Category Archives: Travel

I’m Going to Rome For The Opening of the Lebanese Museum of Modern Arts

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colo1 Source

I got an invite from the Ministry of Culture to cover the opening of the Lebanese Museum of Modern Arts in Rome from the 29th of April till May 1st. The museum is supposed to have a collection of 800 works of art by several renowned Lebanese painters and sculptors like Khalil Gibran, exclusive never before seen pieces will be on display.

The organizers of this trip and the Ministry are not giving me any further information and keeping it as a surprise and I couldn’t find anything online regarding that opening so I have no idea on what to expect there. All I know is that two bloggers were only invited to the opening, one of us (me) is going to Rome and the other (my good friend Dana from Ivysays) to Paris.

This is my first trip to the Eternal City so I’m very excited about it and about the museum opening of course. I will keep you posted with updates and will be sharing my experience there on [Instagram], [Facebook], [Twitter] and Snapchat [@LeNajib].

Caravan Beirut: Lebanese Designers Taking Over Georgetown Park, Washington D.C

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caravan

More than 40 established and emerging Lebanese designers are flying all the way to Washington DC to take part in the Caravan Beirut pop-up store and showcase their talent and collections at the 4-day event (April 8-11). Caravan Beirut is a pop-up store in Washington organized by Nour Khoury and Mariana Wehbe in partnership with the American Lebanese Chamber of Commerce. The initiative is also supported by the Ministry of Tourism and US Ambassador to Lebanon Richard Jones who was present at the press conference last week, which I attended.

Just to give you a small brief on Nour & Mariana, Nour Khoury is the founder of Bucolik, an online digital platform for emerging Lebanese and Middle Eastern designers while Mariana Wehbe heads MW Communication, a boutique PR Agency specializing in luxury brands, fundraising & NGO Auctions.

Mariana Nour via Jamalouki

All the designers were personally handpicked by Mariana & Nour and products will vary from fashion to cooking, jewelry to handicrafts, to photography, home ware, architecture, and other marvels. The aim is to expose Lebanon’s treasures to a brand new market, empower Lebanese designers around the world, create more job opportunities, open a new trade route to the United States and more importantly give a brighter image of Lebanon.

Beirut House of Paisley

The venue in Washington will be conceptualized by famous Lebanese architect Rabih Geha and the food during the opening event will be offered by Kamal Mouzawak of the renowned food market Souk el Tayeb.

As for the designers taking part, they include jewelers such as “the Mukhi Sisters, André Marcha, Selim Mouzannar, Rania Farsoun, Bil Arabi, Nada Le Cavelier, and Madame Rêve. Photographers such as Patrick Baz, Emile Issa, Roger Moukarzel and Amin Sammakieh; and fashion designers such as Karoline Lang, Jessica K, Milia M, House of Paisley, Nour Hammour, La La Rose, Mojo Beach, Sarah’s Bag and Little Bluffers will also exhibit their work. Stationery from Choux à la Crème, artists like Michel Karsouny, and HR Design will present the best Lebanon has to offer, alongside home ware designers such as Bokja, Maison Tarazi, Nalbandian Carpets, Senteurs d’Orient, Rasha Ceramics, and Kanzaman”.

PS: A portion of Caravan Beirut’s proceeds will be donated to Skoun, a Lebanese non-profit organization that offers prevention and treatment to drug users.

mukhi Mukhi Sisters – Beirut Souks

I love the initiative and it would be great to see this concept travel around other American cities and different countries in the future. If you live in Washington DC, make sure to pass by and check out some of Beirut’s most talented and creative designers & artists.

Opening night: April 8, 6pm-9pm
Pop-up shop hours: April 9-11, 10am-7pm
Closing night: April 12, 6pm-8pm

Virtual visitors are also welcome to stop by Caravan Beirut online at Bucolik.com.

You can check out further info on the event [here].

I Just Got A New 5-Year Passport

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passport

So everything we’ve been hearing about the renewed passport by hand and the Biometric passports being rolled out is wrong. I traveled with a renewed by hand passport without anyone stopping me and I just got a new passport for 5 years without anyone warning me about the new Biometric passport.

I thought we were only allowed to renew the passport for 1 year but apparently that’s not the case. Now we have to wait and see if the authorities are going to force us to switch to biometric passports once they are out.

CNTraveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2015: Beirut Among The 50 Most Beautiful Cities in the World

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Beirut

Beirut made it to the the CNTraveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2015 Top 50 most beautiful cities in the world. In 2014, Beirut was also chosen among Beirut Among The Top 25 Cities in the World. Other Arab cities that made the list include Abu Dhabi, Jerusalem and Muscat.

Here’s what the caption said about Beirut:

Even when faced with terror and destruction, Beirut is beautiful, charming, and strong. The Lebanese capital has astonishing art, architecture, food, and hotels—in fact, we think it’s one of the great cities of the world. —CNT Editors

I know we have a garbage problem, I know we have corrupt politicians, no president, a lousy infrastructure and traffic everywhere but our city is still a beautiful one. In fact, our country is a beautiful one and I was surprised to see so many Lebanese hating on their own country especially after the latest Ministry of Tourism video. What did you expect the ministry to do? show mountains of garbage or polluted rivers? Do you think every tourism video you see out there perfectly reflects the country in question?

