Like the Cedars of Our Mountains
Solid and Strong
Honoring Her Roots & Rising Above
Successful Professional Career Woman, a Paying-Forward Humanitarian, a Constructive Jet-Setter, and a Nature Lover, Dr ROSANIE NABBOUT Stands Out as an Inspiring Lebanese Woman of Strong Faith and Determination!
It gives me great pleasure today to introduce, and interview, a professional lady of our Lebanese society who is a successful career woman, an active humanitarian both in Lebanon and the US, and a brilliant Lebanese Blogger.
Dr Rosanie Nabbout stands as an inspiration to many of “Successful and Paying Forward,” honoring her culture while rising above its stigmas and gender inequality.
I had the blessing to come to know her; her beautiful essence, her strength and determination, her sense of justice, her noble personality, and her respect to her own individuality.
In a culture where women are identified by whom they belong to, she is certainly an inspiration to all young women aiming to evolve in their God-given talents and call.
Rosanie Nabbout: The Achiever and The Humanitarian
Owner of the Starz Dental Clinic in Lebanon, Dr Rosanie graduated in Dental Surgery from the prestigious University of St Joseph in Beirut, and with an MBA from the Arts, Sciences & Technology University in Beirut (AUL).
She is certified in dentistry by the Dental American Board (USA), and is a member of the Lebanese Dental Association, the American Dental Association, and several Cosmetic Dentistry Associations in both countries.
Dr Rosanie, who lives between the US and Lebanon, focuses her humanitarian endeavors on the most vulnerable human categories. Among her main involvements:
- The Gift of Life Association, helping children in need of heart surgeries
- The Zonta Club in Lebanon, an American Association, where she is responsible of Domestic Violence Projects
- The Harbor House in Central Florida, an American Association against Domestic Violence, where she is a Certified Volunteer.
Well-traveled, and a constructive social jet-setter, Dr. Rosanie also owns and runs Glamroz, a brilliant Lebanese Cultural and Social Blog that I highly recommend.
It contains all what is worth to know of latest in Lebanon and abroad. Among the various topics of her blog one cannot but notice her support to various humanitarian and social causes, like Children Autism and Women’s Rights to safety in their homes, to name few.
Rosanie Nabbout Cultural Roots
Dr. Rosanie was born in the Lebanese Capital of the North, Tripoli, to loving parents from the town of Cheikh-Taba in the Northern plains of Akkar. At the onset of the Lebanese Civil War, the family relocated to Beirut where she was raised, and educated.
It is at the outskirt of Beirut, in Zalka, that her Starz Dental Clinic operates, providing Dental Surgery, and Laser and Cosmetic Dentistry, with a team of professionals in the field.
A woman of essence and family-oriented with strong ties to her parents and siblings, she is what we call in Lebanon a Family Daughter, raised on strong faith and on solid moral and human values.
And we talked…
Dr Rosanie, thank you for your graciousness in granting us this interview.
From my perspective, you represent an outstanding profile of an accomplished Lebanese woman, where success and traditional culture blend.
As we previously corresponded, my aim in hosting you is to communicate to my readers around the world the cultural aspect of Lebanon, and how an accomplished Lebanese woman, like you, lives it and shares it.
I would like to start with a simple yet significant question. What is your life motto?
“Life is Tough, but my God is Tougher.”
God has always gotten me through all the tough problems in life. He is my source of strength. He has never failed me.
I believe it says all about your faith and determination in life. What is your definition of “culture?” And how important is it for you?
I define culture as all the ideas, customs, and social behaviors of a particular people or society. It is all that combined that defines the culture and its characteristics.
Cultures in their variety meet in some similarities yet differ in many to make each unique.
Mine is very important to me, despite the negatives or controversial we encounter. It is part of who we are as individuals as well.
I believe it is one of the main pillars that form our personality.
In your opinion, what is the most commonly held misconception about the people of your culture?
Let me say that all misconceptions could be hurtful to any culture. In regards to ours, we get many of those as per my experience with others during my travels.
It shocks me all the time to see how little occidental populations know about the true Lebanon, and how erroneous are their misconceptions of us.
I would point out, as an example only, to the widely tech progressive and modern Americans with whom I get to interact a lot.
