Saturday, September 24, 2016

MY Favourite Beaches in North Lebanon

Driving back to Tripoli from Beirut on weekends, I alwaYs notice how beautiful the coastline gets as I near home, and how it especiallY calls out to me right after I exit the tunnel in Chekka and drive further North. When You take a closer look along that coast, You’ll see that it’s lined with a haven of special spots for sea lovers of all kinds. This summer, I made it a point to visit as manY of those different beach spots as I could, and with a little help from Instagram, I ended up discovering places that made me fall even more in love with mY North!

Let’s start with Batroun, a citY just before the infamous tunnel leading North. It’s home to Pierre and Friends, which also doubles as a pub and restaurant. I've known the place for a good ten Years now, ever since high school, and what I love most about it is its verY laid-back and chill atmosphere. But mY favourite reason to love it, are it's incredible sunsets, behold:

Not too far down that coast, is another gem of a spot: White Beach. Like P&F, it's also got a pebblY shore but the water is cool and it's got a mini rockY island in the middle of the sea with a Lebanese Flag proudlY poled to it. White Beach is also a surf school, and You can alwaYs catch windsurfers in the waters. 

Kfaraabida (the area between Batroun & Chekka) is trulY one of the best locations I got to discover this summer, especiallY after the #SaveKfaraabida Campaign, that was launched to raise awareness about the recent project that aims to turn the area into a private Yacht Club. But for me to describe to You how incredible the area is in just words, I’d be doing it no justice... 

One of MY favourite spots there is Joining Beach. And to be honest, if I hadn't come across a few pictures of it on Instagram and known where to look, I'd have missed it completelY! All You can see from the road is a sign that reads "Joining" in Arabic. And even standing from the edge, You'd never have thought it to be an actual beach spot. It's 100% comprised of rocks, most of which is downwards slanting, not a verY comfortable place to laY down and tan (though a lot of people do) but the reason I loved it was because of everYthing that was underneath those rocks! It's also a great spot for cliff diving, and once You're under that water, You'll see an entirelY different world down there!

But if You want to swim awaY from all the rocks and pebbled beaches, then You've got to take that tunnel in Chekka and You'll end up in El-Herri. And here's a little secret: If You're willing to make a little detour on Your waY, if You take Your first exit after the tunnel and head up, You'll end up at the monasterY of Our LadY of Light (SaYdet El Nourieh) where You can catch a breathtaking view of the sea from up above:

Of course You've got the most famous in the area: Florida Beach, but You've also got an endless collection of smaller beaches that include BennY Beach, SandY Beach, and mY personal favourite: MiraLand. I love the latter because of its huge sandY shore. It's also one of mY favourite spots to rent a paddle-board (haské) and row it out to the sea. The water is usuallY calm and just knowing that a holY place rests in the cliff above You gives You a magical kind of feeling...

After Chekka comes a little area known as Anfeh. And boY has it ever grown in popularitY this summer! You’ve got the most well-known beach resort in the area, Las Salinas, and the slightlY less popular, Marina Del Sol. But right adjacent to those two, is the now-popular Ta7t El Ri7, which is comprised of a collection of private chalets on a rockY cliff that is open to the public. The location has been painted in white and blue, reflecting Santorini-like vibes and nicknamed Anforini. All You’ve got to do is dive in! 

FinallY, it's back to mY hometown, Tripoli. If You want to talk beach resorts in the area, You’ve got the big three: Palma, Naji, & Miramar (in Kalamoun). Each resort has got it’s own charm, and nice beaches (& pools) to swim in. 

But if You reallY want the best beach experience ever, take a boat (for as little as LBP 5,000) from Mina's Port out to Rabbits Island!

El Mina is home to nine islands, four of which have been declared as nature reserves, the most popular of which is Palm Island (better known as Rabbits Island). It’s the second largest of the islands with a beautiful sandY shore and crYstal clear blue waters. 

You’ll want to make a full daY trip out of this one. You’ll need to pack some snacks and drinks to take with You as there's no food on the islands, and an umbrella for shade if You need one. Nothing beats a breakfast here (preferablY a man2ouché):

While I've listed some of mY favourite Beaches in North Lebanon, I'm sure there are still a lot of more secret spots to discover! If You'd like to share, please leave a comment!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Let's Talk About The Souvenirs (Prague)

I don’t know how many people are like me when it comes to souvenirs, but I’ve got quite an obsession with collecting things from foreign places. If I could, I’d walk into every souvenir shop there ever was! 

