Category Archives: Lifestyle

Lebanon tourism pays the price for Syria’s war

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Picture from the 80s night at B018 – Tribute to Michael Jackson

If Lebanon is truly paying the price of Syria’s war, then why is there traffic everywhere I go? Why is traffic increasing on a daily basis from Beirut to Jbeil? Why are all the nightclubs and rooftops packed from Wednesday to Sunday? Why are the beaches packed on weekends?

I know that numbers suggest that Lebanon’s economy is suffering, Arab tourists are not coming and tourism is bad but it honestly doesn’t feel that way wherever I am going lately. This makes me wonder how bad traffic would be if all these tourists were here.

“As soon as you even utter the word ‘weapons’ you’ve killed tourism,” Paul Achkar, head of the Lebanese hotel association, told AFP. “Three hundred tourism establishments have closed down since the start of the year,” he said.
Although confident that the industry will recover, Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud said the figures for the start of the season were pitiable.

“The occupancy rate at hotels in Beirut is barely 35 percent this month, half of the usual at this time of year.
“Outside Beirut, it’s catastrophic. We’re talking about five percent compared to the usual 35 percent,” Abboud told AFP.
The atmosphere in Beirut, dubbed party capital of the Middle East, is not so morose, and Christian areas such as Byblos or Jounieh have also fared better than other areas. [AFP]

Giveaway: Two invitations to The Roof at the Four Seasons Hotel – Beirut

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Picture taken by myself [@LeNajib]

As I posted two days, the highest and coolest rooftop in town, The Roof at Four Seasons Beirut, has kicked off its summer season this weekend. The Roof is located on the hotel’s 26th floor and is a great place to chill out after work or on the weekends.

For those of you who still don’t know where it’s located, it’s on one of the two tall building overlooking Zaitunay Bay at the best possible spot in Beirut. I circled it in red in the picture below.

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Original picture via Zaitunay.com

Anyway, Four Seasons Beirut were kind enough to let me give away two invites to The Roof for BlogBaladi‘s readers. Each winner will get to bring some one along and enjoy the unique experience The Roof has to offer. You will get to try signature drinks as well as a selection of Asian tapas and watch the sunset from the best possible spot or just enjoy a chill-out night.

Lebanese singer Lara Rain performs there every Thursday and Saturday starting 9 pm for those of you who like live entertainment.

If you want to win one of these two awesome invitations to one of Lebanon’s most luxurious 5-star hotels, you just have to leave a comment on this post with a proper email address. Competition ends on Tuesday May 7th at 6 pm. I will pick two names randomly (Using random.org) and post the names of the winners at the end of the day.

If you have any questions regarding The Roof or Four Seasons Beirut, you can follow them on [Twitter] or on [Facebook]. They are very friendly and fun to talk to.

I will post the names of the winners and more pictures of the Roof on our Facebook page. You can check them out and like the page [Here].

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NB: You need to put your proper email in the email field while commenting since winner will be contacted by email. You can only comment once, anyone caught commenting more than once will get disqualified.

Sects and the city

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A nice read with a lot of details on Tripoli’s fighters and the clashes occurring there.

In Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli, sectarian warfare has become entrenched as a way of life. Every few weeks, armed clashes erupt between Sunni Muslims in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood and Alawites on the hilltop of Jabal Mohsen. With the absence of a real political initiative to contain the crisis, clashes are expected to continue as the conflict in Syria worsens.

Different political parties are believed to be investing in the rifts so as to steer events towards a course that would better serve their goals. Syria and Hezbollah are backing the Alawite fighters while Sunni politicians and Gulf sources are backing the Sunnis to mobilize their support. As fighters on both sides become pawns in a larger regional game, former Prime Minister Najib Miqati is believed to be extending an arm to the Sunni street seen as supporters of the revolution.

Since the outbreak of hostilities in Syria between the Assad regime and opposition forces, the war has spilled over into Lebanon. Sunnis in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhood support the rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while the Alawites of Jabal Mohsen stand loyally by him. It is fitting that the street which forms one of the major frontlines between both is called Syria Street.

CNN Travel: 10 Best Bars in Beirut

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Source

Here are 10 places where Beirut warms up, gets hot and winds down according to CNN Travel.
1. Dragonfly
2. Torino Express
3. Kayan
4. February 30
5. Bar ThreeSixty
6. Internazionale
7. Ferdinand
8. Dictateur
9. Behind the Green Door
10. SKYBAR

It’s good to see some of my favorite bars on that list, specially Kayan which I’ve been going to for the past 7 years if not more.

