Lebanon: RAMSES runs!

The nice life in Lebanon. I don't smoke, but in Lebanon I gave a try to this thing called, I think, Hookah or Shisha, or simply water pipe. You can see me with the pipe in hand and also a glass of Ouzo (*). The hookah implies a lot of puffing and huffing that seemed to me rather pointless, but somewhat fun. Least you think I have added a third vice to alcohol and smoking, let me tell you that he nice looking girl near me is my daughter, Donata. (photo courtesy of Jerzy Karlowsky)

This post is a report of a trip to Lebanon at the end of July of this year for a meeting related to the RAMSES project. It is about sustainable mechanization in agriculture; something that I described in a previous post. Here, I am just briefly summarizing the project; showing to you photos of the trip with some comments. I don't pretend to describe a whole country in a few pictures: Lebanon is small, but complex; it is interesting, hectic, exciting, surprising, at times startling and always with a sprinkle of madness. In short, a true rollercoaster of a country; you have to go there to understand what I mean. But I hope that, at least, you'll like these images. Unless otherwise stated, all the pictures are mine (or, sometimes, taken by my daughter)

To start, here is the objective of my trip: the RAMSES electric tractor with Abuna (father) Paul at the wheel, at the convent of the Saints Bakoss and Sarkis near Beirut. The "RAMSES" system consists of an electric tractor powered by batteries in turn charged by photovoltaic panels. It is a project sponsored by the European Commission under the 6th framework programme. The idea is to get rid of fossil fuels and use only solar electricity for agricultural mechanization; something that I have explained in detail here. Lebanon was chosen as a target country because it is a country heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels.

Here is an image of the 20 kW PV plant at the convent. Renewable energy is not so common in Lebanon and one of the ideas of the RAMSES project is to help spread the concept. (photo courtesy of ADM Electric)

The RAMSES tractor has been used at the convent for performing all sorts of agricultural tasks. So far, it has performed very well, and everyone seems to be happy about it.

And here is where the RAMSES seminar was held. It is Notre Dame University (NDU), a private university built on the hills north of Beirut. It is a modern, western style campus that could be anywhere in Europe or in the US. Lebanon doesn't have a public research system worth noting, but private universities are very active in teaching and research. NDU is truly impressive in this sense.

Here, you can admire Toufic El Asmar, coordinator of the RAMSES project, speaking at NDU. Lebanese researchers have been very impressed by our approach of using renewable energy in agriculture. Unfortunately, we are just starting and the old ways are still well entrenched. It will take time (and high oil prices) before agriculture returns to be what it was once: a truly sustainable activity.

Now, let me show you a few images of the trip not related to the RAMSES project. Here is central Beirut on a hot summer day. It is being completely rebuilt after the recent wars, the last one 2006. Skyscrapers everywhere; it looks like New York City.

Really, there are cranes and new buildings everywhere.

Very little is left of the old Beirut which, I think, didn't look like New York City at all. This is an old building in central Beirut which still shows the scars of the past wars. It is being demolished.

Like New York, Beirut is full of surprises. Here is the lush garden of the Robert Mouawad museum, where you can admire - among many other things - the most expensive jeweled bra in the world (total 320 carats of diamonds, emeralds and rubies; see this link . Then, if Beirut has the most expensive bra in the world, one should not be too surprised that Beirut has also the most advanced electric tractor in the world: the RAMSES.

There are several characteristics that make Beirut somewhat different from New York. One is the large number of armed troops stationed at practically every corner. These two soldiers of the Lebanese army are seeking a bit of shelter from the ongoing heat wave under the shade of the trees of the watchtower plaza, the heart of Beirut. While I was in Lebanon, the heat was unbelievable and it must have been very hard for these guys who had to stand under the sun wearing their uniform; including hat, boots, rifle and sometimes a bullet-proof jacket. Note the bottle of water near the tree; badly needed.