So when it comes to buying souvenirs in Prague, there’s a myriad of options to choose from! I’ll start with “Blue Prague”, because I know for a fact that everything in the shop is 100% Czech. I got a couple of souvenirs from there including these cute crystal dolphins (made with their famous bohemia crystal):

You’ll also find across many souvenir stores a bunch of Marionette Dolls and wooden Matryoshka Dolls (also known as Russian nesting dolls, which are placed inside each other in decreasing size). Though they’re originally Russian, they are available in almost every souvenir shop. One really neat thing I came across was a bunch of Matryoshka Dolls in the shapes of football players. This shop had dolls from all sports teams, which were quite a sight:

Now if you want something authentically Czech to bring back home for yourself, Botas 66 is a Czech shoes store that sells awesome shoes in many great colours and designs. There's a shop not too far from Old Town (located at Skerepka 4 Praha 1 - Stare Mesto). I picked these black & white sneaks that come in both Yellow & Black Laces. You can check out their available collection here.

On another note, I'm also a big "cities" magnet collector (I love to collect magnets with cities' names on them) so I got two (one for Prague & one for Carlovy Vary) to add to my growing fridge magnets collection:

Monday, March 28, 2016

Let's Talk About The Food (Prague)

Before flying out to Prague, I had heard from a good number of people who had previously been, that the food was no good. So let’s talk about the food…

On the first night, we had dinner at Uno Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar (located on the last level of Palladium Shopping Mall). I wanted to try out a traditional Czech meal so I ordered the beef Goulash, which is served with potato pancakes and red onions. I have to admit, it was quite good (a lot better than I expected)! We even ended up having dinner here again on our last night, where I had a fresh greek salad, mixed with balkan cheese, lettuce, cucumber, red onion, peppers, olives, tomatoes and olive oil. And as a main course, Gnocchi pasta, served with salmon, spinach and creamy sauce which was also delicious!

But as a Burger Addict, Burgers is what I was really into trying out! So on our first full day after the walking tour, we found ourselves back at Old Town Square, where the first food place to catch my eye was Meet Burger. And it was hands-down, the best burger I had in Prague, let alone in a very long time. What I loved most about this place was that their buns and sauces are homemade. And the meat, which I ordered medium-well, was just delicious! Oh, and another cool thing that I (being a banker) liked about the place was that they have a wall filled with bank notes from around the world where visitors sign and pin bank notes (of course in small denominations) from their country on the wall:

On the second day after coming downhill from Prague Castle, we decided to check out the eateries on Kampa Island in Mala Strana. The first place we came across was called U Zlatych Nuzek, which is actually a Hotel/Restaurant. I definitely wouldn’t classify it as a burger place, but a burger is what I ordered. 

On the third day, I wanted to go for Joy Burger Bar And Grill, which is located close to Powder Tower. It was quite packed at the time, but we managed to find a small table in the corner to chow. Their burgers were also good but out of the three burgers that I  had tried in those four days, I have to give Meet Burger the crown. Nonetheless, here’s my Joy Burger: 

As for the desserts, one of their most famous delectables in Prague is The Strudel. Though it’s sold in many spots across the city, one of the best places to try it at is Good Food Coffee & Bakery, located at Karlova 8 (not far from Charles Bridge). I’d been passing by the place almost every afternoon and seeing the long lineup outside the shop, I had to finally stop and check out what all the fuss was about. So on the last day, I got in line. Boy, was it worth the wait! I had this Chimney Strudel which is filled with warm molten apple, walnuts, raisins, and topped with soft ice-cream (or whipped cream, your choice). A must try in Prague!

The Vltava River (Prague)

One of the most beautiful things you can do in Prague is take a boat cruise along the Vltava River (the longest river in the Czech Republic) at around sunset. There are many companies that offer rides for lunch or dinner, but even our hotel concierge suggested skipping the food and going along just to enjoy the scenery. Indeed, it was magical…

At sunset, which was close to 6:30pm in late March, you begin to visibly see the skies changing colour. The birds & ducks start making those deep quacking sounds, & flying across the river, as Prague Castle lights up from the distance…

Another delight that can be found along the river bank is a small stretch of a pebbled beach ground that many people have come to know as “Swan River”. It’s an area that’s usually filled with a flock of swans that waddle around the Vltava, and visitors can feed them as they’ve grown quite accustomed to human interactions... 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The John Lennon Wall (Prague)

After crossing Charles Bridge from Old Town to Lesser Town, if you take your 1st Left & then Left again, you come across one of Prague's iconic gems: The John Lennon Peace Wall (located at Velkopřevorské náměstí, Malá Strana):

This famous wall first started collecting John Lennon & The Beatles’ inspired graffiti in the 1980s, as a symbol of Peace & Love, which it still stands for today. Everyday, new drawings and lyrics are added to the wall by its many visitors, constantly changing visuals.  

& To add to the ambiance, we came across a street musician singing and playing his guitar to The Beatles' “Let It Be”. I took this video of him and shared it on Instagram, where I later received a comment from one of his fans that he was actually a rising Czech musical artist, by the name of Thom Artway. I looked him up online and he appears to have some good music. You can check out his official page here.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Love & I / I've Seen A Lot Of Love...

I often wonder how much Love the human heart can hold. How is it divided inside? Is there one place for each Love, or do some Loves share rooms inside? And what happens when a chamber overflows, does Love take the place of another? Or is that Love evicted?

Love hits the heart first, & Love sets the beating pace.
After all, Love is fast, Love is a runner. And Love can leave you breathless. 

Sometimes I see Love walking, looking for a home in a heart. 
And Sometimes, Love finds one.

I’ve seen Love sleeping at night, its so beautiful when it’s dreaming. 
I’ve seen Love waking up and making breakfast, holding hands, and smiling.

But while Love is alive, you’ve got to take care of it. 
You can’t put it down and expect it to be waiting for you to come back and pick it up where you left it. Love doesn’t always wait.  

I’ve seen Love split between two or more, I’ve seen it being torn trying.
I’ve seen Love stolen, I’ve seen it crying. 
And I’ve seen Love putting itself back together. 

Of Love, I’ve heard it spoken but not shown, or shown but not spoken. 
That’s a ShY Love. 
Sometimes Love guards itself inside, and sometimes Love goes out freely.
Sometimes Love lies, and sometimes it begs. 
But sometimes, Love apologizes. Love tells the truth.
And sometimes with one word, Love comes back.  

Sometimes I see Love in people’s eyes, in their voices and their embraces.

I’ve seen Love forget, I’ve seen Love grow old, and tired...
Once, I’ve even seen love shot, right through the heart.
And in the end, I’ve seen Love die…

But that’s the beauty of the human heart, it’s where Love comes from. 
And in time, it forms a new Love all over again… -NK

Friday, January 30, 2015

MY Thoughts

"Dear Somebody,

As I sit here and begin to reflect on life, it’s like this feeling of excitement, adventure, happiness, sadness. You know, it’s hard sometimes…

Each day it's like something new, it's like a new story. You're never going to get that day back, but it all just feels the same. You wake up, you get ready for the day, same faces, same people, same streets you walk down, it all becomes so much and it feels like nothings gonna go the way you want it to, its like you’re working so hard for things and it’s never going to come together...

and suddenly, something happens...

I realize how beautiful life is, that I’m so lucky to be waking up, those faces I see, they’re perfect. The people in the streets I walk down, inspire me... 

You know I overheard people talking the other day, about how people need to have more patience. The word stuck: Patience

I’m so young and I want things to happen so fast that I forget to slow down and appreciate all the little things...

You never know what’s gonna happen next…" -A.R.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Realizations And Resolutions From 2013

It's December 31st, 2013, just minutes to midnight and as I sit on the same couch in the same house as I do every year to write my resolutions, I can't help but think of how repetitive, broad and generic my so called resolutions have been over the past few years (herehere, and here): Pray more, Work harder, take better care of your Health. And of course, spend less time Online. Fast-forward 365 days, not much of a change, same realizations and same resolutions. But I wanted to give this year more consideration. I wanted to be more specific, more goal oriented. So after giving it some thought, I want to focus this on WORK and SOCIAL LIFE…


Ok, can I say this? Because I really want to get it off my chest: I want to teach the world about good service! And its a huge challenge, a concept most people I know just don't seem to get. What it means to put your client first, and to give him/her more than what he/she asks for. At the same time, I want to teach the world about ethics and how everything that comes out comes from within. How focusing on internal employee satisfaction resonates into external customer satisfaction. I want to teach the world my version of Business. And I want to learn from it too (because there's still so much I need to learn for myself)… The problem is that I've been "fire-fighting", spending most of my time solving other people's problems, trying to put out the fire instead of investing time in strategic thinking and development. THAT is what I want to work on. Time Management (You Don't "Find" Time, You "Make Time"). Organization ("Everything In It's Right Place"). Development ("Never Stop Learning"). 

In turn, I'm on the right track on my MBA. By next month I should hopefully be finished with 21 Credits, and hopefully be one semester away from graduating in 2015 by this time next year... 

Which brings me to THE BIGGEST part I've neglected in 2013…


On the rare days that I do have free time away from work or school, the number of close friends I have in Lebanon, let alone in Tripoli, can be counted on one hand. The number of outings I've had with friends, the number of gatherings and reunions, the number of WLT's "Shoot As You Walk" Events that I've participated in, have hit an ultimate low in 2013. So to everyone I didn't make enough of an effort to keep in touch with, I sincerely apologize and promise to go back out and get back in contact soon…

So on those rare occasions, where did I escape to? Well, I travelled. In March, I went to Jordan to one of my best friends' Nadine and six months later in September, Nadine and I took a wonderful vacation to The USA. Going alone and for the first time to a country I've never been before made me feel alive. Like there's an entire world outside of the bubble you put yourself in… In 2014, I want to travel more. I want to go again to places I've never been before!

