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How to Support the Beirut Relief Efforts

As you many all be aware, on August 4th, at 6pm local time, a massive explosion took place at the Seaport of Beirut in Lebanon. It appears the cause of the explosion was due to the accidental ignition of over 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely for many years at the ports.

This very preventable explosion has taken over 125 lives, injured over 3,000 people and destroyed the homes of more than half the city’s residents. There is a dire need for blood donations, volunteers, and funds to help with an already strained healthcare system due to COVID-19.

If you are in Lebanon, you can safely go to any local hospital or clinic to donate blood and see if there is a need for volunteers. There are many groups gathering to help with the cleaning and rebuilding efforts as well. Every little bit counts.

For the rest of us outside of Lebanon that can donate, the best resources I’ve found so far are the Lebanese Red Cross and the Impact Lebanon crowdsourcing initiative through Just Giving. You can search for your local NGOs that may be offering assistance but I’ve listed a few I’ve come across below.

Kindly note that when making a donation to Lebanese NGOs, do not make it in the country’s currency (Lebanese Lyra/Pound), as it sadly has been collapsing over the past year. Your best bet will be to do so in either US dollars or the Euro.

Baytna Baytak has been helping house healthcare workers and first responders across Lebanon during the pandemic response. Now they are working to help the more than 300,000 displaced residents of Beirut find temporary shelter.

International Medical Corps is helping survivors get life-saving care, deploying medical units and mental health care efforts in support of the damaged facilities and overwhelmed healthcare.

Islamic Relief has an office in Beirut and thankfully their staff is safe. Now they are working to bring much-needed aid and relief support to Beirut.

World Food Program of the UN is helping bring food to the area after the major food sources, like the grain silos, were destroyed at the Beirut port.

If you know of any other organizations providing relief support and assistance that can use our donations, please share them in the comments or tag me on any social media platform, my handle for most is @mshalaco.

May God have mercy on the beautiful people of Lebanon, ameen.

Travel Link Up – My Travel Wishlist for 2018

Travel bloggers come together monthly for the Travel Link Up, a fantastic way for bloggers to write about a particular travel theme while reading and sharing each other’s posts. This month’s theme is one’s travel wishlist for 2018. This rant will be my first with the travel link up, finally!

IMG-20170909-WA0034-01.jpgOne of my goals for 2018 is to travel more than I did last year. This, in part, is sparked by two things. One, my plans from last year was put on hold because of my repatriation back home. And two, this year’s destination wedding season is in full swing and I couldn’t be happier! This is an opportune time for me to revisit favorites as well as discover new places.

So here’s my travel wishlist for 2018:

San Francisco Bay Area, California

I’ve been playing a tourist in my hometown since repatriating last summer. There’s so much for me to rediscover as I eat my way through the city and the Bay Area as a whole, really. Like trekking the hiking trails in Sausalito, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on foot, checking out the latest exhibits at the Asian American Museum, observing the marine animals at the historical Monterey Aquarium and show some love to the businesses reopening in the Napa Valley areas.

New York Tri-State Area

DSCN0211-01.jpgI’ll be heading to the New York area in the early summer for my cousin’s wedding! After dancing the night away, I’m going to try to cross a few things off my list that I didn’t get a chance to do during my last visit. Like, go see a Broadway show. I mean seriously, how have I been to New York City so many times and not see a single Broadway show? Preposterous! This year, I must see a show and I’m spoiled for choice with new ones coming out as early as March 2018, wow! I’d also like to head to Hoboken, New Jersey. It’s been on my radar as I hear they’ve got a booming food culture there.

Sicily, Italy

IMG_20160723_131933-01.jpegLater in the summer, I’m heading to the magnificent island state of Sicily for my dear friend’s wedding! I’ve been through most of Italy in 2016 but not to Sicily. Thus, my friends and I are planning to stay about a week to check it out in all it’s glory once we’ve recovered from dancing all night or two long. I’m being told that Mount Etna is a must when visiting Sicily. This should be a good way to work out all the food I plan on eating.

Dubrovnik and Fort Lovrijenac, Croatia

Another trip missed last year was Croatia. As a history buff, I’m anxious to see the ancient coastal city of Dubrovnik. Of course, I can’t be in Croatia as a huge Game of Thrones fan and not head to Fort Lovrijenac, where it’s the setting for Kings Landing. The scenery alone is a great backdrop for this historical fantasy. Here’s to taking a seat on the Iron Throne!

Luxor and Aswan, Egypt

IMG_0180-01.jpegSince I won’t be far, seems a short trip to the Middle East is in order. It’s been a good number of years since I’ve been to Egypt and of the few times I’ve been, I have yet to visit Luxor and Aswan. As a history buff, these historic provinces have so much to offer and I’m still making a list of all the things I need to explore. I do plan on going with a tour guide of sorts as to not miss out on anything.

Bali, Indonesia

I was so close yet didn’t get a chance to go as planned for my birthday last year. I’m hoping to make it this time around and explore the bounties the island has to offer. Fingers crossed there won’t be another volcano eruption, otherwise, I’m checking out Mount Agung and the surrounding towns.

