Wadi Rum: One of Arabia’s Most Gorgeous Places, And A Must Visit For Lebanese Who Like Adventure

As far as other Arabs are concerned, Lebanon is considered to be the greenest of the region’s countries, and despite rampant deforestation and grossly non-environmentally friendly governmental policies, this is actually the case for our little country. Our biggest asset in bringing people to visit us from the region isn’t, therefore, only our “joie de vivre,” nightlife and awesome food, but the fact that we offer them eco-tourism that their countries can’t match. Alas, Lebanon tends to take its tourism for granted.

I was recently in Jordan for a few days during which I had the chance to see some of the country’s main touristic attractions, including their 7 wonders of the world site Petra, and the place that stuck in my head to this very day and the place that I would want to visit again as soon as I can and recommend that everyone do so: Wadi Rum.

Wadi Rum is not unfamiliar with many of you. You’ve actually seen it plenty of times before but didn’t know it was the case. It’s featured heavily in the latest Star Wars movie “Rogue One.” It was the filming site of Best Picture nominee “The Martian.” It was also where parts of the second Transformers movie, Indiana Jones and Lawrence of Arabia were filmed.

Simply put, Hollywood and Westerners know Wadi Rum exists and flock to it in droves. For other Arabs and Lebanese, however, the place remains near-fictive. When I mentioned that I’d love to visit the place a few months ago, the reply I got was: “what’s there to see in the desert?”

The answer is: quite a lot.

The reputation that we, as Lebanese, have when it comes to our tourism style is that we’re not adventurous. We want good food, nightlife and shopping. To me, that reputation is horrific. I asked many travel agencies about that reputation and all of them corroborated it: this is what they sell. I guess this doesn’t apply to a newer generation of Lebanese, and many of this blog’s readers, but I daresay it’s high time to change that.

  • How To Get To Wadi Rum:

A new travel path between Beirut and Jordan was launched last week, offering direct flights between Beirut and Aqaba for $212 round trip. This path is better than Beirut – Amman because Aqaba is much closer to Wadi Rum than Amman (70km versus 300km).

Once you get to Aqaba, it’s quite easy to rent a car. Your Lebanese driver’s license actually works, or you can have an international driver’s license done to be on the safe side. Oil prices in Jordan are much cheaper than their counterpart back home and car rental prices are super cheap too.

  • What To Do In Wadi Rum:

The Wadi Rum reserve is huge. It’s around 700km2. I daresay there’s no way that anyone can do the whole thing in one stay unless they stay there for a couple of weeks, and that’s not ideal because it’s a physically demanding visit.

Gorgeous scenery: While we, as Lebanese, completely disregard the jewels we have interspersed in our country and don’t bother in their upkeep, the Jordanians have done the total opposite with Wadi Rum: it is a natural reserve that is so clean, so neatly kept and so beautiful. Wadi Rum is the total opposite of the kind of eco-tourism that we can offer in Lebanon: it’s a desert, filled with gorgeous sand dunes, high limestone mountains, sitting on one of Arabia’s biggest aquifers, and is as authentic as a desert experience can be. Your instagram posts will be ace, trust me.

Safari rides: Forget safaris in Dubai. I went on a 4×4 truck ride across the area and this is the real deal. You sit in the back of the pickup truck, and a skilled driver takes you around gorgeous scenery that will leave you dumbfounded. Refer to pictures below.

Bedouin life: Wadi Rum is also home to many Bedouin tribes that still live there. Those tribes will open their arms to you and host you for lunch or dinner. Their cooking style is very interesting in that, to save up on wood, they bury their cooking pots in the sand with the burning embers and let the meat and vegetables slowly cook. I had the pleasure to sit with a Bedouin tribal chief who told us stories of life in the desert, played a little on his rababa and invited us to share a meal with him.

Camel Riding: Western countries also stereotype our countries as the places were camels are the go-to mode of transportation. They’d be disappointed, I suppose, to find out that the first time I’ve ever ridden a camel was in Wadi Rum.

