Posted by: Joelle El Bittar | July 22, 2012

The Fischer and Hallikmaa Duo in Zouk Mikael

Under the patronage of the Swiss Embassy in Lebanon, the Estonian pianist Anne Hallikmaa and the Swiss trumpeter  Marcel Fischer gave four magnificent concerts in Lebanon during a tour in July 2012, closed at the St. Doumit church of Zouk Mikael on Saturday July 21st.

Organized by the club “Les Amis de la Suisse” and in collaboration with the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) of Zouk Mikael, the concert gathered an audience of many music lovers and tourists who came to applaud the two artists.First trumpet at the Basel Symphonic Orchestra, Marcel Fischer had already come to Lebanon many years ago for a series of concerts.

This time he was accompanied by the young Anna Hallikmaa, who is perfecting herself on the piano at the Basel Haute Ecole de Musique. The chosen pieces from Guy Ropartz, Guillaume Balay, Arthur Honegger, Paolo Longinotti, Pierre Tchaikowsky and Herman Bellstedt, being very difficult to execute, revealed to us the degree of virtuosity of this trumpeter with a very solid career.The higher notes that came out of his instrument will long remain in our hearts, as much fervor and love transcended his playing!

The parts that were played in duo alternated with piano solos from Debussy, Schumann and Chopin, and it is certain that the Estonian pianist has a brilliant future ahead of her!

After the superb performance, the musicians mingled with their captivated public for a cheese & wine cocktail in front of the church, with cheese made in the Swiss alps by the couple Verena and Georges Khalil.

This was a great musical moment that will be imprinted in the memory of all who where there!

The Zouk Mikaël Music Festival of course was in full swing, celebrating World Music Day or “Fête de la Musique” on June 22, 2012.  Organized by the Youth and Culture Center (YCC), the festival welcomed guests to enjoy an evening of music at the gorgeous Roman Amphitheater, located at the heart of Zouk Mikaël. Numerous professional musicians from across the globe, along with local music enthusiasts, united to deliver a unique night of great music and talent in a well-varied program. Roland M & Stpéhanie Jabre opened up the evening also on the schedule were, Michelle et Noelle Keserwany, Lebanon’s very own rockin’ band Adonis, Poly (Mexico), Les Fils du Calvaire (France), DJ Middle Beast (Lebanon), DJ Trix (Denmark) and DJ Andre Rizo (Romania). Presented by Anchor Corine Chalfoun, the event was organized in collaboration with the French Institute of Jounieh, the embassies of Denmark, Romania and the Cultural Centers of the European Union (EUNIC). The Youth and Culture Center took the initiative to organize a modern show on the stage of the Roman amphitheater merging tradition and heritage with modernity in a remarkable scenic beauty.

Unfortunately, the rain gods poured down putting a little bit of a damper on the wonderful evening.

Under the auspices of H.E. Minister of Information Mr. Walid Daouk, the Youth and Culture Center – Zouk Mikael, held a ceremony honoring late poet Antoine Rechdan on the third memorial of his passing in the presence of Mr. Andre Kassas representing Minister Daouk, MP Neemtallah Abi Nasr, Mayor of Zouk Mikael and President of the federation of municipalities Keserwan-Ftouh Me Nouhad Naufal, President of the association of the Mukhtars of Kesrouan-Ftouh Mukhtara Josiane Khalil, Sami Khoueiri representing MP Sami Gemayel, President of the Lebanese Maronite Order Father Tanios Nehme, former MP Farid Khazen, Father Maroun Zougheib representing Bishop Guy Boulos Noujaim, Secretary General of Lebanon Development Union Crystel El-Chayeb, President of DiaLeb Dr. Jackie Kassouf Maalouf, Board Member of MEPI-LAA Sarah Abou Sleiman, Chairman of Liqaa Al-Ithnein Dr. Hikmat Hnein, Vice-Director of the Russian Cultural Centre Dr. Slava Shimin, members of the municipal council in Jounieh and Zouk Mikael and a large crowd of poets, writers and thinkers.

