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7 Types of Lebanese Parents You’ll Encounter at School Pickup

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For the past three years, I’ve been shuttling my kids to and from school. It’s always a treat to greet them as their scholastic day draws to a close and they melt into your arms, eager to head home.  Right up there after that gratifying reunion is the entertainment value you derive from your encounters with other parents milling around the school building threshold in the minutes leading up to end of day. So amusing is the range of characters you’ll meet – whether they be grandparents filling in for parents tied up at work, or parents able to carve out time to pluck up their offspring – that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to blog about it. Here they are in no specific order. Can you relate?   1. The Haughty Mama : her favorite hand accessory is her smartphone, which she’s either holding to her lips transmitting nonstop nonsense voice notes, or scrolling furiously through her Instagram feed. Her hair is perfectly coiffed, with the essential extensions. She’s got those long fal

A Crowning Iftar Experience at the Crowne Plaza Beirut

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It had been decidedly too long since my first visit to the Crowne Plaza Beirut, tucked in the heart of Hamra along the main drag. Standing tall – a formidable 21 floors to be exact – with sweeping panoramic views of the Lebanese capital city, the Crowne Plaza, an IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) property, has so much going for it. To begin, the underground self-parking facility cannot be overlooked, as parking is typically nightmare-inducing elsewhere in Beirut. At just 200,000 LBP (USD 2.20) for up to four hours, this is a bargain. Alight the elevator at the ground floor, where a few steps westward will land you at the threshold of the Crowne Plaza. The hotel boasts 190 rooms, and I’m told that you can nab a room with complimentary breakfast buffet including VAT for about $100. You really can’t beat that in or outside of the city! Last Friday, we forayed into Hamra with the aim of trying the Iftar, a traditional Ramadan feast enjoyed at sunset, at Crowne Plaza’s Vivaldi restaurant

Tantalizing Treats from the Coast to the Mountains

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For many of us, the undisputed beauty of Lebanon lies in the quality of food and drink available to denizens. If we Lebanese are blessed with one thing, it’s a highly discerning palate and a deep-seated appreciation for food, no matter the cuisine or category. Here are a few of my newfound favorites bejeweling the Lebanese frontier, from the coast to the mountains! Gilbert’s Burger Bites Having grown up in California, I know a good burger when I see (and sink my canines into) one. The Lebanese have always had a love affair with burgers, but if you grew up in the 90s, a burger around here ubiquitously meant a thin kafta-like patty smothered with coleslaw and fries, tucked inside a sesame seed bun large enough to bury a baseball. While nostalgia-inducing, that specimen belongs in our past. Since moving to Lebanon in 2011, I’ve enjoyed a number of decent burgers. But the crowning jewel is without doubt Gilbert’s Burger Bites. I’m not sure why it’s dubbed “Bites,” because their burgers are

What’s New In & Around Beirut

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In light of the multiple financial and economic crises that continue to grip Lebanon, it always fascinates me when I see new places crop up, or living spaces being treated to a facelift. Revival in Lebanon is at the core of our fabric. Our entrepreneurial culture perpetually outweighs the lesser than ideal circumstances that beleaguer us. All this to say, it’s a heartwarming feeling when you see others around you continue to invest and not relinquish hope in this country. Here’s the latest example of that! Xpark Perched on high in the hills of Mar Roukoz, not far from Waves waterpark, Xpark is Lebanon’s first indoor jump park spread across an impressive 3,300 square meters. Find different areas to suit every age and expert level: (1) X Mini for ages up to 6 to explore trampoline style jumping, (2) Freestyle, (3) Xpertramps for elevated performance enthusiasts, (4) XDunk for bouncing and shooting hoops, (5) soft-play for toddlers, (6) edutainment zone catering to ages 4-12, and more. Up

Lebanon's Retail Landscape In Need of Customer Service Overhaul

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Last weekend, I found myself visiting two different retailers with which I’d previously been unfamiliar. We received housewarming gifts that I wished to exchange for something of more utility, and after being repeatedly reassured that swapping would be effortless, I embarked on said mission. The first retailer has two branches: one in Jdeideh, north of Beirut, and another in Ballouneh, in the Ajaltoun district. The gift was purchased in Ballouneh, and I was going to attempt the exchange in Jdeideh, which is considerably closer to our home. I entered the shop and presented the item – a half dozen set of tumblers – to the two ladies seated behind the cashier desk. Almost instantly I was greeted with, “that’s an old item.” “Excuse me? This was purchased 24 hours ago from your other location,” I retorted. As though we were duking it out on a tennis court, the cashier swiftly shot back that she had to check whether they even carried this item in Jdeideh, because if they did not, she wou

Caramello Delivers Divine Desserts Right To Your Doorstep

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I don't usually take my chances with dessert. If you know me, you know I have a predilection for sweet over salty. And I lived in the capital of fine treats – does Paris really need an introduction? So I'm decidedly discerning when it comes to gastronomy. But I had a good feeling about Caramello. The newly launched home business is the brainchild of a homemaker and self-taught pastry aficionado with 30 years of experience under her belt. For decades she dreamt of sharing her dainty delights with the world, and that dream has finally been realized with the help of her supportive family. On offer? Her specialties are distinctly les macarons , fresh fruit tarts and cheesecakes. Among Caramello's specialties are les macarons For my son Alexander's third birthday, we homed in on a Biscoff Lotus cheesecake, fresh strawberry tartlets, and a selection of macarons. I didn't have much customer feedback or testimonials to fall back on, since the operation is new. But the

Beirutista Featured on "Malini Angelica" YouTube Travel Documentary About Beirut

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A little over three months ago, on October 1, 2022, I met with video creator Malini Angelica at L’Appartement terrace in Beirut. Malini, visiting from London to film a YouTube travel documentary with her partner, had come across my blog Beirutista and wished to meet in person. We agreed to a casual rendezvous at a venue of her choosing, and conversation flowed naturally as we sipped on Qanafar rosé from the Bekaa region. Among a number of things, we spoke about my Lebanese-American upbringing in southern California, the transition to Lebanon over one decade ago, the birth of Beirutista, whether or not there is a real Lebanese identity, and the current state of affairs inside these borders. The videotaped exchange lasted an hour or so and would be incorporated in a travel doc destined for Malini’s eponymous YouTube channel. Three months later, exactly on New Year’s Day, the video was released, and you can see it here (jump to 21:30 to catch my segment). Only a few short minutes of