Category Archives: Tourism

Jounieh Fireworks Were Great Yesterday, But I Didn’t Enjoy Them

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Patrick Pharaon JIF2016_2 Photo Credits: Patrick Pharaon

I look forward to the Jounieh fireworks every year, and I think it’s a nice tradition to kick off the Jounieh International Festivals but I didn’t enjoy them this year for two reasons:

– They were scheduled on a Thursday night which is a big mistake. People driving back from their work were stuck for hours in unnecessary traffic. I spent almost 3 hours to get from Achrafieh to Jeita and I almost missed the fireworks because of traffic.

– The fireworks were stunning but the show was were very similar to last year’s. Since money is no issue, they could have synced the fireworks with a song for a change.

Jihad Asmar JIF2016 Photo Credits: Jihad Asmar

Patrick Pharaon JIF2016 Photo Credits: Patrick Pharaon

Light House 919 JIF2016 Photo Credits: Light House 919

Chiha JIF2016 2 Photo Credits: Elie Chiha (Chi7as)

Vogue Spends Four Perfect Days in Beirut

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Alison Beckner came to visit Beirut for four days and the result was “a perfect storm of shopping, wining, dining, dancing, and—eventually—sleeping in this capital city where the Mediterranean meets the Middle East”.

Friday at Baffa House in the lively neighborhood of Mar Mikhael, a visit to the recently reopened Sursock Museum, dinner at Lux and end the night at the weekly Summer Decks on the Beach party at Sporting Club. Saturday starts at Souk el Tayeb, then a visit to “charming cobblestone streets of Saifi Village”, lunch at the authentic and history-filled restaurant Al Falamanki and party till dawn at the Grand Factory and the legendary B018.

This is a quick recap of the first two days. I love how the author took her time to walk around the city, explore the hidden gems found in every street, visit museums and art galleries and even hit the gym. You can check out the rest of the days [here].

Despite ongoing political turmoil, Beirut remains a hub for Levantine history combined with stunning juxtapositions: green hills, a sea-cradled peninsula, labyrinthine streets, neglected architecture—from Arabesque to Venetian Gothic—high-rises, old mosques, churches and palaces, and much more. Add to this a sociocultural melting pot, teeming with makers, doers, and shakers. The result is a perfect storm of shopping, wining, dining, dancing, and—eventually—sleeping in this capital city where the Mediterranean meets the Middle East. [Vogue]

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Lebanese Wines Marsyas & Bargylus Featured In France’s Le Monde

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Karim and Sandro Saadé, the two brothers and owners of Château Marsyas in Lebanon and Domaine de Bargylus in Syria got a special two-page feature in the French daily newspapers Le Monde, one of the most important and widely respected papers in France and the world.

The report. entitled “The Grapes of Hope” was more than just publicity for the well-established wines but also aimed at portraying the positive side of Lebanon and the perseverance of wine makers despite the circumstances and the ongoing Syrian crisis.

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Lebanon is among the oldest sites of wine production in the world and our wines are celebrated worldwide. Personally speaking, Marsyas and Bargylus are among my top 5 favorite Lebanese wines. In fact, I’m gonna have a Bqa Marsyas Rouge tonight while watching Germany defeat Italy 😀

Congrats to the Saade brothers for this special feature and for their resilience in producing wine in Lebanon and more specifically in Syria despite being unable to access the estate there since 2011.

Cheers to better days ahead for Lebanon and the whole Middle East!

You can check out the full report [here].

#LiveLoveLebanon: Promoting Rural Lebanon & Lebanese Traditional Guest Houses

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If you want take a journey into the heart of rural Lebanon, there are tens of gorgeous guesthouses located in breathtaking locations and offering an authentic Lebanese experience. To name few:

Bouyouti – Maasser Beiteddine
Mtein Guesthouse – Mtein
Tafla – Smar Jbeil
Eco Dalida – Tannourine
Esber Guesthouse – Rachaya el Fokhar
Dar Mehdi – Rachaya el Wadi
Akram Guesthouse – Barouk
Beit Douma – Douma
Der Qadisha – Hasroun
Beit el Nessim – Al Mina Tripoli
Remhala Guesthouse – Aley
Dar Alma – Tyre
Dar Linda – Deir el Qamar
Dar el Achrafieh – Achrafieh

You can check out information for some of them on [hotelibanais].

