Category Archives: Reviews

Le Bristol’s Sunday Buffet At Achrafieh’s Splendid Villa Linda Sursock

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Le Bristol‘s Sunday buffet has been known for years as one of the best buffets in Beirut and is recently being held at Villa Linda Sursock in Achrafieh as the hotel is closed down since 2012 for renovation. The only other Sunday buffet I’ve tried in Beirut so far was the Phoenicia hotel one so I was interested to see how different and special this one is.

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To begin with, Villa Linda Sursock is probably the best venue they could have chosen for their famous buffet. The gorgeous villa is located on Sursock Street, a relatively calm street, and is one of Beirut’s historic landmarks. I’ve been there several times for events and I’m in love with that villa! Here’s an old picture showing the villa from outside. In recent years, a skyscraper was built right next to the villa with a small part of the building right on top of it. Even though the skyscraper is really nice, I wish they had kept the house by itself with surrounding gardens.

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Moving on to the buffet, the tables are set in the big hall inside the villa that you can see in the first picture and the food is in a separate room. Once you get in, you are greeted by a hostess then seated by one of the waiters. Afterwards, you’re handed a large alcohol selection and served a small plate of mini Cheese, Kecheck and Zaatar Saj Manakish.

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Once we sat down and chose a wine bottle, we headed to the room where the buffet is. There’s a bit of history in every single spot in that villa and the setting for the buffet is just beautiful around the chimney. A large table is set in the middle with all the hot and cold dishes, while desserts are around it with a large fruit salad bowl right next to the chimney in the middle. There’s also a small table on the far left next to the windows for the cheese lovers and an Entrecote station on the side as well.

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There are 3 or 4 chefs ready to help you and guide you through Bristol’s signature dishes. Almost every dish is a special one and I made sure to have a small portion of each to try them all out. Starting with the cold dishes, I tried the following ones:
– Lentil with salmon salad
– Spring Rolls
– Rocket leaves with fresh mushroom and Parmesan
– Quinoa with guacamole and shrimps
– Artichoke with green beans
– Goat cheese cake with cherry tomatoes

The Lentil with Salmon was surprisingly good, the spring rolls and rocket leaves salad were nothing special but fresh and tasty. The two dishes I loved the most were the Quinoa with shrimps and the goat cheese cake with cherry tomatoes.

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As for the hot dishes, they had:
– Kebbe Arnabiyye
– Siyyadiyye
– Curry Shrimps
– Raviolli with spinach
– Chicken with berries

I hate the Kebbe Arnabiyye so I didn’t bother taste it and I don’t eat Carri so I skipped that as well. The Siyadiyye, Raviolli and Chicken dishes were all really good specially the chicken dish. Their entrecote was really good specially with the steamed veggies and potatoes but the sauce should have been a bit hotter.

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Moving on to my favorite part the dessert, I wish I had started with it as almost everything I tasted was amazing. I loved how they made the Karabij in forms of sticks (easier to dip), the mafrouke was really good, the profiterole, the macarons, the mini cakes, it was the perfect ending to a great buffet.

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All in all, I don’t think it’s fair to compare this buffet to the Phoenicia one as they are totally different. Le Bristol’s buffet is a small cozy one where you get to try out signature dishes and the famous gourmandises du Bristol while Phoenicia’s buffet offers a large variety of dishes, which I prefer from time to time. One thing is for sure, both are great buffets and I recommend you try out both of them, specially that the service is impeccable and the waiters are extremely friendly and helpful.

Price-wise, it’s around 65$ per person without the drinks.

PS: For your reservations, call 03-500622.

Rating: 4.5/5

Review: The Fifty Boring Shades of Grey

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Before you read the review, note that I’ve never read the Fifty Shades books and I probably won’t so I don’t know much about the story except the stuff I hear from friends who are obsessed with Mr.Grey and online articles and memes about it. This being said, I was expecting to watch an erotic romance story which wasn’t the case. The movie was more of a twisted romantic story between a weird rich dude and some college graduate, and it didn’t include that many sex scenes and barely any scene involving bondage and stuff. I am not saying I was eager to watch some BDSM activity but I expected to see more of it based on what I’ve read and heard. Moreover, this whole Mr Dominant thing is quite misleading as Christian Grey is confusing and not as much in control as you’d think he is.

Overall, the movie is dull and is more like a story that never really picks up. The two things I appreciated were Dakota Johnson (Anastasia “Ana” Steele) who’s really hot, and the soundtrack which is quite good. I expect the second part to be less boring so let’s wait and see.

