Tag Archives | Lebanon

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!

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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.

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Beautiful Shoebox Apartment in Achrafieh

Check out this cool shoebox apartment up in Achrafieh up for rent on Airbnb that recently made it to dezeen.com. 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.

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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.
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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”.😉

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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!

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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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Lebanese Snapchat Artist Georgio Bassil Nominated for a Shorty Award!

Georgio Bassil is a Lebanese architect and Snapchatter, going by the name @georgio.copter, who’s known for drawing cool monsters into his everyday Snapchat stories. At the end of 2016 he internationally rose to fame after winning The Snapchat Artist of The Year at the Ghosties Awards (a ceremony honoring the world’s most talented users).

I’ve personally been following Georgio for a while now and have always found his snaps to be vivid  with those “Copter Monsters” looking creepy yet entertaining at the same time!

Fast forward to 2018, Georgio got an opportunity to once again make it big after getting nominated for a Shorty Award under the “The Snapchatter of The Year” category, and you can help him win by voting here.

The Shorty Awards (aka Shortys) is an annual award event honoring the best content creators across social networks, and I believe this is the first time a Lebanese gets nominated. Voting ends on on February 22nd with the ceremony event set for April 15th in New York.

Best of luck to you Georgio!

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The Insult – First Lebanese Movie to Get An Academy Award Nomination

Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri just earned today an academy award nomination for his movie “The Insult” in the Foreign Language Film category! This is big news for us because it is the first movie to ever get an official Oscar nomination since Lebanon started submitting films to the Academy Awards in 1978, and will compete with four other submissions from Russia, Chile, Hungary and Sweden.

Ziad Doueiri stirred much controversy a while ago by the way when he filmed a previous movie, The Attack, in Israel. However, I noticed that almost everybody seemed to agree on praising “The Insult” regardless of their stance on Doueiri and his political views, so I really hope it manages to clinch the trophy!

The Oscars will air on Sunday March 4th on ABC Network and Jimmy Kimmel is once again hosting the event this year. You can check the full list of nominees for all categories here.

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All You Need To Know About The Lebanese General Security Cyber Espionage Campaign

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are infested now with news articles about the cyber espionage campaign dubbed as “Dark Caracal” involving the Lebanese Directorate of General Security, and so far I have seen all kind of comments from people who are oblivious about this revelation to others who now believe that every single Lebanese mobile phone is subject to the espionage campaign. So there you go, everything you need to know about Dark Caracal.

What?

Mobile security firm Lookout, and digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, released a report yesterday attributing a global cyber espionage campaign that they called “Dark Caracal” to the Lebanese Directorate of General Security.

The attack carried out by the hackers apparently seized control of thousands of Android phones from around 21 countries and resulted in stealing hundreds of Gigabytes. Researchers were able to gain access to one of the servers used by the hackers and found that the stolen data included: SMS Messages, Account credentials, WiFi details, Call records, Bookmarks and browsing history, Messaging apps databases (WhatsApp, Telegram…), Contacts, Installed Apps, Personal documents, Images, Voice recordings, and Listing of the phone storage content.

It is worth noting that all attacks targeted Android phones and there was no evidence of targeting iPhones. On the other hand, files stolen from personal computers included full backup images of iPhone mobiles. Moreover, I found it a bit weird that users from neither Israel nor Iran were victims to this campaign.

How?

In terms of hacking, the attackers did not utilize very sophisticated techniques to control the phones, they actually launched several campaigns that consisting of sending phishing links and fake applications to their victims in order to lure them into installing some malicious applications on their mobiles and computers which in turn uploaded their personal data to some remote server controlled by the hackers.

As to how these hackers were busted, the researchers claimed that they spotted several testing devices that were used by the hackers themselves to test their malware, and those devices had one thing in common which was a WiFi network called “Bld3F6”. Upon investigating a little, they were able to identify that this WiFi network was located very close to the General Security building in Mathaf.

When?

The researchers found that the campaign was first launched in 2012 and was still active at the time of publishing their findings.

Are we all compromised?

Certainly not. Some people made it seem like the General Security have super powers now and are able to infiltrate all our devices. If you use trusted WiFi networks, double check each link you see on the web before clicking it, and make sure to install legitimate apps only on your mobile, then you are most probably safe.

Conclusion

I have mixed thoughts about this. Is it ethical to spy on people? Definitely not, but all governments do it anyway, and assuming that the General Security is really tied to this cyber campaign then our government is no different. I’d like to believe that what they’re doing is probably protecting us from terror attacks, but I also value personal privacy and would feel outraged if I knew someone had access to my personal data…

Anyway, if you feel like reading more about Dark Caracal, you can find more details in the 49 pages report prepared by Lookout and Electronic Frontier Foundation here. One thing that I thought the report lacked was more details on how the researchers gained access to the servers utilized by the hackers, otherwise it is quite informative.

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