Category Archives: Tourism

Review: BEYt Guesthouse

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Two weeks ago while in Lebanon I stayed at a guesthouse called BEYt. They’ve been open for nearly a year now and I found out about the place by chance on my last trip there while visiting a small bookshop (Play BEY which belongs to them) and overhearing the owner talk about it. The guesthouse was located on top of the bookshop on the main Mar Mikhael street and when I got a tour of the place I knew I would be staying there on my next trip, which is what I ended up doing.

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As I mentioned above, BEYt is located on the very popular Mar Mikhael street. It’s on the first floor of a traditional Lebanese building with high ceilings, wooden shutters and beautiful floor tiles. They only have four rooms available which are:

Master Bedroom (90$ for 1 person, 110$ for 2, 130$ for 3)
Private bedroom with its own en-suite bathroom
1 queen-size bed & 1 single bed

Private bedroom (75$ for 1 person, 95$ for double occupancy)
Private bedroom with its dedicated bathroom across the corridor
1 queen-size bed

Twin Bedroom (60$ for 1 person, 80$ for double occupancy)
Private bedroom with shared bathroom across the corridor
2 single beds (1.20 meters)

Corner Bedroom (50$ for 1 person, 70$ for double occupancy)
Private bedroom with shared bathroom
2 single beds (1.10 meters)

Those are the prices as of this post.

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I ended up taking the “Master Bedroom” and found the room fairly spacious with a pretty large bathroom area thats nearly as big as the room itself. The whole guesthouse is fitted with vintage furniture and various vintage electronics like record players, TVs and cameras. It’s a beautiful space and all the furniture was handpicked by the owner. The biggest seller for me though was the location, being situated right on Mar Mikhael street meant I could walk to my favorite pubs and then clumsily stumble back at the end of the night. For those of you who know Lebanon, BEYt is located 2 minutes away walking from pubs like Radio Beirut, Internazionale, The Train Station and The Junkyard. Walk a minute longer and you’re at Bar Tartine, SUD and The Sandwich Shop. I can’t really imagine a better location to be staying at in Beirut. Because there are no pubs below or right across the street from BEYt the place was actually pretty quiet especially the room I stayed in which didn’t overlook the main road. BEYt also had WiFi and it was a pretty reasonable speed compared to Beirut standards.

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With all the positives I did have a number of issues though. When we first arrived at the guesthouse we were told that they needed our rooms for 2 hours because they were installing new vintage lights in our rooms. Nice but why couldn’t they have done that before we arrived or after we left? The first thing I wanted to do was unpack and head out. Another day I walked into my room and noticed they had removed the window shutters and a guy was standing outside my window working on them while looking into my room. That made me feel really uneasy since I was just sitting there on my computer with a guy looking in from my window. Again it wasn’t anything urgent that needed fixing so they should have done it before or after we left. I called the owner and told him how weird that was and he told me the guy just needed 10 more minutes. I had to wait until he was done so I could go and shower which annoyed me since I don’t like other people managing my personal time. The next morning I woke up to find the guy was back at my window, he had removed the shutters and was working on them again. It was really annoying and an invasion of my personal space.

Other issues I faced, the original room description which I listed above stated my room would have two beds but when I got there I found only one. It didn’t turn out to be an issue for me but it would have for someone wanting the second bed. Finally, the last issue I had was with the AC. We were told that we should shutoff the AC when we leave our rooms. I hate doing that especially when the AC isn’t really powerful like the ones they had installed. I usually come back to the room to sleep and don’t want to come back to a hot stuffy room and wait an hour till it cools. Luckily we managed to keep it on the whole time without any issues.

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There were a few more things that bothered me like the smell of the cooking every morning or the really rough and hard towels. But all the issues were relatively minor and nothing really took away from the whole experience except for the guy with my shutters. I thought the price of my room was pretty fair and the fact they have rooms starting at $50 is ridiculous. It’s all about the location and that’s why I’d stay there again with all the issues I had. For more information on BEYt, check out their website [Here]

Another similar place I would recommend staying at is the Hayete Bed & Breakfast which I’ve previously written about [Here]

Note: Picture of the room taken from the BEYt website

Posted by Mark

Ultimate Lebanon Summer Guide 2014

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I just got back from Lebanon a few days ago and here are my favorite places for 2014:

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SUN.DAYS at Skybar
Skybar Beirut have something new going on this year and it’s called SUN.DAYS. Starts at 6:30PM on Sundays while the sun is still up and goes on till past midnight. The whole Skybar gets a major makeover for SUN.DAYS with fake grass flooring, a raised bar area and colorful lounges and chairs all over. It actually takes them nearly 12 hours to setup this conversion, that’s how dedicated they are to SUN.DAYS. There are also special guests on SUN.DAYS and while I was there HVOB were performing and I ended up capturing the great shot below. Reservation is a must.