As far as censorship is concerned, the movie is supposed to be 125 minutes but I felt it was a bit shorter than that. I think there are a couple of cut scenes but I can’t confirm that.

Rating:3/5

What’s So Controversial About “American Sniper”?

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I finally got to watch American Sniper yesterday and I don’t understand the controversy over it. Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated movie tells the story of Chris Kyle, a Texan marksman who has become the most lethal sniper in US military history and portrays what an American sniper goes through during war. The movie may seem like an American propaganda for some and a tribute to American heroes by others, but there’s nothing really controversial about an American director bragging about US troops specially those who fought in Iraq.

If people were annoyed with the first scene where Chris Kyle kills a woman and a child trying to attack an army convoy, there’s another scene where Kyle is begging another kid to drop the RPG so he doesn’t have to shoot him. There’s no doubt that US troops killed innocent civilians in Iraq and that the US intervention in Iraq was a complete mess, but let’s not forget how terrorists are using kids and women to attack soldiers as well. Two days ago, I read an article on how ISIS militants are using “mentally challenged children as suicide bombers”.

Funnily enough, the only thing that surprised me was how highly rated the movie is as I didn’t think it was that good. The story is cool but the fight scenes are real quick and I got bored at some point. It’s probably Michael Moore’s tweet that made American Sniper the boxoffice phenomenon of 2015 so far.

Rating: 3.5/5

I Watched Birdman And I’m Speechless

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birdman A Lebanon-edition poster for Birdman

My cousin called me yesterday to see if I wanted to go watch Birdman with him. I told him I’ve already seen the movie but I am not sure if I liked it or not. He laughed at first but when he finished watching it, he replied back that he got the same feeling. Birdman is a strange, beautiful and unique black comedy. It’s a movie you’d want to watch 2 or 3 times just to make sure you didn’t miss anything, and where you have to let your imagination take over. The ending is also surprising and superb. Funnily enough, the only character standing between delusion and reality is Zach Galifianakis (Jake).

In all cases, even if you didn’t like the plot, you can’t but appreciate the outstanding performance and impressive acting of Michael Keaton and Edward Norton in the movie. I am planning to watch it a second time this coming weekend.

Rating: 4/5

Inside O1NE Beirut By SKYBAR: Lebanon’s Hottest Night-Life Venue In Winter

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If Skybar is the place to be during summer in Lebanon, O1NE Beirut is the best place to party during winter. What started out as a huge pink round building was transformed into a true artistic landmark for Lebanon and the region. Talented graffiti artists from all over the world came to Lebanon to interpret the theme of music on the 3,000 sqm wall and the outcome is an awesome venue featuring the world’s largest privately owned graffiti wall.

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As for the interior, O1NE consists of blank white walls that come to life at night with 3D video mapping all over them. It was very difficult to visualize the interior when my friend at Skybar explained it to me, but once I was inside, the first thing that caught my attention was the beautiful interior and how it takes you from one mood to another throughout the night. The music and the 3D Mapping synced in a beautiful way that I haven’t seen anywhere in a night club before and everyone can see the mappings as they cover the full 360 degrees.

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O1NE is very spacious inside and even though I was with a group of 20 people that night, we never felt that squeezed or uncomfortable. Of course it got more and more crowded as the night progressed but it was relatively ok when compared to SKYBAR’s nights where you could barely move. Towards the end of the night, I went up to the DJ’s booth that overlooked the venue and it was pretty cool from up there. My contact at Skybar told me that there are plans to build private rooms with balconies overlooking the club in Beirut just like O1NE Abu Dhabi, which would be pretty cool but I don’t know when it will happen.

As far as the music is concerned, O1NE plays all genres of house music and has been bringing hot performers every week. Last weekend Jamie Jones was playing his sets and this week, it’s gonna get hotter with Luciano on Friday night and DJ Magnum on Saturday. Price-wise, we ended up paying around 65$ per person that night which is a very reasonable price.

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O1NE Beirut is located in Downtown Beirut right on Biel’s entrance. You can call 70 939 191 to book your table and make sure to check their Facebook page as they keep posting updates there.