The ceremony was marked by the musical setting of ten poems in the album entitled “Revolution and Perfume” from among the three collections of the late poet: “Scent of Jounieh,” “The Stone of the Bee” and “Snow Grapes” written and performed by soprano Consuelle el Hage and tenor Joseph Jabbour and distributed by arranger Mario Nakouzi.

Anchor Elie Karash opened the ceremony with a word about the late “Antoine Rechdan, patron of the word, and one who has molded the letters to draw the words which express his feelings in an immortal way.”

Then the floor was given to the director of the Youth and Culture Center, Eliane Fersan in which she noted that “this work honors the thought of Antoine Rechdan and marks in our minds the words of the poet through the voices of Consuelle el-Hage and Joseph Jabbour and represents a serious competition to what is offered on the art scene such as heresies and musical delirium.”

Then poet Habib Younis spoke about his relationship with Antoine Rechdan through a long poem reflecting on his poetic world.

Finally, the representative of H.E. Minister Daouk, André Kassas, noted in his word that the poet “joined by his personality and subtle poets of mystical passions. Anyone who knew him could feel his transparency in dealing with others, whoever they were. ”

During the ceremony the poet’s son, Melhem Rechdan gave a word of thanks to all the collaborators in the success of this honoring event. Several of the poignant songs from the album were performed, including “Give me a reason,” “My land” “Expecting my love” and “Your eyes are light.”

On the third memorial of his passing: “Antoine Rechdan, a poet whose lyrics combine the brightness of light and the revolution of the believer in the inevitability of change”.

After two and a half days (May 13-15, 2012) of strategizing, discussions and networking, 170 participants from around the Arab world united on the importance of investing in the creative industry, a promising sector that is rather under developed in the region.

Gathered under the flagship of the European Union National Institutes of Culture (EUNIC), the “Euromed forum for creative industries and society, 2012” is a pioneering initiative funded by the European Union and organized by the EUNIC cluster in Jordan.

A new interactive technique called the “open space” was put to the test: participants chose the topics of discussions, time and place – it is a genuine open invitation for participants to freely choose to enroll in the session that compels them the most and can leave whenever they want to. Moreover, during this Forum the participants were asked to define the outlines of a future EUNIC MENA long-term project dedicated to support the arts and the creative industries.

Lebanon was represented by a delegation led by the President of EUNIC in Lebanon Dr. Dan Stoenescu, First Secretary of the Romanian Embassy and Representative of the Romanian Cultural Institute, included delegates of the British Council and the Institut Français du Liban, as well as representatives of civil society and cultural actors such as Maqamat Dance Theatre, Dar Onboz Publishing House, The Visual and Performing Arts Association (VAPA), Youth & Culture Center (YCC) Zouk Mikaël, Safadi Cultural Centre/German Dialogpunkt in Tripoli, Zoukak Theatre Company and Cultural Association, Lebanon Development Union (LDU), Berytech, Agenda Culturel magazine and Metropolis.

The participants issued a series of recommendations aiming to regulate and promote creative industries such as pushing for clearer and more transparent cultural governmental policies. They noted that there is a great need for management skills in all sectors of cultural art, as well as for human and material resources. They highlighted the role of cultural entrepreneurs in re-defining cultural policies and engaging the private sector and decision-makers in the Arab world. Furthermore, the participants called on culture ministries in the MENA region to give more attention to this sector and for relevant authorities to support creative producers based on the quality of their work.

Lebanese civil society and cultural actors will participate, between the 13 and 15 of May 2012, in the Euro-Mediterranean Forum on Creative Industries and Society, organised at the Dead Sea, in Jordan, by the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC). The event is the launch pad of a long-term EUNIC Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Project which will address Democratic Empowerment, Cultural Policy and Creative Economy. The aim is to support the creative sector in the MENA region to redefine cultural policies that respond to the changing socio-political context in the region, to demonstrate the potential of the creative industries, to increase and reshape the scope of cultural exchanges and to strengthen of competitiveness of the sector.

