Category Archives: Travel

Travel & Leisure: #Beirut Named The Best International City for Food

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nayye Picture by Bethany Kehdy

Food is probably the only thing we are still good at in Lebanon and we can still brag about. Nothing beats a typical Lebanese lunch with the tens of hot and cold dishes (mezze) and of course the raw meat and the grilled meats (Kafta, Taouk, Kabab etc ..).

Every year, Travel and Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe and rate cities for a number of qualities, including food. This year, Beirut topped the list followed by San Sebastián and Paris.

Why is Lebanese food so good? Some may argue that Toum (Garlic) is the secret sauce for great Lebanese food. Garlic is indeed essential to almost every Lebanese dish but it’s the variety of dishes and food combinations that we offer that make our food so flavorful and good.

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Here’s what the website said about our capital:

Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut, is having a bit of a cultural renaissance—and it’s not just new museums like the striking Aïshti Foundation that have attracted international attention. There’s arguably no better way to sense the friendliness and enthusiasm of Beiruties than by enjoying fresh a meal at Tawlet, a fantastic Lebanese restaurant in the hip Mar Mikhael neighborhood (order goat tartare and the unusual mountain specialty, h’risset ‘akkub: a lamb porridge with wild thistle). Even breakfast here is exciting: order Al Soussi’s fatteh, a traditional dish of toasted pita, chickpeas, yogurt, and pine nuts.

Tawlet and Al Soussi are indeed ideal destinations for enjoying an authentic Lebanese breakfast and lunch.

You can check out the full list [here].

First Pictures of The New Lebanese Biometric Passports

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bio2

Biometric passports are officially available as of today. Anyone can apply for the new passport and those who wish to replace their old passports can also do so. According to the below FTV report, the documents needed are as follows:

– Passport Request Form to be filled out at the mayor’s office.
– Applicant’s original Individual Civil ID (Ikhraj Kayd Fardi) or or his original new Lebanese I.D. card.
– One recent color photo showing full details of the face with a white background.
– The old passport if available.
– The price will remain the same, $40 or 60,000 LL for one year and $200 or 300,000 LL for 5 years.

Design wise, I think they should have kept the big Cedar tree in the middle showing like the one before. It’s a nice and modern-looking passport but the Cedar tree in the middle is barely showing.

Those who just renewed their passports will NOT need to replace their existing ones. As for Lebanese expats, I believe they should follow the same procedure at any embassy. Check out this useful [link] taken from the website of the Lebanese Embassy in Washington.

[YouTube]

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Lebanese Stuck at Turkey’s Istanbul Airport, Lebanese Embassy Not Answering

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coup2

Update (16/7/2016 8PM): Minister Bassil urged Lebanese consulate and embassy in Turkey to do the necessary to help the Lebanese stuck there. Embassy got in touch with the passengers according to LBCI.

A group of Lebanese are stuck at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport since yesterday following the failed military coup that took place. One of the passengers is saying the Lebanese embassy in Turkey is not answering their calls and the airport staff closed down the restaurants and left them alone at night with other passengers. Turkish airlines should have resumed their flights by now but MEA announced it will resume its flights tomorrow.

The Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs should get in touch with these passengers instead of tweeting at them to use the hotline and get them back to Beirut ASAP. This is unacceptable!

Here’s a link to the original post.

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The Price You Pay For Water & A Red Bull Can At Beirut’s International Airport

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red bull

A bottle of water and a red bull cost 14,000 LL at Cafematik at the Rafic Hariri airport, while they barely cost 3,000 LL anywhere else. The above bill was shared online and went viral, forcing the Ministry of Economy & Trade to issue a statement saying that they sent a group to the airport to investigate.

It’s normal for airport prices to be more expensive than street prices but in that case, it’s an obvious case of monopoly abuse and there’s probably one company licensed to operate, similar to the airport parking lot case that’s been making headlines for the past few weeks.

I personally never buy anything from Cafematik. I’d rather starve and get dehydrated than buy a bottle of water from that place. The concerned ministry should set a cap on the prices especially when it comes to bottles of water. The ideal of course would be to set up free water stations for travelers beyond security but Cafematik would go broke in a couple of months.

Let’s wait and see what the Ministry does following its investigation. On another note, this whole story reminded of Farix’s hilarious take on Cafematik.

Vogue Spends Four Perfect Days in Beirut

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Alison Beckner came to visit Beirut for four days and the result was “a perfect storm of shopping, wining, dining, dancing, and—eventually—sleeping in this capital city where the Mediterranean meets the Middle East”.

Friday at Baffa House in the lively neighborhood of Mar Mikhael, a visit to the recently reopened Sursock Museum, dinner at Lux and end the night at the weekly Summer Decks on the Beach party at Sporting Club. Saturday starts at Souk el Tayeb, then a visit to “charming cobblestone streets of Saifi Village”, lunch at the authentic and history-filled restaurant Al Falamanki and party till dawn at the Grand Factory and the legendary B018.

This is a quick recap of the first two days. I love how the author took her time to walk around the city, explore the hidden gems found in every street, visit museums and art galleries and even hit the gym. You can check out the rest of the days [here].

