Hotel Wakim: A Cozy Nesting Spot in the Heart of Beit Mery
Beit Mery has always held a certain spell over me. Straddling residential Ain Saadeh and summertime hotspot Broumana, this charming village has arguably the most breathtaking vantage points of Beirut, the Mediterranean, and everything in between.
Most recognize it as the setting of Al Bustan, a hotel lush with sprawling gardens constructed over half a century ago by entrepreneur and statesman Emile Bustani. Others have come to identify the town with its ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins nestled below Deir Al Kalaa, or Couvent Saint Jean, an Antonine Maronite monastery that doubles as a majestic wedding venue.
But there’s far more to Beit Mery than meets the eye: The parallel streets that narrow to the width of a car despite remaining two-way. The yellow-stone buildings that have withstood the inclement harshness of many a winter. The crisp, cool air in the early morning and late evening on a warm summer’s day. And, as I recently came to unearth, an endearing establishment named Hotel Wakim perched centrally on the Beit Mery roundabout yet so easily overlooked by passersby.
|Hotel Wakim is located right off of the Beit Mery roundabout|
Owned and run by the vivacious Ricky Wakim and his French wife Perrine Malaud, the boutique hotel served as my home for less than 24 hours: 18 hours, to be exact. I checked in on a nondescript Friday afternoon in July, greeted by name by a young man named Christian. He handed me a laminated card with guiding notes to the hotel, lobby, wall art, and my suite.
I proceeded to ascend the stairs to the first floor, where a homey den outfitted with books and DVDs led to a simple dining area where breakfast is served in the mornings. Already feeling giddy that Hotel Wakim embodied a heartfelt homecoming, I made my way up to the fifth (and uppermost floor), where room 502 beckoned.
|The lobby (more like a den!)|
I inserted my key and nudged the door as my eyes quickly darted around the vast living room. Plush royal blue sofas. A kitchenette equipped with basic appliances and utensils. A dining table. Vintage art pieces hanging from the whitewashed walls. A bowl of blue and white sugar-coated chickpeas as welcome nibbles. And two doors: behind the first, a bathroom with bathtub and shower; behind the second, my bedroom, with a California king bed and a private balcony decked with two folding chairs.
Wow, I muttered beneath my breath. This is the perfect nesting spot for a couple, or a family, or, if you’re feeling particularly eremitic, a solo traveler in want of calm and tranquility.
|The view from my room balcony|
I tossed my bags over a chair, fell back onto the bed to test its resilience (quite agreeable!), and snapped a few photos before rushing next door to where my friend Maya Metni, creative director and vlogger, was waiting. It would be a girls’ get-together hailing accessory designer Elsa Osta of Elsa O.; interior designer and fashion enthusiast Maya Shokor; lifestyle e-magazine founder Jessica Helou of Oui Society; and blogger Ginan Arigie of the sister duo Sunset De Amor.
Blue-tinted bubbly drinks were poured, accompanied by a selection of roasted, seasoned nuts from Broumana’s acclaimed Abou Fadel roastery. Our host Ricky welcomed us to his hotel and village, toasting to a comfortable stay and what would hopefully be the first of many visits. We sipped our cocktails greedily before setting out to tour the expansive site of the ancient ruins.
|Roman and Byzantine ruins|
|There is a vast field of relics to explore|
|Ancient mosaic tile floor: what shapes can you make out?|
|Ruins of a thermal bath hidden beneath a layer of concrete|
Dinner later that evening was arranged by Ricky at one of his favorite haunts – Ain Alkhasfe – whose views by day ensure full occupancy every Sunday at lunchtime. That foggy Friday evening, we were one of a few tables overlooking the mountainside blanketed with pine trees.
|Ain Alkhasfe: classic Lebanese fare in Beit Mery|
|Views from the restaurant are absolutely stunning|
A traditional Lebanese mezza made its happy descent upon the table in parade-like fashion, beginning with an exquisite garlic- and mint-laced labneh; hummus; baba ghannouj; and a tart fattouch that awakened our taste buds in no time. Hot items included grilled marinated taouk (or cubes of chicken breast), homemade French fries, cheese fingers, and frog legs. Dessert counted classic goodies like tea biscuits with loukoum, Carob molasses muddled with tahini, and chewy halawa.
Pleasantly sated, we headed back to the hotel and tucked into our rooms for the night.
|Consider watching the sunset from Beit Mery: it is magical|
In the morning, we gathered around the dining area on the first floor to a selection of fresh-baked zaatar and cheese manakish; croissants; carrot cake; fresh fruit and crudités; labneh; juices; tea and coffee. Our paunches replenished, we embarked to the monastery for a stroll and some sightseeing.
|Chasing butterflies on the lawn at Couvent St. Jean|
Those 18 hours passed in a blur, but the memory of the visit burns on in me like a candle refusing to be snubbed. Some experiences you relish in the moment but quickly untether from your mind; others, albeit fleeting, cling to you as though they might change the course of your destiny.
Less than two weeks later, I’m looking back fondly on Hotel Wakim, the resplendent wall art decorating each floor landing; the cute blue signs scattered throughout the suites and property reminding you that, “Oui, fi Wi-Fi!”; and Le Chat Wakim, the resident cat who quickly warms up to guests and has them pining for his elusive presence.
|Humorous signs are scattered throughout the hotel|
|Wall art by Maya Metni|
|More wall art by Maya|
|My son Stephen petting Le Chat Wakim, who is cradled in the arms of hotel owner Perrine|
Do yourself a favor, whether you’re a local staycationer, or a tourist, or an expat visiting Lebanon, or simply someone in need of a Sabbatical. Look up Hotel Wakim, book a room, and start making memories. Beit Mery will take on a whole new mystical meaning, that I promise you.
For more information and to make a reservation, visit hotelwakim.com.
Rates start at $59 per night for a standard room, $75 per night for a one-bedroom suite, and $89 per night for a family suite. Ask about long-term package deals. And mention you read about Hotel Wakim on Beirutista for some extra lovin’!
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