One of the main objectives of the Forum is offering the actors of cultural and civil societies in the region a possibility to meet in order to create a cross-border network. The Forum also aims at gathering the expectations of cultural and civil society partners in order to conceptualise the structure of the long-term EUNIC MENA Project. The Forum is organised, logistically, by EUNIC in collaboration with Al-Rai Center for Studies. The EU Delegation to Jordan is financially supporting the project while the EU Delegation to Lebanon supports some of the representatives of the Lebanese NGOs, additional funds are provided by EUNIC Members.

The event will be attended for the first time by more than 250 representatives of the Creative Industries – cultural operators, artists, NGOs, cultural organisations and institutions, public authorities, EU institutions as well as EUNIC members from the MENA region (Algeria, Egypt,Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia) and the EU. The participants’ fields of expertise include the whole creative sector: Advertising; Architecture; Crafts; Cultural Heritage; Design; Educational and Leisure Software; Fashion; Film, Video and Audiovisual Production; Literature, Libraries and Publishing; Music; Performing Arts and Entertainment; Television, Radio and Internet Broadcasting; Visual Arts. Creative industries not only contribute significantly to the GDP but also they are growing faster than most sectors of the economy and also generating new jobs twice as fast. The forum aims to help policymakers and creative practitioners understand the creative industries better, to identify the needs and suggest ways in which they might be addressed. It should also encourage politicians in the Arab World to take the sector seriously and to develop policies to push the creative industries agenda forward.

The Lebanese delegation, which is led by the President of EUNIC in Lebanon Dr. Dan Stoenescu, First Secretary of the Romanian Embassy and Representative of the Romanian Cultural Institute, will include delegates of the British Council and of the Institut Français du Liban, as well as representatives of civil society and cultural actors such as Maqamat Dance Theatre, Dar Onboz Publishing House, The Visual and Performing Arts Association (VAPA), Youth & Culture Center (YCC) Zouk Mikaël, Safadi Cultural Centre/German Dialogpunkt in Tripoli, Zoukak Theatre Company and Cultural Association, Lebanon Development Union (LDU), Agenda Culturel magazine and Metropolis. The participation of Lebanese NGOs in this event will offer them the opportunity to network and share their know-how and cultural expertise to the emerging civil societies in the region, especially following the Arab Spring.


EUNIC, the European Union National Institutes for Culture, aims at establishing partnerships and networks amongst the European cultural institutes in any one country. In Lebanon, the formation of such a network seeks to better coordinate the activities between the European Cultural centres, organise joint initiatives, and respond collectively to European open calls for proposals in order to benefit from additional cultural funding. The members of the Lebanese cluster of EUNIC are – The British Council, the Goethe Institut, the Romanian Cultural Institute, the Instituto Italiano di Cultura, Instituto Cervantes, the Danish Cultural Institute and the Institut Français du Liban.   


The Youth and Culture Center, Zouk Mikael hosted the book signing of “Ounkoud Ramel”, a new release of the rising author Mireille Saab, under the auspices Nouhad Naufal, Mayor of Zouk Mikael, and in presence of the director of the History department at USEK Rev. Dr. John-Maroun Moughames, and a crowd of authors and artists.

After the welcome note, director Eliane Fersan, underlined the major role of the Youth and Culture Center in supporting the creative industries by building the capacities of young talents and social entrepreneurs; which makes YCC the first Lebanese municipal institution that undertakes such a unique step towards sustainable human development, which the center asserted by joining the “Anna Lindh Foundation” network deriving from the Euro-Med Partnership.


Engineer and thinker Hisham Ajour asked himself during his intervention about the “Cluster of Sand” (Ounkoud Ramel). “Is it possible to make a cluster out of sand? Does each cluster hold grains of sand? How could a cluster become sand?” he asked. Then poet and journalist Habib Younes commended Mireille Saab’s style and noted: “she grabs the sand with a silky hand, and when she is weary, the night is wide-open to the ink that flows just like wine on her papers, drop by drop, rhyme by rhyme, word by word”. Poet and author Elie Maroun Khalil congratulated the gifted author Mireille Saab for her courage and rebellion in joining artistic world and daring to publish her thoughts.

