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.
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].
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.
Funnily enough, it’s much older news than the upgraded data plans
Telecom Minister Sehnaoui announced yesterday the good news that a bid was launched for the addressing of all of Lebanon, and that from now on, every home or office in Lebanon will have a proper address. Of course everyone got excited about this, including myself, but the truth is Lebanon’s postal system has been revamped since 2002 but remains unused.
A FEW years ago, only optimists would have dreamt of posting a letter in Lebanon. Today, that has changed. The problem now is getting people to use the post.
In 1998, the government granted a licence to SNC Lavallin, a Canadian contracting giant, to run the postal system. This was no minor endeavour. Years of war had wreaked havoc. Postmen, whose encyclopaedic knowledge of their neighbourhood had long been the backbone of mail distribution, had lost track of their flock during the fighting. Most streets have no name, and addresses are often no more specific than “second floor in the white building next to the flower shop”. SNC Lavallin brought in Canada Post as a technical adviser and created a new sorting and distribution system. Every building in the country has now been assigned a postal code, and most letters reach their destination within 24 hours
The Lebanese, however, have learned to get by without a post office. Private courier services flourish; the government failed to enforce SNC Lavallin’s monopoly.
This article clearly states that every building in this country has been assigned a proper postal code almost 10 years ago but no one bothered using it. This being said, I am not sure whether Minister Sehnaoui was aware of this company, or the fact that the project of addressing Lebanon that he’s been promoting has been available yet unused for 11 years!
It is worthy noting that SNC-Lavalin signed a 12-year contract with the Lebanese Government, which means that we paid money for a company over 12 years and didn’t make proper use of it. You can read more about the contract signing [Here].
Can the new owner succeed where western experts failed? Snail mail may be losing ground to more modern forms of communication, but even in developed countries, ever more letters are being posted every year. Having secured a longer licence, Lebanon Invest expects to break even on mail delivery. But the real money, it thinks, lies in other uses for Libanpost’s infrastructure. It wants to turn the company into a full-fledged distribution and logistics group, offering everything from one-stop billing to financial services, where the margins are higher than on mail delivery. As everywhere, it will take more than letters and stamps to build a profitable postal system.
On a final note, this bid might not be the right thing to do considering the past experiences, taking into account that more modern forms of communications are spreading nowadays and more importantly given that this project has already been done before! What needs to be done is re-implementing the addresses we paid tens of millions of dollars SNC-Lavalin to do for us, and update them internally to make them up to date and cut costs.
I spotted this poster in Gemmayze the other day and found an online article talking about a Polish diplomat missing in Beirut but I don’t know if they are both related as one has the guy’s photo without his name and the other has his name without a photo. NowLebanon also talked about the missing diplomat and stated that he went missing on April 21st. According to the Lebanese Local police, the Polish diplomat probably drowned with his companion Micheline Maalouf whose body was found last Sunday.
““Local police are convinced that he drowned in a place that is is particularly dangerous for swimmers,” foreign ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki told Polish Radio.
Wojciech Gawrysiuk, an employee at the Polish embassy in Beirut, is understood to have attended a party in the city on Saturday night in the company of a Lebanese woman named Michlene Maalouf.
According to Lebanese news source Now, Maalouf’s body was found at 6.15 am local time on Sunday morning. She appears to have drowned.”
The Holy Fire is described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter. [Holy Fire]
The Israeli man who crossed the technical fence and the Blue line between Israel and Lebanon turned out to be mentally ill and was handed over on Saturday to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Hopefully, the Israeli warplanes which have been flying for days over our skies will also go home and leave us alone.
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 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.
Abdo Feghali drifting around Georges on the track. You can’t get closer than that!
My friend and Lebanese Photographer Georges Daya sent me these two exclusive pictures this morning from the Red Bull Car Park Drift qualifiers taking place in Riyadh. The Lebanon qualifiers will start on June 15th [More Info].
I’ve never missed a Red Bull Car Park Drift so far in Lebanon. It’s always a great event and a lot of fun. What I am hoping for one day is to live the experience from inside Feghali’s car.
I’ve been wanting to post about the Ghost nightclub incident for a couple of days now but I took some time to read everything that’s been said online and in the media as well as watch Joe Maalouf’s “Enta 7orr” show to see if he has more information to share on this matter.
To begin with, let me just state that I am personally against the practices of Mayor Chakhtoura and for abolishing Article 534 of the Penal Code, which states that “sexual intercourse contrary to nature is punishable for up to 1 year in prison”, because it is a clear violation of the Human Rights. In fact, “criminalization of homosexuality is a crime without a victim, in addition to its contradiction with principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and other conventions”. However, this whole issue is being tackled the wrong way in my opinion and in a way that will only benefit Dekwaneh’s Mayor Antoine Chakhtoura.