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Rating: 4.5/5

The New Lord Of The Wings 2014 Menu

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I was at Lord of the Wings a couple of weeks ago to try out their new menu in their Kaslik branch. That’s my favorite LOTW branch since it’s at really cool spot in Kaslik and is very close to my house. Here’s the list of new items that we were trying out:

Individual and Shareable Appetizers
Smoked Salmon and Avocado Potato skins
Loaded Chicken Quesadillas
Loaded Veggie Quesadillas

American Artisan Flatbreads
BBQ Chicken
Pesto

Crisp Salads
All Natural Quinoa Salad
Asian beef

Better Burgers
The American
Bistro Burger
The Nippon Chicken

Hearty Sandwiches
Light Chicken
The Club Sandwich
Pulled Pork and Slaw

Essential Desserts
Authentic NY Cheesecake
Caramel Lazy Cake

Wings
Traditional Wings tossed in Buffalo mild sauce
Grilled wings tossed in Citrus Pepper sauce
Boneless wings tossed in Garlic Parmesan Sauce

20141126_201129 Smoked Salmon and Avocado Potato skins

We started with the salads and starters. I loved the Smoked Salmon and Avocado Potato skins but it’s not something I would order at LOTW. I usually go there for wings and fries and might have a salad on the side. Speaking of which, the Asian beef was good and I highly recommend you try the All Natural Quinoa Salad. The Quesadillas were really good too.

I don’t like garlic, onions or spices so I didn’t try the Parmesan garlic wings or the ones with the mild sauce but everyone enjoyed them. I usually go for the BBQ Classic or Smoky boneless wings.

PS: Don’t forget to take the wings challenge if you don’t mind spicy sauces and eating 15 wings in less than 2 minutes.

20141126_202116 All Natural Quinoa Salad

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Moving on to the burgers and club sandwich, I loved the Pork Ribs and Bistro burgers the most. As for the club sandwich, it was huge but I wasn’t too impressed with it as I hate mayo and there was too much bread in it. What I loved though were the flatbreads, specially the BBQ Chicken one.

All in all, Lord of the Wings has the best wings in town that’s for sure but it also has great burgers, a really good Quinoa salad and the newly introduced flatbreads are spot on!

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20141126_211132 The Club Sandwich

20141126_212440 Pork Ribs Burger

20141126_212813 The Nippon Chicken

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Piper-Heidsieck Champagne And Food Pairing At Les Caves de Taillevent

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Every time I go to Les Caves de Taillevent, I fall in love with that place once again. I love the setup, the caves, the staff and more importantly the food and alcohol pairing sessions that take place there.

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I was invited along with 8 or 9 other people last Friday for a session of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne and food pairing. To be honest, I am not a big Champagne fan but I’ve never had Piper-Heidsieck before, and given that it’s one of the oldest Maison de Champagne around the world and has an excellent reputation, I thought I’d give it a try and get to know more about Champagne tasting. Moreover, my good friend and the super talented Nicole Maftoum was the chef for the evening, so I didn’t want to miss out on her dishes.

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Before we started the tasting, we were served hot freshly baked bread with a delicious herb butter. Afterwards, we got to try out Piper-Heidsieck’s finest champagne, the Rare Vintage 2002 bottle which is a blend of 17 crus which matured for over seven years in the House’s cellars. This was one of the best champagnes I’ve ever tasted and it was different from all champagnes I’ve had before. In fact we all agreed that they should have kept it for last as the bottles that followed weren’t as good as this one.

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The dishes we got along with this bottle consisted of 1 oyster with Salmon sashimi in a pea puree with fish roe, followed by an organic salad greens with tuna sashimi, quail eggs, edamame and a parmesan champagne vinaigrette. I loved the raw fish but what I enjoyed most was the salad dressing.

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We got to taste the 2006 vintage brut and the cuvée brut afterwards with a Porcini Rigatoni with Saffron dish and a Quinoa Paella with shrimps and a creamy thai-base sauce. Both bottles were good but I’d rather have the 2002 with both dishes. Speaking of which, I loved the Porcini and the Quinoa Paella that followed was fresh and tasty.

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Moving on to the best part of the evening, we were served four different desserts along with a glass of Rosé Sauvage. The Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage has a hint of red fruits and is elaborated with a majority of Pinoits Noir, which matched perfectly with the Red Beans Dark Chocolate brownie, The Labneh Red fruits cake with nuts and dried berries, the Chickpeas fruit tart with vanilla pudding and the Rose sauvage Champagne ice cream.

I was anxiously waiting for the Labneh, yup Labneh, Red Fruits cake and it was very light and delicious! The chickpeas fruit tart was surprisingly good and the ice cream was amazing. It was the perfect ending to a thrilling and enriching experience.

All in all, I got to appreciate champagne a bit more with this tasting and I would gladly have a glass of that Rare Vintage 2002 bottle with fish and seafood.

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The New Crepaway 2014 Menu: Cordon Blues Burger And The Munchmallow Are My Favorites

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I was at Crepaway Zalka yesterday trying out the new menu items (once again) but this time inside the kitchen with the chef himself. Before going into the kitchen, we were handed chef coats and knives that we got to keep which is pretty cool.

