Category Archives: Personal

Four Seasons Hotel – Beirut

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I was in Beirut over the weekend and on this trip I ended up staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Beirut. The hotel is located in what I think is one of the nicest looking towers in Beirut, right in front of the very popular Zaituna Bay and so I was really looking forward to staying there.

Right from the moment I stepped out of my rental I knew I was going to be enjoying my stay at the hotel. The customer service at the hotel was just better then any other I had previously stayed in before and I’ve stayed at many. The feeling I kept getting is that every single employee wanted to help make your stay better, and by every single employee I don’t mean just the reception staff or managers, I mean everyone from the valet guys, to the housekeepers to the waiters. I think its the words they use but you just get this feeling that you can ask them for whatever you want and they’d love to do it and that made me super comfortable in asking them for stuff which I tend not to do.

Other than the excellent service my room was also very comfortable. I had overpacked on this trip but there was more than enough closest space and drawers to accomodate all my stuff. The room wasn’t that big but the bathroom was with a large sink area, tub, shower room, toilet room and a makeup table. The room had a balcony that was big enough to fit a table and two chairs and finally there was free wifi in the room and the whole hotel. My favorite part of the hotel though would have to be the roof. During the day the roof is a cool place to swim and tan but at night it’s an open air lounge overlooking the Mediterranean sea and Beirut.

I do have two minor complaints though. The first issue the hotel really can’t do much about but the view from my room could have been better if there wasn’t a large sand lot right outside. I live in Kuwait so I would rather not see sand lots when I travel. Even though the hotel is right in front of Zaituna Bay, my room was more on the side and I could only see the marina if I was on the balcony looking left which was disappointing. The other issue I had was with their breakfast. It’s not a breakfast buffet and one of the things I look forward to the most in hotels is their breakfast buffets. At the Four Seasons they have a dried fruit, fresh fruit and cereal buffet but if you want any hot dishes you have to order them. The advantage obviously is your breakfast is made for you and so is fresh, but the disadvantage is it takes time to make and you also can’t just fill up your plate with whatever looks good like you would do at a regular buffet.

In the end though I had a really good time at the hotel. I generally don’t tend to spend much time at hotels but on this trip I was having all my friends come over so we could just chill out on the roof. The incredibly friendly service and the lounge on the roof made me really love my stay. I’d most likely stay there again once I’m done reviewing other hotels in Beirut. Here is the link to their [Website]

Driving a Porsche for the first time

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I know for sure that this is the first and last time I am getting married but I hope it won’t be the last time I drive a Porsche too. Hopefully in the near future, I would have purchased a Cayenne or a 911 not rented it for few days or a special event.

For the time being, getting married is definitely an event that overcomes the joy of driving a Porsche or anything else I dreamt of, at least for me personally, and I hope everyone finds this special person in their life.

By the time this post comes out, I would be probably half way through my wedding ceremony having a blast with my family, friends and loved ones. See you all in a couple of weeks time.

We Love You Maya Zankoul!

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Picture from Maya Zankoul

I was very surprised to read Brofessional Review’s post on Maya, not because it was critical of Maya’s work, but because it was highly subjective, disrespectful and unfair. However, it’s their right to criticize the way they see fit and I will not bother reply as I am not fit to discuss illustrations and what makes someone a real illustrator, but I thought a word of support to Maya, who is one of BlogBaladi’s biggest fans (and vice-versa) and one of the nicest people you could ever meet, was the least I could do.

After all, it is not just Maya’s talent that got her to where she is today, but the way she was able to communicate her ideas in a fun and creative way. In fact, sometimes I would spend an hour writing a post that she would summarize in an illustration/doodle/WhateverYouWannaCallIt.

Keep doing what you do best Maya!

Update: I recommend you read BeirutSpring’s post on this matter [Here].

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 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

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

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

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

Best NGO/Community
Donner Sang Compter

Best Startup

Cynthia will be greatly missed

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They say that you don’t need to meet some people in person to know they are special. Cynthia was one of those people. She’s an exceptional human being, one of the nicest, most cheerful, active and enthusiastic people I interacted with online. My only regret is that I never got to know her better or meet her in person. Cynthia died after battling cancer for few months.

Just looking at her Twitter TimeLine makes you realize how special she was to all her friends and followers.

Cynthia was born on January 19, 1990 and is from Ehmej, Lebanon where her funerals will take place today at 4pm.

10 reasons why I love RAGMAG magazine

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1- RAGMAG tackles all sorts of topics (art, theater, film, nightlife, music, cuisine, fashion, health etc …)
2- Their exclusive interviews are always a pleasure to read even if you don’t like the interviewee.
3- Their [website] looks very nice, is easy to browse and is always updated.
4- The Ragged highlights have some really cool sections, my favorites being “Hayda Lebnen ya 3ayne” and “FML
5- They are very active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and don’t just post stuff but interact all the time with their readers/followers.
6- RAGMAG organizes giveaways/competitions all the time for its readers and fans and the prizes are really cool!
7- They have a refined taste in restaurants/hotels/pubs etc …
8- I got featured once in the magazine in the “Mon Amour, Mon Ami” section.
9- The people behind RAGMAG are hardworking, intelligent and very friendly. ( @Gina @Fida @Youmna @Danielle )
10- All of the above.

Off to Kobayat

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[Picture of Kobayat by FunkyOzzi]

I’ve been delaying this trip for few weeks now due to the situation in the North, and it seemed like the perfect time to go this weekend as there are festivities in most Christian villages before the feast of the Assumption on Wednesday, up until all Lebanese read Michel Samaha’s confessions yesterday and the bombings he was planning for this weekend in Akkar.

