Category Archives: Tourism

Lebanese beaches no longer safe for swimming

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In case you are wondering whether it’s better to swim in a beach or a pool, this LBC report and DailyStar article will make you reconsider going swimming in the first place in Lebanon.

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.

Minister Abboud assures tourists Lebanon is safe to visit

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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.

How To Spend One Day In Lebanon: Day2

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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
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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.

3- Chateau Ksara
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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

Chateau Kefraya

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.

All the information you need on Kefraya and Massaya are on their websites respectively [Kefraya] [Massaya].

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
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Panoramio.com

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.

Transportation:
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].

How To Spend One Day in Lebanon: Day1

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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.

2- Terwee2a
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.

- Mhanna sur Mer in Amchit, Sultan Ibrahim or Chez Sami in Maameltein. These are great choices as well.

5- Teleferique

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.

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View from Harissa – [Picture by Bizriart][High Res]

6- Jbeil Souks

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.

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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.

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

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[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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