Hiking: I didn’t have the chance to do a lot of hiking at Wadi Rum but there are trails all around the place that vary based on difficulty that those who like hiking will find to be exquisite. My fair share of rock climbing and hiking that I did there was unforgettable, although my legs would probably ask for a break before I do that again.

Sunsets: There’s something to say about the beauty of sunsets and desert sunsets have their own taste that I’m super glad I got to experience. I was able to sit atop one a high rock with a view, look over at a huge landscape in front of me as it turned into hues of gold and orange.

Star Gazing: After the sun set, I was treated to one of the most beautiful starry skies I’ve ever seen. Entire constellations spread in front of you. Just lie there, and enjoy the gorgeous view.

  • Where To Stay:

You don’t need to go back to the city in order to enjoy Wadi Rum for more than a day. The place has many camping sites interspersed here and there, with prices for the night being around $20.

Why It’s a Must Visit:

I can’t begin to tell you how amazing the place is. I spent an entire day there – from 8AM till around 10PM – and left feeling disheartened because I wanted to spend more time and see more places. Apart from it being historic with it being one of the places that Lawrence of Arabia spent a lot of time and its rocks having many ancient inscriptions on them, Wadi Rum offers you quite an experience that Lebanon doesn’t have and I daresay other Arab countries of the region can’t match. It’s unfortunate that this jewel in the Middle East is discovered and used quite often by Hollywood and Europeans but not by the locals or those from neighboring countries like us. It’s cheap, quite accessible with no visa requirements for entry for Lebanese, and you’ll go back to Lebanon with many a chance to tell wonderful stories of your desert excursions. Go there!

Advertisements

From Bikini To Burkini, Or Why Lebanon’s Tripoli Is Awesome

A picture of two veiled burkini-clad women, and another bikini-wearing on one of Tripoli’s popular beach islands is going viral today across Lebanon’s internet-sphere. The last time this many people were interested in the city was to berate it for the way it voted in an election, but that election is now long past and so has those people’s attention from this great city up North.

In that picture, the two stark opposites represent this city that I love more than anything else. So I figured, in this small space that I have, that I’d try to tell you – kind reader – of why this city whose picture you’re so eagerly sharing is worth your time.

1) Bikini versus Burkini:

Bikini:Burkini Tripoli

Picture via @Jadgghorayeb

Over the years, many Lebanese have come to associate an image with Tripoli as that of a city that is ravaged by war, where Islamists reign supreme and where seculars – or anyone who does not want to live by the Sharia for that matter – is not welcome.

The constant and progressive decimation in the city’s reputation is slowly being reversed as of late, with many flocking to its pristine beach islands, to the growing safety of its streets.

The above picture, however, is not an anomaly. It’s the culmination of years in which the city’s varying components co-existed calmly, away from politics and hateful rhetoric, and here they are in all their glory.

2) Beirut’s food prices will have a seizure:

Hallab

You’ve all seen that infamous “Grand Café” picture over the past few weeks and the comparison (although inaccurate) to potential trips to Istanbul that that same bill would’ve covered. Many of you have complained about the price hike in diner chains you’ve loved for years. Now let me tell you a short story.

Yesterday, I took a group of my friends who hadn’t visited Tripoli but to do some necessary paperworks that people of the North have to do in it to one of the city’s restaurants. Their first reaction scanning the prices of that menu – one of Tripoli’s more expensive places, may I add – was to ask one question: how?

Four main courses, drinks, and appetizers later, our bill was less than half of what we would’ve paid for the same combination at any given place in our country’s capital. And the food was great.

In fact, the food is great everywhere. From the restaurants offering Lebanese to those offering mixed cuisine across the city, to the vendors selling cheese and kaak, to the many coffee places many of which I love – Ahwak for the win – to the sweets places and palaces that the city have become synonymous with, you can do no wrong.

3) Lebanon’s biggest old souk is there:

 

Everyone loves to go to Jbeil to see its “authentic” great souks. And while Jbeil’s old sector is awesome, it is dwarfed by what lies in Tripoli’s old city.