Mireille recited some of her poems and was warmly applauded by the audience. She thanked the Mayor of Zouk Mikael Nouhad Naufal for his patronage and for his constant support to young talents through YCC and his hardworking team. The event ended with a performance by the 4 octaves Mezzo-Soprano Micha Matta who amazed the public with one of Saab’s poems “Alkaka” (I meet you), composed by Habib Younes and arranged by Christian Abi Rached.


Mireille Saab book signing video

As part of its activities revolving around the promotion of the dialogue of cultures and workshops aimed at solving social problems and raising humanitarian and cultural issues, the Youth and Culture Center – Zouk Mikael, in collaboration with the Embassy of Mexico in Lebanon, organized a movie club around the dramatic and realistic movie entitled “Presunto Culpable” (presumed guilty).

Attendance grouped His Excellency Mr. Jorge Alvarez, Mexican Ambassador to Lebanon with his wife, Her Excellency Ms. Zoed Karam, Ambassador of Venezuela, Me Nouhad Naufal, Mayor of Zouk Mikael, a panel of judges headed by the President Ghaleb Ghanem and the judges Jean Fahd, Elias Eid, Muhammad Murtada, Roukoz Rizk, and former barristers Ramzi Jreije and Haddad Amal. Were also present lawyer Denise Karam Abu Maachar, municipal council member of Jounieh, Dr. Jackie Maalouf president of DiaLeb, Marie-Chantale Sundberg, head of economic affairs at Lebanon Development Union (LDU), Davide Bernocci, country director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Ramzi Hage, president of MEPI-LAA, lawyer Brigitte Chelebian, director of Justice Without Frontiers, Melkar el Khoury Awad, member of the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights as well as members of the City Council of Zouk Mikael and a large crowd of spectators.

After the welcome words, YCC director Eliane Fersan, thanked Ambassador Alvarez and congratulated him for “his courage to share with the Lebanese public the reality of flaws that plague the judicial system in Mexico by highlighting the role of civil society that works to move the judiciary and to enforce the rule of law”, while stressing on the importance of “self-critical governments, which allow them to improve and learn from mistakes that become exemplary lessons”.

Then, Ambassador Alvarez explained the events of the film relevant to the judicial system in Mexico; its positive and negative elements are portrayed through a true story featuring the relationship between the judiciary and the police, the mechanisms of accountability, transparency measures and the situation in prisons. Mr. Alvarez pointed out that “the situation of prisons and the judicial system in Mexico are largely similar to those of Lebanon, except that the available monitoring tools and the role of civil society and the media contribute to breaking down barriers and protect the rights of individuals.” The realistic movie ends on a happy note: Toño Zuniga is acquitted and the trial procedures are modified since his case/trial.

Finally, Melkar el Khoury Awad of the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights presented the case of Toño Zuniga, and the clear violations ranging from the arrest, duration and course of his trial, claiming that “justice is the result of a delicate balance between the infinite potential of the state and individual limited capacities. For in counterpart of the penal code, which expresses the state authority, the development of the legislative procedure has been established as a guarantee of the individual against the state.”

Posted by: ellefersan | April 21, 2012

The adventures of Sissi a book by Sirine Hamze

“The adventures of Sissi”: a book that pays tribute to the creative resources of children

As part of its National Week of Reading activities, the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) – Zouk Mikael, in collaboration with “Tripoli Foundation”, organized an animation around the book signing of Sirine Hamzé (10 years): “The Adventures of Sissi.” The signing took place on Friday, April 20, 2012 at YCC – Zouk Mikael.

During this event, and through his humorous and educational show, Willy the Clown has encouraged children and aspired writers to make their first step towards realizing their potential.

In her book, Sirine honors children’s creative resources. Each story takes us to a corner of her world where one explores, through her drawings, moments of her own life but also the aspirations, challenges, and concerns that a child encounters. From her home, she travels through time and around the world, flies away from the constraints of reality through her magical power: dreaming the world as she wishes.