Despite ongoing political turmoil, Beirut remains a hub for Levantine history combined with stunning juxtapositions: green hills, a sea-cradled peninsula, labyrinthine streets, neglected architecture—from Arabesque to Venetian Gothic—high-rises, old mosques, churches and palaces, and much more. Add to this a sociocultural melting pot, teeming with makers, doers, and shakers. The result is a perfect storm of shopping, wining, dining, dancing, and—eventually—sleeping in this capital city where the Mediterranean meets the Middle East. [Vogue]

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Biometric Passports Expected Soon in Lebanon: Five Things You Need To Know

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Back in 2014, the Lebanese cabinet approved Interior Minister Mashnouq’s proposal to replace the old passports by new biometric ones. Earlier this year, the Lebanese General Security forced all those with a renewed by hand passport to issue new ones and there were false rumors that we might not be able to renew for more than a year because biometric passports are coming.

Since biometric passport should start rolling out very soon, I’ve been trying to collect information on this topic since most people are not familiar with it. Here’s what I have so far:

What does biometric data mean? What’s the technology behind it?

Biometrics refer to unique characteristics to an individual such as fingerprints, facial structure, the iris or a person’s voice. Biometrics are all about replacing “things that you know”, such as passwords and PINs, with “things that you are” and such data cannot be stolen or duplicated.

Biometric technology is the go-to solution for improving digital security and it has evolved from simple fingerprints and facial recognition to behavior IDs that are capable of adapting to a user’s movement and produce “a digital fingerprint to confirm their identity and develop an ongoing authentication without requiring any action from the consumer”.

Why are we switching to Biometric passports?

Passports containing Biometric data cannot be forged or spoofed and will be more secure for their holders and will help the Lebanese authorities reduce fraud and prevent terrorists and criminals from using fake passports.

Why are we doing that now? There are 100+ countries worldwide using bio-metric passports, the U.S. has mandated the use of biometrics for over 10 years now and everyone is headed that way, so the question should be why didn’t we do it before? Let’s not forget that there are probably mandates related to implementing biometrics set by the international aviation organization that we need to comply with.

Will there be a timeline during which certain countries might start rejecting the old passport?

The government will start issuing the new e-passport before end of July. Pilot has already started for all applicants. Lebanese can use the old passports, not the ones renewed by hand though, till their expiry date. There shouldn’t be any acceptance issues but again one cannot be 100% sure. Some embassies might require soon e-passport as pre-requisite for visas.

Who is handling this project?
The company handling it is Inkript, which is a subsidiary of RGH. I don’t have much information about Inkript but that they are listed on ICAO directory as a turnkey biometric travel document solution provider alongside global brands which should be reassuring.

How much will it cost?
I heard that the new passport will have the same fees as the current one.

I will keep you posted as soon as I have additional information.

#LiveLoveLebanon: Promoting Rural Lebanon & Lebanese Traditional Guest Houses

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lll5

If you want take a journey into the heart of rural Lebanon, there are tens of gorgeous guesthouses located in breathtaking locations and offering an authentic Lebanese experience. To name few:

Bouyouti – Maasser Beiteddine
Mtein Guesthouse – Mtein
Tafla – Smar Jbeil
Eco Dalida – Tannourine
Esber Guesthouse – Rachaya el Fokhar
Dar Mehdi – Rachaya el Wadi
Akram Guesthouse – Barouk
Beit Douma – Douma
Der Qadisha – Hasroun
Beit el Nessim – Al Mina Tripoli
Remhala Guesthouse – Aley
Dar Alma – Tyre
Dar Linda – Deir el Qamar
Dar el Achrafieh – Achrafieh

You can check out information for some of them on [hotelibanais].

I loved the video and the music. Another job well done by The Ministry of Tourism!

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Ten Great Travel Destinations Where Lebanese Don’t Need a VISA

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sey

Even though we have one of the most expensive and least useful passports in the world, there are still some cool travel destinations that we can go to without a visa and MasterCard wants to remind us of some of them:

1- Mauritius
2- Turkey
3- Sri Lanka
4- Georgia
5- Jordan
6- Nepal
7- Malaysia
8- Oman
9- Seychelles
10- Maldives

I am not so sure about Sri Lanka though as I know there is a visa of around 50$ to be paid.

48 Hours in #Beirut: I Love it!

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byblos

A couple from Dubai visited Beirut for a crazy 48 hours and compiled everything they did into 5 minute video. They explored Beirut by day and night (Zaitunay, Mar Mikhail etc …), took the Teleferique to Harissa, Jeita Grotto, Byblos Souks and ended their adventure at the one and only B018.

I know these are all cliché things to do but tourists enjoy them and a lot of Lebanese, including myself, still enjoy them from time to time. Visiting Byblos, Going to Harissa, partying at B018 are a must if you haven’t visited Lebanon.

I love how this couple shared their experience and I hope they will be back soon for another crazy 48 hours. There are so many different things to do in this country in 48 hours that you will always keep coming back!

Check out the full story [here].

[YouTube]