I am glad they caught this guy before anything happened, because it would have been disastrous; yet the arrest and serious confessions frightened some friends and families who decided to stay home for the weekend. I am still going though not because I am not worried, but because you will end up staying home your whole life in Lebanon if you keep worrying about this and that plus the situation is much calmer than before nowadays. Hopefully, all will go well.

First stop will be in Tripoli at Kasr el Helou (Al Hallab) for the best Halawet el Jebn in Lebanon and Ramadan’s Kellaj of course.

R.I.P Fadi

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I learned about Fadi Tannous’ death (heart attack) few hours ago and I am still in shock. Aside from being a good friend and a truly great guy with a unique sense of humor, Fadi was Lebanon’s fencing Champion on many occasions and part of the Lebanese delegation to the London 2012 Olympics. Fadi was truly devoted to the sport as well as many others and was the Federation’s secretary general. He also represented Lebanon abroad and has many medals to his name.

I always looked up to Fadi for being able to work all day yet stay in great shape and compete at the highest level. He was a great athlete and a multi-talented one and a role model to all those who got to knew him. He was getting married in a month time and was only 38 if I am not mistaken.

Here’s his last interview with Al Joumhouriyya Newspaper talking about our chances at the Olympics in London. [Interview]

R.I.P Champ! We’ll miss you!

Review: The McLaren MP4-12c

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A a friend of mine contacted me around two weeks back asking me if I wanted to review his McLaren and of course I said yes. After spending the day with it this weekend I can easily review the car with 3 words… “I want one”. Seriously I want one. I can’t afford to buy it but that doesn’t change the fact I really really want it.

There are a lot of reviews of the McLaren online and Top Gear have a great one which you can watch on YouTube. So, not wanting to come about this review in the same way I decided to look at the car differently. It’s obviously a fast super car and everyone already knows that but I was curious to how the car would perform as a daily driver. I would hate to spend this much on a car and then only drive it on weekends. I’d want to drive the car to work, to the gym or even to TSC to pick up some groceries.

First thing I looked for after getting into the car was cup holders and I ended up finding two right behind the center console. Cup holders are great for holding your drinks but they’re also more useful for storing items like your phone or sunglasses. The McLaren not only has two easy to access cup holders but there is also a 12v socket inside one of them which means you can plug in your phone charger as well. That’s practical. Another practical feature is the AC, both the driver and passenger have separate control panels which is a feature you usually find in large cars but not super cars.

The seats are also fully electric and have 3 memory positions which is convenient if the car is being shared between say a couple or family members. The sound system is naturally located in the center console and is made by the high end audio guru’s Meridian. The sound system control panel is a large touch screen that is more than double the size of the iPhone and is 100% iPhone/iPod compatible. Once you connect your iPhone or iPod to the car you can then navigate your music by touch and even view album art beautifully all on the center console screen. I think it has the best iPod integrated system I’ve seen so far. The car boot is a lot bigger than I expected. I wouldn’t take the car to Khoury Home if I need to get a 50inch screen, but it’s definitely supermarket friendly.

The McLaren is very comfortable to drive. I actually found it more comfortable and forgiving on worn out roads when compared to say my old Z4. I’m also pretty tall (6’1) and I didn’t feel claustrophobic or cramped in the car neither did I have problems finding my correct seating position (the seats are incredibly adjustable). Driving the car I was actually impressed by the fact I could cruise in it at 80km/h and not feel like I should be driving it a lot faster. Of course once you step on the gas the car is breathtakingly fast but as a daily driver you want to be able to drive on regular roads at regular speeds and the McLaren does that really well. Even the car’s gas mileage is pretty good at 15mpg which is similar to my FJ Cruiser. I did find the brake peddle a bit too stiff to press but it’s something you would get used to after a few hours in the car.

The only two things that hurt the car as a daily driver is the ride height and the doors. It’s a pretty low ride since it’s a sports car which means the majority of the speed bumps you’ll need to take sideways. The second issue is the doors, they swing open upwards which means you can’t park in very tight spots. If the parking spot is tight you won’t be able to open the doors so you always need to make sure you have ample room on the sides. But again if you’ve paid this much for the car, I doubt you’re going to be squeezing it anywhere. Valet wouldn’t be an issue on weekends since it’s a car that every club would love to have parked right at the main entrance. Just drive up and point to the valet where you want to park and they’ll move whatever car is in that spot for you.

I love the car but then again who wouldn’t? The thing is I don’t only love it because it’s a super car, I love it because it’s a super car you can actually use every day. I wasn’t kidding when I said I want one, I do I just can’t afford it. But, if anyone from McLaren is reading this, give me a fat discount (like 75%) and you’ve got yourself another customer.

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Speeding Ticket (Update)

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As I mentioned almost two weeks back, I wa surprised to find on the ISF website that I received a speeding ticket dating back from October 2011. Even though the ticket was from October, it was published on the website in April 2012, which means over 6 months late.

Nevertheless, it turns out I am not the only one receiving late speeding tickets, so I followed the instructions on the website and called LibanPost. After several attempts, the LibanPost operator informed me that my ticket did not yet arrive and that it is still at Jounieh’s police station. I told them that it’s a very old ticket dating back from October but they confirmed to me that it wasn’t received yet.

Having said that, I tried to find Jounieh’s police station contact number but in vain, so I will be waiting for LibanPost to contact me now. However what amazes me is that I passed my “mecanique” in December even though I had unpaid tickets on my profile. I understand delaying the speeding ticket on the website but shouldn’t it be updated with the “Mecanique” database at least?

Last but not least, I was told by a friend that I cannot pay LibanPost once they deliver my ticket but have to go to their office to do so, which means that it is useless to ask LibanPost to deliver the ticket since you will have to go back and pay it afterwards.