I am not running away from the problems, nor being delusional, but you can either chose to live here and make the best out of it while trying to make a change or figure out a way to leave because being negative the whole time will not change anything and affect your career and your life negatively.

I choose to highlight the issues we face here and try to tackle them in a constructive matter but my focus will always be on highlighting the positive things that surround us and that still make this country worth living in, and there are plenty of them!

Here’s a [link] to the full list.

The General Security Adding More Confusion To The Renewed By Hand Passports

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passport via Annahar

First they released a memo that all those who have old renewed passports or passports that include accompanied individuals such as children need to get new passports before the 10th of January, after which they will no longer be considered valid on departure.

Second and after everyone freaked out and spent hours trying to get a new passport, they re-assure us that the General Security will not reimburse for the cost of new passports, and that The International Aviation Organization is not accepting passports that have been renewed by hand anymore.

Third and last, they just released a memo that these same (invalid) passports won’t be confiscated after the 10th of February and that they will never resort to confiscating passports.

I’m lost but I won’t be taking any chances with them. I’m getting a new passport in the next couple of weeks, hopefully for 5 years because some people told me they were unable to renew for more than 1 year.

Do We Need A Second Airport In Lebanon?

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airport

A friend sent me the above picture few days ago and asked me if it was feasible to make use of the Kleiat airport for commercial landings and take offs. I answered that renovating the Kleiat airport is not that costly and is feasible but there’s no political will to do so, which I won’t discuss on the blog because it’s useless.

Here are 5 reasons why we need a second airport in Lebanon:

1- Security:
How many times was Beirut’s airport closed? How many times did people block the road to the airport? How many incidents do we hear about in the airport and around it? The airport and its surrounding are not the safest and it only makes sense to have a second alternative.

2- Competition:
Assuming that a different management will be handling the Kleiat airport, we will have more flights and maybe more competitive prices. More importantly, a second airport might encourage Beirut Airport staff to better treat visitors because the reception and treatment are becoming worse every year. We don’t even have a proper taxi line outside the airport.

3- Convenience:
If I live anywhere between Jbeil and Halba, it’s much easier for me to land in Kleiat and drive home. Traffic is a serious problem and it’s easier sometimes to drive from Kleiat to Jounieh than land in Beirut and drive to Jounieh on a week day.

4- New job opportunities:
A new airport means new job opportunities inside and outside the airport. It will also boost tourism in the area and attract new investors and businesses.

5- Why Not?
Saying that Lebanon is too small doesn’t make any sense. We need a second and a third airport in my opinion. It’s more about common sense, convenience and efficiency than anything else.

kleaitt

Our current airport has serious problems that can no longer be overlooked. We keep hearing about corruption, passengers smuggling illegal goods, security concerns among other things. Recently, the European Union raised concerns on the safety regulations at the Beirut airport yet the government hasn’t done anything yet to fix things.

Let me know what you think.

Meet The Instagram Bro

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insta bro1

As soon as I confirmed my trip to Las Vegas to cover the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I asked my brother who lives in Houston if he could join for few days to catch up and have some Vegas fun. Luckily for me, he had few days off so he joined me for the whole trip and we had a great time!

Of course, there’s one part that he didn’t enjoy much and that was me taking pictures of itneresting things around me and the whole tweeting/instagramming/posting process. Unlike me, my brother is not really into social media and he barely posts anything on Facebook or Instagram so you can imagine what he had to go through but he did make the best out of it by taking selfies while looking annoyed during my “photo sessions”. The outcome after 3 days of sightseeing in Vegas was a series of funny selfies taken by my brother, or the “Instagram Bro” as he referred to himself. I featured 3 of them in this post but there are like 15 of them lol!

The Instagram Bro drinking for two while I was busy finishing a post

Aside from these selfies, here are 3 funny moments where he was about to take my phones and smash them.

1- Capturing Gordon Ramsay’s burger in low-light:
burger
We were having lunch at Gordon Ramsay BurGR and the place was dimly lit, so it was hard to capture a proper shot with a smartphone and I personally hate using the flash. Noting that we were both starving as we had just walked for 5 hours, I asked him not to touch the burger and turn on the flashlight on his phone to use it as a light source but he obviously wasn’t very happy with the request. I ended up taking the picture myself lol!

2- Asking people to clear the way so I can take the picture:
insta bro2

You know that moment when you are taking the perfect shot and someone comes out of nowhere and ruins it? Well it happened a couple of times at the Venetian and Caesars Palace and my brother was like “No one cares about ur stupid pictures, just move on!”. That didn’t stop me from taking the picture of course.

3- Taking the same picture several times with different devices:
IMG-20160112-WA0016
I’m not a professional photographer but I take my time when I’m capturing a shot and I try to take it from different angles and using different devices (or my goPro). As you see from his facial expression, he wasn’t very pleased with these small “photo-shoots”.

All in all, I’m not the kind of person who uses his phone all the time and doesn’t connect with people, so it was rather a fun experience for both of us and I even got my brother to be more active online, but I’m sure this won’t last for long. It’s a good thing I am not a Snapchat addict or else we would have fought in public lol!

