Just like many people around the world, Seattle restaurateur Wassef Haroun of the Mama group says he “watched in horror” at the events unfolding in Beirut this week after an enormous explosion devastated the Lebanese capital Tuesday, killing more than 150 people and injuring thousands. Officials are still investigating the cause, which has been attributed to the negligent storage of highly explosive fertilizer.
Haroun, who was raised in Beirut and still has family there, knows that urgent assistance is needed for the recovery efforts. That’s why he’s donating 20 percent of net revenue this week from his popular Middle Eastern restaurants Mamnoon, Mamnoon Street, and MBar directly to the Lebanese Red Cross.
“The organization is very much on the front lines now, but we may look at different organizations to support next week,” he says. “We want to engage with our friends in the community and see what we can do to help in a sustainable way.”
Haroun’s family in Beirut is safe, he says, but many others weren’t so lucky. He’s worried not just for the gravely injured in hospitals were damaged from the blast, but also the hundreds of thousands who are now homeless due to the massive destruction, as the city continues to pick up the pieces. “It’s very sad on many levels,” he says, adding that the area had already been struggling due to deep-rooted government corruption, on top of the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and a widespread economic crisis.
Those who have followed the Mamnoon restaurant group’s past charitable efforts know it has tried to support refugee relief organizations in the past, and builds deep ties to Lebanon through cuisine and education (the team has gone on cultural field trips to the country several times, including visits to the Wassaya winery).
Haroun himself had been planning a trip to visit his family this year, and still hopes to go this fall, if he’s able to. But his focus now is in doing what he can on this side of the world to give what he can (as the Mamnoon restaurants face their own economic challenges during the pandemic), with relief to those who are enduring unimaginable trauma.
- Negligence Probed in Deadly Beirut Blast Amid Public Anger [AP News]
- Lebanese Red Cross [Official]
- Mamnoon [Official]
- All coverage of Mamnoon [ESEA]