Author Archive | Rami

10 Years of +961 and 10 Days of Giveaways!

Today is a special day for +961 as it marks the 10th anniversary since I started it!

I can’t say I saw this day coming when I first registered the domain name… at first I just started the blog to share cool finds with Lebanese online community and see how much traffic I can drive to it, but I have to admit that later on I even started enjoying the attention that media and businesses was giving to me. And here it is now, part of my everyday life and celebrating its 10th year online.

A lot has changed since February 2008 and +961 definitely had a lot of ups and downs. I got heavily praised for some posts that received thousands of hits but also heavily criticized for inappropriate or silly stuff that I shared. At times I was posting on a daily basis but also got inactive for a relatively long duration more that once (blame it all on having babies but family comes first!). However, what changed the most is actually how blogging is in general done in Lebanon. Back in time most of the posts contained original content generated by the blogger himself/herself, but nowadays society and lifestyle blogs are more like news aggregators that feed on bits and pieces collected from various sources with a lot of sponsored content in between (a special thanks to the Lebanese subreddit for being a huge inspiration for us bloggers by the way! 😀 ), and as long as this appeals to the people then you just go with the flow! I’m being just plain honest here.

Right now I have no idea if the blog will stay around for another 10 years, but what I’m certain of is that I enjoyed the past 10 thanks to you guys being part of it, and will definitely keep posting for as long as I simply enjoy doing it.

Now on to the really big news!

To celebrate this 10th anniversary, I decided to host a series of 10 giveaways in collaboration with very well known businesses and brands in town. So get ready as of tomorrow for some really cool freebies! The giveaways range from restaurant vouchers, to movie tickets, clothing, toys and gadgets, and fine dining.

To qualify for the draws you will only be required to interact with the giveaways’ posts on Facebook, so just make sure to follow +961’s page.

photo via


The Housing Bank Just Screwed Home Shoppers in Lebanon

The two most popular options for home shoppers in Lebanon in order to finance their purchases is to either get a loan from the General Organization for Housing in case the apartment price is relatively low, or from the Housing Bank if the price is on the higher end.

However, earlier this month the Central Bank of Lebanon issued a new circular with amendments on subsidized loans, and as a result the Housing Bank increased its the interest rate from 3% to 3.75% while lowering the payment period from 30 to 20 years and toughening the lending terms in general.

To give you an idea of how these amendments impacted the monthly payments, a loan of $250,000 used to cost ~$1,050 on the previous conditions, but currently cost ~$1,500 based on the new terms and rate (refer to their loan calculator). Needless to say, this 50% increase means that a lot of home shoppers now can no longer afford the apartments they were previously aiming for!

I, for example, have been searching for an apartment in Beirut for a while now and the new terms mean that I have two options, to either settle for a significantly smaller one in space, or simply look for one of the same size outside the city. The latter is unfortunately a deal breaker for me so I just decided to halt everything now in hope for the prices to go down maybe… I guess it is only logical for this to happen now that the demand is expected to take a hit.

Things are by the way also quite ugly now for people who are already engaged by contracts with real estate developers. Those usually pay monthly installments directly to the developers until the project is fully complete, and then apply for a loan to finance the remaining amount, but they definitely didn’t see a 50% increase on their future payments coming! And while people like me can simply stop searching, others who are bound with contracts can do nothing but go for the loan anyway or pull out of the whole thing and pay a certain penalty to the developer for doing so.

I’m not an expert in economics but things seriously don’t seem right with the new Housing Bank decision, I mean you can’t simply cut down the people’s purchasing power just like that. I just hope this isn’t an indication of the Lebanese Lira being in a bad situation now and I also hope these amendments are only a temporary measure. Otherwise, I guess the real estate market is expected to go into stagnation no matter how developers try to convince the public that it is a resilient sector!


Alfa Restores Hope in Life for A Young Woman This Valentine #الحب_الحقيقي_مش_أعمى

For Valentine this year, and in its continuous quest for supporting people with iron will in the Lebanese society, Alfa decided to gift an eSight 3 device to Sariya, a young mom who lost her eyesight few years ago after being diagnosed with Glaucoma disease.

I can imagine how hard it was for her not being able to enjoy the simplest pleasures in life by watching her beloved ones’ faces… but fortunately this seems to have come to an end with Sariya finally able to be autonomous again, walk around freely, and of course see her family!

