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Beirut Bright Side: looking at life through rose-colored glasses

Beirut Insight

They are young, they are beautiful, but above all, they are optimistic. Rami Hage-Obeid and his wife and partner, Leyla Nahas, have chosen to look at the bright side of life and share what they see on social media, under the “code name” Beirut Bright Side.

Carla Henoud | OLJ
In Lebanon, one is always in search of positive emotions. It is a perpetual, and sometimes unsuccessful, quest for good news, breathtaking landscapes, protected nature and the deep blue sea in a country currently doing even worse than an already exhausted and worn out world. Finding good reasons to love Lebanon and stay here becomes more and more difficult everyday: an ailing society, the absence of the rule of law and the smell of garbage wafting in on the morning and evening breeze, polluting the air for every citizen regardless of age, background or political affiliation. But despite the general stagnation, if one still has the energy, it is possible to dig deep and look beyond the generally bleak picture to find remarkable places, extraordinary people, daring and innovative projects, personal initiatives, hidden talents and maybe even a reason or two to stay.

Leyla Nahas and Rami H. Obeid, better known as Rami O, are some of the rare people who believe that "the grass is not greener on the other side, but wherever it is watered". Born in Paris, Leyla left France at the age of eight to live with her family in Montreal, a city she is particularly fond of. She began studying political science at Concordia University and then graduated in international relations from Geneva.

Rami, despite his appearances, dual nationality and Swedish physique (inherited from his Swedish mother), grew up in Amioun. At 18, he left for the United States where he studied fine arts at the University of Kentucky. "I learned a lot," he says. He then returned to Lebanon for six months, a short period that he found barely tolerable, before moving to Dubai, a city he felt he had nothing in common with.

"During the 2006 war, I was evacuated with the Swedish citizens. I spent three years in Sweden where I studied, lived, grew up and worked. It was my first experience in Sweden as an adult. It's not much better over there. It’s just different,” Rami says.

In 2009, he returned to Beirut. "I have always come back, despite many attempts to start my life elsewhere... I came back to where I left, and I stayed."

All for the love of music

At the beginning, music strengthened the couple's crush and brought them together. Leyla grew up in a family with a deep love for music, so much so that, among other activities and jobs, she chose to lend her voice to advertisements and announcements. For years, radio was her medium and her platform: Radio Nostalgie where she co-hosted ‘Happy Days’, RFI with ‘Escales’, and since 2011, ‘Mon manege a moi’ from Mondays to Fridays at 18:00 PM.

Rami, who is a professional brand designer and a passionate DJ, founded the BGC (Beirut Groove Collective) with Ernesto Chahoud. "The goal was and remains, even if I'm not in it anymore, to bring new music to the local scene. We succeeded, and then in 2012, I moved into new ventures," he says.

"For me, it happened in 2005 when I was spending the Christmas holidays in Lebanon. This is when I realized that it was atypical to be Lebanese and to have never lived in Lebanon," says Leyla. She decided to leave Paris and return to beautiful Lebanon to start experiencing and living different things.

A baby and more

These different things include a wedding celebrated with melodies of happiness, a child and Beirut Bright Side. "The relationship we have with Lebanon is similar to that of a couple. It should be fed, cultivated and worked on,” they say simultaneously.

To nurture their blog they have been praying to all the gods every morning since January 2015 to help them find a cheerful piece of news, a beautiful person, a story to tell or a noble act that they can share on social media. In February 2017 they launched the podcasts BBS, which aim to complement the written platform and to inspire as many people as possible in Lebanon and abroad.

"People tend to see the negative; to remember and share only that. This project is also helping us go through difficult times,” they admit. “It is important for us to have this attitude."

Their choice to stay in Lebanon forced them to make the best out of this experience, "otherwise we will all fall into a state of collective depression,” they add. They are trying to rise above all the bad news that floods social networks and the media in Lebanon and around the world. "We all need fresh air; passionate and exciting people,” they say.

According to these two optimists, the way to do it is the following: after their coffee and many sun salutations, they comb through the news, capture an unexpected event on the street, visit an exhibition or head off to discover something unknown, often beautiful spots in Lebanon. They observe; they report. They are interested in all topics: art, culture, music, nature, society, cooking, the pulse of the city.

"We need to get out of this individualism and create a kind of human chain so we can leave all this misery behind. The good brings about the good. If everyone made this effort things could start changing,” they say before going to look for more things on the bright side.

(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 8th of August)

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