Not only is Tripoli’s souk one of Lebanon’s biggest, and is relatively well-kept, but it has retained a flair of authenticity with it being a melting pot of all of the city’s inhabitants, across their sociopolitical status.

The old souks are still divided based on the different services they offer, from khan el saboun to khan el dahab, to the many Ottoman-styled hammams inside them. They’re a must-visit if you’re in the city and in the mood for some meet up with Lebanese history.

4) Citadel St. Gilles is awesome:

Built by the Crusaders, Citadel St. Gilles in Tripoli’s Tebbaneh neighborhood is an extremely well-kept fortress that, because of its location, is rarely viewed as a touristic destination. But it is, and you’d be missing out by not checking it out.

It’s almost 900 years old, has been morphed over the years by the many occupiers of the city into what it is today, and the place being almost always not crowded gives you a visiting experience that view other touristic spots in Lebanon offer.

The entrance is also a simple: 5,000LL.

5) Rachid Karame Forum is spectacular:

Designed by the late Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, the Rachid Karame Forum at the entrance of the city is a vast space that’s probably the most accurate representation of the wasted potential of the city.

Intended to be the hub of an economic forum as plans to turn the city into a Lebanese economic capital were underway, the place is now almost a ghost-town of modern unfinished architecture and landscape designs that will surely blow you away.

6) The Palm Islands are amazing:

Pic via The Daily Star

Pic via The Daily Star

A natural reserve set forth by the Lebanese state, a section of the Palm Islands has been made available for beach-lovers to visit in order to exercise their favorite hobby. From clean sands to pristine waters, the islands are near-free to get to – unlike all the resorts in or around Beirut and its greater area.

Fun fact: the Arabic name for the Islands is rabbit islands. It is as such because during the period of the French occupation, rabbits were let loose on the island. What were two soon became hundreds, and therefore the naming occurred.

7) Timmy’s in El Mina is the pub to go to:

IMG_6535

When I say alcohol, Tripoli is probably the last place you’d think of. But there’s a pub in the old neighborhood in El Mina called Timmy’s that will help you change your mind a little. It’s an old traditional sea-side Lebanese house that has been turned into a massive space for those who feel like they need to wind down after a long day or week.

From sand-stone interior, to chandeliers dangling from the ceiling, to doors manned by a camera based on which the owner decides which clientele he wants to admit or not, the only adjective that could describe the place is exclusive but approachable.

When I was there, I had a discussion with the owner about why he adopted such a policy. He said that he wants to keep the place at a high enough level to attract people to his city. And attract people he does. For the moment, most of those who flock to Timmy’s are either from Tripoli or from the neighboring areas of Zgharta or Koura or sometimes Batroun. But that could change.

8) El Mina’s corniche is one awesome walk:

The same night when I had a few friends try out one of my favorite restaurants in Tripoli and they got shocked with how cheap and good it was, I took them on a drive around the sea corniche in Mina. Stretching for more than 3 kilometers, it is one of Lebanon’s longest and more authentic.

From vendors in small kiosks on the side, to kids flying around kites, to men praying in the heat while they fish, on that corniche you’ll see all kinds of kinds, in a city that has everything you’d see.

9) The people are the most kind-hearted you’ll find:

From close friends, to the people that would give you money for park meters when you’re out of coins, to the hefty portions you’re served anywhere you go, to the overall sense of welcome they infuse in the air of their city, the people of Tripoli are some of the most kind-hearted welcoming people you’ll meet in this country.

I’ve had the pleasure to know many of them, some of whom were like my family at a certain point, and I call myself lucky for doing so.

10) Life exists North of the Madfoun:

The Lebanese border does not end sligthly north of Jbeil. Venture out. Explore a little. Odds are you may be surprised – even if for a picture involving a bikini and a burkini. Suck on that Cannes?