In fact, if you follow closely the details of the story, you will realize that Chakhoura, who happens to be a lawyer, is trying to cover up his illegal practices, whether in terms of arrest or abuse, by highlighting the fact that the victims were homosexuals or transvestites, and Marwan Charbel’s statement yesterday played in his favor. Even though some might argue that the law is vague and does not specify a relationship between two men to be illegal, the types of unnatural sexual relationships are specified somewhere in the laws or official documents from what I understood. There’s been one case where a judge in Batroun refuted Article 534 but his decision could have been legally challenged. That’s why the only way to fight this is by asking to abolish Article 534.
Arousing the religious feeling in the area was another weapon Chakhtoura used, and this is noticeable through the banners I spotted in Dekwaneh and on Facebook:
Before going any further, I took some time to watch the whole episode of Enta 7orr and found Maalouf’s guest, Dr. Elie Abou Aoun spot on in his analysis and comments and partially agreeing with what I said above. However, I noticed some contradictions in the testimonies being given and few weak arguments presented by Maalouf that I wished if he had elaborated on further. For example:
- (Minute 1:39 Till 7:04): Maalouf called Rabih Dagher, Ghost’s owner, who denied the original story that the municipal police raided the night club and arrested four and said the mayor only came to visit him that night and then left. I don’t know whether he’s too scared to admit what happened or he left the club early but something’s not right here.
- Maalouf mentioned that under Article 74, Chakhtoura was not allowed to arrest these people or interrogate them but based on Abou Aoun’s comment and my knowledge, the municipal police is allowed to arrest people under the pretext of violating “el 2adeb el 3ame”, which means in case it spots an indecent behavior, whether it’s a heterosexual couple having sex in the car, a guy running bare naked in the street or two homosexuals kissing. The problem is here that there’s no clear definition of what constitutes an indecent behavior, the same way the Lebanese Law does not define what an “unnatural sexual act” is. I am asking a legal expert to confirm this but I am confident the municipal police can interrogate and arrest people under certain circumstances.
- (Minute 16:35): Maalouf calls an employee named Ziad who works at Ghost and he states that Ghost was not just for homosexuals but for straight people too. I wish if Joe had elaborated further on the possibility of opening gay-friendly pubs in Lebanon and whether the owner can get any protection from people like Chakhtoura from the local authorities (From the police for ex) in that case? If it is doable, then we’d avoid another Ghost-like scandal.
- Why were drugs and criminal activities in Dekwaneh brought up into this episode? And why are we making a big fuss out of video pokers and amusement centers? The Taxi driver being interviewed said Dekwaneh had turned into “Las Vegas” as if it’s a bad thing. That was unnecessary in my opinion, knowing that Chakhtoura almost got killed a year ago after a campaign he launched to clean his city of drug dealers.
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud Maalouf for the investigations he does, and I think his show has a great potential, but I wish if he had focused on the legal matters and facts that interest us more and that would help us come out with a convincing conclusion because mixing the Ghost night club scandal with the “protected” criminals of Dekwaneh and its surrounding is not valid here, and the Casinos (if we can call them that way) story is irrelevant.
Speaking of legal matters and to get back to the main point I raised earlier that Dr. Elie Abou Aoun explained so well, we should all be concerned about what Chakhtoura did and not just the Lebanese homosexual community, because what he did is a clear violation of the Lebanese Law, basic human rights and international conventions that Lebanon is committed to respecting and implementing, as well as a breach of the basic arrest and interrogation guidelines set by the Lebanese state. This is where our main focus should be in order not to turn this into a pro or anti-gay rights campaign where the public opinion will (unfortunately) favor Chakhtoura no questions asked and the story will die out in a matter of weeks if not days.
On top of all that, some are saying that Ghost has been open for almost 5 years now and question the timing of Chaktoura’s illegal actions, which leaves me wondering if this isn’t a classic case of a deal gone wrong between the two parties in question, because Ghost’s owner was denying all the facts on TV. In regards to Interior Minister Marwan Charbel’s last statement, the only thing I have to say is that we need Ziad Baroud back ASAP.
On a last note, there’s a fact that’s quite interesting that was pointed out to me by a friend of mine. Article 534 was derived from French legislation during the so-called French “mandate” on Lebanon where we didn’t have yet a constitutional council in Lebanon, which was founded in order to “supervise the constitutionality of laws and to arbitrate conflicts that arise from parliamentary and presidential elections”. This being said, we should push to have all these archaic laws similar to Article 534 of the Penal Code revised by this council and abolished if not conforming with the international conventions that Lebanon is bound to respect.