The Jounieh International Festival kicked off with an amazing synchronized firework show all over the bay. I saw a lot of pictures yesterday on Instagram and Facebook and was able to find this nice video.
Picture via NowLebanon
Every time the summer is here, we are reminded that the beaches in Lebanon are becoming for the rich and that the entrance fees to beaches and pools are even more expensive that the previous year, yet somehow we have new resorts opening every year and the beaches are getting more and more packed.
We know for a fact that people are not getting wealthier in Lebanon, so it’s either people are willing to spend a big portion of their salaries to go for a swim or the numbers are exaggerated. I think that while entrance fees are unbelievably high at certain resorts, there are a lot of cheaper alternatives and free beaches that few of us know of.
K-Lynn Fashion show at C-Flow Beach Resort
However, this doesn’t justify the outrageous prices that we have to pay for beaches that are illegally occupied and exploited. The numbers are scary and there doesn’t seem to be a proper way to resolve this issue except setting up high taxes on these properties and forcing their owners to pay substantial amounts of money to cover our debts (Or in Lebanon’s case, go into some of the politicians’ pockets who will reinvest them in some of these illegal beach resorts they “own”).
Picture from Al-Akhbar
Many Lebanese are fed up with this reality but that’s one of these issues in Lebanon that is very hard to tackle as there are way too many parties involved.
The ministry estimates the total area of intrusions in this region to be more than 2,247,884 square meters (m²). They include 1,651,707 m² of reclaimed sea, and land facilities taking up to 162,383 m². Mount Lebanon’s share of aggressions totals half that of the country’s coastline. [Link]
I posted few days that Lebanese beaches are no longer safe for swimming according to a study published in the DailyStar and a statement from the Green Party’s President Nada Zaarour. However and as pointed out by Habib, Zaarour’s statement contradicts with the study results as shown in the map (which is not clear) in the same article.
It doesn’t mean we don’t have a pollution problem but at least there are still plenty of beaches where one can swim in Lebanon, such as Chekka, Batroun, Amchit, AUB beach, Damour, Jiyyeh, Rmeileh, Tyr and Naccoura.
There’s something still confusing me though, how samples collected from Jbeil and Sidon all measured above the 100 fecal coliforms mark, and samples collected in Mina and Sidon came back borderline toxic, yet the map shows Sidon, Jbeil and Tripoli beaches as acceptable.
Picture from 248am.com
I have already prepared a post on how to spend a day in Faraya but I will save it till next week and share this post on the ATV road trip adventure Mark had during the last weekend.
It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but never had time to plan it. If I am not mistaken, you can also plan a trip from Faraya to the Cedars during winter using a skidoo.
Here are few excerpts from the post. You can read it the full post [Here].
This trip will take the whole day so there’s no need to plan anything before or after it. Just have a proper breakfast because it’s a long ride and get a jacket.
This past long weekend I spent it in Lebanon and among the activities I did the most fun was an ATV road trip adventure. I didn’t really know what to expect, I had just previously heard off a friend that you can take an ATV trip with a guide from the popular ski area Faraya, all the way to the Cedars (a few mountains away) and back. The trip ended up being just unbelievably fun.
Depending on where you stay in Lebanon, getting to Faraya will take you anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour with no traffic. Faraya is a popular destination in the winter since a lot of ski resorts are based there, but in the summer, it’s a popular destination for outdoor activities like offroading, mountain biking, camping and ATV exploration. I had booked a bunch of ATVs for me and my friends before arriving to Lebanon and because we wanted to start the day early we got to the starting location in Faraya at around 9:30AM. From there we got geared up, given basic safety tips and the chance to try out the ATVs before heading out on our trip.
The trip is 80% off road with the rest of the time being tiny tarmac roads. It was an incredibly fun journey full of beautiful scenery and general seclusion with no people for miles and miles away. The route heading out was different than the route coming back so that way we didn’t get to experience the same scenery twice. We weren’t expecting the weather to be cold so we didn’t get jackets but our guide recommended we got some since we would be going up to the highest peak in Lebanon (around 2,750 meters high). Luckily we found a small store near the starting point that rented out ski jackets and good thing we got them because with the jackets on we were still freezing our asses off in some stages of the trip.
This was an incredibly fun adventure and one I really can’t wait to go on again. Since we were four people the cost for the trip was $225 per person (guide included). If you’re less than four it’s $250 and if you’re more than four you could probably negotiate a better price. You could also share an ATV with someone else since it can hold two people and that way split the amount. But I have to say it was EXTREMELY worth $225. Make sure if you do take this trip to expect to end up covered in dust and dirt. Also bring a jacket with you as well. We rented the ATVs with the guide from a place called Red Runner. Their phone number is +9613178666. Have fun!