Moving on to the new menu, here are the new additions and my take on them:

Appetizers
20141027_190855 Asian Glazed fried Chicken Wings

I love wings and the Asian glazed ones were really good.

20141027_190339 Onion Kings

I didn’t taste the onion rings as I am not a big fan of onions.

Salads
20141027_191338 Quinoise: Quinoa, Rocca & Iceberg Lettuce drizzled with raspberry dressing, baked potato cubes, boiled egg, veggie assortment, tuna, beetroot dices and olives (Raspberry & Lemon dressing)

This is my new favorite salad at Crepaway. I loved the ingredients and the dressing but I would add a bit more quinoa and less tuna.

20141027_192108 Pastalocca: Penne pasta tossed with pesto dressing, rocca leaves, parmesan cheese & cherry tomatoes. Topped with grilled chicken strips and roasted pine seeds (Basil sauce).

A good mix and a light and delicious salad.

Burgers
20141027_194705 Cordon Blues: 100% Black Angus Beef filled with cheese, with extra cheddar, crispy bacon and onion rings, lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup and Dijonnaise sauce.

I hate mayo and I thought it ruined the burger the first time I had it, so I ordered it without any dressings and it was perfect. I highly recommend it!

20141027_193636 Tex Burger: 100% Black Angus beef with Fajita spices, onions, cheese, avocado, jalapenos and Cajun sauce.

I don’t like spices so I didn’t try this one.

20141027_193056 Gluten free burger

The bun was tasteless but the burger as a whole was fine.

Crepes
20141027_200325 Frida: Chicken breast, cheddar cheese, onion, green bell pepper, corn & Mexican spices. Served with guacamole and ranch sour cream.

The crepe by itself is a bit dry, so make sure you dip it with guacamole or/and ranch sour cream which come on the side.

20141027_203255 Donutella: Nutella spread with banana, chocolate sauce and hazelnut.

This is pretty much the Martine crepe but with Nutella. I love Nutella but the premium Belgian chocolate in the Martine tastes much better.

20141027_203141 Marion: Lemon custard cream and candied orange sticks topped with meringue and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

I loved the meringues placed on top and it’s a really good and relatively “light” crepe.

20141027_204052 Cannelle: Caramelized Apple scented with cinnamon over cheesecake filling. Topped with caramel ice cream and sauce, sprinkled with crumble and croquants.

This is basically an Apple crumble crepe. I loved it!

Desserts
20141027_205106 Munchmallow: Baked cheesecake with chocolate, topped with a melted marshmallow hat and served with chocolate sauce and hazelnut.

My new favorite dessert at Crepaway. The Munchmallow is beyond amazing!

20141027_204731 Melteaser: Made with lawyers of marbled ice cream and Maltesers, topped with caramel and warm chocolate sauce sprinkled with croquants.

Another great dessert introduced to the menu.

Platters
20141027_201006 Tortzilla: Fried Chicken breast in a crispy crust of tortilla, cheese and paprika sauce.

Quite a heavy meal with a heavier sauce. I don’t think I’d order it.

Quick Review: The Expendables 3

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If you loved the previous two Expendables movies, you will definitely love this one. There’s a nice twist to the story towards the start and the new additions to the team include some really cool characters, except for Antonio Banderas who doesn’t belong in this movie in my opinion. I thought the movie was a bit long though as it’s over 2 hours but it’s action-packed and the final battle lasts a good 25 minutes.

I wish they’d stop here and stop making Expendables movies, but it doesn’t look like Stallone wants this franchise to end anytime soon. Expect to see Pierce Brosnan, Hulk Hogan and maybe Dwayne Johnson in the fourth film.

The Expendables 3 starts showing today in Lebanese theaters.

My Trip To Jordan: Part1

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As mentioned previously, I was in Jordan for a week back in May along with a couple of bloggers and media people courtesy of the Jordan Tourism Board. Before talking about the trip, I have to say I am quite impressed by the initiatives taken by Jordan to promote tourism in their country and through the JTB as opposed to what the Tourism Ministry does in Lebanon.

Moving on to the trip itself, and given that it was 1 week long, I thought I divide it into 2 parts:

The first post covering the first 3 days of the trip that includes a short stop and dinner in Amman, the Pope event at Amman stadium, the dead sea and baptism site visits and the stay at the mountain resort Ma’In Hot Springs Evason in Ma’In.