Her reaction once she tries the eSight 3 glasses is absolutely priceless…


بعد سنين من المعاناة من المي السودا، ساريا شافت 👓 حب حياتها من جديد بفضل تكنولوجيا أمنتلا ياها ألفا ❤

Posted by Alfa Telecommunications on Tuesday, February 13, 2018

بعد سنين من المعاناة من المي السودا، ساريا شافت حب حياتها من جديد بفضل ألفا #الحب_الحقيقي_مش_أعمى

Kudos to Alfa for giving that young woman hope in living a normal life again!


Kempinski Summerland’s Floating Dinner For Valentine

Last weekend, I surprised my significant other with a getaway at Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort. Previously, I enjoyed their luxurious services with dinner at Candelabra, so I was enthusiastic about experiencing a one night stay in one of the rooms.

Needless to say, the service during our stay was impeccable, but what really stood out was the floating dinner we had in their private heated covered pool accompanied by your personal butler. I’ve previously seen a lot of Instagram posts of floating breakfast trays at Kempinski Summerland last summer but little did I know it was served all year long. I did not think twice about upgrading our experience the minute the Lady In Red suggested that wonderful experience.

For Valentine, Kempinski Summerland is also offering several packages, of which, a romantic one night stay and the exceptional floating dinner, a seafood dinner at Pier 78 with famous singer Manel Mallat and a set menu dinner with singer Paola Ibrahim at Candelabra. My recommendation?  Surprise your loved one with something out of the ordinary!

You can get more information about their offerings here.


Beautiful Shoebox Apartment in Achrafieh

Check out this cool shoebox apartment up in Achrafieh up for rent on Airbnb that recently made it to While 15 sqm are barely enough space to cater for a bedroom or a living room in some modern apartments nowadays, Lebanese architect and designer Elie Metni squeezed everything a person could need into a mini apartment of the same size.

To make it feel relatively spacious, the apartment was all painted white and fitted with custom made space saving furniture including a queen size bed and folding tables to keep the 2 meters wide room as neat as possible the whole time. A kitchenette and a bathroom are also available and separated by a glass door, in addition to an outdoor roof terrace overlooking Beirut.

Practically speaking, the apartment can sleep 2 people but accommodate around 5. You can read all about it on dezeen and if interested rent it through Airbnb.


25 Ideas for Valentine’s Day This Year!

It’s the same dilemma every year… February 14 comes and couples are clueless on what to do for Valentine, so here are 25 events from Lebtivity to help you plan better this year!

  1. La Folie Rouge – Edition 8 – Valentin 2018
  2. Valentine Singles Night at Colonel Beer
  3. Valentine’s Eve at Gefinor Rotana!
  4. My Heart Led Me Here! at the Titanic Piano Bar
  5. Valentine Special: ROMANTIC COOKING CLASS with Maroun Chedid
  6. Valentwine – Wine Festival 2018
  7. Valentine Flower Workshop at Atelier Rue 14
  8. Kadim Al Saher Valentine 2018
  9. Valentine’s Dinner at Verseine – The Bridge
  10. Make your own Valentine Gift
  11. My Hearty Hug on a Plate at Le Jardin Du Royal
  12. Valentine’s at The Villa Linda Sursock
  13. French Valentine Cooking Class
  14. Valentine’s Eve at Raouché Arjaan by Rotana!
  15. Valentine’s Dinner at Bay Lodge Boutique Hotel
  16. Valentine’s Edition Party at Pitchblack
  17. Valentine Retreat at BURJ on BAY Hotel
  18. Valentine’s at Mosaic Restaurant
  19. GUY MANOUKIAN With ABU – Valentine Eve
  20. Levantine Desire at Diwan Shahrayar
  21. Laugh n Love – Valentine Dinner
  22. Valentines 2018 at Natureland
  23. Valentine Dinner at EddéYard Byblos
  24. Valentine’s Seafood Buffet
You can also check the full 2018 Valentine’s events in Lebanon here.

Moussa Maamari of Moussa Castle Dies at 87

Moussa Maamari, the man who singlehandedly built the castle of his dreams known as Moussa Castle, passed away yesterday at 87 years of age.

Moussa Castle, located on a hill between Deir El Kamar and Beiteddine, had its first parts built and open to the public in 1967 but was only officially complete when the final part was done few year ago in 2012. The story behind the castle is both funny and inspiring since Moussa Maamari built it with his own hands just because he was mocked by his teacher at school for drawing a castle plan and by the girl he had crush on for expressing his feeling toward her.

At 14 years old in 1945, Maamari  (originally Syrian) left his school and came all the way from Tartous to Saida to work with his uncle who was involved in renovating the city’s caste. And after several years of hard work between several jobs, he saved enough money to get married and buy a plot of land to build the castle of his dreams between 1962 and 1967.