More images that make Beirut looking like New York, but with a twist. Here is a large, modern hotel in North Beirut. Very nice; but note a detail: the plume of smoke that comes out from a smokestack half hidden behind the structure. Beirut suffers of frequent power outages; especially in summer, when air conditioned runs at full force. That forces almost everyone to have a backup power system. This hotel must have a diesel power plant of at least several MW. As I said, Lebanon could really use some more renewable energy. Incidentally, I couldn't even remotely afford to stay in a luxurious place like this one.

Lebanon is an Arabic speaking country. Once, French was the prevalent second language, but today it is rapidly being replaced by English, which also very often used in advertising and street signs. That gives rise to a characteristic mix of languages. Here, a sign in central Beirut shows advertising in English and a welcome in Arabic for his majesty, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was visiting the town while I was there.

Beirut is a crossroad of the Arab world. Here, you see tourists at the Jeita Grotto; different groups bringing their specific dress codes. You can see that my daughter is dressed in a somewhat different style in comparison with the ladies in black; who all wear a classic "abaya" dress (*). As far as I could see, this kind of dress is not common in Lebanon, so these ladies probably come from abroad, possibly from Saudi Arabia or from some Gulf State. In the Christian section of Beirut, the way of dressing of women is totally westernized, in the Muslim section, women often wear the traditional head scarf, the hijab. The three children, by the way, are the sons of Toufic El Asmar, our RAMSES coordinator.

Being driven along the streets of the hills near Beirut is quite an experience. The streets are narrow, the Lebanese are aggressive drivers, and they often drive big SUVs. Note the image of the Virgin Mary on the windshield. There is a reason for it to be there!

Here is an image of the suburbs of Beirut, on the hills. The city has expanded rapidly and in an uncontrolled way; with buildings appearing everywhere. Note the bad state of the soil; erosion is a big problem everywhere in Lebanon. It is a rainy country and that worsens the problem.

And here is the Cedar Grove, in northern Lebanon. I was very keen to visit this place, since I had in mind the lush forests of ancient Lebanon. I had in mind also the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu; who came all the way from Sumeria to fight Humbaba, the guardian of the trees. Well, to be honest I was sorely disappointed. They say that there are a few thousands trees left, but it is a sad sight, considering how many there must have been; once. There are some nice, ancient trees in the grove, but it looks like a zoo.

If you think that this place - photographed not far from the Cedar Grove - once must have been a cedar forest, the scale of the destruction brought by humans to the Lebanese forests is nearly unbelievable.

And here is something that I photographed near the Cedar Grove: the Christian Cross and the traditional Moslem way of writing "God" in Arabic; both staying together happily on the trunk of a tree said to be thousands of years old. I think it is a nice image that symbolizes what Lebanon is: an old country, several thousands of years old, where different faiths try to live together. They haven't succeeded so well in recent times, but they had done so in the remote past and there is still hope that they will succeed in the future.

(*) Note added after publication: I would like to thank Berthe Choueiry for pointing out that the thing I was smoking should be called "arguileh" in Lebanon ("Shisha" is the Egyptian word, whereas "Hookah" is American). She also points out that I should have used the word "Arak" for the liquor that in Greece is called "Ouzo" (and, I add, in France is called "Pastis"). I would also like to thank "Cocomaan" for correcting the mistake I had made in initially calling a "burqa" the black dress of the ladies at the Jeita Grotto, whereas the correct name is "abaya".

Hmm, first you show us a picture of yourself puffing on a hookah, then claim you don't smoke...
...and I suppose that glass of Ouzo was for purely medicinal purposes? Then you expect us to believe that the beautiful young woman next to you is really your daughter. I suppose you will next make some lame attempt to convince us that she was merely extremely fortunate to resemble your wife and that is why there is absolutely no physical likeness to yourself, eh?

And if that story by itself, were not sufficient to strain all credulity to the max, you attempt to raise the ante over this already extraordinarily unconvincing fiction, by telling us that the Lebanese are actually running solar powered electric tractors for agricultural mechanization?!

