Category Archives: Tourism

How to make use of the St.Georges Cathedral Clock Tower?

[YouTube]

I had posted two days ago an update on the steeple and afterwards saw this nice report by LBCI on the controversy caused by the height of the clock tower when compared to Al Amine’s mosque minarets.

To be honest, those who are upset about the steeple’s height or are arguing on whether it should be as high as the minaret or not are showing a lot of short sightedness to say the least. We have tons of religious monuments in Beirut yet none of them is prepared to properly welcome tourists and this is wrong.

I’ve been to 4 or 5 European Capitals so far in my life and the old Churches and Cathedrals are key attractions here with kiosks, cafes and restaurants all around them, not Army Humvees and tanks.

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The highest point in Berlin, the Fernsehturm or TV-Tower as seen from my hotel room – [@LeNajib]

I am currently in Berlin and one of the main attractions of the city is the TV-Tower, also known as the Fernsehturm, which attracts almost 1.2 million visitors every year. I waited on a Thursday for almost 3 hours for my turn to come, and then went up in an elevator almost 200 meters (in barely 15 seconds) and enjoyed a 360 degree view of Berlin.

I am not trying to compare both sites, but if someone had thought of making the steeple even higher and provided tourists with a chance to enjoy a 360 degree view of Beirut, instead of wasting time and money on making sure it doesn’t surpass the minaret’s height, then we would have had a point of reference for tourists in Beirut and a popular touristic site as well for foreigners and Lebanese.

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Picture by Gino

Things to do in Lebanon

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Picture by Ahmad Moussawi

I got an email from one of the blog’s readers last week asking me about things to do in Lebanon aside from the same old Baalbeck, Byblos, Jeita trips. I have to say that even though Lebanon is a great country to visit, there’s little information available for tourists and even Lebanese on how to plan a whole day and enjoy the beautiful and vibrant Lebanon.

I’m coming home in July and plan to show buddies of mine the Beauty and vibrant culture of Lebanon. Not looking for nightlife rather what to do in 7 days in Lebanon other than the same old Baalbek, Byblos, Jeita…

Of course you’d expect the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism to have a decent website to help out tourists but attracting tourists is apparently not a priority for them. TripAdvisor and similar websites are definitely more helpful in that case but they are missing out on a lot of information still, and scaring away tourists with these security alerts (see below), which are sort of justified to be honest, specially when Tripoli is one of the top destinations to visit in Lebanon.

Trip

This being said, I thought of a nice way to help out my friend and anyone coming for a visit this summer, by compiling all the activities I’ve done and places I’ve been to, and suggest many ways on how to spend a day in Lebanon.

I’ve already prepared 7 full-day activities all across Lebanon which are scheduled to be posted in the days to come. If you feel you can contribute to this series of posts, feel free to email me at najib@blogbaladi.com and I will gladly compile the information into a new post.

PS: This post and the upcoming ones are scheduled as I am on vacation with limited internet access.

The Voice Tour 2013 At The Jounieh Festival 2013

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Update: Lana Del Rey will also be performing at the Byblos Festival on July 10th even though it wasn’t officially declared yet. [Source]

For all the Anthony Touma fans, The Voice Tour 2013 is coming to the Jounieh International Festival 2013 on Tuesday July 9 at the Fouad Chehab Stadium as stated by L’Orient LeJour. I didn’t see a mention of the concert on the Jounieh Festival website though.

I for myself am still upset I will be missing Lana del Rey’s performance at the Sky Bar in Beirut on May 30. Speaking of partying, I’ve been to White, Pier7 and Al Mandaloun these past two days and I can assure you the summer has kicked off to a great start!

Babel Restaurant

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I was at G-Star Raw‘s launching party last week and I was having a little chat with their Business Developer Patrick Reytenbagh who asked me which Lebanese restaurant I would recommend for a lunch or dinner for a tourist coming to Lebanon. I had a lot of places in mind but he just wanted that one-place that would leave a great impression and a one of a kind experience and the only restaurant I could think of is Babel in Dbayyeh.

I looked through my previous posts and I was surprised to see that I’ve never reviewed Babel even though I’ve been there countless times. The only post I could find was one entitled ‘Lebanese Hospitality‘ showing how generous Babel is. Everything from the presentation, the architecture, the food and the service is unique and almost perfect. Even the toilets look great lol!

Until I write a full review, I leave with some of Babel’s specialties and this nice post by NoGarlicNoOnions. Babel is located in Dbayyeh.

The only thing that’s missing is a website for the restaurant as I couldn’t find any which is pretty weird.

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You can now visit the Lebanese Republican Palace in Baabda

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The President’s office – Picture taken from Presidency.gov.lb

A Press Release was posted on the Presidency’s official website where it was stated that the Baabda palace will open to visitors the first Saturday of every month starting June. Looking at the pictures, it is definitely worth a visit.

The first Saturday of every month, beginning in June, will be an opportunity for people to visit the presidential palace in Baabda. Visiting times will be from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Those interested in making a visit may consult www.presidency.gov.lb for further details.

At least three weeks are needed to process applications for a visit. [DailyStar]

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Jbeil (Byblos) Crowned Best Tourist City In the Arab World For 2013 .. Twice?

[YouTube]

I read on the LBCI website yesterday that Jbeil was named the Best Arab tourist city in 2013 and then watched in the news that it will receive the award on the 15th of June.

