beirut, I Love You by Zena El Khalil. An honest and unflinching memoir by a young female artist, writer, and activist who returns after 9/11 to her familial home of Beirut and its mountains, beaches, food, music and drugs. Spanning from 1994 to the present day, Beirut is brought to life as a place where plastic surgery and AK 47s live side by side, yet the story remains a testament to the power of love and friendship, and the beauty of the city and its inhabitants.
  • Jasmine and Fire: A Bittersweet Year in Beirut by Salma Abdelnour. A walking tour of Beirut as seen by a Lebanese food blogger who returned to her home country after fleeing the civil war of the 1980’s. At once humorous and poignant, this is Abdelnour’s love letter to Lebanon’s enduring food culture as she navigates the vibrant streets of Beirut in the midst of the Arab Spring, rediscovering her city through its sights, sounds, and most of all, flavors.
  • Beirut Noir (Akashic Noir) by Iman Humaydan Younes. An anthology of short stories by modern Lebanese writers from different neighborhoods of Beirut, capturing the changing faces in this city of contradictions. War and peace, urban and rural, traditional and liberal – Beirut is an ever-shifting paradox, and no one captures the beauty and grit quite like those who are living it.
  • Beirut Nocturne by Giulio Rimondi. After-hours Beirut is on intimate display in this photographic collection from Italian photographer Giulio Rimondi and Lebanese poet Christian Ghazi, presenting grainy black-and-white images of a quieter, more melancholic nightlife than the glitz and glamour normally associated with Lebanon’s capital city after dark.
  • From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman. An informative and vital look at the Middle East from a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with ten years of experience reporting from Lebanon and Israel. The new afterword updates his journey with a fresh discussion of the Arab Awakenings and a new look at the relations between Israelis and Palestinians, and Israelis and Israelis.
  • Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon by Robert Fisk. Written by the first journalist to whom Osama bin Laden announced his jihad against the US, this is a remarkable combination of war reporting and analysis that covers Lebanon’s civil war from the time of Sharon and Arafat’s first encounter in the early 1980’s. Both enlightening and deeply personal, the account includes the travails of Fisk’s friend Terry Anderson who was kidnapped by Hezbollah and spent 2,454 days in captivity.
  • An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. An emotional novel that explores the singular life of a reclusive and obsessive elderly woman living alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of her favorite books. We follow the protagonist through her musings and memories as she tries to hold onto what little life she has left in a story that is both a celebration of literature’s power and a discussion of female identity in the shadows of the Lebanese Civil War.  
  • The Hakawati by Rabih Alameddine. Like an Arabian Nights for the modern day, this novel takes us through the classic tales of the Middle East, stunningly reimagined. Our protagonist’s grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and he has a wealth of stories to share from his own arrival in Lebanon as an orphan of the Turkish wars to the fables of Ishmael, father of the Arab tribes.
  • The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. Translated into more than twenty languages and never having gone out of print, this collection of poetic essays from Lebanon’s most beloved writer is a masterpiece of philosophy and spirituality that has resonated with readers all over the world. Divided into twenty-eight chapters covering such vast topics as joy and sorrow, eating and drinking, pain and pleasure, birth and death, it remains a work of tremendous influence and enduring inspiration.
RECOMMENDED VIEWING  
  • The Message by Moustapha Akkad. A Quranic epic chronicling the life and times of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Released in Arabic and English, The Message serves as an introduction to early Islamic history. 
  • Lebanon by Samuel Maoz. An Israeli war film directed by Samuel Maoz that won the Leone d'Oro at the 66th Venice International Film Festival, becoming the first Israeli-produced film to have won that honour. In Israel itself the film has caused some controversy. Maoz based the film on his experience as a young Israeli conscript during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.
  • Caramel by Nadine Labaki. The first feature film by Lebanese director/actress Nadine Labaki, it was distributed in over 40 countries, easily becoming the most internationally acclaimed and exposed Lebanese film to date. The story focuses on the lives of five Lebanese women dealing with issues such as forbidden love, binding traditions, repressed sexuality, the struggle to accept the natural process of age, and duty versus desire. 
  • West Beirut by Ziad Doueiri. In April, 1975, civil war breaks out; Beirut is partitioned along a Moslem-Christian line. Tarek is in high school, making Super 8 movies with his friend, Omar. A chilling story based on the writer/director's boyhood memories, the film underscores the terrors children suffer during wartime--not the obvious ones of hunger or the loss of their homes, but the fear that their parents will be killed, and the slow realization that their life at school, at play, and with their extended family and friends may soon cease to exist.
  • Heaven Without People by Lucien Bourjeily. Josephine, the matriarch of a sprawling family, is delighted to gather everyone for Easter lunch for the first time in two years. While they all share a joyful meal, an incident ignites underlying tensions between the family members and leads them gradually into chaos.
  • Where do we go now by Nadine Labaki. Fed up with mourning their husbands and sons, the women of a remote Lebanese village, where Christians and Muslims live side by side, concoct radically inventive schemes to prevent sectarian violence from further corrupting their loved ones. To quash interreligious conflicts, the women are not above sabotaging the village's sole television, colluding with the priest and imam, nor enlisting a busload of sexy Ukrainian strippers to distract their men.
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Why travel with other women?
Many women do not have families or compatible friends who wish to travel. When going on a main-stream tour, women often find that most activities are geared towards couples and quite often they feel left out. Singles' tours are not always what women are looking for. If you do not have a traveling companion, there is also the issue of the expensive "single supplement", sometimes as much as 50 or even 100 percent of the tour cost. By going on women-only tours, women can easily avoid paying for the single supplement by sharing a room with another woman traveler.
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