Dear Sir, pray tell, what exactly it was, in that pipe you that you were not smoking?

I suppose you want us to think there is still some hope left for humanity? Well it's not working...

};^) Grazie, Hugo.

Excellent to see the progress and rebuilding. I'll have to go and read up a little on the RAMSES project. My step-father is Druze, and has gotten me interested in traveling to this area, for several reasons.

Are the concepts of permaculture or biodynamics being applied..? It appears that is the case, no ?

Also, is there a chance could you send me some kibbeh ?, I'm dyin' here.

Rebuilding paid for by whom?
Us, maybe?

Dear unconformity, let me answer for the Lebanese, here. They had their troubles for many reasons, but they never asked for charity from anybody. Now they are rebuilding with the money that they themselves have made by working hard abroad and with the money that foreign investors are willing to invest in Lebanon and in Lebanese enterprises.

Magyar, I must confess that in order to understand that there was supposed to be some tobacco in that strange thing, well, I had to search the web the day after. So, I can at least state that the effect was mild, whatever there was inside. As for ouzo, well, that is much easier to understand for me as a physical chemist by formation. I am always amazed by seeing the emulsion effect that it makes when diluted with water. So amazed that I tend to repeat the experiment many times!

Thanks for the virtual vacation! How nice (I trust) it is to be able to travel with your daughter. I hope as much for me and mine!

You bring a little Stephen Sondheim into my ear this morning, from 'Follies'

Peking has rickshaws, New Orleans jazz.
But ah! Paree!
Beirut has sunshine -- that's all it has,
But ah! Paree!
Constantinople has Turkish baths
And Athens that lovely debris. ...


As Fred said, albeit in reverse and with Highheels.. 'How many hopeful signs do you want to lay on us in one day?!'

( or as some doomer may pipe in later on, 'Oh sure, but are you really suggesting that there are enough hookas to fairly satisfy a planet of 10 billion people?' )

As Fred said, albeit in reverse and with Highheels.. 'How many hopeful signs do you want to lay on us in one day?!'

Oh, nice one...

There I stand in drag, flowing red wig, with diamond studded highheels at some Satan worshiping ritual and exclaim in a slow drawn out guttural voice:

"Yad eno ni su no yal ot tnaw ouy od sngis lufepoh ynam woh?!"

I figured you could take it. Hungary and Brazil.. you must know how to dance!

wow, that sentence reverses really well!

That's very eerie to try to speak!

You should have heard me back in the day when I used to speak Portuguese backwards with a friend of mine while working for Petrobras out on their rigs. We actually became quite fluent. The looks on people's faces who overheard us were priceless.

Io Lhukoj, ecov alaf Seugutrop? Oan? Euqrop oan?

Of course this was only individual words reversal, maintaining ordinary Portuguese grammar syntax and structure so it wasn't all that hard once you built up your vocabulary.

Translation, Hi jokuhl, do you speak Portugues? No? Why not?

People would tell us it sounded like no earthly language that they had ever heard, maybe a bit like Klingon with a Carioca accent...

For those of you out there wondering, let me just say, that unless you have actually lived and worked on an off shore oil rig, you probably won't understand anyway.

Portugese.. It's on my list. (Not particularly high on that list, but it is there.)

As far as life on an offshore rig.. it would be great to see a post on that! I read Ice Bound, by Jerri Nielsen, who joined the team at the South Pole for one season, discovering that she had breast cancer and doing some amazing stuff to get through it. But she talked about life in such a wacky, thoroughly isolated little community. Shades of M.A.S.H.. I need a Martini.

Tell us sometime. Stories, more stories!

Portugese.. It's on my list. (Not particularly high on that list, but it is there.)

Yeah, but what I meant was backwards Portuguese...

Stories? Well I have a few of those. I could tell you about the time I was waiting for the chopper to fly out to the rig and I picked up a small false coral snake out in the sugarcane field next to the airstrip and plopped into my shirt pocket. I thought it might make a nice pet. I had kinda forgotten about and it stuck its head out of my pocket just before take off... the guy in the seat next to me had a hissy fit. I ended up not being allowed to take my pet out to the rig and had to release it back out into the wild... Oh, well. Since I was a part of the saturation dive team they put up with a lot of our eccentricities.

