Category Archives: Tourism

Sunday Morning Escape

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You might have visited every city in the country, but if you have not experienced Lebanon by bike then you have definitely been missing out. Three years ago, my friends got me a bike, they were certain that it was going to end up in the garage with layers of dust covering it. To everyone’s surprise, from that day, I have been biking every single weekend.

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Sunday for me, has drastically changed from a lazy day (±200 calories) to the most active day of the week (+2000 calories). On an average, we cover around 60-70 Km per ride, taking anywhere between 3-5 hours, depending on the number of stops we do. Our rides are not competitive, we are not in it to win a championship, but rather escape, be active, enjoy the outdoors and Live Love Lebanon.

When is the best time to go biking?
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My journey starts every Sunday at 6am. I wake up, grab a light breakfast (usually a small sandwich), pack my bike and gear and head out for my ritual ride. The ride usually starts at 8am and ends by 1pm, just in time for Sunday lunch. Before you start, find yourself a biking partner, it’s always more fun and a lot safer when you have someone with you. Every week we set out to discover a new location in the country.

What’s beautiful about bike rides, is that you get to see the places you usually miss out on by car. You can go into the narrow streets, stop and admire anything you find interesting along the way, enjoy the scenery, discover new places and take lots of amazing pictures.

What type of biker are you?

There are plenty of locations to enjoy different types of rides. City rides, sea side rides, mountain rides, uphill rides, and my personal favorites are the offroad rides.

Beginner:
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If you are a beginner, haven’t been on a bike for a long time or panic around cars, I would advise you to stick to relatively closed circuits, where cars aren’t swarming around you, like the Dbayeh Marina, Raouche, Beirut Waterfront or Amchit seaside boulevards.

Average:
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If you are an ok biker like most people, then you can venture a bit and hit the streets, the best place to ride is the on the old sea side road Jbeil – Amchit – Batroun – Anfeh. It’s relatively a straight path with few slopes, not many cars use that road on a Sunday morning, the scenery is breathtaking, and there are many places where you can stop and relax along the way. You can stop at the beach and have a swim, fuel up with a lemonade in the old Batroun souks or even get a glass of beer and chill at Colonel Beer.

Advanced:
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If you are an advanced biker, you can burn few more more calories by riding uphill in the Metn area, starting in Baabdat and moving up to Ain El Sefsaf or even shoot for longer rides in the Bekaa valey from Taanayel to Qaraoun.

Thrill Seeker:

Thrill seekers can go into remote rocky areas in Wata El Joz, Keserwan and enjoy an offroad experience. Of course you need a mountain bike and some extra protection gear to endure the ride.

How much does it cost?
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If you don’t have a bike, you can always purchase one, you don’t need an expensive bike. You can get a mountain bike that works both for city rides and offroad for $500-700. If you don’t want to invest in a bike just yet, there are plenty of bike rentals in Beirut, Gemmayze, Jbeil, Amchit and Batroun. You can rent a bike for as low as 7,000 L.L.

All in All:
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In Lebanon, we have the perfect landscape and weather for outdoor activities. Unfortunately, our roads are in terrible conditions, there are no bike lanes and car drivers have no respect for bikers on the streets. This is the main reason why I bike very early on Sundays, to minimize as much as possible the risks of getting hit by a car and avoid heavy traffic.

With the upcoming municipal elections, electoral programs should focus more on making the cities open and fit for healthier outdoor life, encourage people to go out, be active and use less and less their cars. Of course we can always dream of having a bicycle highway, like the one Germany just opened. It’s a 62 miles bicycle road that connects 10 western cities including Duisburg, Bochum, and Hamm, as well as four universities.

Visiting Tripoli’s Syria Street: Wheat Market Restoration & Qahwetna Cultural Café

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Almost one year ago, an unprecedented security plan has managed to put an end to the endless rounds of fierce clashes and restore calm between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods. Fortunately, we haven’t heard of any renewed clashes ever since but Syria’s street and more specifically Tebbaneh’s wheat market needed some serious renovation.

