Archive for the 'h. Around Town' Category

Help Zee Get to NYC

It’s such a pleasure to watch Lebanese students pursue their dreams!  Meet Zeina, an AUB graduate and fellow blogger who has found her passion in creative writing.  She took a shot to apply to her favored program in New York. 

The good news is SHE GOT ACCEPTED!



That’s definitly news worth supporting.  For any of you interested in learning more about Zeina and her dream and helping her by supporting with whatever you can, even if its just $5, every additional push gets her a step closer.





Lebanon by Bike!

This weekend, I accompanied a good friend on a Harley Group Ride across the mountains of Lebanon. There’s a sentence I thought I’d never say.  After the experience, I can safely say that you have not experienced the beauty of nature or the true value of Lebanon’s beauty until you’ve seen it in open air with nothing else but the crisp mountain air between you and your view of breakthaking views.  Moreover, it really brings out the child in you.  I couldn’t stop smiling for the entire ride and neither could any of the passerbys who were taking video and pictures of the 100 bike convoy. 

We started in Achrafieh, drove up through Aley to Hamana, then to Dhour el Choueir, Bekfaya and Jeita Grotto for lunch.  The ride lasted a good 6 hours but was worth every minute.  I’m happy that I did it on a winter day because the colors are so much more vivid and the mountain air is therapeutically fresh and clean.

Unfortunately for most of us, you need to own a Harley to get to ride with this friendly group or you can ride on the back.  Otherwise, just rent a motorbike, take a friend and go explore the mountains.  This experience is one that shouldn’t be missed.

A Day in Hamra

For the last few weeks, I’ve been reaquainting myself with Hamra, the magical context of my university days.  Every year, my university friends from all around the world return to Beirut and it’s back to the basics from there.  We ditch our cars, we dress according to comfort and not what anyone else thinks, we make coffee runs like every hour (mainly for the AC) and we just enjoy the good old treasures that Hamra and it’s parallel streets have to offer… good prices, variety, international items and kind down to earth people. 

Everyone knows that Hamra is a shopper’s bliss if you have the right pair of shoes and you choose a day that’s cooler in temperature.  Retail outlets include clothes, shoes, accessories, electronics, music and hairdressers.  Hospitality venues include hotels, restaurants, cafes and internet and gaming stations.  If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of Hamra, a tour of AUB will put you in a different world of green, trees, amazing architecture and students that think they are the coolest students to have ever entered the “Main Gate” 😉

Although the adage “out with the old and in with the new” is a key factor for most cities, Hamra still holds its oldstyle charm and the cozy little places that made Hamra our second home.  The places that are 10 years old and going strong that keep me coming back to Hamra are two restaurants:  one for breakfast and one for lunch or dinner.  Those two places are Flying Pizza and Ristretto.

  • Ristretto:  This little spot is probably as small as a master bathroom but it never fails to pack up at all hours of the day especially during Breakfast hours.  They serve up some of the tastiest breakfasts from regular croissants to full on pancakes, egg and hashbrown.  Located on Mahatma Gandhi street.
  • Flying Pizza:  One of the best pizza joints in all of Beirut.  It’s something about the cheese and the specially made hot sauce that you put on top of your pizza.  Opened since 1982 on the street parallel to Bliss, this cozy little joint will always be on my agenda whenever I visit Hamra.

If you enjoy festivals, the Hamra Street Festival will be happening on September 10 until September 12 including competitions, parades and alot of entertainment. 



The Boat Party

In Beirut, the party never stops… but it does keep evolving.  We started with clubs, then pubs, then rooftops and now yachts have become the new “venue”.  This summer witnessed the launch of many “rent a boat/yacht” schemes to enjoy drinks, music and the breathtaking coastline of Lebanon in the middle of the Med Sea.   Prices start around $750 for rental of 6 hours (day or night) with up to 30 people on “The Boat”. 

While on my balcony yesterday, I saw a huge yacht for the first time cruising past with tons of people and really loud music.  I’m almost sure it was Chocolate Club’s “Day Time Boat Party” sailing to the vibes of DJ Jojo.  I wanted to go but $200 a person was a bit too much for my budget 😦  So I enjoyed from my balcony instead 🙂

Visit La Marina port or Riviera for more information on boat rentals.

Taxi Lesson 101

I heard the most shocking story today about an Gulf National being charged $300 for a taxi from the Airport to the Phoenicia Hotel.  I can’t believe that person actually paid that bill because that’s probably around the same amount he paid for his plane ticket.  For that price, he should have taken a helicopter to the Phoenicia and it would have even been less than that!

That case was an extreme but for all the rest of you Lebanese and foreigners coming for a visit to Lebanon, please note the following:

  • Lebanon is not New York, Hong Kong or Paris… Yes it is quite close and we do pride ourselves for living it up but there is no way in hell that a taxi from the airport to Beirut (10 min ride) is going to cost you more than $30.  A $300 fare can take you all the way to Jordan from here!  And for the record, all the above cities mentioned shouldn’t cost you more than $100 from the airport to your destination as well.
  • Do yourselves a favor and agree on the price before you get in the car.  Better yet, prebook the taxi online or by phone beforehand using some of the taxis in this link (Taxis in Beirut).  If those are too many names for you to handle, you can try Allo Taxi, Taxi Premiere, Safe Taxi or Geryes Taxi.
  • Don’t take the first price the taxi gives you as set unless it’s a prebooking with a larger company as those are usually set by the company.  Feel free to haggle.  I believe the fee from the Airport to Beirut is anywhere from $25 to $40 depending on the car you choose and Beirut to Jounieh will be around $20 to $30 but prices may be subject to change slightly because of traffic and rising gas prices. 
  • If you think that you aren’t being treated appropriately, take down the number of the taxi and report it and do not get into a taxi (unless its sent by a company) that does not have a red license. 

The above points should be enough to prepare you for your first few taxi trips in Beirut.  After that, you’ll get the hang of it on your own.  But keep in mind… the sky’s the limit.  We have Limo taxis, London taxis, Luxury taxis, pink taxis and soon even water taxis… Stay tuned for Taxi Lesson 202 for some of the different taxis you can enjoy on your visit.

Exploring Byblos Castle

Last week, Gisele and I headed to Byblos to take a tour through the Byblos Castle and discover something new.  Little did we know that the Byblos Castle, which cost 6,000LL to enter, was just the entrance to the rest of old Byblos city which takes around 2 to 3 hours to walk.  The walk includes signs describing different aspects about the city such as the burial grounds, ampitheater and drinking well.  I suggest you wear comfortable walking shoes and shorts if you are visiting during the summer.  We wore jeans and flip flops and were ready to cut our excursion in half after 20 minutes due to our reluctance to prepare. 

After we finished, we found an adorable little restaurant called Feniqia right across the entrance to the Castle on the street.  This restaurant is resemblant of Byblos architecture with stone bar and terracotta bowls and adornment. It serves all kinds of salads, sandwiches and platters to quench your appetite pre or post Byblos.  A complimentary tray of olives, labneh and zaatar is served with small pita breads and a mini saj stove to heat bread throughout the meal.  I loved that unique and creative addition. 

For more ideas of what to do in Byblos, read my last post “An Afternoon in Byblos.”

Got the Chest, Get the Breast Ad?!

I almost had an accident when I looked up and saw this ad on the Jal el Dib highway the other day.  Are you kidding me?!  The sad thing is that this ad is not a joke and many Lebanese ladies have already dialed the number on that board to become just one step closer to Beirut Barbie.

It’s funny how some ads only fly in Lebanon because no other country take something like plastic surgery and turn it into a day at the dermatologist.  This ad ranks right up there with the huge ad Picasso once placed on a tall building with the only words being “GET HIGH”.  I love how Lebanon has become the “non censored” playground of the Middle East with songs you wouldn’t publish in the States and ads you wouldn’t publish in even Hollywood. 

Ladies of Lebanon, in case you were not aware, MOST MEN DON’T LIKE PLASTIC!  Yes, they are picky and they have a knack for being a bit too honest when it’s not needed 😉  but they much prefer all natural and unique to plastic and a drop in the ocean.  And if they don’t like it,  they probably aren’t worth your time. 

To be on the safe side though, let’s take a poll and see if times have changed 😉  (Men, please be honest)

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