I learnt my first Portuguese from a Paulista taxi driver who did not know where my hotel was. I had just arrived and had to figure out where the hotel might be and give him directions at the same time he was teaching me what the directions were in Portuguese. Unfortunately I have forgotten most of it though I expect some would come back if immersed again.


I always like to see what's served on the dinner table. Special consideration is afforded to pickled cucumbers by providing them their own serving dish. And then, there is the bottled plastic water...the old and the new...

This is certainly the most content-free post I've ever seen on The Oil Drum.

Ample décolletage?
This is relative to sustainable farming, which may be possible again some day?

Is this "Lecherous Wednesday"?

I'm either disturbed that there is décolletage to be taunt me here, or annoyed that there is so little.
I'm not sure which.
It's a shame how far we done fallen...

[As John Belushi once put it, "THEEE GIRL! HOW MUCH FOR THEEE GIRL?!"
Please post her e-mail so those of us so inclined can write letters on the subject of sustainability to her décolletage.
Or not.]

This is certainly the most content-free post I've ever seen on The Oil Drum.

Unconformity, one thing is for sure, you either need a lot more or a lot less drugs...

Personally I thoroughly enjoyed the post, and think such a light hearted piece is entirely appropriate-occasionally.This one is the first one I have seen in over a year reading this site.

I was going to tease Ugo a bit myself, but since I have never corresponded with him,I thought the better of it as being inappropriate coming from ME.

Given the extremely high marginal utility of even a small amount of mechanical power on a farm, I can see that perhaps small electric tractors can be put to good but limited use in such a place as Lebanon, where there is PLENTY of sunshine to power pv and charge up the tractor batteries;the case being bolstered by the fact that pertoleum must be imported over and over, but the tractor ,panels,and batteries neeedd be imported only once in many years.The Lebanese (sp?) might even be able to build thier own and export some.

For the time being, however, I think the best use of such limited numbers of panels as a small not too prosperous farmer would be able to buy would probably be to power well pumps and charge up a few batteries to run some lights, a refrigerator, and maybe a radio or computer.

Old Farmer, we have been in contact for a long time in the comments section. Don't worry about teasing me. This is supposed to be a light piece; written for fun - as you understood right away. (not everyone, nowadays, seems to be endowed with a sense of humor)

Ah, and about your "serious" questions, yes, the panels are used in the farm not just to power the tractor but to run the farm: lights, pumps, etc - they have also batteries for having power at night. That has freed them from needing to use a noisy and polluting diesel engine as backup from blackouts; although they still keep one in reserve; just to make sure. And, I can tell you from personal experience, there is a lot of sunshine in Lebanon; really scorching this year. But to invest in renewable energy one needs to take a long view; for when petroleum supply will be more difficult than it is now. I think the Lebanese haven't yet completely understood this point, since - as I said in the post - renewable energy is still rare in the country. Not that the concept has been understood much better outside Lebanon!

