Category Archives: Tourism

Tyre, Beirut, Sidon And Byblos Among The World’s 20 Oldest Cities

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byblos

The Telegraph posted today a list of the World’s 20 oldest continually-inhabited places on earth, which included four Lebanese cities: Tyre, Beirut, Sidon and Byblos. The list also included Faiyum and Thebes in Egypt, Kirkuk and Arbil in Iraq, Damascus and Aleppo in Syria and Jerusalem and Jericho in Palestine.

The fact that we have 4 of the world’s oldest cities should help us attract further tourists and promote our history instead of showing girls and night clubs in our tourism commercials.

Tawlet Ammiq: Great Location, Amazing Food But A Dull Venue

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I went with a group of friends to Tawlet Ammiq a couple of weeks ago to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I’ve been hearing a lot about Tawlet Ammiq and I remember posting once a really cool video about it, so I was excited to try it out and see how the day goes.

Tawlet Ammiq or the eco-restaurant of the biosphere is an eco-friendly place characterized by the use of green construction techniques adapted to the climate of the area and the usage profile of the facility. It’s one of the greenest projects in Lebanon as it reduces energy consumption when compared to similar buildings, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by around 85%, recycles over 60% of solid waste and promotes tourism in the area. [More]

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In order to get to Ammiq, which is a beautiful village located in the West Beqaa area, you have to take the Dahr el Baydar road and then go right towards Qab Elias once you reach Chtaura [Google Maps]. The road in Qab Elias is not that good but once you reach Ammiq, the road is nicely paved with trees and greenery all around it. Once there, you will drive for around 8 or 10 minutes before you spot a Tawlet Ammiq sign. The venue is 2 minutes away from the main road.

ammiq PS: If you are planning to go during the weekend, leave very early specially on Saturday and try to be done by 3 or 4 pm to avoid the traffic on your way back to Beirut.

There’s a small unpaved road that gets you to Tawlet Ammiq but I thought I got lost at first as the venue was really small and not what I had in mind, but then I saw people parking and going down so I did the same. Once you walk in, there’s a table with all drinks on it, mainly beer (961 and Beirut Beer only), juices and Arak then there’s the indoor restaurant. Facing them, there’s a nice outdoor area with tables as well and long chairs where you can sit and tan or just have a drink, enjoy the nice Beqaa view and relax. There’s also a small room with bird paintings in it and some artwork.

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We got there around 11:30 am as we were told breakfast is served starting 11, which consisted of small Saj Manakish mixed with cheese, thyme and kechek. There was one guy doing the whole work so we had to wait a bit to get a couple of Manakish but I didn’t mind it as I was enjoying the breathtaking view and having a beer. The place was half empty when we got there, but it was packed by lunch time.

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At around 1pm, there’s an open buffet with all sorts of Lebanese dishes and four salads. Everything tastes fresh and the dishes are really good, specially the Chich Barak and Mafroukeh. I loved the tomato jam with the white Baladi cheese and the “kechek akhdar” which I’ve never tasted before. There’s also Kafta, fish and fwerigh.

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20140914_133152 Fwerigh

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The dessert buffet was also rich and delicious, and I enjoyed most the Achta Knefe and fruit salad.

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After lunch we sat on the long chairs and enjoyed the sun and the view for an hour or so but by 2:30, there was nothing to do anymore. I walked around the venue but unlike the green valleys all over Ammiq, there’s nothing to see or explore. We had a Frisbee with us so we played a bit but that’s about it. I know that it’s an eco-friendly venue but it wouldn’t hurt to have some green spaces around it or at least put some music on to keep us entertained.

All in all, it’s a very nice cozy restaurant with amazing food and a nice setting but I wouldn’t recommend going there to spend the day. Going there for lunch is more than enough to enjoy the venue, the food and the view.

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Review: BEYt Guesthouse

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beyt1

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:

sundays

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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Beirut

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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