It is only common knowledge that millions of Lebanese have become American Citizens through the centuries, and have brilliantly succeeded.
Many of them have impacted the country and beyond through important roles in the US Administration, in NASA, and in the scientific, educational, medical and military fields.
And yet, we still get a very annoyingly conceit reaction from many at saying our nationality.
Many still presume that we are “people of the desert.” I was even asked about us “driving” camels, although Cedars don’t grow in deserts, right?
And the Cedars of Lebanon and Lebanon are cited hundreds of times in the Bible, which is by far the most read book in the history of America to date.
Assuming that we all wear veils, or that we are fanatics or retarded, is also strongly misconceived.
Maybe it has gone forgotten with times that the first and best tool ever of communication and education, the Alphabet, ensued from our Lebanon.
Maybe, they have gone forgotten all the great geniuses of ours who impacted the world, and who are still part of the world education: Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras…
These are our ancestors who took off to the world with their knowledge from our homeland.
However, it is not long ago that we gave them one of the best poet philosophers of all times, Gibran Kahlil, who is highly esteemed in the US and worldwide, and who happened to have an honoring memorial in Washington DC.
To the world, we have given our best assets, and we continue to do so, not from a desert but from The Cedar Land.
I could cite thousands of American achievers who are/were Lebanese, like the Nobel Prize Winner Elias Corey, U.S. Treasury Department official Timothy Massad, NASA JPL Director Charles Elachi, Astronaut Christa McAuliffe of Lebanese mother, H.E. Sam Zakhem, prominent worldwide lecturer and Former US Ambassador to Bahrain, Octavia Nasr former CNN Journalist, Fashion designers Joseph Abboud and Reem Acra…
And the list is endless, I can assure you.
I have to point out that our trilingual academic curriculum is one of the toughest in the world. As an indication, we rank globally 40th in Math and Science on the UN Human Development Index. A university degree is the minimum acceptable in Lebanon to be called “educated”.
This all speaks hugely of the quality of our people and who we really are.
The worst is that many think we are all terrorists. Somehow, they have come to mix up political activists or religious militants with ethnicity. This stance is seriously prejudicial to the general population of Lebanon in its majority. Sadly, it has been happening to many of us when visiting abroad.
These great people I mentioned above, prideful and honorable assets to America, did not come to the US in terror but in peace, and certainly not from an illiterate regressive desert.
They ensued from an amazing and highly educated country of a loving and friendly nation of givers.
Truth is, it is us, our nation, who have been under terror for decades now.
A amazing and honest input, Dr Rosanie, thank you. Let’s talk about your humanitarian endeavors. What can you tell us about The Zonta Club of Beirut and your involvement?
With pleasure! Zonta International is a leading global organization of professionals who have teamed up since 1919 to empower women worldwide through service and advocacy.
Zonta operates effectively in 67 countries and geographic areas through 1200 Zonta Clubs and 30,000 members. The empowerment is provided in the form of local and international service projects, and scholarship programs.
This year I am involved with the yearly projects “Zonta Says No” that thrive in fighting domestic violence.
Could you brief my readers about The Gift of Life and the Harbor House in Central Florida?
Gift of Life International (GOLI) is a Rotarian based, non-profit organization that funds health care projects in developing countries.
The organization specifically provides cardiac surgery and prevention programs for the benefit of children with heart disease, particularly those of low income families.
As for Harbor House of Central Florida, where I am a certified volunteer since 2007, it tackles domestic violence in Central Florida.
It seeks to eliminate this family and social tragedy through their providing of safety, shelter, empowerment, education and justice.
Tell us, in a country where women’s rights are more an appearance than a reality, have you ever felt excluded based on your gender?
A good question, indeed, and I would like to stop on what you said: “Women’s rights are more an appearance than a reality”. This is unfortunately so true!
Legally, we are still fighting for basic rights, among which the right of our DNA. You cannot put it in another way when, legally, children of Lebanese mothers married to non-Lebanese are not entitled to their birth right of nationality, simply because the current law perceives Lebanese female DNA of no value whatsoever, only the male is considered.
Socially, we convey an image of freedom and independence that we in fact do not have. We live in a patriarchal cultural system and mindset.
Despite the high education level of the Lebanese female population, our identity is never individual, as in “a woman is only the wife of” or “the daughter of”.