This Is North Lebanon That Our Governments Don’t Give A Shit About

A couple days ago, MTV Lebanon posted a controversial Christian-arousing report about how Lebanon’s Christian areas do not get funds for public works that its Muslim areas get, especially its Shiite ones. They threw around numbers for Baalbak and Hermel and compared them with the total of Batroun and Bsharre, called it a day and did what MTV does best: be more melodramatic about Christians in Lebanon than the Pope and the Patriarch will ever be combined.

Keep that report in mind (link).

Yesterday, Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourismreleased a beautiful video to promote tourism in the country called “Rise Above Lebanon” filmed using a drone over several Lebanese territories. I sat there through those 5 minutes, marveling at the perfect-angled footage of the place we call home.

And then the video was over before showing almost any footage of the place I call home, the North of the country.

What you got instead was a scene where some kid was playing happily in Nejmeh Square when people are NOT even allowed to Nejmeh Square anymore. A good part of the drone footage was also reserved for Zaitunay Bay. Because why not? #LiveLoveBeirutiCapitalism.

I enjoyed the video. Some of the footage shown is beautiful, diluting away the little big things that drive us mad about this country. Still, I didn’t know if it was my I-love-to-nag gene kicking, so I decided to test out the waters by voicing my thoughts about the North’s omission publicly. Many agreed. I was not being a paranoid northern regionalist holding out a pitchfork fighting for the land beyond the Madfoun.

It was then that I decided to go back and look at the data presented by MTV’s article to try and come to a different conclusion than the sectarian one they reached: what if you took those numbers and just added them up by mohafazat? What picture would it show then about how our government likes to spend our tax money?

These are the numbers grouped by Mohafazat. Amounts are in billion lira:

North:

  • Tripoli: 1.1
  • Bsharre: 0.1.
  • Batroun: 1.6.
  • Zgharta: 2.2.
  • Koura: 1.2.
  • Akkar: 3.3.
  • Menieh + Denniyeh: 2.4.

Total: 11.9. Per caza: 1.7.

South:

  • Sour: 5.
  • Jezzine: 0.35.
  • Saida: 5.

Total: 10.35. Per caza: 3.45.

Nabatiyeh:

  • Marjeaayoun: 4.2.
  • Bent Jbeil: 4.9.
  • Nabatiyeh: 7.1.
  • Hasbaya: 0.2.

Total: 16.4. Per caza: 4.1.

Mt. Lebanon:

  • Jbeil: 2.6
  • Baabda: 2.2.
  • Metn: 3.5.
  • Keserwen: 3.
  • Aley: 3.4.
  • Chouf: 3.7.

Total: 18.4. Per caza: 3.07.

Beqaa:

  • Baalbak: 12.8.
  • West beqaa: 3.4.
  • Rashaya: 1.5.
  • Zahleh: 5.4.
  • Hermel: 3.9.

Total: 27. Per caza: 5.4.

If you merge Nabatiyeh and the South mohafazats together, becoming an area that is more similar to North Lebanon when it comes to surface area and population, North Lebanon becomes the area receiving the least amount of investment from our governments, and it still applies when you adjust the amount per capita or per surface area.

Bsharre, the land that gave us the Cedars and Gebran and is the heart of Christianity in Lebanon for our Christian zealots, got less money in 2015 than what Issam Fares paid for his daughter’s wedding, or what our politicians spend on their lavish vacations in Mykonos or elsewhere.

And, clearly, we can’t make it for more than 20 seconds in a video to promote tourism in the country. I guess our governments think there’s nothing there to offer and there’s no point to put any effort. Is that way they wanted to turn Akkar into Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s garbage dump?

People in other areas nag about their infrastructure being subpar. Some areas in the North don’t have infrastructure to begin with. Some areas in Akkar don’t have road access yet and have only received electricity from our government recently. Do you know how they were going to sell Akkar’s garbage dump to the Akkaris? By giving them a highway.

Poverty rates in Tripoli and Akkar are among the country’s highest at around 50%. That’s basically half of the population in two of the country’s most populous areas living in conditions that everyone else in the country cannot even remotely begin to imagine. It’s not like extremism and poverty are linked in any way. It’s not like poverty can be tackled by investing in those people’s future. I guess they don’t deserve a second glance either.