Thank you Ralph

My Nominations for The Social Media Awards

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The Social Media Awards are happening for the first time in Lebanon and I thought it would be fun to share my nominations for the various categories listed. Before that, here’s how the selection process will occur:

Stage 1: Online Nominations
Members of the online community nominate candidates for different categories via our website www.SMABeirut.com. Users can nominate themselves, friends or an organization on business based on the criteria of each category. Their submission is accompanied by relevant material such as Facebook links, Twitter accounts, blogs and other platforms to support their candidates.

Stage 2: Judges Selection
Based on the nominations received, our team of experienced and celebrity judges from different backgrounds will be narrowing down the nominations in each category to seven (7) nominees within two weeks of closure of nominations. The whole process will be carried out in pure transparency and an announcement event will be held for the press and online community.

Stage 3: Final Vote
Members of the online community are asked to vote for their preference in each category over a period of one month. During this period, nominees will be able to campaign for obtaining votes.

Stage 4: Awards Ceremony
An awards ceremony will be held for over 750 invitees from digital agencies, VIPs and online influencers with entertainment, key guest appearances, and VIP guests bringing Oscar-like award glamour to social media. [SMABeirut]

I took a look at the judges’ list and the ones they chose are more than qualified for this job, with 1 or 2 exceptions which I will not name. One thing that I would have done differently is narrow down the nominations to 4, as I think 7 is too much.

Anyway back to the nominations, here it goes:

Best Blog of the Year
Beirut Spring: I’ve always been astounded by the insights Mustapha provides on the Lebanese society and Lebanon in general despite being abroad. He is concise, convincing, methodical and is among the very few bloggers that I agree with almost always. Oh and he never misses a chance to throw in a new term in every post and make me look for it online.

Best News Blog
Hummus Nation – The good thing about Hummus Nation is that his news are always reliable because he makes them up.

Best Lifestyle Blog
L’armoire De Lana – Lana has been pulling an impressive job ever since she launched her fashion blog. She’s posting daily, tweeting all day long, uploading pictures all the time. She’s doing it right and she totally deserves it.

Best Technology Blog
Tech-Ticker – A website founded by a group of Lebanese Technology enthusiasts covering the latest tech news and reviewing the most recent tech products.

Best Personal Blog
Gino’s Blog – Gino is truly commited to his blog and it shows through his posts. His views on certain topics are as far as they come from the conservative “Lebanese” thinking yet he manages to convince his readers most of the time. Neuromarketing at its best.

Most Engaging Media Personality
Magazine: RagMag’s Editor in Chief Fida Chaaban.
She devotes a lot of times to social media and interacting with readers and that’s not something easy to pull. In fact I don’t think I know any other media personality as devoted as her.

Best Performer
Nemr Abou Nassar: He was funnier when he started and I didn’t like his latest shows but he’s doing a great job online and deserves that award. The problem is here very few performers in Lebanon are active online to begin with.

Best Vocal Artist (Non-Arabic)
Tania Kassis

Most Creative Instagram Account
Mark

Most Viral YouTube Video
I would have loved to say Buzz but it turned out to be a copycat from an old US commercial. I’ll go with LebaneseBrew’s Try Something Brave.

Most Engaging Tweep
TrellaLB

Most Engaging Celebrity on Twitter
Celebrities in Lebanon have no idea how to use Twitter.

Most Engaging Media Personality on Twitter
TV/Journalist: Shada Omar.
Despite having almost 100,000 followers on Twitter, Shada dedicates time to almost everyone that interacts with her and is always interesting to talk to.

Most Engaging Diplomat on Twitter
HMA Tom Fletcher – If you wanna know why, read [this].

Best Business on Twitter
RagMag

Best Organization/NGO on Twitter
Donne Sang Compter

Best Pub/Bar
February30 and The Angry Monkey. The Angry Monkey’s last tweetup was the best I’ve been to in months and the place was packed. Bravo Jessy!

Best Restaurant, Café or Bakery
Roadster Diner and Zaatar W Zeit.

Best Hotel
Phoenicia Beirut.

Best Commercial District Account
LeMall

Best NGO/Community
Donner Sang Compter

Best Startup
Dermandar.

Who is Jill (Khawam) Kelley?

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Picture from Philly.com

The David Patreus scandal is on the front page of every newspaper and website in the U.S and Jill Kelley has become the “central figure in the growing scandal that’s ensnared high-ranking officials at the CIA and the Pentagon“. Some websites even want to know who designs her exquisite dresses now.