Yair...hello folks. I enjoyed the post too...a little different to the depressing/alarming stuff we sometimes read of at this place.
I spend a lot of time on here but rarely is there a subject on which I feel I am qualified to post. My special interest is in low energy farming...in particular, developing small scale intensive vegetable and herb production systems.
I have been following Ugo’s RAMSES project with interest and believe the concept has many useful applications. An inherent problem though with any relatively low powered battery system (for draught loads such as ploughing or cultivating) is the fact that rolling resistance on soft cultivated ground can be very high.
Ugo would have the numbers but in a typical draught application on soft soil I would not be surprised if the little jigger was using a couple of kilowatts just to drive itself...without doing any useful work. It doesn’t sound much but it means that a significant proportion of limited battery capacity can be lost as parasitic drag.
We are well aware of this limitation and have devised an electrically powered crop production system that does away with the concept of a conventional tractor altogether.
Rather, we are developing a system that is becoming known as C-PET...or Centre-pivoted Electric Traction. With this system the drive wheel always works on a firm compacted track way under conditions of minimum rolling resistance and optimum traction.
The “proof of concept” machine, shown here http://maddelinternational.com/wordpress/?page_id=19 runs from the mains utilising a 2.2Kw variable frequency drive. It will eventually be fitted with a suitable solar array and we believe these type of crop production machines will prove to be a viable method of using P.V. panels for providing the necessary tractive effort for growing intensive small scale crops.
Other groups and individuals are around the world are working on the concept but I believe we have the only high clearance machine and...more importantly, the only machine designed to traverse effortlessly from circle to circle thus allowing the cultivation of a whole series of plots.
The mechanical centre connection provides precise spatial positioning and we also believe the concept will provide a very suitable platform for the development of various robotic crop production technologys.

Very Cool setup!

I was just talking about a circular and mobile setup concept earlier in this thread.. not the same as yours, but it's great to see some confirmation of how circular plots can give you access to a lot of surface area with some simple, efficient machinery!


Very nice, Scrub; an interesting concept that deserves to be studied and developed. About the RAMSES machine, we tend to call it "tractor", but it is really a multi-purpose machine that serves also as truck, power storage, and other purposes. It can ALSO do ploughing, but it is probably not its best use; as you say, ploughing on soft ground is power hungry. I have seen it done at the farm, while I was there, but we still have to have results on how long the thing can go on with the load of batteries it has. So, I think we are looking at two different concepts; both are worth consideration.

Yair...I appreciate the comments Ugo and agree absolutely, the machines are two entirely different concepts...I was just pointing out that the concept of a true "solar powered tractor" is very difficult to imagine.
We are continueing with the development but even such a seemingly simple devise such as this (compared to RAMSES) has a voracious appetite for time and money.
The project has been devised and funded by ourselves, a couple of Aussie blokes working from a tin shed on my farm. I dont't mind the time but money to solarise the jigger is a little difficult to find.
The thing works beyond expectations and the more hours we acrue with the testing the more I believe we realy have some thing of value...it's going to be a hard sell though, we have only just "gone public" and the few Australian farmers who have seen it seem to be unable to think beyond the fact that a cicle is about 80% of a square and if they were to use the system they would somehow be "wasting" 20% of their land.
I point out that the intercircle spaces are not realy wasted and can be retained as habitat, they help with erosion control and vineing/running crops such as melons and pumpkins could be grown.
The machine is high enough to pass over dwarf varietys of fruit trees, berry crops, beehives, poultry pens and so on...we'll see. In the meantime I appreciate comments (thanks jokhul) from folks on this and other forums.
We need to get the concept "out there" and hopefully get some objective feedback...positive or otherwise.

When I was growing up on the farm in Australia in the 80's I heard about a different approach to the "driving on soft ground" problem called "Controlled Traffic Farming". What they had found was that the tractor used extra energy to compact the ground it was driving, the softer, the more energy, and then the plough used more energy to plough the ground it had just compacted! Their approach was to remove the discs/tynes from the wheel tracks, so the were not ploughed (or seeded) and you had tramways running through your field that were never ploughed. This meant all the machinery needed to be the same working width,m or a multiple of it, in the case of sprayers, where used.

The system has many advantages;
-the tractor is always running on hard ground = maximum tractive effort and minimum fuel wastage
-the plough is always running in soft ground
-improved soil structure from the complete absence of vehicle traffic
-The tramways are trafficable in wet conditions.
- there is no tramping of the crop if spraying or doing other operations in mid crop

You do lose some planted land area, but the improved efficiencies make up for it.
For the electric tractor, this system would be a great advantage

more information and a good animation here;

The land loss is probably about the same as for the centre pivot method, though the capital cost may be lower for doing ctf.

A good system where energy is the limiting factor, not land.