I tried looking for the source of that information online but I could only find articles dating back from April stating that Jbeil or Byblos was named the best Arab tourist city in 2013 by The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and that the ceremony will take place on May 4th at Bourj Al Arab Hotel Dubai under the patronage of the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Dr. Taleb Rifaii, and a number of Arab leaders and representatives of the diplomatic corps. [NNA-LEB] [MTV] [Daily Star]

However, I couldn’t find any event related to The United Nations World Tourism Organization or Burj Al Arab on the dates mentioned. Having said that, I don’t know honestly if both sources are talking about the same award, and I have no idea where did this event take place if it ever took place.

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Picture taken by myself: @LeNajib

In all cases, Jbeil deserves the award as it’s a great touristic city with beautiful souks and ruins, as well as plenty of pubs, restaurants and resorts. Walking down Jbeil’s old Souks all the way to the Sea Castle and having dinner at its many restaurants is a MUST if you are coming to Lebanon this summer.

Too bad UAE citizens are going to miss out on that as they were urged not to travel to Lebanon yet again. It’s quite sad to read that when we thought this summer was going to be better than the last one.

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Picture taken by myself: @LeNajib

Giveaway: Two invitations to The Roof at the Four Seasons Hotel – Beirut

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Picture taken by myself [@LeNajib]

As I posted two days, the highest and coolest rooftop in town, The Roof at Four Seasons Beirut, has kicked off its summer season this weekend. The Roof is located on the hotel’s 26th floor and is a great place to chill out after work or on the weekends.

For those of you who still don’t know where it’s located, it’s on one of the two tall building overlooking Zaitunay Bay at the best possible spot in Beirut. I circled it in red in the picture below.

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Original picture via Zaitunay.com

Anyway, Four Seasons Beirut were kind enough to let me give away two invites to The Roof for BlogBaladi‘s readers. Each winner will get to bring some one along and enjoy the unique experience The Roof has to offer. You will get to try signature drinks as well as a selection of Asian tapas and watch the sunset from the best possible spot or just enjoy a chill-out night.

Lebanese singer Lara Rain performs there every Thursday and Saturday starting 9 pm for those of you who like live entertainment.

If you want to win one of these two awesome invitations to one of Lebanon’s most luxurious 5-star hotels, you just have to leave a comment on this post with a proper email address. Competition ends on Tuesday May 7th at 6 pm. I will pick two names randomly (Using random.org) and post the names of the winners at the end of the day.

If you have any questions regarding The Roof or Four Seasons Beirut, you can follow them on [Twitter] or on [Facebook]. They are very friendly and fun to talk to.

I will post the names of the winners and more pictures of the Roof on our Facebook page. You can check them out and like the page [Here].

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NB: You need to put your proper email in the email field while commenting since winner will be contacted by email. You can only comment once, anyone caught commenting more than once will get disqualified.

Revisiting an old post: Is it profitable to open at the Zaitunay Bay?

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Zaitunay Bay almost empty during Winter – Picture taken via Instagram [@LeNajib]

This was posted on Thursday on Amarres Bistro & Cafe Francais’ Facebook page:

Our lovely restaurant Amarres in Zaitunay Bay has had to close down. A word from our CEO:
Business in Lebanon is going through bitter/sweet times. We decided to close our restaurant Amarres in Zaitunay Bay but are opening our 2nd Couqley branch in Blueberry Square, Dbayeh on May 15th. Since 2012, the economic climate in Lebanon has been too harsh to sustain large restaurants in Zaitunay Bay, a destination that demands stability. It is sad to shut down a good restaurant in a beautiful location but the decision is the correct one for us. The business model is unsustainable. Amarres at Zaitunay Bay depended on 3 customer pillars: (1) Lebanese Living in Lebanon (2) Lebanese Expats (3) Tourists. Since May 2012, with the harsh political & security issues affecting Lebanon, Amarres at Zaitunay Bay has seen only 1/3 of the required 3 customer pillars. The good news is that our other outlets are thriving; Couqley, The Angry Monkey, The Tanning Salon + Couqley 2nd Branch opening May 15th in Dbayeh :-)

In the words of Churchill: ‘never, never, never give in’

Having read that, I remembered a post I had written more than a year ago on whether it’s profitable to operate at the Zaitunay Bay, and another post in December 2012 on how businesses are struggling at the Zaitunay Bay.

Here are the rough calculations I did last year:
Let’s assume a restaurant named X pays 750,000$ a year for a 150m2 place that can fit 80 people.

750,000$ means 62,500$ a month and almost 2000$ a day.
- If a meal costs on average between 30 and 50$ at restaurant X, it will need between 40 and 70 customers EVERY day to break even.
- This will only cover the rental fees without taking into consideration wages, maintenance and operating fees etc…

We’ve already had a bad summer season and this one doesn’t seem too promising, so it might be a good idea for the Beirut Municipality and/or whomever is managing the Zaitunay Bay to lower these exorbitant rent prices and let businesses survive this crisis Lebanon is going through. If no initiatives are taken, expect more closures in the upcoming weeks/months.

The Roof at the Four Seasons Beirut re-opening this weekend


The Roof, Four Seasons Beirut

The Roof is currently my favorite rooftop in Beirut. It’s the highest rooftop in town, located at the best possible location overlooking the Zaitunay Bay and the St. Georges Club and offering a great view. It’s a great place to go to after work or in the weekend, have drinks or cocktails, enjoy an amazing view and just relax for an hour or two.

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Picture taken from FSB Facebook Page

In case you missed my first visit to The Roof, check it out [Here].