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Le Montagnou
Probably the nicest looking pool in Lebanon with the greatest view. Located up in Faraya, Le Montagnou is a restaurant with an outdoor pool and bar. Caters mostly to the fancy schmancy crowd of Faraya and Faqra but still cheaper than many pools in Beirut. Stay for the sunset and reservation is a must.

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The Gärten by Uberhaus
They’re only open Saturday night from around 8PM to 6AM and it was favorite place last summer and again this summer. It’s an outdoor club that’s open just for the summer with a large green garden filled with bean bags on one side and a huge open dome which is the dance floor on the other. Thank you Gino for the backstage pass!

Internazionale
There are a ton of great pubs in Mar Mikhael but my favorite this trip was Internazionale. It’s owned by the same owner as another favorite pub of mine Torino Express. Internazionale has two advantages over Torino, a larger space and the fact it’s located in the more vibrant Mar Mikhael area. Just like at Torino, the owner DJ’s here as well.

The Train Station
I wish I had taken pictures of this place but I didn’t have my camera on me then. The Train Station is located on the grounds of the old Mar Mikhael train station. They’ve taken one of the abandoned rusty 50+ year old trains and setup a DJ booth inside. They then setup a bar along with tables all around and they’ve kept everything intact including a rust old water tower which the bar surrounds. Pricy for what it is but it’s worth checking out.

The Junkyard
Also located in Mar Mikhael, The Junkyard is located in a large space between a heavily packed residential area and the theme of the place is a giant junkyard. There is indoor and outdoor seating it’s also worth passing by and checking out since it’s visually interesting. The place is a bit too bright so best to start off your evening with The Junkyard which makes sense anyway since they have a good food menu filled with friendly dishes like burgers and fish & chips.

Make sure you check out last years Ultimate Lebanon Summer Guide since most of the recommendations are still applicable as well [Link]

Posted by Mark

CNN: Exploring The Secrets Of Beirut

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Secrets of Beirut

We need hours and hours to explore the hidden gems of our beloved city Beirut. I hope to see more of these videos.

Check it out [Here] and what Zawarib is all about [Here].

Throughout our #CTWLiveFrom tour across the Middle East we’ve been keen to show you the unknown sides of the cities we’ve visited through the eyes of those who live there and know them best. Bahi Ghubril was our ideal candidate in the Lebanese capital Beirut. He’s the publisher of the city’s first street atlas, Zawarib, and has been exploring the hidden gems of the city for years.

Reviewing Hotels In Lebanon

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I think hotels are a great way to get away from the monotony and routine of everyday life. The getaway helps you relax, meet new people and get to know new areas that you wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to visit. On several occasions over the past years, I’ve spent weekends at some of Lebanon’s nicest hotels such as Phoenicia, Four Seasons, Le Gray, Mzaar Intercontinental, Mir Amin Palace, Monte Cassino and others.

Over the coming months and as part of a “Discover Lebanon” segment I am working on, I will be posting detailed reviews of the rooms, service, facilities and the experience as a whole. In addition, I want to provide a glimpse into the surrounding regions, must see attractions, etc.

So make sure you look out for my reviews!

fourseasons

phoenicia

Seven Awesome Pictures (+ 1 Video) of Balou3 Balaa in Tannourine

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three-bridges-cave-baatara-gorge-waterfall-lebanon-3 Image by Ralph Azar

Balou3 Balaa, also known as the Baatara sinkhole or the Three Bridges Chasm is a natural sinkhole plunging 250 meters in the mountainside and featuring a 100 meter waterfall between the bridges. It is located in Tannourine. You can go hiking and camping next to the sinkhole and also visit the Tannourine Cedars Forest Nature Reserve.

Check out more about the sinkhole on this [link].

