Zaitunay Bay is NOT Closing Down

After posting news that Zaitunay Bay might be closing down because the shops and restaurants in it can’t pay their rent anymore, I was tweeted by Zaitunay Bay’s account to let me know the news is entirely false.

Moreover, it seems that Solidere is not allowed to make such statements as it’s not the owning company of Zaitunay Bay. The company in question is BWD, Beirut Waterfront Development.

Here are the tweets in question:

Zaitunay Bay Closing - 1

Zaitunay Bay Closing - 2However, I believe that the closing news may not be coming out of nowhere. As they say, there’s no smoke without fire. So perhaps Zaitunay Bay should really anticipate repercussions from the dismal state of the economy and lower the rent on its tenants, at least until these tough times blow through. Making less money transiently is better than not making money at all.

 

 

 

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Beirut’s Zaitunay Bay Closing Down?

LebanonFiles is reporting (here) that Solidere is actively and seriously considering closing down Lebanon’s new “it” project Zaitunay Bay, which has been discussed in the New York Times earlier this year.

The reason for Zaitunay Bay potentially closing is the same reason Fuddruckers and Buddha Bar have closed down while Movenpick got offered up for sale: the terrible state of business.

The shops and restaurants in Zaitunay bay are witnessing such a big fiscal drought that they can’t pay their rent, which is about $500,000 per year for their property. Looks like such a well-visited location hasn’t been resilient to the economic woes of the country.

Meanwhile, as all major business in the country close down or consider closing down, our politicians are either making propaganda visits to Gaza, still on a “forced vacation” abroad, threatening everyone whenever they feel threatened (which is basically every waking moment of every day) or getting people to freak out about a potential “ekhwen rule” in Syria.

The 2013 elections are in a few months and the rhetoric that will be used in the coming days and weeks won’t be that of an economic plan to save the country’s miserable state but that of mentally terrorizing people into voting for one side over the other, whatever that side is.

Despite not being the biggest fan of Zaitunay Bay, I really hope the place pulls through these though times. Lebanon doesn’t need such a thing right now.

Zaitunay Bay Observations

I visited Zaitunay Bay this past Saturday, several months after my first visit, so I was able to see the place with all its newfound hype.
The last time I visited, the place was very new. We were among the few people there. This time, however, was different.
To say Zaitunay Bay is crowded would be stating the obvious. It would also be a gross understatement. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it’s the new “it” place in Beirut. People will get over it eventually.

Until then, here are some things I observed.

1 – Lots of Arab tourists. Taking poses on the boardwalk, taking pictures with yachts. Buses dropping them off and then picking them up when they’re done. The khalijis have apparently left their previous favorite Beiruti destination ABC and are not hitting the Bay.

 

Syrian men posing

Khaliji women walking


2 – Lebanese girls: you know those New York Times articles that talk about Lebanese girls walking on Zaitunay bay’s boardwalk in heels? They are actually true. My friends and I were sporting your regular everyday clothes. To say we were underdressed would be laughable. We were almost beggars compared to the girls with full makeup and designer clothes, coming to strut on the boardwalk. This isn’t a catwalk. This is a marina. You’re supposed to come here to have fun and not trip 23 times/meter while walking. But they gave us a pretty good laugh.

Guys, get your eyes off from the top portion of the picture.
They tripped so many times, it was as if we were watching the two stooges.

3 – Sturdiness: The place is very well-built and has many nice views of Beirut’s waterfront, as well as the Lebanese mountains. Do I think it’s enough for publications to gush about it? Absolutely not. It’s not a ground breaking project. If anything, it’s highlighting the shallow part of Beirut that I don’t particularly like. But for an hour or so, taking a walk around it is nice.

I invite you all for Sunday lunch on my yacht

The bay, edited with the iPhone app Camera+

You can see the Lebanese mountain Sannine in the background, the snow still visible

Beirut’s Zaitunay Bay Featured in the New York Times

The Zaintunay Bay picture used by the NY Times

Yet another piece of Lebanon’s capital makes it to a highly acclaimed international publication. This time, Zaitunay Bay takes center stage with a feature in the coveted New York Times’ Travel section. You can read the full article here.

And if you thought previous articles by The Telegraph and New York Times and other publications about Beirut were not nauseating enough with use of words and adjectives that revolve around “Phoenix, resurrection, war-torn, etc….” this article is no different.

“It’s the phoenix of downtown Beirut coming back,” one of the owners of a restaurant in Zaitunay Bay says. Somehow almost 20 years after the end of the civil war, color me tired of using this terminology. If in 20 years Beirut isn’t back, then it might as well not plan a come back at all.

And somehow I don’t think Beirut has really returned if our pride and joy in the city when it comes to tourists extends from Gemmayze to Hamra. The “Phoenix” we are proud of has a golden beak, which is the aforementioned region. The rest of that Phoenix? I guess the best description would be: wings and body of concrete (and weak concrete at that).

My problem with Zaitunay Bay, and other similar projects around Beirut, is that they are not happening anywhere else. Having blogged before about how Beirut is not what Lebanon is all about, I feel the need to reiterate that point when articles such as this one arise. You see, of course Beirut will keep getting “resurrected” if all the capitol Lebanese and non-Lebanese investors put is in this city, in a very select area of it to be exact, while other places in Lebanon have to make their own luck, so to speak.

The fact that Zaitunay Bay is only an extension of Beirut’s DownTown is a testament to that.

In a way, I am prouder of places like Batroun that have surpassed years of Syrian presence and became one of the North’s major cities. I am proud of Jbeil, a city that is becoming a major tourist attraction solely based on what it has to naturally offer, not because of millions and millions of dollars being thrown in it.

But well, have I mentioned how gorgeous the Cedars are this time of year?

And if you think I’m being too harsh, the concrete marvels of Zaitunay Bay are absolutely breathtaking in this weather, don’t you think?