Paris, France

This country, specifically Paris, is a coin toss for me because as much as I’d like to go, the fact that hijabs and niqabs are banned in its many public places doesn’t put me at much ease. I’ve almost never had a problem outside of airports during my travels but that’s not the expectation I have for Paris. However, I’d do anything to just sit in one of the eateries facing the Effiel Tower and eat my heart out.

Do you have a travel wishlist for 2018? Do share!

This Summer on Periscope – #MsHalaTravels

I’m finally taking a legit vacation after two long years. Sure, I’ll be going home to San Francisco but through Italy and New York! Woohoo!

Thus throughout the summer, I’ll be broadcasting #MsHalaTravels live on Periscope. During the broadcast, my peeps can post questions, share the broadcasts and rewatch the broadcasts as many times as they’d like. I’ll do my best to repost the broadcasts right here on The Rants in a timely fashion.

Periscope handle is the same as Twitter, @MsHalaCo.

So if you’re curious about what it’s like to travel while Muslim, need some motivation to travel or just want to tag along for a fun summer adventure, be sure to catch me live on Periscope!

Disclaimer: There’s a 10 hours time difference between my hometown of San Francisco, California and Doha, Qatar; 9 hours between San Francisco and Italy; 3 hours between San Francisco and New York. Ah, time!

#QatarLinkUp – My Favorite Restaurant(s) in Doha

Every month, bloggers across Qatar come together for what’s called #QatarLinkUp. This is a fantastic way for bloggers to write about a particular theme, read and share each other’s posts on the theme. This month’s theme is, “My Favorite Restaurant in Doha.” My first blog for the link up and I’m already struggling. How can I pick just one? Have you met me? I’m always hungry!

Since I’m an equal opportunity foodie, I decided to go through my Zomato collections and randomly pick a few restaurants to showcase. They are in no particular order other than being under the collection I have them in. Here’s a sampling of what makes Doha the great gastronomic city that it is.

When I had snails & loved it! via Instagram @MsHalaCo

Best Eats, Qatar Edition

IDAM by Alan Ducasse is literally the most luxurious dining experience you will have in Qatar. On the fifth floor of the Museum of Islamic Art, the architecture, the view, the decor, the service and of course, the fusion of French and Qatari cuisine is an experience to be had at least twice in Doha. And any place that has me craving snails, has done something right!

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Parmesan truffle ravioli! #JustDrooling

However, when we aren’t spending up to 1,000QR ($275) on a meal, there are a plenty good casual spots I enjoy going to on a regular basis. For Italian, try Papermoon and go for the truffle ravioli. For Indian, Caravan Bukhara has some delicious curry dishes. For Egyptian, Layali Al Qahira always hits the spot for me.

Just want the basics? Flavorful sandwiches, salads and good coffee can be found at Monte’s or Shades Cafe in West Bay. For the best hazelnut chai latte in all of Qatar, the drive to Coffee Time in Wakrah is totally worth it. On the other side in Al Rayyan? Al Shafi Street has you covered and is accessible despite all the Metro construction happening.

My favorite quinoa salad is at Shades Cafe! via SnapChat @MsHala.co
My favorite quinoa salad is at Shades Cafe. via SnapChat @MsHala.co

Hungry yet? I promise there’s more! *sips coffee and types faster*

Small but Mighty, Qatar Edition

Places like Gokul Gujarati and Thai Corner make you not only appreciate the diversity of cuisines in Doha, but the hidden gems throughout the city.

Seriously, who would’ve thought that a thali of vegetarian dishes can be so drool worthy. Or that delivery/take out from a store front in a plaza parking lot would be delicious and sufficient. Seriously, don’t ever doubt the small guys!

For My Sweet Tooth, Qatar Edition

Oreo flavored popcorn from Let's Popcorn
Oreos flavored popcorn via Zomato @MsHala

Qatar has an abundance of dessert shops with the perfect recipes for that sweet tooth of yours. From the ones that remind me of visiting family in New York to the innovative Qatari start ups, you really can’t go wrong here. Magnolia Bakery of New York has some great selections of cakes and cupcakes, especially in the fall when pumpkin pie is in season.

For the popcorn lovers, you will get addicted to Let’s Popcorn! My favorite from the shop has to be the Oreos flavored popcorn. Also try the caramel or even the nacho’s if you are keen on the spicy side of things. Again, it’s very addictive, you’ve been warned!

Hungry yet?  I sure am! Then again, I’m always hungry!

*gets up to eat*

This Month on Periscope – #MyExpatLife

I get a lot of questions thanks to my blog series, Living the Confused Expatriate Life. Inspired by a few people I follow on Periscope, especially The Three Emiratis (@FakeSalt), I figured, why not answer your questions live!

Thus throughout September, I’ll be broadcasting live on Periscope about #MyExpatLife. During the broadcast, viewers can post questions and rewatch the broadcast on Periscope for 24 hours. I’ll also post parts of the broadcast right here for my peeps to check out later in the month.

So if you’re wondering what’s it like being an American in Qatar, have questions about the Middle East, or just want to check out my awesome foodie life, be sure to be on Periscope when I go live all this month!

Periscope handle is the same as Twitter, @MsHalaCo.

Disclaimer: There’s a 10 hour time difference between my hometown of San Francisco, California and Doha, Qatar.