This is about as relevant to Peak Oil as the Moon. Hard to take the Oil Drum seriously with posts like these.

johnoftheusa, even if this post were completely irrelevant to Peak Oil, which it is not.
The use of alternative energy to power tractors for agricultural purposes could not be more relevant.

I must ask, what is today? Contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, Wednesday?!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

Lighten up already!

Or go look at a graph or something really serious...

I have been able to get a few business trained conventional thinkers to take a look at the energy data browser site.

A couple of the smarter ones who are also into history and things military got really quiet -about as quiet as if they had just heard from thier physician that they have cancer..

If I had access to the money, I would erect a giant neon billboard on a high hill where traffic jams on a nearby freeway are frequent, and program it to display the most relevant oil consumption and production figures-current and historical-changing every few hours from one country to another.

Since this would be a non profit public service, It shouldn't be too awfully hard to get the permits;if nothing else, maybe I could buy a grandfathered billboard.

If I had access to the money, I would erect a giant neon billboard on a high hill where traffic jams on a nearby freeway are frequent, and program it to display the most relevant oil consumption and production figures-current and historical-changing every few hours from one country to another

If someone can come up with the money for the components, I'd be willing to design a Solar system to power it, pro bono of course. Heck I'd even come down to supervise the installation on my own dime!

Did you join just to make negative remarks about the site? I like this post, and I think it is not only relevant, but contains a juxtaposition of old and new, flagrant waste and careful efficiency, varying religions and cultures, and concern and hope.

Lebanon is likely where much of the world is heading - a multicultural society struggling to survive in the ruins of war and long-term ecological overuse and abuse.

There is an abundance of joie de vivre in this post, and life is for living after all.

Whenever I see a comment that's lacking even an inkling of thought about the post it's attacking I'll click on the name to see who posted it:

Member for
1 day 6 hours

"This is about as relevant to Peak Oil as the Moon. Hard to take the Oil Drum seriously with posts like these."

So this is a comment coming from someone who's been a member for less than a day at the time of posting. There are years worth of The Oil Drum posts with massive amounts of information that would certainly take more than a day to go back and read. It's hard to take commenters seriously with a post like that.


Why do you judge someone on how long they have been a member of this board? Considering some the posts one might reasonably be reluctant to join. Substrate, does time since registration = wisdom? This board has some greeny idiots who have been here for years but that doesn't make their perpetual motion schemes workable, but since they've been here a while they have credibility?

Why do you judge someone on how long they have been a member of this board? Considering some the posts one might reasonably be reluctant to join.

I very much doubt the vast majority here make judgments about anyone based solely on the length of their time as members. My experience is that most people here make judgments about people's ideas and the actual content and merits of what they have to say. Granted they can be ruthless with those ideas that do not stand up to scrutiny or are not backed up by facts.

If you don't find a comment, criticizing Ugo's post as completely irrelevant to Peak Oil, odd enough to at least cause you to raise your eyebrows in surprise, I have to wonder why you feel you have to defend someone who does. The pastime commonly referred to as concern trolling comes to mind.

As for someone being reluctant to join this forum after reading Ugo's post, I for one really wouldn't feel much of a loss. As far as I know, the TOD staff, are not yet sending out teams of hooded recruiters, by helicopter, in the dead of night to round up members of the population at large and forcing them to become members... at the risk of losing their first born should they refuse to comply.

I think Substrate made quite clear that he thinks a person who has been a member for merely a day or two has probably not taken the time to even read up on Ugo's posts, let alone the vast quantities of information contained in the archives of this site. Granted he could be mistaken and the poster may have been lurking for years while he was doing his due diligence. Though Occam's razor makes me think that to be a rather unlikely possibility.

The collapse of the entire western industrial empire will be going on for the rest of our lives, and for many generations thereafter. It will be accompanied by many difficult times and events that will have no room for the lighthearted. That does not mean we must all spend the rest of our days in dour, serious contemplation of the awfulness of our lot. Learn to enjoy such pleasures as you may encounter along the way. Ugo's posts are always interesting, and this one was no exception even if it was not the most "serious". As Paleocon pointed out, this part of the world has some great examples of the impacts man can have.