Picture from 248am.com
Picture taken by myself [LeNajib]
According to CNN Travel, Almaza is the No.1 beer in the Middle East and North Africa. Almaza is indeed great but now I am interested in tasting the other 5 beers on that list. I don’t think we have any of them in Lebanon though (Definitely not the Israeli one haha!).
Check out the top 6 beers list [Here].
In at number one is the king of Middle Eastern beers and the staple of any trip to Beirut, the one-and-only Almaza. At a low 4% ABV, Almaza may be a light and fairly standard pilsner, but served ice cold at a Hamra Street café on a warm summer evening, it amounts to far more than that.
“Almaza tastes like a Lebanese summer night would if you could bottle it, with a side of nuts,” said Beirut native Karl Baz, 33. [CNN]
According to the DailyStar’s article, samples collected from swimming areas in Nahr el Kalb, Jounieh, Tabarja, Ramlet al-Baida, Jbeil and Sidon all measured above the 100 fecal coliforms mark which meant that the beaches are no longer safe for swimming. The samples collected in Mina and Sidon came back borderline toxic!!
The results given to The Daily Star reveal a widely polluted coast undermining Lebanon’s image as a beach and resort destination. Unsafe levels of fecal coliforms can lead to rashes, diarrhea and vomiting and can spread disease depending on the extent of exposure.
Results can vary widely in the same city based on where the sample is taken, it often depends on where waste is exhausted, which is not widely regulated. Environment and Development Magazine conducted their studies at the American University of Beirut and will publish full results in next month.
I honestly stopped going to the beach since the 2006 war and the pollution that followed. I go to specific pools which I hope are as clean as I think they are.
“This is an emergency,” said Nada Zaarour, president of Green Party, about the study. “People shouldn’t be swimming at Lebanese beaches.”
“It’s a very serious problem that the Lebanese people are dealing with since we have some of the most expensive resorts on the Mediterranean coast,” she added.
I wish to ask the Green Party’s president about the activities or actions undertaken by her party in the past years to prevent all this pollution. I think it’s too late to call it an emergency at this point. This question goes as well to the concerned parties and ministries.
Very safe indeed! One protester was killed and several were injured Sunday outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut. via Naharnet
Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud stated today that Lebanon is ready to welcome tourists and the decision Gulf countries took to prevent their citizens from traveling to Lebanon is wrong.
He also said and I quote that Lebanon remains the best when it comes to security when compared with countries around the world.
وإذ رأى أن الخطر موجود في كل بلدان العالم، أكد أن “لبنان يبقى الافضل على الصعيد الامني مقارنة بين بلدان العالم”، معلنا “عدم الاستسلام للارهابيين من أينما أتوا وستبقى أرض لبنان أرض المحبة والانفتاح والسياحة وهذه هي رسالتنا الى كل العالم”.
It’s just pathetic how we are trying to make use of the situation in Turkey to attract tourists. What Lebanon needs is a proper plan to set up touristic areas away from the conflicts and more importantly build a second airport in a neutral and safe area. There are plenty of things we can do instead of deceiving people into thinking Lebanon is the safest.
Lebanon is considered one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world, with the majority of the vineyards located in the Beqaa Valley. These vineyards are worth visiting and the full-day schedule I am proposing is suitable for families, couples, groups of tourists or just a group of friends.
Day2: Chtaura (Massabni or Hedwen) -> Chateau Ksara -> Chateau Kefraya or Massaya -> Zahle (Saydit Zahle) -> Beirut
1- Waking up:
It is preferable to leave around 8:30 – 9:00 am for that trip as you could encounter a lot of traffic if you’re late and driving on the Dahr el Baydar road is quite dangerous with all the crazy and reckless trucks and vans.
2- Breakfast at Hedwan or Massabni
Try to skip breakfast (or eat lightly) at the hotel or wherever you are staying as there are two breakfast places that you have to try on your way to the Bekaa.
Hedwan and Massabni both have some of the best Labneh you could ever taste. Try also the Ricotta and honey sandwich. They all come in Markouk bread and you could eat 1 or 2 easily if you’re hungry. Both are located in Chtaura and visible on the highway.
After having breakfast, head to Chateau Ksara for a visit of the caves and some wine tasting. The caves are very old and were found by the Jesuit Fathers and well maintained back in the 19th century. The whole visit shouldn’t take more than an hour, but is very informative. If you want more details on how to get there and visiting hours, check Ksara’s website [Here].
4- Chateau Kefraya or Massaya
Head back to Chtaura and then either to Chateau Kefraya or Massaya. Both are much bigger and more commercial than Ksara, are situated next to the vineyards and offer tourists an open buffet with open wine and arak in their restaurants and venues, as well as other activities. I honestly have only been to Kefraya only but few friends have told me about Massaya as well.