The societal, as the legal and cultural, perception towards a woman is in belonging to a father or to a husband.
In appearance, and as we are told, Lebanese women are the most elegant, the most pampered, the most educated, the most beautiful etc.
In reality, things are “smaller than how they appear in the mirror”.
For instance, a significant majority of our men want their spouse to look socially at her best, hence their investment on the wife’s elegance, jewelry, beauty and latest fashion, which are all directed to the husband’s image of success.
We actually have a saying in Lebanon, “It is through the wife that a man can show off his wealth and success.”
It has made our society very demanding of appearances, and the wives more pressured to fulfill that role of a “trophy of the husband’s accomplishment.” You will be surprised how closely that “appearance” is monitored by the male spouse.
I know that it might sound strange and unreal to outsiders. But that is the reality. We live in a very competitive society where, legally, women have very little rights and almost often no financial freedom.
Many of our women get stuck in a very abusive marriage for the simple cruel reason of not being able to be financially independent. It is not certainly the rule, but unfortunately all too frequent.
Have I ever felt excluded for my gender? Frankly, I have never let it happened. However, in some aspects of my career, I always had, and still have, to fight my way through much more than other male colleagues because of a cultural mindset that men know better or are smarter than women.
You might have the same qualifications, from the same university, and even higher and from better university, the mindset values you still as per your gender. Unfair and discriminating, yes, but I turned that to my advantage.
As the song says, “I did it my way”.
How? I have gained a better selection of quality patients who choose me as their dentist because of my credentials and credibility, unconcerned by the triviality of the cultural and social stance towards a professional woman.
This is all very interesting, Dr Rosanie. Let’s go to your childhood. You were born in Tripoli to parents from Cheikh Taba, could you tell us about their town of origin and what defines it culturally?
Opposite to what the name sounds like, our hometown is a Christian town, mainly Greek Orthodox. Despite that a lot of its people left to live in the city, our village is still well populated.
Cheikh-Taba sits on a beautiful hill above the big plain of Akkar. We spent some of our childhood summers there. I have great memories of these times.
My siblings and I used to play between the hundreds of olive trees. I remember our joy during the harvest season when the village bustled with the olive grove’s owners and workers.
My best memories of my early childhood are connected to the Tannour, and us begging our mother to let us go to that rustic baking space. I can still see the flames baking the breads in, and smell the amazing aroma of the dough baking and turning into golden bread, and the unforgettable taste of the hot bread fresh out of the Tannour…
The excitement of the beautiful young and older women working artistically those huge flat bread pitas is unforgettable!
Despite that the village has changed, becoming a small town with the migration to the cities, I still love to spend few days there every once in a while, enjoying our traditional barbecue and the best family gatherings.
Could you describe your family for us, and the place you grew up?
I am the 6th child among seven siblings of one of those big fat traditional Lebanese families; a family which I am so proud and blessed to be part of. I define my family in three words: Love, Honesty and Education.
Those were the main points my parents focused on. Love started with the love of God, the family and all people.
My parents, both now in their eighties, had always been the example of real love. Till now they treat each other like newlyweds.
I am blessed with three brothers and three sisters; all well settled in their marital life with children, and living in different countries: France, USA, and the Arabian Gulf.
We grew up in the suburbs of Beirut, in a district called Sabtieh, a lovely hill of pine trees overlooking the capital.
These were times where, instead of us going to the Tannour to watch the baking fire, we had the unusual “chance” to watch, from the safety of our spot, the city of Beirut under the bombing fire of the Syrian occupation.
While growing up, what were the significant cultural features that defined your family?
Simply, positively Lebanese. My parents had always been traditionally conservative in raising us yet kind and open minded. True, they were both born and raised in a village but they were never tough on us. Rules were not imposed on us but explained to be accepted, which we did.
I believe we were blessed to be raised without resentment or rebellion of any kind. They are both very smart people. They knew the best way to raise happy children and blooming citizens and achievers.
The fact that they moved to Brazil just after their wedding could have an impact in that, and in their open mindset to other cultures.
Is there any cultural feature you decided to break off from at a certain point of your adult life? And why?