Born in Tripoli on February 22, 2002, Sirin Hamzé is a graduate of the Sainte Famille school of Tripoli and French is her favorite language. She likes drawing, crafting and cooking. In the future, she would like to draw cartoons and fashion dresses, and make action movies.

Posted by: ellefersan | April 13, 2012

LDU and YCC Zouk Mikael graduate a new class of Women in IT

Thursday, April 12, 2012. LDU, in collaboration with YCC – Zouk Mikael and Microsoft graduated a third class of students through the program “Women and Technology”. The intensive training course on Microsoft Office basic programs lasted 12 weeks and aims to help these women to develop their skills to use information technology both at work and in their daily lives.

During the ceremony held at the Youth and Culture Center of the Municipality of Zouk Mikael, the secretary general of LDU, Ms. Crystel el Chayeb affirmed the importance of “the role of civil society which is perhaps the only initiator investing a part of its potential in Kesserwan”, noting the “role of promoter of the local community and municipalities, including that of Zouk Mikael, a pioneer in this field in its quest to ensure the well-being of its inhabitants”. Ms. Chayeb stressed that LDU launched the first training session of this program in 2010 in view of promoting sustainable development which, contrary to what is circulating among donor and development agencies in Lebanon, does not touch the region of Kesserwan, which still suffers from deprivation at many levels.

Ms. Chayeb explained that “the main objective of these sessions is to create job opportunities and empower women in the companies where they work, and this, because we believe in the importance of individual initiative in the absence of the role of the state “. She stressed also on the value of the program that has “benefited over 2000 women in the Arab world”. Ms. Chayeb also thanked Microsoft for its “moral and material support that enabled the establishment of these learning sessions and allowed new opportunities for adopters of new technologies which facilitate the work of the individual both professionally and personally”. The certificates were then distributed to the women who participated in the sessions.

The participants presented their testimonies and highlighted the changes this program has brought into their professional life. French language teacher, Claire Maatouk, noted that she has benefited from the use of computers which facilitated her communication with the school administration and her students; “now I spend less time in researching for new materials on the Internet and preparing for lessons and exams”. Rita Ofeich also thanked LDU and Microsoft for helping her to restore her self-confidence by obtaining her first degree: “I feel I can continue my studies and the program “Women in Technology” has helped me to receive a promotion at work”.

Carnival night of Club “Les Amis de la Suisse” at Zouk Mikaël

Braving the cold and inclement weather, members and friends of “Les Amis de la Suisse” club as well as those of the Youth and Culture Center (YCC) – Zouk Mikaël met on February 25 in the beautiful theater of YCC to first watch the movie “Orfeu Negro”, masterpiece of Marcel Camus, who transported us to the magical ambiance of the very famous carnival of Rio de Janeiro. Released in 1959, this movie received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival of the same year and revisits the myth of Orpheus and Euridyce in transposing Thrace to Rio de Janeiro during the Carnival.

A musical interlude followed with two German guitarists, Suzanne Hilker and Katrin Simon, on tour in Lebanon at the invitation of the Kulturzentrum and who resumed with much delight some of the movie’s melodies, including the famous Caraval da Manha e Felicidade and the compositions of Antonio Carlo Jobim and Luiz Bonfa that became standards of Bossa Nova and Jazz.

A friendly dinner gathered the participants at the YCC library, where Swiss culinary specialties that are generally prepared during the Carnival were served, namely the Basel flour soup and the donuts called “pieds de chèvre”. And since the soup was so popular, especially among the Lebanese public, here is the recipe:

Basel flour soup:
Preparation ca. 1 1/2 hrs

For approximately 8 dl

5 tablespoons of flour roast and brown well while stirring in a large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat, let the flour cool on a plate
50 grams of butter heat in the same pan
1 onion, thinly sliced sweat for approximately 3 minutes, add the flour
1 liter of beef stock wet and bring to a boil while whisking, reduce the heat and let simmer for almost 1 hour, stir occasionally
100 grams of cheese (i.e. gruyère) grate

Presentation: apportion the soup into pre-heated plates, sprinkle with cheese or serve it separately.

Suggestion: prepare the soup without onions, garnish with roasted onions before serving and enjoy!

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