Note: As mentioned in my review of Chateau Kefraya, the rides to the vineyards are a bit boring as there’s nothing really worth seeing, so if you insist on going, I recommend you choose the shortest ride.
PS: If you are a wine lover, buy your bottles at the above mentioned venues as they are cheaper than the market.
5- Quick Visit to Zahle, Saydit Zahle Church
After being done with lunch, you have two options here:
1- Go visit Zahle and spend the night in one of the city’s hotels.
2- Make a quick visit to Our Lady of Zahle and head back to Beirut before it gets dark.
If you select Option2, make sure you get some proper rest at Kefraya or Massaya (just by lying down in the gardens) because the road to Beirut is long and tiring. I’ve done it a million times and still find it annoying.
6- Back in Beirut
Picture taken from Zaitunaybay.com
By the time you are back in Beirut, you will have to rest for a couple of hours before heading back out. A walk on the Zaytunay bay if you’re in Beirut would be nice afterwards, followed by drinks in Gemmayze, Mar Mikhail or Hamra. If you are a Shisha lover, you will find plenty of cafes in Beirut and outside it serving them.
If you are staying in Keserwan, you can also do the same by walking in the Jounieh Souks.
I would recommend for such a trip (If you don’t have cars) to rent a van or mini-bus or taxi, depending on the number of people going. You can ask your hotel or any taxi company for such a service and they will be more than happy to assist you.
In case you missed Day1, you can check it out [Here].
Picture via Siestke
As promised, here’s my first post on how to spend a full day in Lebanon. Just to be clear, all the places I am mentioning are ones that I’ve been to already and would recommend to friends and tourists usually. No one’s paying me to post about them.
Day1: Madfoun (Batroun) –> Keserwan (Maameltein) or Amchit –> Harissa –> Jbeil-Byblos –> Beirut (Optional)
Beaches are usually packed during weekends in the summer in Lebanon, so it’s preferable to do the below suggested activities on a week day.
1- Waking up:
First of all, you have to wake up between 8:30 am and 9:30am, depending on how far your hotel or apartment is. The closer you are to Keserwan, the more sleep you can get. I will assume hotel is in Beirut since that’s where most hotels are.
Unless you’re having breakfast at the hotel, here are few places you can stop by on your way to Batroun and have a tasty Lebanese “terwee2a”:
- Knefe at Douaihy or Hallab* in Jounieh, Al Baba (My favorite Knefe) in Jal el Dib.
- Manakish from Wooden Bakery or Zaatar wou Zeit if you’d like to sit down and eat.
- Kaak from Abou Arab on your way to Jbeil. A popular place that sells Kaak with all sorts of cheese inside.
* Opening very soon.
3- Beach time
After having breakfast, head to Pierre & Friends in the Madfoun area. It’s a great place to enjoy the beach, chill and have a beer while doing that. The atmosphere is really nice too.
4- Lunch time:
I recommend you stay in Pierre & Friends until 2pm or 3pm, and then head out to have a proper lunch somewhere else. Here are few Lebanese restaurants that are not too far from the beach and that I highly recommend:
- Manaret el Khalij: Great place with a very nice view and amazing food. Located on the hill facing Casino du Liban.
- Dar El Azrak in Jbeil, but since you will be heading back to Jbeil Souks at night, you might want to postpone this until another day.
After lunch you will need some time to digest all that food, which is why I recommend you go to the nearby Teleferique, book tickets and go all the way up to Harissa, enjoy the scenery and walk for a bit, pray if you like to, sit and relax. Harissa is a must-visit for every tourist and one of my favorite places in Lebanon.
After Harissa’s visit, you can either take a couple of hours to rest at the hotel or wherever you are staying, or head to Jbeil to walk in the beautiful souks, visit the museums (if they are still open), enjoy a beautiful sunset near the sea castle and have a coffee or tea at one of the numerous cafes there.
Picture taken by myself: @LeNajib
Jbeil is a beautiful city to walk in and many pubs have opened there in the past years so you can enjoy a few drinks while you’re there and even have a late dinner at ecafe which I highly recommend. I used to love Mother as well but it closed.
By the time the walks, drinks and late dinner are done, it should be around 10-11 pm. If you are still up for something, you can go to one of the many pubs and nightclubs in Beirut. You will need to book a table in advance for night clubs such as White, Iris, Pier7, SkyBar etc …
I hope that this first post was helpful. Traffic is a big problem in Lebanon which is why I tried to suggest places that are close to each other and interesting to visit or know about. If you feel the program is overloaded, you can always skip any part you don’t like it.
PS: I am working on a post that would serve as a guide to Lebanon’s best nightclubs and pubs but it might take some time.