The best part of the whole thing is that he insisted to show what he did to the girl who mocked him when he was young, so he kep searching for her over the years until he managed to make her visit the castle in 2009, and he made sure to make her get into it through the smallest door in order for her to kneel before him.

The castle is currently one of the main attractions in the Chouf area and is of course accessible to the public, with several museums inside housing a large collection of weapons and artifacts showing the life of Lebanese people in the past.


Gustave Bouchon – Liquor, Wine & Cigar Concept Store in Byblos

Last week I was in Byblos and a friend there took me to a new wine, and cigar concept store in town called “Gustave Bouchon“.

The reason I’m writing about the place is because it has a carefully curated and unique selection of liquors and wines to suit different drinking styles. I personally have little knowledge about pairing spirits with food and I know a lot of people who like me simply settle for whatever the waiters recommend at restaurants, or end up buying the same kind of wine at supermarkets because they can’t tell the difference between all the available ones. It is a rule of thumb for example to go for red wine when having meat, but then again red wine can vary in taste from dry to sweet and to really enjoy your mean you must pick the one that suits your food the most. So what I loved most about Gustave Bouchon is that they have a knowledgeable sommelier who’s specialized in pairing spirits and food, and can even suggest the right bottle for you depending on your drinking style, as well as the type of event/gathering you’re hosting or attending, and you can of course try whatever you choose before buying.

The palce also has a table that fits 10-15 people for those who would like to gather for some fine drinks. So you can choose the bottle you like and they will serve it to you along with bits and bites and a fine cigar if you’re a smoker, and they can offer several dining formulas (Sushi, French, or Italian) if you reserve ahead of time. The decor and setting of Gustave Bouchon make it ideal for group gatherings by the way, with decor inspired by The Austro-Hungarian Empire and bottles organized on shelves in libary style. The lighting and the vibrant bottle colors make it a really inviting place for passers by.

So in brief, if you’re looking to know more about spirits and food pairing or simply want to enjoy a fine drink, then I highly recommend you get the right partner(s) and go check out Gustave Bouchon. And if you’re lucky enough then you’ll probably meet the owner and he will tell you the story behind the store’s logo and slogan “The man the tale”.😉


Biel is Moving from Beirut Waterfront to Al Naher Area

It seems like Biel which has hosted countless exhibitions and events at Beirut Waterfront is soon moving to Al Naher area (The road that takes you from Emile Lahoud road toward Chevrolet/Alfa). My friend Amer Tabsh just shared some photos on Facebook showing the new location with construction works in progress.

I have no idea about the reason for the move but I guess Solidere has probably plans to build something else instead of it at the Waterfront. As for the new location, people are definitely going to be criticizing choosing Al Naher area, but the owners probably had no other choice knowing that lands of big areas are almost not existent in Beirut. Somewhere in Jnah could have probably been an alternative.

In all cases, people crossing Emile Lahoud road everyday better be prepared for the traffic Jam the new Biel will be causing during each event hosted there!


Top 27 Events of 2017 in Lebanon

When it comes to platforms that collect certain data, I have a thing for trying to get behind the scenes and get some relevant statistic. So last week as I was chatting with a friend form Lebtivity, I felt curious to know about the top events in the country by user interest, and she was kind enough to run a query on their website and provide me with this list.

So there you go, the top 27 events from last year ordered by user interest. And don’t ask why I chose to limit the number to 27! 😜

  1. Tomorrowland
  2. Black Friday Market
  3. Fête de la Musique
  4. Kelkon Sawa
  5. European Film Festival
  6. Vinifest
  7. Beiteddine International Arts Festival
  8. The Garden Show & Spring Festival
  9. Colonel International Craft Beer Festival
  10. Elton John in Concert with Byblos Festival
  11. City Picnic
  12. Beirut Family Fun Festival
  13. Italian Cuisine Festival at Casino du Liban
  14. Beer Festival – BIBE
  15. Autumn
  16. Speed Mentoring-GEW
  17. National Dabke Day
  18. New Year’s Eve in Downtown Beirut
  19. Red Street Boom Opening in Smallville
  20. Swiss Art Talks
  21. Enchanted Reality – Arame Gallery
  22. Elevator Roadshow
  23. Cocktail Festival
  24. Jounieh Fireworks View from Burj on Bay
  25. L’Apprenti Magicien
  26. Les Marionettes du Parc Brassens
  27. The Highest Event

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