Yes I did, not from my family but societal. It is the Tag, or even more of a Stigma, imposed on the girl/woman. As I previously said, she must be the daughter of someone, or the wife of someone, then the mother of someone.
She’s tagged as single, spinster, divorcee or a widow, and never herself or the achiever she has become.
The society tends to forget, or means to ignore, that the woman is a judge, or an engineer, or a doctor, or a professor, and tags her with her marital status.
I’ve always deemed it unacceptably ridiculous. So when my time came to endorse my career, I made it a point to break it off by making my professional title shine over my marital status.
How was the most important holiday celebrated at your parents’ home? Is it the same today?
There were two most special holidays: Christmas and Easter. My parents always loved to gather the families and cousins from both sides whenever it was possible.
I remember that my mother used to go with my aunts from both sides to do the Eid shopping: the special holiday’s outfits. Preparing for Christmas or Easter was as fun as the day itself.
Getting the new clothes, preparing the Easter cookies and the Christmas traditional “Buche de Noel” were the best part for me.
Today, our family has become bigger and many are away. But Christmas and Easter are still very special days for us, and my senior mother still insists to cook herself for us!
If I ask you to name your 5 top favorite foods, what would you say?
Talking about culture and traditions, I definitely won’t say Sushi, which, according to a Lebanese FB group, is claimed to be a traditional Lebanese dish. That’s seriously funny 🙂
My favorite foods, I could say Salads of all kind with healthy dressings, starting with Tabbouleh and Fattouch. Lebanese Mezza is part of my favorites, including Kibbeh Nayeh, our traditional tartar meat.
I also love Mloukhieh, Fatteh, and Mtableh, which is a special dish from Akkar that consists on a cold soup made of yogurt and wheat. After that, I can say that I love all kind of international food, as long as it is not spicy, and not made of insects and pets. 🙂
What are the main Lebanese dishes you cook at home?
Oh many! Main ones would probably be Fatteh, Mjadra Lentil Pilaf, all kind of Stews, Roast Chicken and Potatoes with garlic and lemon juice, Sayediyeh Fish and Rice, Baked Kibbeh, and lot of our traditional Chicken and Rice with pine nuts and almonds.
Let’s go back to your family cultural traditions. The roles of men and women, are or were they specifically defined in your family? If so, what are they?
Not really. My father is known to be more attentive and protective toward his daughters than the common cultural stance. As for the roles while growing up, the brothers were called to be protective of their sisters.
I believe it is in our culture of conservative families, nurturing the protective male role at a young age. We the girls were taught to handle domestic little things while helping our mother.
What is the best thing about living in Lebanon?
Almost everything. The weather, the nature, the sea, the beach, the mountains, the people friendliness and care, the religious traditions, the summer life, the family life, and you name it!
Despite my previous input on the negative aspect, we are a country blessed with so much to love and get attached to.
Back to culture, we all know that Home Remedy of natural ingredients is a cultural custom in Lebanon. What are the most significant ones you learned at home? Do you still use any?
Yes, definitely. Fresh herbs and beneficial spices in our dishes.
There are also the natural teas like our traditional Yansoun (Dill) tea to ease cramps and stress, Chamomile tea for a good night sleep, Mint Tea for a smooth digestion, and Zhoorat, which is a tea of a variety of dried flowers.
These are so common in Lebanon and part of all Lebanese households.
Lebanese in the diaspora are reading you now, Dr Rosanie, so are many of our country’s descendants around the world. Is there any Lebanese cultural feature you would advise them to preserve? And why?
Actually I think that the Lebanese abroad are preserving our culture and traditions more than many living in the homeland.
My advice to them all over the world is it to preserve the interesting and valuable of our traditions, specially in regards to family unity and moral values, and not to sink into the ultra-modern culture the media diffuses.
Unfortunately, the mixture of cultures is not always successful when people choose to take the worst from both sides, instead of maintaining and endorsing the honorable values of both the oriental and the occidental cultures.
This has been a very interesting interview, honest-to-the-point, Dr Rosanie, which is very appreciated. I thank you for your time, your input, your inspiring personality, and your integrity.
In the name of my readers and myself, I wish you the best and many blessings. And…Keep it up!
Thank you for hosting me, and all the best for your endeavor in conveying Lebanon culture to the world!
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