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A lot of buildings remain damaged there but the historic market’s restoration has kicked off and the first phase was completed a couple of months ago. I went to Syria’s street to check out the market and the new cultural cafe Qahwetna that was inaugurated recently.

Just to give you an idea on how bad the market’s condition was, here’s a picture showing the difference between the non-renovated part and the renovated one. Merchants were unable to open during winter and the roof was in a very bad shape.

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Now the walls have been replaced with white stone, and the market’s roof has been completely restored. I went for a walk inside the market, it was clean, everyone was extremely friendly just like they always are in Tripoli, I got offered Kaak and coffee like 10 times and I got to meet a couple of merchants who told me about their struggle when the Lebanese Army clashed with the Islamists inside the market.

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The wheat market is long and narrow and gets really crowded during the weekend. You can find almost everything there everything from food, clothes, accessories, movies, music and other stuff for extremely cheap prices. These markets are quite popular in Tripoli where half the population lives under the poverty line and especially in Bab el Tebbaneh, which is considered Tripoli’s poorest neighborhood.

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Before leaving Tripoli, I dropped by Qahwetna, a cultural café founded on the former fighting line (Syria Street) between the two areas, where “events such as other plays, stand-up comedy gigs, rap sessions and other expressive art forms can find a platform in the neglected conflict areas in Tripoli”.

I had a coffee and another Kaake and got to meet the guys that are managing the cafe. Qahwetna is perfectly located and is a much needed space for young people to interact around peaceful ideas, have fun, and enjoy themselves.

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All in all, Tripoli has been suffering for years from development and economic deprivation despite being Lebanon’s second largest city and having all the necessary components to become a second economic capital. Almost half of Tripoli’s population is poor and lives under poor conditions and unemployment rates are high.

Tripoli and more importantly Syria’s street needs small initiatives like the Wheat Market restoration, the opening of a cultural cafe, cultural events like the one MARCH organized last year etc. We need to keep in mind that that the problems in Tripoli are not stirred or generated by fanaticism or extremism but it’s the lack of opportunities and under-development that is suppressing any hope for the youth, leading them to resort to violence.

cemetery Bab el Tebbaneh’s cemeteries

Eco-Friendly Camping Site Inaugurated in Kab-Elias Town (Bekaa)

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qab elias

Qab Elias is a beautiful town located in the Bekaa valley 15 km away from Zahle and 45 km from Beirut. Qab Elias is on the same road that takes you to Ammiq and Kefraya and is considered one of the largest cities there. The town has two noticeable landmarks: a medieval castle and a mysterious rock-cut altar. The castle dates back from the 12th century whereas the rock is thought to be from the late Hellenistic or early Roman times.

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I was invited last weekend to the town for the opening of an eco-friendly camping site (Scouts city) that was built over four months by the Qab Elias municipality. The land which was previously deserted was reconditioned and transformed into a green camping site with eco-friendly standards to help preserve nature and promote green spaces. The camping site includes around 7 small caravans that are all equipped with solar lighting and heating system to save energy.

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I loved the idea and I wanted an opportunity to visit the town closely so I went there and was truly surprised by the turnout. Aside from the town’s locals and heads of municipalities, the event was public, everyone was invited to attend and a large campfire was organized in the middle of the camp. Freshly cooked food and baked snacks were distributed for free on all the attendees with cold and hot refreshments as a hospitable gesture.

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There were no official statements or lame political speeches, just families eating, dancing, singing and having fun. The event slowly turned into a festival where people from all sects and colors celebrated around the fireplace with music and scout shows.

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I’m sharing few pictures from the event but I wish if I had filmed the whole thing because it truly brought years back to our village celebrations in the South mainly during Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Eid el Saydeh).

If you are interested in visiting and camping in Qab Elias, contact Maher Nader (03894882).

The White Face Of Lebanon: A Video That Sums Up This Year’s Gorgeous Winter Season

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white leb

We’ve seen Lebanon’s natural beauty through the eyes of Lebanese water skiing champion Silvio Chiha during summer and now here’s another stunning video that perfectly sums up this year’s winter season. I took few screenshots from the video but I recommend that you watch the whole thing in HD. It’s totally worth it!

The video was produced by my talented friend Charbel Bouez (Charbel Bouez Visual Communication) and directed by Ed Yazbeck (Athlete Management: Sportscode).

The White Face Of Lebanon -Silvio Chiha

We have lost a lot, but it is everyone's duty to preserve the resources we still have. From wherever you are, help us share what we love the most about our country. Hoping it will make you DREAM, BELIEVE AND CATER FOR A BETTER FUTURE, FOR A BETTER LEBANON. #lebanonthroughmyeyes"The White Face Of Lebanon”Produced by Charbel Bouez Visual CommunicationDirected by Ed YazbeckAthlete Management Sportscode

Posted by Silvio Chiha on Thursday, March 24, 2016

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Skiing in Lebanon: All You Need To Know

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Note: This post was written by my younger brother Chadi [@LeMitri].

Over the last two years, the winter season has not brought us a lot of snow and the ski resorts were able to open a combined period of 2 to 3 weeks. Since the first weekend of 2016 until today the slopes have been open for business. I have had my share of trips to Laqlouq and Kfardebian, and I am happy that there is time for even more.

For those of you who are not familiar with the ski resorts and prices, here is a quick comparison between the main four ski resorts in Lebanon, including ticket prices, distance to get there and rental prices:

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zaarour laqlouq [Source: Skileb.com]

As far as rentals are concerned:

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A small piece of advice:
If you are able to take days off, I highly recommend that you hit the slopes on week days because weekends are being really busy and the resorts are packed. Otherwise, make sure to get there really early. Last Tuesday (Mar Maroun holiday) and last weekend were so busy that they almost ran out of tickets in Mzaar, not to mention that it took people an extra hour to get there.

weather Bad weather for skiing this weekend

If you need more information about ski resorts and prices, check out [SkiLeb.com].

Stop Hating On Lebanon

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beiruting spain These two pictures were part of the FB post that went viral, yet were not taken in Lebanon

Every now and then, we see a new post about Lebanon going viral on Facebook, with the same set of cliché pictures and the same “40 Interesting Facts about Lebanon” that we’ve been hearing ever since people started using the internet, the whole “Lebanon has 18 sects, 40 daily newspapers, is 6000 years old, is not a desert, we created the alphabet” thingy.

However, the latest post, that has gone crazy viral over the past few days, included at least two pictures that aren’t even from Lebanon and that most people didn’t notice or chose to ignore. One of them was apparently taken in Spain and the other in Japan.

Here’s what the post said:

NO we are NOT in a desert. NO we don’t ride on CAMELS like others do. YES we have NATURAL snow slopes. YES we are a FREE country. Lebanon is 6000 YEARS OLD. THE BIBLE was named after our city BYBLOS. “THE CONTINENT EUROPE” was named after our phoenician PRINCESS EUROPA . The CHRIST made his 1st miracle at QANA in southern Lebanon.
And you are READING and COMMENTING on this post coz the PHOENICIANS our ANCESTORS taught you how by creating the ALPHABET . So stop asking WHERE IS LEBANON!!!

leb3 This is in Lebanon and it’s much better than the fake picture being circulated – via Dr. Antoine Daher

I never shared the post and I hate it when people share wrong information, self-inflated statements and misleading pictures but I don’t think we need to make a big deal out of it. The two pictures could very well be in Lebanon because they are just showing sexy girls on a ski slope and a snowy road. It’s not like he was sharing pictures of pyramids or the Tour Eiffel in Lebanon. There are tons of misleading posts like that on Facebook related to other countries that most of us tend to share from time to time without checking whether it’s true or not.

As far as the “facts” listed that are meant to help people figure out where Lebanon is, they are mostly wrong or exaggerated but again it doesn’t mean that we have nothing to be proud of as Lebanese. On the contrary, we have a very rich culture, a history that we should be proud of, and tons of facts that will make us feel proud to be Lebanese.

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On another note, and as I stated in a previous post, I cannot understand self-hating Lebanese who look for any reason to hate on their own country and promote it in a very negative way. In fact, I am not sure which is worse? Those who only seen Lebanon as heaven on earth or those who hate this country and want to leave.

I find both extremes wrong but I truly believe that seeing the positive in things not only reflects on our country but on the way we live our lives. I hate a lot of things that are happening here but I try to change them or ignore them (if possible) and focus on the things that make me happy and there are plenty of them. We do need a wake up call every now and then, and I agree with a lot of points raised by Elie from A Separate State of Mind on that same topic, but calling Lebanon a brain-dead country was wrong and as bad as “vulgar fetishization” (Thank u Mustapha for that term). Leaving is always an option for those who hate it that much; it takes time but it’s there and until then, do yourself a favor and try to enjoy the little things that make this country a special one.

PS: Since the author of that post couldn’t find proper ski slopes or snowy roads pictures from Lebanon, here are few recent pictures that are far better than the ones he shared:

cedars2 via LiveLoveCedars

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mzaar via LiveLoveMzaar

haig2 via Haig Melikian

cedars4 via LiveLoveCedars

And this one from 1969!
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CNTraveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2015: Beirut Among The 50 Most Beautiful Cities in the World

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Beirut

Beirut made it to the the CNTraveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2015 Top 50 most beautiful cities in the world. In 2014, Beirut was also chosen among Beirut Among The Top 25 Cities in the World. Other Arab cities that made the list include Abu Dhabi, Jerusalem and Muscat.

Here’s what the caption said about Beirut:

Even when faced with terror and destruction, Beirut is beautiful, charming, and strong. The Lebanese capital has astonishing art, architecture, food, and hotels—in fact, we think it’s one of the great cities of the world. —CNT Editors

I know we have a garbage problem, I know we have corrupt politicians, no president, a lousy infrastructure and traffic everywhere but our city is still a beautiful one. In fact, our country is a beautiful one and I was surprised to see so many Lebanese hating on their own country especially after the latest Ministry of Tourism video. What did you expect the ministry to do? show mountains of garbage or polluted rivers? Do you think every tourism video you see out there perfectly reflects the country in question?

I am not running away from the problems, nor being delusional, but you can either chose to live here and make the best out of it while trying to make a change or figure out a way to leave because being negative the whole time will not change anything and affect your career and your life negatively.

I choose to highlight the issues we face here and try to tackle them in a constructive matter but my focus will always be on highlighting the positive things that surround us and that still make this country worth living in, and there are plenty of them!

Here’s a [link] to the full list.

A New Teleferique From Jbeil To Mar Charbel (Annaya)

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Byblos is putting the final touches on a new eco-friendly project that consists of two phases and would definitely boost tourism and investment in the area:

Boosting Eco-Tourism: The first phase consists of establishing an environmental corridor between Jbeil and the Natural Reserve of Bentael (محميّة بنتاعل). Bentael is a Lebanese village hooked in the heights of the Jord among rocks, oak and Pine trees. The reserve is considered one of the oldest, richest and most beautiful reserves in Lebanon.

However, I read recently that it’s under threat due to illegal works being performed there. I hope this new project will put an end to such practices.

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Teleferique from Jbeil To Annaya: The second phase consists of building a teleferique from the shores of Jbeil to Mar Charbel (Mar Maroun Monastery) in Annaya. Given how popular Annaya is as a destination, this teleferique is a great idea that will reduce traffic, boost religious tourism and bring in more visitors for Byblos and Annaya. My only worry is that a such a large-scale project will probably require approval from several municipalities and ministers of course so it won’t be that easy to pass.

All in all, I really hope this new project comes to life and I wish other cities would consider promoting tourism the way Jbeil is because they’ve doing an incredible job.

[YouTube]