Is The Lebanese Passport The Most Expensive In The World?

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lb via Speaktheblues

I was watching Hayda 7aki yesterday and they were comparing the price of a Lebanese passport vs other passports from around the world, so I looked up the world’s most expensive passports and I got this list:

pass2 via GoEuro

The most expensive passport in the world can be found in Turkey and it costs $251, followed by Australia and Switzerland. However if you look up the expiry date of each passport, you will find that the Lebanese Passport costs more than the Turkish and could be the most expensive worldwide.

In fact, the Turkish passport costs $251 but expires in 10 years, while a 10-year validity passport in Australia costs $254 (not $206 as mentioned). On the other hand, a Lebanese passport costs $200 over 5 years and you have to add $20 in fees and papers, so technically it’s more expensive than all those on the list. Moreover, the biometric passports are still not here and they will probably be more expensive so we will be easily topping that list for quite some time.

The funny part is that our passport is among the 10 worst passports in the world as it only allows you to travel to 37 countries without a visa, and the list is shrinking by the year.

PS: The UAE has the most affordable passports at only $14.

The Lebanese General Security Did Not Confiscate My Passport

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I just got back to Beirut earlier this morning and I got past the General Security just like I do every time. My renewed passport wasn’t confiscated and I wasn’t even warned that I can no longer travel with this passport. Also I didn’t see any announcements or receive any pamphlets that clarify this whole mess but I’m not surprised. In fact, the General Security has done little to contain this crisis and people are still confused on what to do next or what to expect when traveling.

Here’s a small update on this whole passport mess based on the articles and statements that followed the original memo:

Who should get a new passport ASAP?

1- If your passport was renewed by hand (before 2015) for five years, you will need to get a new passport ASAP or else you might be barred from entering your destination, even if you have the necessary visas.

2- If your passport includes accompanied individuals such as children, you will need to get a new passport ASAP.

3- If you live abroad and either 1) or 2) apply, you should head to the nearest Lebanese consulate or embassy and apply for a new passport. Old passports will not be withdrawn and the process to get a new passport should take less than usual.

PS: Even if your passport expires in few months, try to get a new one the soonest and don’t wait for the biometric passports to come out because the Lebanese authorities “think they should be ready by July”, so it’s not happening anytime soon. If you are not flying any time soon, try to wait 3-4 weeks until things calm down then go apply for a new passport. My friends spent the whole day last week trying to get their new passports.

Lebanese airport

Who shouldn’t worry about his passport?

1- If your passport is still new, then you don’t have to worry about anything.

2- The newly issued passports will not be annulled by the forthcoming bio-metric passports, which means that your passport will remain valid even when bio-metric passports are rolled out.

Stuff You Should Know:

1- General Security will not reimburse for the cost of new passports, so if you renewed your passport in 2014 by hand and still have 3 years to go, you will lose your old passport and pay for the new one.

2- General Security extended office opening times until 4 p.m till Jan 18.

3- The International Aviation Organization is not accepting passports that have been renewed by hand anymore, so you might be barred from entering any country. Nov 24, 2015 was the final deadline by the way.

4- The Lebanese General Security was notified of the need to change the practice at the end of 2012!

All in all, this whole mess could have been avoided by a simple SMS, FB Post, tweet or TV campaign. Anything could have been better than posting a memo on a website no one visits.

Sources:
[DailyStar], [Assafir], [General-Security],[Annahar]

Watch Out! You May Need A New Lebanese Passport

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passport

The General Security released an important memo a couple of weeks ago but apparently very few people have read it or heard about it (including myself) because we were all too busy with the holidays. In fact, I think the timing and the rollout were terribly planned as a lot of people travel back to Lebanon during this time of year just for few days and the last thing they’d want to do is spend hours, if not days, to come up with new passports. I’m not sure if they had announced these measures before but they should have done a proper campaign to inform everyone.

The memo basically says that you will need to apply for a new Lebanese passport if:

– The renewal on your old passport is hand-written, just like the picture above.
– Or your passport includes accompanied individuals such as children.

The deadline was set to the 10th of January, after which the old renewed passports will no longer be considered valid on departure. In other words, you won’t be able to fly if the conditions apply and you don’t have a new passport. On the other hand, arrivals will be warned.

Luckily for me, I only have 5 months left on my passport so I have to renew it soon but this sucks for those who just renewed their passports last year for more than a year.

إلتزاماً بالمعايير المفروضة من قبل منظمة الطيران المدني الدولي ،

تُعلم المديرية العامة للأمن العام المواطنين اللبنانيين حاملي جوازات سفر مجددة بخط اليد أو جوازات سفر تتضمن مرافقين بوجوب إستبدالها بجوازات جديدة في حال رغبتهم بالسفر ، وتلفت عنايتهم إلى أنه سيصار إلى سحب الجوازات المنوه عنها من قبل الدوائر والمراكز الحدودية اعتباراً من تاريخ 2016/01/10 ليصار الى إلغائها.

PS: LBCI did a report on this issue. Watch it [here].