I loved the video and the music. Another job well done by The Ministry of Tourism!

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A Report On The Beach Water Quality Along Lebanon’s Coast

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Tri Tripoli Beaches – Photo Credits: Souad Sbaiti

This is a follow-up on a post I wrote back in April. A sea water monitoring study was conducted by the National Center for Marine Sciences (I had no clue we had such a thing), and this is a summary of the results:

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As you can see, most of the beaches that are frequented by Lebanese during the summer are good. Most of the beaches North of Lebanon are clean and Tyr’s beaches are the best. The Jiye & Damour beaches are ok despite the garbage that was being dumped there underwater and Saida’s beach is good after the garbage mountain got removed.

Enjoy the summer!

Promoting Religious Tourism in Lebanon: Our Lady of Mantara, Maghdouche

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Lebanon is one of the oldest countries in the world and has been at the heart of the growth of Christianity and Islam. Christianity has had a long presence of over two thousand years in Lebanon and churches, basilicas, cathedrals, shrines, monasteries and caves can be found almost all over our land. Unfortunately, religious tourism has been neglected for years in Lebanon and a lot of important and historic shrines and monuments are unknown to most Lebanese.

One of them is Our Lady of Mantara (The Wait) in the town of Maghdouche in the South. Being from the South, I’ve heard a lot about this place but I know a lot of people who don’t even know how ancient and symbolic this place and more specifically the grotto that was rediscovered there almost 400 years ago.

grotto Copyright William MATAR – DiscoverLebanon.com

Here’s a small brief written by Mgr. Georges KWAITER, who was the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of the Diocese of Saïda and of Deir el-Kamar up until 2011.

The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mantara has its origins in the Holy Gospels. We read in Mark ch. 7, v. 24, that after leaving Genesareth in Palestine Christ went to the region of Tyre and Sidon (now called Saïda) to preach the Good News and to heal the sick. It was at Sidon that he cured the daughter of the Canaanite women possessed of a devil: “Woman, your faith is great.” For his part, Saint Luke says in ch. 6. v. 17 that after having chosen his twelve apostles Jesus “came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal regions of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.”

According to holy tradition the Holy Virgin accompanied her son when he journeyed to Tyre and to Sidon. However, as we know, Jewish women were not allowed to go into pagan cities. Therefore, as Sidon was a Canaanite town and therefore pagan, Mary waited for her son in this grotto at Magdousheh, for the Roman road which ran from Jerusalem to the Lebanese coast passed by this village. Here she waited in prayer and meditation, from which comes the name Our Lady of the Wait – al Mantara. [Full Text]

The grotto was turned into a shrine where people come to honour the Virgin and ask for her grace but the place is largely unknown to plenty of Lebanese and tourists, and the Ministry of Tourism is apparently working on changing that fact. I stumbled upon the video below yesterday and I truly hope that they have a serious plan to put Our Lady of Mantara on the international religious tourism map, along with Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal and of course Medugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

We have a lot of important religious sites in Lebanon and religious tourism can both help put back Lebanon on the religious tourism map and boost the economy, especially in neglected areas like Maghdouche and the South in general.

48 Hours in #Beirut: I Love it!

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byblos

A couple from Dubai visited Beirut for a crazy 48 hours and compiled everything they did into 5 minute video. They explored Beirut by day and night (Zaitunay, Mar Mikhail etc …), took the Teleferique to Harissa, Jeita Grotto, Byblos Souks and ended their adventure at the one and only B018.

I know these are all cliché things to do but tourists enjoy them and a lot of Lebanese, including myself, still enjoy them from time to time. Visiting Byblos, Going to Harissa, partying at B018 are a must if you haven’t visited Lebanon.

I love how this couple shared their experience and I hope they will be back soon for another crazy 48 hours. There are so many different things to do in this country in 48 hours that you will always keep coming back!

Check out the full story [here].

[YouTube]

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).