This reality extends to the rest of the North. It seems the poorest Mohafaza in the country doesn’t need the attention. People in North Lebanon are embarking to Europe on boats, similarly to the Syrian refugees, to escape their horrid reality back home. Ponder on that thought for a moment.

There’s not much I can do to get our governments to care about our country’s areas that need it the most. It feels like beating a dead horse every time the topic is brought up. But know that every time you perpetuate the media they diffuse that ignores those areas, you’re also helping in maintaining the status quo, even if in a simple tourism video.

But I can show you what you’re missing on.

 

Can We Get Over Beirut Being Among The World’s Best Cities?

20131019-190524.jpg

I’ve debated whether to write this or not. Then whether to publish it or not. Then I figured, screw it.

I am a proud Lebanese. And it’s because I like my country that I can’t sit aside and pretend that fake accolades mean more than they are, that void accomplishments are fuller than they actually are.

Beirut isn’t a bad city, sure. It’s perhaps the best city that we have given that our centralization policies have put everything only in and around it. But, forgive the bluntness, there’s no freaking way in hell Beirut can find itself on a world’s best cities list. Unless the person doing that list was high on some Bekaai hashish.

Beirut recently found itself to be on a list of the world’s top 25 cities, courtesy of CN Traveler. Those same people, for those who remember, voted Byblos as the #1 city in the region, with Beirut coming in second. Take that Dubai! We celebrated back then. That little triumph our cities had, although meaningless in itself, meant a lot to us.

Beirut is given the following description as per the CN Traveler website:

The capital of Lebanon has “much to offer the adventurous traveler.” Find “exotic cuisine and cocktails” at the “most exclusive clubs in the world” in what one reader calls “the Paris of the Middle East.” This city offers a “tapestry of sects, religions, and lifestyles that provide a feast for the mind of the intellectual.”

Visiting Lebanon is for the “adventurous,” it seems. I didn’t know my country was such a wild ride. Point me to the next safari why don’t you?

Perhaps Beirut is a great city for a visitor who came here to experience our unparalleled joie de vivre with someone who decided to show them Gemayzeh, Skybar and White, then spend a weekend in Faghaya, pretending that’s still Beirut, before spending the day at some beach that has more plastic than in the bodies of the women strutting their heels in its sands.

Yes, that sounds great indeed.

I don’t know what criteria were employed to rank the cities of that list. But the mark of the greatness of a city isn’t by how well and how great it treats a tourist coming to it for a week. It’s by how great it is for someone who lives there and calls that city home.

When I think of Beirut today, I think of unparalleled urbanization. I think of concrete masses upon concrete masses. I think of cultural demise that manifests in monument demolitions and old houses getting ripped off their foundations. I think of so little monuments that need to be seen in the city. I think of no public transportation. I think of no electricity, no water, of traffic, no public spaces and parks.

When I think of Beirut today, I’m being told I should think of Skybar and Dubai-esque malls because that’s what my city has to offer lately. I’m not sure how that qualifies as greatness honestly. Or I could just be the rare Lebanese who doesn’t like pubs and night clubs and all their derivatives.

Don’t let some silly list fool you into believing the city we call home doesn’t need massive plans, massive reforms, massive work, massive restructuring. Because what Beirut is today, a city living off the ghost of its luxurious past, is only great in the eyes of its beholders. And that’s not really great.

What’s Greater Than Lebanon?

You can’t really blame the ministry of tourism for keeping its hopes up against all odds. After all, the country cannot function without a summer of tourists. They have, therefore, launched a new TV ad, enlisting the help of several Lebanese celebrities, to help boost tourism, gloriously titled: What’s Greater Than Lebanon?

Come on people, we have awesome food and awesome nightlife and beaches… Why wouldn’t you want to come here?

So just because you may have not heard of those touristic qualifications several times already, here’s how a trip to the great land of Lebanon can go:

  • Land in Beirut and keep yourself busy as you course through Beirut’s Southern suburb and its slogans.
  • Marvel at the wonders of Downtown Beirut only from afar. It’s unlikely – unless you’re super rich – that you’d be able to afford anything there. But isn’t that Rolex store beautiful?
  • Wander around Achrafieh. If you start to wonder why a lot of people are speaking French, don’t worry – that’s what happens around that place. Look at the beautiful Lebanese mansions while getting lost in the narrow streets that will soon be no more. Then, when you’re bored, do as everyone does where you come from and go to ABC.
  • You can also visit Hamra, which can also be called Beirut’s hipster central. Activists, militants, politics, hypocrites… You’ll find it all there. You can visit the local universities there for your daily dose of Lebanese elitists as well. Visit one of the pubs – they’re more expensive than where you come from, if where you come from has alcohol, but aren’t they just unique?
  • Your second day should include a visit to the South. Be careful not to cross the Litani river or you might have to answer to Hezbollah militants who get offended by your existence. I’d recommend visiting Saida but you cannot be certain clashes won’t kill you there so no Saida for you. Bummer… That marine castle is beautiful.
  • I hope you’ve been saving up money because today is beach day! Hurray? Well, we cannot go to any public beach because they are a reflection of how people act in this country: garbage everywhere. Odds are you’d get septic shock. So private beaches, which are also illegal, are where you’re supposed to go… Except entry will get you broke. Manage the pros and cons and decide as such.
  • Or you can use beach day to go North. The beaches are much nicer there and much cheaper. But I could be biased – that’s where I come from. You can visit the Cedar mountains and see our national symbol – all 20 left trees of it. You can listen to your friend or guide tell you about how this proximity between the mountain and the sea is unique and about how it actually snows – it’s best if you pretend to be super shocked by now – in winter here.
  • While up North, visit the Qadisha valley. Lebanese Christians use the remnants of this valley as proof that they were the original inhabitants of the country. So if your guide or friend is Christian, be prepared for a round of religious pride. But don’t worry, it’s not the kind with which you might end up dead.
  • You can visit Tripoli as well. They are the most underrated city in the country. They have a Crusade citadel, cheap and awesome food and several hundred bearded men roaming the streets to express their Sunni anger at the current situation of their compatriots in the country. But they’re going to heaven anyway because they don’t eat pork and drink alcohol. No Tripoli for you too… And don’t you dare go more North than Tripoli. Akkar is not a place we want tourists to see… Poverty, poverty everywhere.
  • Don’t worry though. It’s not all morbid. We have super awesome food. The tabbouleh they do where you come from is obviously subpar. How could it not be? The parsley we use is grown in trab el arez yalli aghla men l dehab.
  • You can visit the epic ruins of Baalbeck. The area is being bombed by the Free Syrian Army but don’t tell them I told you that. So instead of going there, just stay in Zahle and call it a Bekaa day. It should be enough.
  • Don’t forget to visit Harissa. The area sure is over-urbanized going up there with all those ugly buildings eating the mountain away but isn’t the view majestic? And make sure you drop by Jeita – our current national treasure, obviously robbed for the 7 wonders of nature.
  • On your last night here, you have got to go party. Don’t look at me – I’ve never been to Skybar. But there are plenty of decent (and expensive) places where you’ll dance the night away. Don’t get your hopes up for sex though. Our women are all sex but no sex. If you’re a woman… Good luck. May whoever you believe in be with you.
  • The greatness of a country isn’t in its mountain being proximal to its beaches and in the awesomeness of its cuisine. The touristic greatness of a country is in what unique aspects it can provide its tourists.
    Say what you want about Parisians but their food and city are brilliant. Turkish people may be the most non-hospitable I’ve seen but I was told they have mountains plunging into the sea as well. And they’re a stone’s throw away. Americans may be the big bad devil but they can probably throw better parties than us.

    You want a great touristic season? You need less political hypocrisy, less half-assed security measures, more stability and less pretentiousness when it comes to how valuable touristically Lebanon is.
    Until then, we can keep begging for tourists to come us much as we please. As it stands, we are giving them absolutely no reason to come…. But our ministry of tourism is in touristic Lala land anyway.

    And yet, despite it all, we are still expecting tourists to grace us with their presence in the Great Republic of Lebanon.

    Lebanon’s Arguileh Militia

    Soon after I blogged about how the Beiruti restaurant Enab, situated in Gemmayze, was violating the smoking ban despite stickers announcing the place as a non-smoking restaurant (link with pictures), IndyAct Lebanon decided to take matters in their own hands after a growing number of complaints regarding that particular restaurant were met unanswered by our tourism police.

    As I said, it’s obvious there’s an under-the-table deal somewhere that benefits off our lungs. Anything for that extra money.

    IndyAct decided to use their office space, which is ideally situated next to Enab, in order to set up a huge banner announcing to people who frequent Gemmayze that the restaurant nearby is violating the law and that it is not, in fact, a smoke free place as it advertises. The people of IndyAct were surprised to find their premises violated soon after by employees of Enab who took down the poster. Apparently they wanted to break the law in peace.

    And it has all been documented on video:

    Soon after the incident, IndyACT procured an official permit from the municipality of Beirut to set up the poster that Enab’s employees forcibly removed. Let’s hope those employees don’t break yet another law by removing the poster.

    Enab Gemmayze Smoking Ban

     

    It is said apathy is the weakest point in applying the law. It is our duty as Lebanese to make sure our law is enforced, people constantly said. But I have to ask: what’s the point?

    When restaurants such as Enab break the law so flagrantly and have no problem breaking it even more to cover up the initial violation fully knowing they won’t face any repercussions whatsoever, what’s the point?

    The more I call that magical 1735 number, the less cooperation I find from the tourism police whose job, paid for by my taxes, is to ensure such laws are enforced. The smoking ban is dead, despite some politicians wanting you to believe otherwise.

    The amount of restaurants violating the law today is way too big to count. There isn’t a restaurant in Jbeil or Batroun or Tripoli – the places I spend most of my time in, apart from very few select places like Crepaway, which is actually observing the law. And they don’t even care about it. When you ask them about the smoking ban they reply: “that little thing? No, there isn’t such a thing over here. Do you want an arguileh, sir?”

     

    The solution that I have found suits me best is to reward those few restaurants that are actually observing the law by frequenting them more often. On the other hand, I have decided that when I visit a restaurant that turns out to be violating the law, I will simply leave making sure they know all the smoke in the air is the reason for my departure. They want to make money off arguileh? Well, it won’t be my money they’ll be taking.

    While our minister of tourism panics over the decreasing number of tourists visiting our beautiful country and sets up promotions to boost the sector, I have to wonder: how can you expect those people who come from much more organized countries to visit a place where even arguile has its own mini-militia?

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I will personally never visit Enab, Jbeil’s Feniqia (link) or any restaurant that violates the ban for that matter again. I invite you to do the same.

     

    MTC Touch Donates $10,000 to the Jeita Vote

    Now that we’ve established that the N7W competition is not scam and that you have more than enough reasons to vote for Jeita, I believe we need to commend MTC on its announcement today, which translates as follows:

    Lebanese Mobile telecommunications company “MTC Touch” announced its contribution of $ 10,000 dollars, which represent 100,000 SMS, to support the Jeita Grotto voting campaign, aimed at making the cave one of the seven wonders of the world of nature.

    The company said in a statement that the initiative came to reaffirm “the company’s permanent commitment toward Lebanese society and its continued support for its growth and prosperity and is participating today through this contribution in reaffirming the Jeita Grotto site as a fundamental pillar of natural tourism. In doing so, MTC Touch provides a catalyst for the voting campaign as it enters its last stage.”

    Voting ends on Friday, 11/11/11. Results should be announced later that day. If you’re in Lebanon, you can text “Jeita” to 1070, which costs $0.1.

    If you’re outside Lebanon, you can consult the following image: