I arrived in Lebanon 4 years ago yesterday

What happens in four years? Everything happens.

You fall in love. You break up. You hate. You cry. You scream. You fight. You think you’ll die. You think you’ll wake up. You wake up. You drink a lot. You smoke a lot. You make friends. You lose friends. You make something beyond friends that is still just friends. You lose those people too. People leave. Everyone leaves. You stay. You travel. You travel a lot. You get on airplanes like some people try on new clothes. You swim in beaches with white sand and crystal blue water. You hike mountains covered in the greenest green. You ride trains across borders. You take boats through the waters. You ride elephants and feel guilty. You refuse to ride camels. You meet people. You fuck people. You have lots of sex. You do some drugs. You grow up. You act immature. You get an apartment. You buy random shit like pots and pans. You buy sheets. You buy a drying rack. You buy art to hang on your walls. You let strangers sleep on your couch. You’re so God damn high all the time and time begins passing like a blur. You love everyone. You love your friends. You love these travelers in your apartment. You love France. The air feels so different. You dance. You party all night. You go home with strangers. You go home with friends. You want everyone to sleep in your bed. You want everyone to always be there. You want everyone to always stay. You talk about buying that old house and letting all your friends live there. You plan to take care of everyone. You plan to pay for everything. You plan to be rich enough. You talk about your novel. You talk about your dreams. You’re going to live in Dubai. You’ll own a yacht. You miss South America. You have a real experience in Sri Lanka. You watch planes fly away with people you love. You cry alone at night when people die. You talk about moving back to a place where things are simpler. You talk about going further east. You don’t go anywhere. You start to see Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport as your personal Purgatory. You interview celebrities. You sleep with celebrities. You interview influencers. You get invited to parties where the people you interviewed are also invited. You eat 5-star meals for free. You drink expensive cocktails for free. You realize your life is perfect. You tell everyone that nobody possibly has a better life than you do, maybe as good, but not better. You’re the happiest person in the world. You’re the most confused person you know. You’re naive. You’re intelligent. You’re foolish. You’re indecisive. You’re independent. You’re so damn needy. You can’t stop. You can’t finish anything. You can’t move on. You can’t make decisions. You can’t survive in the real world. You’re so God damn broken. You have so many friends. Everyone loves you. You’re so happy. You find out that nobody is perfect. You discover that everyone will hurt you. You realize that even places can reject you. You realize you’ve been chasing happiness all these years. You realize you’ve been chasing a ghost. You haven’t changed. You haven’t gone anywhere. You’ve always been happy. You just didn’t understand what it meant. You’re so God damn privileged. You’re so God damn white. You hate Trump. You hate Clinton. You hate the media. You hate politics. You decide to build a cabin in the woods. You decide to always be alone. You realize you don’t need anyone. You just need yourself.

But you’re friends are calling. You ask them if they want to drink absinthe.

What happens in four years? Life happens.

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Beirut’s coolest rooftop venue just opened in Mar Mikhael

I have to admit, I’ve never really been a big fan of Beirut’s famous rooftop venues. When you Google nightlife in this city, it’s one of the first things you’ll find but tbh, I’m #NotImpressed.

Sorry, but I’m the type that will take a cold beer on the street any day over drinking expensive, watered-down cocktails with a crowd that just came to snap selfies and check-in on Facebook.

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Even if you didn’t want to drink, the setting is chill and you can enjoy pool or foosball while snacking on some appetizers.

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While I wouldn’t say the food is top-notch, it’s definitely passable and the setting makes up for it. As far as the prices? Well, we all know that everything in Beirut is a bit on the pricey side and Fabrk follows the trend, but its not more than any of the other trendy pubs you are used to enjoying with your friends. Compared to other popular rooftops, I’d say it comes out to be much more affordable actually.

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Anyway, it’s definitely a placed I’ll be heading back to and I’d recommend you check it out for yourself. Try to catch the happy hour specials… but you might just find yourself staying later than you think. Really, the vibe is fun and chill.

Happy hour is from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Call 71 448 800 for reservations and check the Facebook page for directions. It’s easy to find, right in the center of Mar Mikhael on Armenia Street.

Cheers!

I found true love one night in Beirut

JASDON IS OK

He stands at the bar, scanning the dance floor. The lights are flashing. The music is pulsing outward from the speakers. People sip their drinks and stare at the neon colors dancing on the ground, but few are dancing.

They are there, across the deck. She stands with a group of friends, appearing disinterested in their conversation, checking her phone to distract herself. Dark hair, dark eyes, dark clothes and her body sways to the music, subtly. He stands there, not far from her, but not with her group. Hie eyes shift towards her occasionally, scanning her body, taking in her demeanor.

And he is still on the other side of the deck, eyeing both of them, hoping their eyes will meet his. He imagines a moment, a moment of random chance. They look up. Perhaps he notices him and then she notices them. Or perhaps she notices him and…

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Camping in Shouf is the best thing ever

So, last weekend my favorite person in the entire world, Michella, celebrated her 26th birthday by inviting all of us to go camping in Lebanon’s Shouf region.

Shouf is a mountainous area featuring some of the best views Lebanon affords as well as the expansive Shouf Biosphere Reserve. The reserve is actually Lebanon’s largest but though it’s a cedar forest, it’s not to be confused with The Cedars of God reserve located in the north of Lebanon. While the Shouf reserve is an amazing place to hike and features beautiful cedars, the “Cedars of God” are much older and are the cedars everyone associates with the country.

However, all that aside, this weekend escape was possibly one of the best weekends of the year for me. It was just so relaxing to escape the city and immerse ourselves in nature for a bit. Although I used to camp often in the United States and although we go on road trips to different nature destinations throughout Lebanon on a very regular basis, I haven’t actually camped overnight since moving here nearly four years ago.

And we stayed at an amazing campsite, right outside of the Shouf reserve. The Cedars Ground Campsite describes itself as “a majestic eco-friendly campsite, adjacent to the Shouf reserve, offering a meditative and relaxing outdoor experience for happy campers.” I can assure you that it definitely lives up to that description. From the incredible location to the absolutely delicious breakfast the staff prepared for us in the morning, we were definitely impressed and will plan on going again soon.

We arrived just before sunset on Saturday evening and enjoyed lounging around the fire eating and drinking until the early morning.

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After a few hours of sleep, we woke up and ate a delicious breakfast at the campsite.

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We even made a few animal friends.

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Following the filling breakfast, we hiked up the mountain through the cedar and pine forests.

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It was a hot day, but some of us even made it to the top.

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And we were rewarded with this incredible view of the Bekaa Valley.

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Thanks for having a birthday Michella and thanks for giving us all this incredible experience!

Joanna and Ehab had a baby and it’s a girl!

Some of the very first friends I made in Lebanon were Joanna and Ehab. I remember my very first weekend in the country, back in September of 2012, they invited me to the beach. A few months later, we traveled to India together.

I took photos at their wedding and it was honestly one of the most beautiful ceremonies I ever attended. I admit it, there were tears in my eyes throughout the service.

Now, Ehab and Joanna just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! A few weeks ago, Joanna asked me if I could shoot some photos of them before the birth. I neglected to edit or upload the images before, but since they just gave birth this week, I thought I would do so today, welcoming little Jenna Mae to the world.

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And now… here is the beautiful little Jenna Mae! Welcome to the world habibti.

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Lazy afternoon in Horsh Beirut

Also known as Horsh Al Snoubar (or Pine Forest), Horsh Beirut recently re-opened to the public after years of closure. Now, it’s become one of the chillest spots to just be lazy and relax in the city.

Beirut doesn’t have a lot of green spaces, so let’s hope that this one continues to be maintained as has been promised.

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48 hours in Greece

Lebanon may be the greatest  country in the world, but you still need a break every once in a while… even if it’s a short one.

Last weekend, I jumped at the opportunity to take a quick leap across the Mediterranean pond to enjoy almost exactly 48 hours in Greece. When you need a quick escape – forgetting the shitty reality of stupid visa requirements – Beirut to Athens is one of the quickest (2 hour flight) and normally one of the most affordable last minute options.

It wasn’t my first visit to the ancient country. I spent three days in Greece back in 2011 on a tour with my undergraduate university as part of a “Spanish Tour” that took us to Spain, Italy, Morocco and Greece for Spanish credit (don’t ask me what Greece has to do with Spanish… Greek is definitely not even a Latin language).

However, I was looking more for a relaxing vacation than any kind of touristic discovery anyway. I initially planned to spend my time just chilling at the beach but when I sent a shout-out to my friends, inviting anyone who wanted to tag along, my friend Salim also jumped at the opportunity. He’d never visited Greece before, so we did a bit of the tourist stuff. I mean, you can’t really visit Athens without going to the Acropolis (although I like to point out that it’s not really the original structure anymore and Lebanon has much cooler ruins… just less famous).

We had a nice chill time, enjoying the sights at a leisurely pace. We even managed to take a ferry to the Island of Aegina and spend a relaxing day there.

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Photo credit: Salim Ayache

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