Bala-Tannourine Image by Rabih

three-bridges-cave-baatara-gorge-waterfall-lebanon-12 Image by Jack Seikaly

three-bridges-cave-baatara-gorge-waterfall-lebanon-7 Image by Serge Melki

Tannourine-Falls-HDR Image by Serge Melki

three-bridges-cave-baatara-gorge-waterfall-lebanon-9 Image by Loai el Nomeiry

Looking-across-the-Baatara-abyss-gap Image by Ghassan el Ali

[YouTube]

Must-Have Breakfast in Lebanon: Zaatar and Jebneh In Tlamé Bread

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If you ever go to Akkar, make sure to try out the Tlamé bread. I don’t know if it’s popular elsewhere in Lebanon, but I’ve never had any in the South where I am from, nor in Beirut or Keserwan. The Tlamé is basically a dough baked in an oven made of clay. It comes out a bit thicker than the usual Man2oushe dough and tastier. You can get the Tlamé bread without any fillings or get Tlamé Manakish. Make sure to eat it while it’s still fresh and hot though as it hardens real quickly.

One of the oldest and most popular Tlamé ovens in Akkar is the one found in Oudeen. It’s on a small mountain road facing the stunning Oudeen valley and has been there for over 20 years. While waiting for your order to finish, I recommend you walk outside and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

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La Maison de la Forêt In Bkassine

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maison

Has anyone been to La Maison de la Foret? It looks really nice and the prices are quite reasonable. There are cottages, tents and a nice restaurant but it’s definitly not just 1 hour drive from Beirut! You easily need an hour and a half to get to Bkassine but it’s a very good road.

So there are two places that I want to visit in Jezzine now, Pinea Campus and La Maison De La Foret.

Filled with the culture of the South, La Maison de la Forêt is the coming together of outdoor activities, rustic accommodations, camping sites, family getaways, childhood memories, the warm smell of morning coffee, donkeys rides and trails, the unexpected enchantment with the silence of nature, and all the bright skies and chilly starry nights in between.

All the houses are made of wood, all the greetings are made of the warmth of the community and all the products are made of the goodness of the southern soil. The many passageways and the main activities on site are welcoming, safe and secure for any physical disability.

Only one hour away from the capital city, Beirut, La Maison de la Forêt is the sweetest escape away from the urban hustle and bustle. [LaMaisonDeLaForet]

Lebanon Sees 90% Rise In Arab Tourism In June (Waynoun?)

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The Tourism Ministry is saying the number of Arab tourists is up by 90 percent in June when compared with the previous year. Considering that practically no one came last year, I guess any improvement is good. What we really need though is a 1000% increase to start noticing any tourists in Lebanon and it’s not looking good again this summer despite a promising start.

The French tourists topped the list of non-Arab nationalities visiting Lebanon, followed by the German and Swedish tourists.

BEIRUT: The Tourism Ministry said Tuesday the number of Arab tourists increased by 90 percent in June, compared with the previous year.

“We don’t want the months of May and June, that witnessed this improvement, to be an exception, instead we want them to be a model for the coming months,” Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon said, arguing that the increase in tourism resulted from Lebanon’s “renewed openness to Gulf countries and the new dynamic in the tourism sector that accompanied the security plan.” [Link]

How To Spend A Weekend In Ayia Napa

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I am writing this post for two reasons:
– Since I’ve been to Ayia Napa twice in the last few weeks, a lot of people have been asking for recommended hotels, night clubs and restaurants there as well as things one can do, so I thought I mention all of them in one post.
– I am preparing a comparative post between the Jounieh bay and Ayia Napa and how we’re wasting so much potential and doing it all wrong in Lebanon.

As mentioned earlier, I’ve spent two weekends in Ayia Napa twice this summer, once with my wife in mid-June and another time with a group of guys for a bachelor in early July. The first weekend was a pure romantic and touristic one and I had a lot of fun, while the second weekend was wild, crazy and a different kind of fun.

Here’s a small review of both experiences with my recommendations for places to go and things to do if you’re visiting Ayia Napa soon as it looks like half the Lebanese population is going there or has already been to Ayia Napa this summer. Before I begin though, here’s a small map that shows you where the city center is (Blue circle) and how far it is from Limanaki beach (Green circle) where I spent my first weekend and the popular Nissi beach (Red Circle). Most of the bars and night clubs in Ayia Napa are located around the main square near the town hall which is where I was staying the second time.

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Weekend 1: Stay at the Grecian Sands Hotel
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I spent my first weekend at the Grecian Sands hotel, which is a four star hotel located right on one of the longest and most beautiful sandy beaches of Cyprus. The hotel is one of the best in Ayia Napa, the rooms are very spacious, there’s a nice pool and a direct access to the beach. There’s one thing that annoyed me though is that it was very hard to find a long chair by the pool or next to the beach as people would just put their towels there and reserve it for the whole day even if they aren’t there.