Thanks Ugo, especially for the pictures.

Didn't anyone tell you tidal power will save the day!

I thank Ugo for this post. Someone consider it not serious, other less serious. For me all Ugo posts and stories are extremely serious, from examples he extrapolate lessons.
As RAMseS coordinator, I am very happy that this 4 years project finally is arriving successfully at its end; it was a very challenging project, when we conceived it we had strong and innovative idea, or paradigm. Most of colleagues with whom I discussed the idea of the project, never believed that we could be able to develop an all-electric multipurpose vehicle for farmers, specially able to have enough power for agricultural duties (for instance ploughing, hoeing, etc.), RAMseS is able to do it very well.

Lebanon effectively is an old Country as Ugo said, it is the characterized by the highest mountains of the Middle East, it was extremely green and completely covered by woods deforestation is not a matter of today, it started thousands year ago, Phoenicians used to exploit Cedars, pines, olives, and others for building purposes (ships, houses, temples (the most important one was the temple of king Solomon); also egyptians, roman empire, islamic and later turkish (ottoman) armies used lebanese woods for their purposes. Of course also modern lebanese gave their contributions, hence deforestation is a reality.

Today Lebanon, after more than 20 years of war has an obsolete energy grid system, black out are frequent; demographic pressure is very intense, cement is invading what remains of mountain-rural areas. Lebanon export 95% of it's energy (fossil energy) from gulf area, the cost of oil is around 0,65 - 0,85 cent/liter which means that under these conditions Renewable still not convenient (economically). Still not everything is lost, this summer was the first time that I notice a major and diffused use of thermal solar panels for hot water. Lebanon still a Country rich of water, and hydroelectric plant covers 2 - 5% of lebanese energy needs.

Still a lot should be done, and since we are all living on the same planet Earth (hoping it will not turn to be as the Titanic), maybe also Lebanese will start to convert their energy system to decentralized, integrated, diversified and diffused renewable energy technologies and systems.

Than you Ugo, it's always an honour to work with you

Dr. Toufic El Asmar
RAMseS Project Coordinator

Thanks for your part in this, Doctor El Asmar.
This is a great little story. I hope it grows into a big one!

Bob Fiske,
Portland, Maine USA

Dr. Asmar, congratulations are in order to both you and Hugo,

While some of us do jest and make lighthearted attempts at humor I think most here recognize that this is indeed a most serious project.

With a tip of the hat,

Fred Magyar

Some of us jest, make lighthearted attemps of humor, recognize this as serious project...and look the cute daughter up on Facebook. In a relationship - damn! But not married - hey hey. Too bad Italy is on the other side of the world, and I don't speak the language...wouldn't mind having a father in law like Ugo ;)

Interesting light piece - it is good to read about these different places accassionally to get a sense of perspective. Lebanon has always been a crux of multiculturalism in the Middle East and has been extraordinarily resilient over the years. I hope they continue to be a beacon for the region - be it tolerance or technology or tourism!

Lebanon has always seemed like it is only an entity on a map, with distinct nations within this political entity. There has been conflict after conflict.

I know very little about the country, but I've met many excellent people from Lebanon, and there's surely something interesting going on there. Maybe its the mix of cultures and flavors, that West Indies folk sometimes call 'Chutney', like the complex condiment (only Moreso). Probably why I responded to NYC as strongly as I did, too.

And then, there's my namesake, reporter Robert Fisk, who worked out of Beirut for so many years.

'Only an entity on a map' .. you're starting to sound like X. "Nations are just Abstractions!"

It's like saying, 'You're just speaking in strings of symbolic sounds!..

Just teasing, Florida.. I am interested in what you meant. Lebanon does seem sort of 'different' from its neighbors. Sort of like New Hampshire.

I really liked this post and the description of the noble efforts described therein to get something positive going.

The Lebanese must be an extremely resilient people, as they must surely know that all this rebuilding is liable to be totally destroyed once again by the Israelis should the shite hit the fan over there, as it always seems to do every so often.

This gets to a larger point: how can we collectively build something for a sustainable future when there are multiple forces arrayed against such and bent upon tearing it down for short-sighted nationalistic/political purposes? The warrior versus the scientist: who do you think always wins out?

Tim Minchin - Peace Anthem For Palestine


Who always wins out?

We still use the discoveries Copernicus and Galileo, don't we?

I don't think there's an "Always" in it at all.. you win a few, you lose a few.

But our written histories have been copied and carried far and wide. Most guns and bombs can't reach them all.

Thank you Ugo for the most interesting and refreshing post.

I think that posts such as this, depicting various sustainability/alternative energy/conservation/coping measures in many different countries and areas would be great.

I am all for including a hearty helping of travelogue narrative and pics such as you have presented here.

Peace, happiness, and fulfillment to the folks of Lebanon.

Great post, glad you enjoyed Lebanon. I lived in Egypt for awhile, and the Coptic Christian community is nestled in there and uses the Arabic script, similar to what you pointed out in the last picture.

There's a couple of things I need to point out here, though:

"You can see that my daughter is dressed in a somewhat different style in comparison with the ladies in black; who all wear a classic burqa."

Burqas specifically refer to the veil that covers the face and eyes, and has a screen for the wearer to look through. Burqas are extremely rare. Occasionally, they are seen in Afghanistan, though moreso under the Taliban.

What you're looking at are women wearing abayas, and at least one woman is wearing a niqab (only her eyes are showing). The purdah code is common across the Arab world, so these women could be from SA as you say, but there are plenty of women across the Arab world, and indeed in Lebanon (outside of Beruit, esp) that wear varying versions of the abaya dress.

I've had to correct people on this before: burqas are extremely uncommon.

"In the Christian section of the city, the way of dressing of women is totally westernized, in the Moslem section, women often wear the traditional hijab."

This is nitpicky, but it's Muslim, not Moslem. The 'o' is archaic.

Cocooman, thanks for the corrections. I said "burqa" because I looked it over in Wikipedia, and it seemed to me that what I had photographed was a complete burqa. But I confess I am no expert in burqas, so I made a mistake; apparently. Also, about being from Saudi Arabia, this is what my Lebanese friends said about these ladies. And I'll correct the "Moslem" with "Muslim". My gosh, how many things are there to learn..... Thanks again

No problem :-)

I'm glad to see this kind of cultural exposure on TOD.

Hey Ugo,
Before this one goes away, I would love to know more about how this little truck seems to be doing. Its strength, how it handles soft soils, are the batteries working well, or are there plans to move to other chemistries?

Is the manufacturer creating custom implements for it, or does it have standard mounts to carry existing farming gear?


Ah, well, Bob, a lot of questions. Let's say that the official project will end this september. From then on, we are on our own; that is, without financial support from the European Commission. What we have is a concept; which I think was the main reason and the justification for using public money for this work. The commission didn't give us money to build a truck but to advance with ideas on sustainability; which I think it was our purpose and we did our best in this area.

Then, we have an electric truck which was built by means of the dedication of some people who went well beyond what our grant application stated that we should have done. What the grant application said was that we would simply buy a small electric truck on the market and modify it for light agricultural work. Instead, we have this fully working electric vehicle with some innovative characteristics. One is that of being compatible with standard farming gear. You just plug what you have to it, and it works. So far, the machine has been performing wonderfully; if you don't ask to it to do things that need a heavy tractor to do. We are not planning to switch to lithium, it would be too expensive for an agricultural vehicle.

The problem that we have now is that moving from a prototype to a marketable product is awfully expensive; an order of magnitude larger. There is interest in the idea on the part of several investors, but so far there is no concrete and financed plan. We hope that there will be one, but times are very difficult, right now. We should have started 10 years ago!