As I had mentioned earlier, Jill Kelley hails from a Lebanese family (Khawan) that emigrated to Philadelphia in the 1970s. She worked as an unpaid social liaison to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and used to host events at her million-dollar Bayshore Boulevard home. Jill & her husband Dr. Scott Kelley were good friends of the Patreus family. She has a twin sister Nathalie, an older sister Caroline and a brother called David Khawam. This is what he had to say when interviewed about his sister:

“This is something that’s going to brand her for life,” David Khawam, Kelley’s brother, told TODAY. “My sister, number one, is a mother. OK, she has three kids. She’s extremely dedicated to those kids. Number two, she’s a wife. She’s extremely dedicated to her husband. And he to her.” [Link]

So far, there hasn’t been any proof showing that Jill was Patreus’ second love, but the investigation that followed reveleaded some flirtatious emails between her and another U.S General, John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Rikky’z entrance fee doubled in 2 years

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As I posted earlier today, I was at Rikky’s yesterday and it was a lot of fun, but I just realized that the entrance fee went from 30$ in 2010 to 60$ this summer!

The place is still the same, the atmosphere is great and I had a lot of fun, but I think 60$ is a bit too much specially that the buffet is small and food is average. I mean I had to wait at least 20-30 minutes at the grill to get a small piece of steak and an undercooked chicken breast.

Maybe it’s better if they charge us the 60$ and let waiters bring us drinks and food. Nevertheless, I still think it’s a great place to spend your Sunday at and would probably go one more time before it closes down mid-October.

Beirut is more than boobs and Botox

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David J Constable, author of “Boobs, Botox and the Babes of Beirut

BeirutBeats wrote a nice response to David Constable and his cheap article on Lebanon and its women. Read it all [Here].

So summer is here again and with it comes the annual influx of derogatory, poorly researched articles by western ‘journalists’ doing their best to pick out the worst parts of Beirut culture after a quick holiday visiting a couple of nightclubs.

Last year CNN made a brave expedition through the jungle of Beirut’s rooftop bars, encouraging the world to think that the city was populated entirely by sparkling idiots who couldn’t care about tomorrow as long as the champagne was flowing and the iPhone still had enough battery to film the dead look in everyone’s eyes.

This year the Huffington Post have gone one step further, with a piece by David J Constable claiming that

‘Beirut has now overtaken both LA and Miami as the plastic surgery capital of the world.’ [Full Response]

Thanks Rita

Boobs, Botox and the Babes of Beirut

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I think this article is offensive, over-generalizing and pointless. [Article]

For a largely Arab country it’s a bizarre thing that in Lebanon (Beirut specifically), women care more about their appearance than men. Males lead a rather sullied existence, priming their closely cut mini-beards and, from my own observations, eating rather a lot. The formula in Lebanon’s capital for women is fashion-forward, from their choice of cloth to the decisions they make surgically. [Link]

Via Rita

The Junkyard

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I went to check out yesterday this Junkyard/Pop-up restaurant my friend told me about. I was told it’s on Mar Mikhail’s street some 100 meters after Chez Sophie’s restaurant to the right but I could not find it at first. I called him to ask for more directions and as it appears, I had passed right next to it twice and didn’t notice the place.


Parking lot that gets you to the Junkyard

Looking at the second picture, you would never think there’s a hangout place behind those small trees and around those old buildings but the truth is this open air restaurant/bar is the coolest thing I’ve seen yet in Lebanon. It has no name, a unique design with tables/chairs/bars/toilets made out of junks down to the smallest detail, a container as a kitchen and chill-out music.

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Path to the Toilets

Added to that, the place is surrounded by old residential buildings with some balconies directly overlooking it. I noticed many were sitting on their balconies drinking coffee or smoking arguile not bothered one single bit by this sort of pop-up restaurant and pub. It felt like it brought life to the whole neighborhood.

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The kitchen is run by Thomas Reger, the executive chef at Le Sushi Bar and The Jasmine Room. To add to the place’s originality, there’s no set menu but daily dishes picked up by the chef. I had 3 appetizers, couscous with tomato, fresh tuna with peppers, Halloum with watermelon and all were good and refreshing dishes.

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The Bar

The man behind all that is Mario Haddad, who’s always investing in new and innovative ideas in Lebanon, seeking more self-satisfaction rather than just profits. You can read more about him in this article by LorientLeJour [Link].

Now the sad part is that the Junkyard will only open for 2-3 months and then close down before winter as it is not a viable nor sustainable project on the long-run. Nevertheless, if the idea were to work, I am sure the concept could be implemented in various locations on a yearly basis. After the Junkyard is closed, a group of restaurants also managed by Mario will be set up on site as of next year, offering a unique experience to the Lebanese. I will unveil more details about them in future posts.

In order to get to the Junkyard, go to Mar Mikhail’s street (As if you are heading to Burj Hammoud), turn right 100 meters after Chez Sophie restaurant right before the gas station (facing the bus cemetery), and then right again 20 meters into the corner.