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I spent the first day mostly on the beach and walked in the afternoon to the center of Ayia Napa to check out the restaurants and shops there. Even though it was 15-20 minutes walk, I highly recommend you get hats and put sunscreen because it’s very hot and the sun is very strong. There are restaurants and supermarkets left and right wherever you go, and most of the places I’ve tried were quite good. I went to the Bed Rock cafe, Four Seasons restaurant, Erofili, Eurobakers, Golden Arrow, Los Bandidos and Kings Sword.

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In addition to the restaurants, there are small shops that sell fresh cocktails, yogurt and Sharwama (pork, lamb and chicken) which are quite good and worth a try. If you like pork, go for the Pork Shawarma Pitas at Georgie’s Handy food.

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Since Nissi beach was very far from my hotel and it was too hot to walk there, I thought of renting a buggy for one day and going out of the town for some sightseeing. The one I got below cost me 80 euros for 1 day and I had to pay an extra 20 euros for the gas. There are cheaper alternatives like a scooter or a quad that would cost you as little as 20 or 30 euros per day. The buggy was quite easy and fun to drive, except for the reverse gear which was annoying. Note that they take your passport and need a copy of your driving license or just the number on it.

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I drove to Cape Greco which is at the at the southern end of Famagusta Bay, and went as far as Potamos, which is a small village that has two fresh seafood restaurants. The food took forever to come but it was some of the best fish I’ve ever had so it’s definitely worth a try. You could park your buggy basically anywhere and since a lot of tourists there rent them, you won’t feel weird driving around cars even on the highway. Keep in mind that they drive on the left side in Cyprus just like the UK.

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As far as the beaches are concerned, all of them are beautiful and crystal clear. Of course everyone mentions Nissi beach when they go to Ayia Nappa because that’s where all the young people go, but there are a lot of other beautiful beaches there, specially the Limanaki which is larger and as beautiful as Nissi. I spent hours walking on these beaches and never got bored of them.

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Experience2: Stay At Green Bungalows
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We were a group of 12 guys on a bachelor weekend the second time and we thought it would better to stay close to the street with all the pubs and nights so we rented 4 rooms at the Green Bungalows Hotel Apartments. To be honest, the place is not very clean and the room service is mediocre, but we ended up spending 110 euros for 3 days which is a great price. The best thing about this place is how chilled people are there, and its proximity to all the pubs and nightclubs and the town center. We didn’t need to rent buggies or quads as everything (except for Nissi beach) was within a walking distance.

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The Nightlife:
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I’ve always heard that Ayia Napa has some of the best night life in Europe and how it’s varied and offers something for everybody but I didn’t find it that spectacular. The reason is that the majority of people we bumped into were teenagers and I felt like I was walking down Monot Street. Of course after few drinks and a couple of laughing gas balloons, nothing really matters but it was quite surprising to see all these groups of kids everywhere around me.

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The best place to kick off the night is at Senior Frog’s, as the place is always packed, there’s entertainment and it’s quite a fun ambiance. Afterwards, there’s Castle Club, Bedrock Inn and Soho which are worth a try and River Reggae is one of the best after party night clubs in Ayia Napa. Drinks are not that expensive by the way and few night clubs like Castle Club have entrance fees (10$ If I am not mistaken).

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Fantasy Boat:
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The Fantasy boat party is a fun experience that I recommend you give a try, even though it’s a bit overrated in my opinion. There are small kiosks on the street that sell you tickets to the Fantasy boat party and give you tons of useless coupons with it (just throw them away). The ticket per person varies between 45 and 55 euros and it’s basically a 5 hour boat party where you get to drink, dance, play drinking games, jump off the boat at two specific locations and the girls get a male strip show.

The guy who sells you the tickets assures you that there are as many girls as there are guys but that wasn’t the case at all.

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Speaking of strip clubs, you will bump into this small Jeep that offers you free rides to Ayia Napa’s most popular strip club Toga Toga. We honestly didn’t have time to go there as we were always partying till the early morning so I wouldn’t know anything about it.

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All in all, Ayia Napa beaches are amazing and are the reason why I would visit it again. Moreover, it’s a very close destination (30 minutes flight) and quite affordable when it comes to hotels and restaurants. If you are going alone, try to take the bus from the airport as the taxi costs around 50 euros. There’s a bus from the airport to Larnaka city center and from there to Ayia Napa and you can find further explanations on this [link].