I've learned that these are the rocks, the building blocks around which you make your life. And then everything else just falls between. Take a moment to watch "Jar Of Life" to understand what I'm trying to get at:

So with regards to these "in betweens", I've still got the same hobbies as I've had before: Reading, Writing, Music, and Photography. But the thing is that they don't need to be resolutions because they're not something you "work" at. No, they're just there to give your life a little balance, to give you a high when you're feeling low…

So I dedicate the year 2014 to self-development. It's not going to be a year for wishes or waiting around for someone/something or making life-altering decisions even though I'm honestly sick and tired of life in this city and country (which is a topic I'm not even going to get into right now). But those who know me know my positive spirit in the midst of negativity, and my big belief in God and loyalty. And I'm in a relationship with my work and my friends and family and my country. And like all relationships, when they get weak or broken, you don't just give up and let it go. You try to fix it (at least that's what I'm trying to do). And I've got a lot of fixing I need to do in 2014. So here's to 2014, and another chance for us to get it right! ;)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Our Lady Of Light

I've driven past the green mountains of Chekka a countless number of times before, on my routine city escapes to and from Beirut. And with each time I passed, I'd look to those mountains and wonder what lay on the other side, that looked out to the sea. "Our Lady Of Light", they'd all tell me, breath-taking views overlooking the coast. And it's in the North, "my North"...

So with each drive to and from, I'd look and long to go up those mountains, and finally see what they'd all been talking about...

Last week, I promised myself I'd finally make the drive this weekend. And Mum promised she'd be the one to go with me. And so, after a pancakes Sunday breakfast and a few chapters of "The Forty Rules Of Love", we set out. I had checked for directions online, all we had to do was take the side road just before the infamous tunnel of Chekka, and drive up to Hamat. It took about 15 minutes to reach the monastery, where people were just finishing up their Sunday prayers. We walked on towards the blue we saw right behind the convent, which turned out to be one of the most breathtaking sights I've ever seen in Lebanon... 

 I also learned of The Lady Of Light's legend, where "It is believed that two sailors built the shrine in the 4th century. One winter night, on a very stormy sea, the two sailors found themselves in peril. They began praying, and the Virgin appeared to them as a light and guided them gently to the shore of Theoprosopon near modern day Chekka in North Lebanon. The grateful sailors carved a cave in the cliff and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary, and called the shrine, Our Lady of Light. A Greek Orthodox monastery was built in the 17th century. The miraculous icon of the Theotokos has been venerated for centuries for having glowed with light to attract wayward ships."

Lebanon really is full of hidden wonders, and if you haven't visited The Lady Of Light, I encourage you all to do so. As for me, I'll always be on the lookout for the next hidden gem... stay tuned! ;-)

Friday, October 18, 2013

I Wish You Enough...

(Written By: Bob Perks)

I never really thought that I'd spend as much time in airports as I do. I don't know why. I always wanted to be famous and that would mean lots of travel. But I'm not famous, yet I do see more than my share of airports.

I love them and I hate them. I love them because of the people I get to watch. But they are also the same reason why I hate airports. It all comes down to "hello" and "goodbye." I must have mentioned this a few times while writing my stories for you.

I have great difficulties with saying goodbye. Even as I write this I am experiencing that pounding sensation in my heart. If I am watching such a scene in a movie I am affected so much that I need to sit up and take a few deep breaths. So when faced with a challenge in my life I have been known to go to our local airport and watch people say goodbye. I figure nothing that is happening to me at the time could be as bad as having to say goodbye.

Watching people cling to each other, crying, and holding each other in that last embrace makes me appreciate what I have even more. Seeing them finally pull apart, extending their arms until the tips of their fingers are the last to let go, is an image that stays forefront in my mind throughout the day.

On one of my recent business trips, when I arrived at the counter to check in, the woman said, "How are you today?" I replied, "I am missing my wife already and I haven't even said goodbye."

She then looked at my ticket and began to ask, "How long will you... Oh, my God. You will only be gone three days!" We all laughed. My problem was I still had to say goodbye.

But I learn from goodbye moments, too.

Recently I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her departure and standing near the security gate, they hugged and he said, "I love you. I wish you enough." She in turn said, "Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy."

They kissed and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say goodbye to someone knowing it would be forever?"

"Yes, I have," I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me.

So I knew what this man experiencing.

"Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever goodbye?" I asked.

"I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, the next trip back would be for my funeral," he said.

"When you were saying goodbye I heard you say, "I wish you enough." May I ask what that means?"

He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more."When we said 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory:

He then began to sob and walked away.

My friends, I wish you enough!

(Taken From: