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Wednesday, June 29th 2005

12:24 PM

Our Stars' Before And After!

Aline Khalaf


Amal Hijazi


Assala Nassri


Kathia Harb


Najwa Karam


Nancy Ajram


Nelly Maqdesi


Pascale Machalani


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Wednesday, June 29th 2005

12:02 PM

Nelly Maqdisi

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Wednesday, June 29th 2005

11:03 AM

Amal Hijazi (NEW!)

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Saturday, May 14th 2005

11:26 AM

Nancy Ajram (NEW!)


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Monday, May 2nd 2005

8:23 AM

Hi this is my pic !


This is your friend Naim Halawi (MTV, Future TV)

Visit my website




or leave a note below!

See you!


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Wednesday, December 1st 2004

12:34 PM



Joe Dassin     

Tu passes dans mes insomnies comme un soleil de nuit
Tu es le visage inconnu du paradis perdu

Maria, Maria, sans tes yeux, sans ton corps, sans ta voix
Maria, Maria, je ne suis que la moitié de moi

Je te cherche partout comme un chien, comme un fou
J'ai donné à mon rêve ton nom
Et c'est lui qui m'réveille et c'est lui que j'appelle
A tous les vents de mes illusions

Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria
Maria, Maria, je ne suis que la moitie de moi

Je ne retrouve le matin que le gris quotidien
Tu disparais dans les fumées de la réalité

Maria, Maria, sans tes yeux, sans ton corps, sans ta voix
Maria, Maria je ne suis que la moitié de moi

Je voudrais me lever, je voudrais te toucher
Et je sais que tu n'es pas très loin
Et qu'au fond de tes nuits tu m'attends toi aussi
Mais c'est long la moitié du chemin

Je voudrais me lever, je voudrais te toucher
Et je sais que tu n'es pas très loin
Et qu'au fond de tes nuits tu m'attends toi aussi
Mais c'est long la moitié du chemin

Maria, Maria, sans tes yeux, sans ton corps, sans ta voix
Maria, Maria, je ne suis que la moitié de moi

Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria, Maria

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Sunday, November 14th 2004

1:09 AM

About Tourism in Lebanon

Discovering Beirut
November 10, 2004
by Rami Husseini
Sun Contributor
When I tell people that I spent my summer in Beirut, many give me a confused look. They often ask "That's an actual place?" as they think of their favorite Thursday night drinking game, not knowing it is the capital of the small Middle Eastern country of Lebanon. Some give me a look of horror, thinking I spent a few months in the civil war-torn city which defined Beirut in the 1970s and 80s. Others seem to think of Lebanon as an oasis in the middle of some Arabian desert, not the coastal and mountainous country it truly is. Only a small fraction initially understand what kind of experience I had.

Lebanon is a country that is smaller than the state of Connecticut and lies on the Mediterranean Sea, west of Syria and north of Israel. Due to its large Christian population, Lebanon has had close ties with France for centuries. Before 1975, Beirut was known as "The Paris of the Middle East" as it had evolved into a tourist, financial and open cultural center in a rather conservative region of the world. Complicated by the Arab-Israeli conflict and the increasing number of Palestinian refugees, problems started to arise in the country. The growing Muslim population wanted more say in the Lebanese power-sharing that had traditionally favored the Christian communities. The various powers of the Middle East got involved in the growing Lebanese conflict, financing and arming the competing factions. The result was a bloody and extremely complicated civil war that started in 1976 and did not end until 1990. It was a conflict that would devastate Beirut and many other areas in Lebanon. The city was split into two sections: East Beirut was controlled mostly by Christian and rightist forces while West Beirut was controlled by Muslim and leftist forces. By the time the civil war ended, between 100,000 and 150,000 people were killed and an entire city was left in ruins.

The first time I went to Lebanon was in April 1992 with my family to meet my grandmother and much of my father's family for the first time. I remember driving by hundreds of shelled-out concrete skeletons that were once apartment buildings and still inhabited. I remember avoiding certain parts of the city, because we did not know if there would be snipers in the buildings. We never knew when we would have power, so we were subjected to many freezing showers and climbing up eight flights of stairs to my relatives' apartment where we stayed. I have visited Beirut a half a dozen times since, and more amazing than the devastation of the civil war is the rebirth the country has experienced since.

Last spring, my friend and I decided to continue our study of the Arabic language at an intensive program at the American University of Beirut (AUB). We arrived with my parents a week early to visit family, tour the country and get used to the sights, sounds and smells of the city. Soon we knew how to expertly bargain for a taxi -- you could get almost anywhere in the city for about 1000 Lebanese Lira, or 66 cents. We knew the best places to buy Middle Eastern fast food, and in what situation it is best to speak either English, French or broken Arabic. After a few weeks my parents had left, and we were completely immersed in learning Arabic and experiencing Beirut. The Arabic program we attended was made up of about 60 of the most interesting people I have ever met in my life. Most of the students were American, ranging in age from a senior in high school to a mid-40s accomplished international lawyer. Everyone in the program had their own interesting story of why they had ended up in Beirut for their summer studying Arabic for six to eight hours a day. Many wanted to learn Arabic because of their heritage -- as was my reasoning. Most wanted to speak Arabic for future jobs, and others wanted to study just for the fascination of the language.

Our typical weekday started early in the morning with a traditional Lebanese breakfast of strained yogurt with olive oil and toasted pita bread. After sitting through four tough hours of Arabic class, we would get our bathing suits, towels and homework assignments and walk down to the beach on the AUB campus. We would then return to our apartments and finish our work in time for dinner at a restaurant in downtown Beirut. This area was practically razed during the civil war and is now is made up of new Arab-style buildings, dozens of restaurants, expensive shops and clubs.

Though it is the capital city, Beirut is not characteristic of the rest of Lebanon. There are small, tourist areas in the mountains close to Beirut, but most other areas have not been greatly affected by the Western influence. Travelling just a few hours by car, we visited Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon. There we visited a castle from the Crusades and an ancient marketplace, or souk. Northeast of Beirut in the Bekaa Valley, we visited the largest Roman temple outside of Italy, called Baalbek. South of Beirut and just north of the Lebanese-Israeli border we walked on the ancient ruins of the Phoenician city of Tyre. No matter how many times I travel to Lebanon, the diversity of its history will always astound me.



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Sunday, August 22nd 2004

3:47 AM

About Tourism in Lebanon

Tourists urged to "Rediscover Lebanon"

Mon 16 August, 2004 03:39


By Fiona O'Brien


BEIRUT (Reuters) - The website instructs tourists to "Rediscover Lebanon". It promises beaches, ski slopes, ruins, nightlife -- something for everyone packaged in a tiny country more often remembered for its war and kidnappings.

And the tourists are responding. From rich Saudis seeking a summer away from the Gulf's hot deserts to fashionable Europeans wanting memories more exotic than a package tour to Mallorca, holiday-makers are hitting Lebanon to see for themselves.

Lebanon was once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, its capital Beirut as an oriental Paris. Torn apart by civil war from 1975-1990, its appeal foundered. Hotels were shelled, foreigners taken hostage, streets ruled by snipers.

More than a decade later, Lebanon wants to put that past behind it. In 2004, Beirut spent about $1 million (540,000 pounds) on a series of slick adverts, which together with www.rediscoverlebanon.com aim to revive the country's magnetism.

Tourism statistics suggest the drive is working. In the first five months of the year -- before the main summer season -- there were 48 percent more tourists than in the same period last year. Arrivals are creeping back to pre-war levels.

Minister for Tourism Ali Hussein Abdullah said the most encouraging signal was that in April and May the number of European tourists exceeded the number of Arabs for the first time since the war.

"Before the war we always had more European than Arab tourists, except in the summer when many Gulfis come," he said.

"Everything went up this year, those from Africa, from America, but it was the Europeans that was really remarkable."


Summer in Lebanon still belongs to Arabs from the Gulf. Plush hotels in the mountains outside Beirut flood with Saudis and Kuwaitis, four-wheel drives with Gulf number plates and tinted windows clog the roads.

On Beirut's Hamra shopping street, Gulf women enveloped in their black hijab dress weave their way between young Lebanese women in barely-there skirts and stilettos. There may be cultural differences, but there is still an Arab appeal.

"We have been here a lot of times because it's an Arab country," said one Saudi too shy to give her name. Last year, 160,000 Saudis visited Lebanon, 16 percent of all tourists.

"We are comfortable here. People are nice, we see other Saudis and there are mountains."

Part Muslim, part Christian, part Druze, Lebanon has an anything-goes attitude integral to the image it is trying to rebuild. Superficially at least, tradition sits comfortably beside modernity, cultures mix but avoid a clash.

It is undeniable that Lebanon packs a lot within its borders. The food is famous, nightlife buzzing, climate kind. And so small, visitors really can ski and swim the same day.

Elisabeth Balthay, a French lawyer working in London, came to Lebanon for a holiday, inspired by her father's tales of the Baalbek, Byblos and Beirut he visited often before the war.

"Most people are under the impression that Beirut is extremely dangerous, filled with Israeli tanks and that the streets are speckled black by masked Hizbollah gunmen looking for Westerners to take hostage," she said.

"I wanted to see the sites of Byblos spanning from the neolithic through to the crusader fortress, Baalbek which was meant to be bigger than the Parthenon and Tyre which has a hippodrome you could actually feel.

"What is good about Lebanon? The food, the quaffable wine, the heat, warm hospitality, and more than anything the sites."


More than a million tourists came to Lebanon in 2003, but Abdullah wants to see that number rise fourfold within five to six years. He wants to see more package tours, more health tourism, more development beyond the country's coastal plain.

He said tourism revenue was roughly 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product, compared to around 24 percent in 1974, and sees expansion as a way to help Lebanon out of economic crisis.

"We can't be an agricultural country or an industrial country," he said. "First we have to be a touristic country. I am trying to encourage investors, especially Lebanese who live outside."

Of those, there are plenty. About four million Lebanese live in Lebanon, an estimated 15 million outside. There are more Lebanese in Brazil than at home.

Lebanon would be hard pressed to manage without money sent by the diaspora, but wants its absent citizens to remember where they came from too. Abdullah sees them also as potential adverts for a country trying hard to reclaim its tourism crown.

"Last year we had 70,000 French tourists," he said. "But we should get more. We have about 300,000 Lebanese living in France. So if every Lebanese could send just one tourist ... imagine."




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Sunday, August 22nd 2004

1:29 AM

About Tourism in Lebanon

The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Aug. 22, 2004


Lebanon's cultures clash, but peacefully

Once torn apart by war, Lebanon has rebounded, proving that a clash of cultures in the Middle East need not be violent.


Associated Press

BEIRUT, Lebanon - The man dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around his dancing partner's skirt. Next to them, two women gyrated wildly to the beat, dancing on the gigantic loudspeaker. Couples swayed, smooched and sipped cocktails.

The scene at the nightclub was one face of Lebanon on a recent hot summer night. The flip side lay a few miles away, in the Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut, where the women went out swaddled in black, stores sold rugs with portraits of Iranian leaders, and there wasn't a nightclub in sight.

Somehow, against the odds, through foreign rulers, civil war and meddlesome, heavily armed neighbors, Lebanon has managed to survive as the most pluralist, tolerant society in the Middle East. Its democracy, however imperfect, could be a beacon for those dreaming of spreading it to the rest of the Arab world. Its freewheeling ways, however, also serve hard-line traditionalists who point to Lebanon as a sewer of Western decadence.


The contrasts are everywhere in this mountainous Mediterranean country half the size of New Jersey with its 3.5 million people and 17 religious denominations. Just turn on a television and channel-surf from beauty pageants to know-your-Koran contests, MTV-style pop to the Hezbollah channel preaching jihad.

''In Lebanon, you move between different worlds. It's the charm of the Lebanese way of life,'' said Joseph Samaha, editor in chief of As-Safir newspaper.

Many think it's a miracle to find the country throbbing with life instead of shaking under cannon fire. It experienced a civil war that began between Christians and Muslims and drew in Palestinians, Syrians, Israelis and Iranians, raging for 15 years until 1990. It's squeezed between the Iraq war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Syria controls it with thousands of troops. Its economy is shackled with a $32 billion debt.


The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah sputters 65 miles south and largely out of mind in Beirut, except when Israeli jets fly over the capital, making sonic booms that send people running for cover. A few hours later, the restaurants, bars and malls are full again.

Today, even as Islamic conservatism strengthens its hold on other Arab countries, Lebanon somehow manages to keep its poise.

One reason is that it's the only Arab country with a large non-Muslim community, so every Lebanese knows -- or certainly learned in the civil war -- the price of head-on confrontation.

Under rules dating to the country's independence in 1943, the president has to be a Christian from the Maronite Catholic denomination, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim. It may result in frequent deadlock, but it's also an effective system of checks and balances, says Chibli Mallat, a law professor. ``This is the paradox of Lebanese democracy.''

That democracy is the most advanced in the Arab world, and Lebanese media are the freest. The parliament, which chooses the president, is elected by universal suffrage; half the seats are allocated to Muslims, half to Christians. In Saudi Arabia, women can't even drive. In Lebanon, they have voted since the 1950s.


However, freedoms remain relative. Legislators' voting is influenced by Syria. Clashes between police and students opposed to Syria's presence have resulted in casualties and detentions without trial. Everyone complains about corruption, but little is done to stamp it out.

Before the civil war, when it was bursting with foreign banks and traders, Lebanon was known as the Switzerland of the Middle East. Those days are gone, but tourism has picked up some of the slack. It's up 30 percent this year. Lebanese émigrés on home visits are one market. Another is Gulf Arabs who come for the nightlife, the cool mountain air and the freewheeling, cosmopolitan atmosphere of liquor flowing, sexes mingling freely and bookstores selling almost everything, even illustrated sex manuals.

Beaches and nightclubs, said bar owner Fady Saba, ``is the national sport. People work on it a lot.''




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Friday, August 20th 2004

4:03 PM

About Tourism in Lebanon


Lebanon rises from its ashes


IT WAS the prized tourist destination that was torn apart by militiamen, kidnappers and car-bombers.

But 14 years after the fighting ended, Lebanon has re- established itself as a vibrant holiday playground.

Tourist arrivals topped the million mark last year, just short of pre-war records.

And this year, for the first time since the 1975-1990 civil war, the number of European tourists in April and May exceeded those from Arab countries. The figures provide all the confirmation delighted tourism officials need that Lebanon has regained its reputation as the Switzerland of the Middle East, where European chic meets Middle Eastern money.

"Before the war, we always had more European than Arab tourists, except in the summer months when many Gulfis come," said Ali Hussein Abdullah, Lebanon’s tourism minister.

"Everything went up this year - those from Africa, from America, but it was the Europeans that was most remarkable."

The increase is all the more remarkable because Lebanon was for so long synonymous in European minds with the suffering and violence of the 15-year civil war which shuddered to a halt in 1990.

During that time the country had also served as a proxy battleground between its more powerful neighbours, Syria, Israel and Iraq.

Gulf Arabs have been flocking to Lebanon for years, particularly in the summer months when the cool mountain resorts are a welcome respite from the scorching heat of home.

They have been more aware than many Europeans of Lebanon’s phoenix-like resurrection as a welcoming destination. Saudis, in particular, have provided lucrative business since the 11 September attacks.

The United States used to be a favoured holiday destination for them, but many are now fearful of a frosty reception there.

A record number of 200,000 Saudis are due to visit Lebanon this summer, filling the luxurious hotels in mountain resorts where a week’s stay at the plushest can cost $5,000 (£2,700) and much more for "royalty suites".

In resorts such as Broummana, huge US-made SUVs with tinted windows and Gulf number plates clog the streets.

But fashionable Europeans, eager for something more exotic than a sun, sea and sand package tour, are also flocking back to a country whose glitz and glamour was once a magnet for their parents’ generation.

"Rediscover Lebanon" urges a website which is promoting the country along with an expensive advertising campaign that promises beaches, ski slopes, archaeological treasures and vibrant nightlife.

The strong euro also makes Lebanon good value for money for Europeans.

In Britain, Lebanon has also been boosted by the positive publicity surrounding the return of some of its more famous British visitors in recent years: the former hostages Terry Waite and John McCarthy, who were keen to see the country in peacetime.

Lebanon is the Middle East’s most liberal country, an oasis of tolerance and easy-going enjoyment in a turbulent region.

Europeans can experience the spiciness of the Middle East without what they may regard as its drawbacks.

There is no ban on alcohol, unlike in Iran and Saudi Arabia which are also attempting to attract the more discerning Western visitor. Nor is there any Islamic dress code.
It’s the food, wine, heat, hospitality, and more than anything, the sites
On Hamra street, Beirut’s equivalent of Oxford Street, micro-skirted young Lebanese women brush shoulders with Gulf women cowled head to foot in black hijab dress.

After a day visiting Roman or Phoenician ruins, European tourists can spend the evenings at fashionable nightclubs alongside the country’s more privileged youth, many of whom speak French, a legacy of France’s colonial rule.

Lebanon’s climate is also much more pleasant than that of many Middle Eastern countries, and the landscape is greener.

Elizabeth Balthay, a French lawyer working in London, came to Lebanon for a holiday, inspired by her father’s tales of the Baalbek, Byblos and Beirut he visited often before the war.

"Most people are under the impression that Beirut is extremely dangerous, filled with Israeli tanks, and that the streets are speckled black by masked Hezbollah gunmen looking for Westerners to take hostage," she said.

"I wanted to see the sites of Byblos spanning from the Neolithic through to the crusader fortress, Baalbek, which was meant to be bigger than the Parthenon, and Tyre, which has a hippodrome you could actually feel.

"What is good about Lebanon? The food, the quaffable wine, the heat, warm hospitality, and more than anything, the sites."

When Lebanon first tried to resurrect its tourism industry a decade ago, there were sceptical smiles.

After all, the heart of Beirut had been the main urban battleground and was still a devastated landscape of bombed-out buildings. Their once grand facades were corroded by years of gun and rocket fire. Giant weeds frothed from the rubble.

But it was, as the brochures put it, the city that would not die.

Early post-war tourists were ghoulishly attracted to the civil war’s most famous sites.

They would cruise along Sniper Alley, which ran along the former green line that divided the Christian east and Muslim west of the capital.

Then, with much hype in 1994, the Lebanese prime minister and self-made billionaire, Rafik Hariri, launched a hugely ambitious plan to re-unite and regenerate the city centre.

Bulldozers and wrecking balls swung into action, rubbing out the scars of war as they cleared huge stretches of land, turning the city centre into a vast reconstruction site.

The doubters ate humble pie as a vibrant new city centre then emerged, a pedestrianised oasis of fashionable open-air cafés, restaurants, shops and nightclubs.

One of the biggest symbolic milestones on the road back to pre-war normality came when the legendary Casino du Liban, the flashiest pleasure dome east of Las Vegas, re-opened its doors in 1996 after a multi-million-pound face-lift wiped away the war-inflicted damage.

It had been here that celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Charles Aznavour and Johnny Halliday entertained high-rolling Arab sheikhs and European jet-setters, among them film stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren.

The casino, which overlooks the magnificent bay of Jounieh 12 miles north of Beirut, had managed to function intermittently throughout most of the war.

Muslims and Christians who battled by day crossed the sectarian divide to gamble at night. Only in 1989, a year before the war ended, did the roulette wheels grind to a complete halt when militiamen shelled the marbled complex.

The second symbol of Lebanon’s revival came in 1997 with the revival after 23 years of the Baalbek International Festival, once the Middle East’s greatest annual cultural and artistic extravaganza.

Before the civil war, when Baalbek became a notorious Hezbollah stronghold, thousands of tourists had flocked to see the ancient city each summer.

They came to see the likes of Rudolf Nureyev, Margot Fonteyn, Joan Baez and Herbert von Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonic perform beneath the floodlit splendour of its exquisite Roman temples.

Capitalising on its cultural diversity, varied landscape, and mixture of tradition and modernity, Lebanon is now hoping for a four-fold increase in tourism arrivals within five to six years. It is an ambitious target. But given what the country has so far achieved, the sceptics will be less vocal this time.

Lively, cultured and full of architectural wonders


AT JUST half the size of Wales, Lebanon is small enough to deliver on the tourist brochure promise of enabling holidaymakers to swim in the Mediterranean and ski on cedar covered mountains on the same day.

Beirut is the starting point for most visitors, an enchanting mix of the old and the new and a trilingual capital where many speak French and English as well as Arabic.

The city has some of the liveliest nightlife in the Middle East, offering a large choice of clubs, restaurants and bars.

By day the renovated heart of Beirut is a pleasant place to lounge in open-air cafés, indulging in the local craze for the Nargila, or hubble-bubble pipe, after visiting the city’s many mosques, churches and shops.

The Corniche, running along the coast to the north and redolent of Lebanon’s pre-war days, is another "must see" and a great place to people-watch, especially in the late afternoons when it is the favoured promenade spot for Beirutis.

Less than an hour’s drive north of Beirut is the picturesque Phoenician harbour town of Byblos, from which the English word, Bible, is derived. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world and the layers of its long history are clearly on display with medieval walls standing alongside Roman structures built over Bronze Age settlements.

Further north along the coast is Tripoli, famous for its Mameluke architecture from the 14th and 15th centuries and the 12th century basalt and limestone citadel built by the Frankish crusader, Raymond de St Gilles.

To the south of Beirut is the port city of Tyre, founded by the Phoenicians but most famous today for its Roman ruins, including a U-shaped hippodrome for chariot-racing which could hold 20,000.

Perhaps Lebanon’s greatest archaeological and architectural attractions are the monumental Roman ruins in Baalbek, a small town 50 miles north-east of Beirut which was a Hezbollah stronghold during the civil war. The temples to Jupiter and Bacchus are in remarkably good condition, with columns soaring 22 metres high. The town also hosts an annual international arts festival.

Lebanese cuisine is savoury rather than spicy, rich in herbs and not at all greasy. A meal usually starts with some hors d’oeuvres, such as humous, beans, cheese pies, aubergine dips and falafel. These are followed by a main dish of grilled chicken, lamb or fish with salads, accompanied by freshly baked, flat bread.

Many Lebanese drink the spirit arak with their meals, mixed with water and ice, while there are many good local wines.The country’s colonial past has also left it with many good French restaurants.

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