The second post covering the visit to Madaba (Mount Nebo), the desert experience in Wadi Rum, Petra by day and by night experience and last but not least our final stop in Aqaba.

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We took an early morning flight from Beirut to Amman (there are 7 flights every day) and got to Amman in less than 2 hours. It was my first time on a Royal Jordanian plane and the trip was quite smooth and the staff were very friendly. Upon arriving to the newly renovated Queen Alia International Airport, a bus and a tourist guide were waiting there to help us out and pick us up. The first hotel we stayed in was the Regency Palace hotel as it was very close to where the Pope’s mass is taking place and to the Jordanian cultural center where all the press conferences were being held.

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Night out in Amman and a selfie with Pope Francis
To be honest, the Regency Palace hotel was by far the worst hotel we stayed in during our trip to Amman as the rooms were dirty, the food was average and the hotel was right on a busy highway. After resting for a couple of hours, we headed out to the city center and had dinner at a beautiful authentic restaurant called Sufra. The restaurant is an old renovated house with a beautiful interior and a splendid terrace. The food was also quite good as we got to try few Jordanian dishes which were quite interesting (specially the Kafta wou Batata with T7eené instead of tomatoes).

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The second day was quite a busy one as we had to be ready by 10am for the Pope’s visit and we spent the whole day between the Jordanian cultural center and the Amman stadium. The security measures taken were quite drastic as there were 2 or 3 police officers every 20 meters and a lot of security checks. Nevertheless, everything went as planned and I got to see Pope Francis which I admire and respect a lot. I even took a selfie with him!

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The Dead Sea Experience: At the lowest point on Earth
Our next stop after Amman was at the Movenpick Hotels & Resorts which is located on the dead sea. As opposed to Regency Hotel, this was one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve ever been too. The resort was splendid, the rooms were amazing, the food was great and the facilities were everything one could ask for. As far as the dead sea experience is concerned, I went for a swim and it was quite a weird feeling as you float the whole time. I stayed for around 20 minutes as this is the recommended time then put some of that “magic” mud on my body. Note that it is not recommended to swim if you have a cut, nor is it advised to dunk your face in the water as your eyes will hurt real bad; you just have to lay back and navigate with your hands as if you’re in a tube.

WP_20140525_08_58_26_Pro At the lowest point on Earth

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The whole dead sea experience took less than an hour and we spent the rest of the day sunbathing and walking around the resort. I even found some private Jacuzzi entrance and managed to get in after one of the hotel employees gave me the pass code. It was one of the best Jacuzzis I’ve stayed in as well. If you ever want to visit the dead sea, there are a lot of cool resorts along the coast just like the Movenpick.

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Baptism Site

After leaving the Movenpick and before heading to Ma’In, we passed by the Baptism Site for a short visit. The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, also known as Al-Maghtas, is one of the most important religious destinations specially for Christians. Despite its symbolism, there’s nothing much to see there except for the few churches and the main site next to the river.

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What was quite amazing there is that we were standing right on the Jordan River and the people on the other side of the river were in Israel. Even though we were separated by few meters only and no barriers, no one dares to cross the river from both sides.

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Evason Ma’In Hot Springs

After our short stop at the Baptism site, we drove for like an hour to get to Ma’In, a region situated in the mountains and hosting a beautiful resort next to Ma’In’s famous waterfalls. The resort is called Evason Ma’In Hot Springs (I have no idea how we pronounce Evason) and consists of a hotel and a spa, the Six Senses Spa, set underneath one of the three waterfalls found there.

The hotel itself is really nice and ideal for a weekend escape, the rooms were tidy and clean but there wasn’t much lighting at night for some reason. The biggest waterfall found there is not accessible to the public, but there are two other waterfalls that you can go to. One of them is located inside the Six Senses spa and you have to pay to go there while the other one located right outside the resort is free. There’s also a pool 200 meters away from the hotel but I didn’t like it much to be honest, as I would have preferred some infinity pool inside the resort with a couple of Jacuzzis to relax specially that they have a breathtaking view.

WP_20140525_17_43_20_Pro The healing waterfalls

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As far as the waterfalls are concerned, it’s quite a unique experience and it feels quite weird to be standing underneath them. They call them the “healing waterfalls” because they apparently relax the muscles and make you feel better. All in all, I highly recommend this resort if you are heading to Jordan for a week and looking for a weekend escape. You don’t need more than a couple of days at Evason Ma’In Hot Springs.

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This pretty much covers the first part of my trip which I enjoyed quite a lot, but the best is yet to come to stay tuned for the second post where I will be talking about Petra and the desert experience mainly which were mind blowing!