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AFP

Lebanon in frenzy over
Clooney-Alamuddin engagement

Oscar-winning heartthrob George Clooney, one of Hollywood

BAAKLINE - Word that Beirut-born Amal Alamuddin has stolen the heart of Oscar-winning heartthrob George Clooney has caused a frenzy in Lebanon, where citizens are more used to bad news.

 

In Baakline, the leafy home district of Alamuddin's father in the Lebanese mountains, Ramzi Sabbagh could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

 

"She has made Lebanon and Baakline proud, given that she is originally from here," he told AFP.

 

Despite the excitement, few of Baakline's residents actually know Alamuddin, 36, whose family fled for Britain during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

 

Alamuddin, who was just three at the time, now holds British citizenship and is an attorney specializing in international law and human rights.

 

Soon after People Magazine broke the news of her engagement to Hollywood's most coveted bachelor, Lebanese internet users began expressing their delight.

 

"Clooney engaged to a Lebanese woman is proof that we're the best," one user wrote on Twitter.

 

"Only a Lebanese woman could make a husband out of Clooney," added another.

 

For others, the news was a chance to mock Lebanon's perennial political paralysis.

 

"Let's vote George Clooney president of Lebanon," wrote one wit, as the country's parliament wrangles over the choice of the next head of state.

 

A satirical site, in a nod to tensions between Israel and Lebanon, which technically remain at war, joked that Clooney's decision to wed an Arab had raised Israel's ire.

 

"Israel presses for military action against Clooney after he proposes to Lebanese girlfriend," it wrote.

 

 

- 'Cousin George' -

 

 

In tiny Lebanon, where family ties are all-important, some Lebanese lost no time in referring to Clooney as "cousin George" - a very popular name among the Christian community.

 

Tongue-in-cheek, many Internet users wondered if Clooney's impending nuptials might see him switch his allegiances from the Nespresso coffee brand he promotes to Lebanon's famed brew.

 

"Clooney ditches Nespresso to become face of Cafe Najjar," a satirical site wrote.

 

Another photo circulated showed Clooney under the slogan "Mate, what else?" in reference to the yerba mate beverage loved by the Druze community that Alamuddin's family hails from.

 

The Druze are a heterodox offshoot of Islam whose faith is largely secret. They make up around five percent of Lebanon, which has 18 official sects, and the community is gradually shrinking.

 

The engagement hasn't escaped the attention of the community's influential leader Walid Jumblatt, who joked to AFP that "maybe Clooney will make a movie about the Last of the Mohicans here: the Druze!"

 

Contacted by AFP, Alamuddin's parents declined to comment.

 

"We don't want as a family to comment on our children's private life," said her mother Baria, a well-known journalist for the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat, based in London.

 

Alamuddin's father Ramzi taught tourism at the American University in Beirut, and her sister Tala currently lives in Singapore. She has two half-brothers from her father's first marriage.

 

A source close to Alamuddin's family said Clooney and the Lebanese beauty are "madly in love," adding that her family had met the actor in the United States and liked him.

 

The news that Clooney, almost as famed for his bachelor lifestyle as his acting, is to marry has caused an international media frenzy, with outlets clamoring for details of the lady who has "tamed" him.

 

The tall brunette, who is fluent in Arabic, French and English, studied at the French school in London and holds degrees from Oxford and New York University.

 

She worked with the international tribunal examining the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and assisted ex-UN head Kofi Annan in efforts to make peace in Syria.

 

She also represented Ukraine's former president Yulia Tymochenko and the controversial founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange.

 

Beirut's Daily Star newspaper, quoting a source close to the couple said Clooney and Alamuddin are to wed in London in September.

 

But not everyone is enthused.

 

"It's difficult to accept that she's marrying a non-Druze," grumbled a young man in Baakline.

 

Another resident looked blankly when asked about the subject.

 

"George Clooney? Who's that?"

Oscar-winning heartthrob George Clooney, one of Hollywood's most coveted bachelors, has got engaged to his British lawyer girlfriend Amal Alamuddin, according to People Magazine. (AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR / JUSTIN TALLIS)

Let's vote George Clooney president of Lebanon.

  • sakr.joe

    Hannibal, u do not have to be that rude. Most Lebanese do not have Amal's means and have to live with their near misery. Many of us silent majority had stuck our neck out - failed and paid the price - for change at some point of our lives. Those of us who survived had smartly opted for passive life since. Do we like how things are today? He'll no. Can we apolitical majority change anything? Are u kidding me?!

    May 2, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    I did not mean to be rude. But passivity is the problem. Abandoning our lives to the ruling oligarchs by not voting them out at the next elections is our fault. We have at least the tool of elections to improve our lives, and yet we, the resident Lebanese, keep bringing the corrupt criminal Mafiosi back into parliament and into government administrations. The Lebanese are an educated bunch. They know what it takes to improve their lives, but very few actually do something about it. The image we project to outsiders who visit is that we have our priorities upside down: We worship flashy cars, tucked-and-pucked botoxed women, stupid show-off parties, superficial things of life, etc... while we are mired in garbage, pollution, corruption, and death, all because of the politicians we worship in a tribal-sectarian way and put in power. Those of us whose time has come and gone better tell the younger generation that they need to get their act together and move their country out of the Stone Age and into the modern world. Being "apolitical" is no excuse for doing nothing, not the least voting the criminal Mafiosi out at the next elections.

    May 2, 2014

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Typical. Those who leave this cursed country, and who cut off all ties with it because of the endemic corruption and backwardness in Lebanon, make it big and succeed abroad because their host countries respect them as human beings and as professionals in their fields. Yet, the backward Lebanese feel pride at the fact that they chased the best and brightest among them out of the country, then have the gall to claim the success of their expatriate refugees as due to their Lebanese origins. My question to the resident Lebanese is: Why isn't there one - just one - of the resident Lebanese who is as successful as all these success stories? Why is it, for instance, that among all those professionals with great potential who live in the country and who present themselves as candidates for the presidency (example, Riad Salameh, Nadine Moussa, Ziyad Baroud, Chibli Mallat, and others) are rejected, and only criminals, feudals, warlords and other assorted gangsters are hailed as "strong" candidates (Geagea, Aoun, Franjieh....). We all know the answer, but many of us refuse to face up to it. I bet you if you ask Alamuddin what she thinks of Lebanon (assuming she still identifies with it), she would roll her eyes, shake her head, spit on the ground, curse the day she was born there, and bless the day her parents took her away to Britain, and thank God she for her British citizenship.

    May 1, 2014