My Upcoming Trip To Beirut & Dubai

Filed Under: Air France/KLM, Etihad

For me this is a week of travel planning.

Earlier I shared the details of the trip that I booked to Sri Lanka, which includes travel in business class on Japan Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, and KLM. I’m excited about all the new products I’ll be able to review.

Now I wanted to share the details of another trip that I’m just finalizing today, which I’d also love some feedback on.

A trip to the Middle East…

Ford and I are trying to plan a few trips with family this year, and in this particular case we’ll be taking Ford’s mom. While I’ve been to the Middle East dozens of times before, Ford’s mom has never been, so I have something I’m finalizing.

Planning for this actually started several months ago. I had a bunch of Etihad Guest miles that were about to expire (while other mileage currencies can be extended with any activity, Etihad Guest miles have a “hard” expiration date).

I found a date with three A380 first class award seats from Abu Dhabi to New York on Etihad, so I locked those in. So up until now I’ve had a return booked from Abu Dhabi to New York, but haven’t had any sort of outbound booked, and didn’t know where we’d go.

Since she has never been to the Middle East before, I do think the UAE is worth seeing for a few days, but I was trying to decide where to take Ford and his mom before that.

I had narrowed it down to Amman, Jordan, Muscat, Oman, or Beirut, Lebanon.

In the end I decided on Lebanon. As much as I love Oman, we’ll be traveling in April, so it’ll start to be warm that time of year there. I’ve also been to Amman, while I’ve never been to Beirut, so perhaps my choice was partly motivated by that.

Booking an outbound flight

As you guys know, my goal is always to review new products. This is easy to do when I’m traveling alone, since I can basically fly on whatever flight I’d like, no matter how roundabout the routing. However, this gets significantly more complicated when I’m traveling with Ford, and even more complicated when traveling with a parent.

So I wanted to find an outbound option that was both direct and interesting.

After doing some searching, I managed to find three business class award seats on Air France’s 787-9 from Detroit to Paris, and three business class award seats on Middle East Airlines’ A330 from Paris to Beirut. Awesome, as those are both new products for me.

The catch is that this availability was only there through Flying Blue. I would have preferred to book through Delta SkyMiles to avoid the carrier imposed surcharges, but they didn’t have access to that space.

So instead I redeemed 97,500 Flying Blue miles per person plus carrier imposed surcharges for the tickets.

Getting from Beirut to Dubai

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be avoiding Middle East Airlines from Beirut to Dubai. For that matter, it’s not like they had award availability on our date anyway.

Fortunately I found a pretty cost effective way to fly in comfort on that route. While Emirates’ award rates are generally quite high through their own Skywards program, upgrade costs are sometimes more reasonable.

So I could book the flight for $300 in economy and then it’s just 15,000 miles per person to upgrade to business class, which I can transfer over from Amex Membership Rewards. I’ve also never reviewed Emirates’ 777 business class, so that seems like a good opportunity.


Emirates’ 777 business class

I’ll write a separate post about my experience upgrading an Emirates ticket, because it was my first time ever doing so.

Looking for advice

I’ve never been to Beirut before, but I can’t wait. I love Lebanese food, and in general have found Lebanese people to be kind and hospitable. With that in mind, I want to make sure I make our three day stay as good as possible, and would love tips from anyone with an opinion:

  • What’s the best place to stay in Beirut? As far as I can tell, the two best hotels are the Four Seasons and Hotel Albergo Relais & Chateaux (they’re both fairly reasonably priced), though I’m also intrigued by Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection property outside the city. Will we regret staying outside the city, as I’d love to stay at a points hotel if possible, or what’s the best option?
  • Any amazing restaurants in the city or sights outside the city that we can’t miss?


Hotel Albergo, Beirut

The second area where I’d love general feedback is probably more me talking out loud than anything.

I’m extremely familiar with Dubai, and people email me all the time to ask where they should stay. Dubai is a city where I feel like there’s rarely a right answer, other than “it depends,” given how spread out the city is. Like I said, I’d like my mother-in-law to have a great time, so I want to pick somewhere nice.

Our plan is to just stay at one hotel the entire time we’re in the UAE (personally I’d probably split time between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but we decided staying in one place will be more relaxing).

I feel like the great points options are fairly limited:

  • I like the Park Hyatt, but don’t love the location (unless it’s for a quick overnight near the airport), and also think it could use a refresh at this point.
  • Unfortunately the St. Regis was recently rebranded as the LXR Habtoor Palace, so it’s now a Hilton. That’s not a deal breaker, but I’d be more likely to stay here if it were a St. Regis.
  • Dubai has a bunch of non-affiliated luxury hotels, but the pricing of some of them is more than I’m willing to pay in Dubai. It’s crazy to me that many of these go for over $1,000 per night, given how much capacity Dubai has.

So the general hotels I’m considering are:

  • The Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah, as I’ve never stayed on The Palm before, though for that matter I don’t particularly love the location. The hotel is bookable on points and looks really nice.
  • We could stay at Habtoor Palace LXR, as it’s also bookable with Hilton points, and I do find it has a central location. I stayed here when it was a St. Regis, though, so I feel like that’s not all that interesting.
  • The Ritz-Carlton Dubai might be worth considering, but then again I generally avoid Ritz-Carlton since they don’t include breakfast for Platinum members
  • I’d love to try the BVLGARI Dubai. BVLGARI is technically a Marriott brand, but you can’t earn or redeem points at those hotels, which is BS (and sums up what annoys me about Marriott, in a nutshell). The rate is $1,000+ per night, so I don’t think that’s happening.
  • Then there are non-points properties like Address, Armani, and Four Seasons, though they don’t seem worth the price.


Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah

So if you guys have any experience with the Waldorf-Astoria or any other thoughts, I’d certainly welcome them!

Bottom line

This is obviously different than a traditional review trip for me, given that I’ll have two travel companions. I am nonetheless excited to review Air France’s 787 business class and MEA’s A330 business class, and I’m also curious to see how Etihad’s A380 first class is holding up (for example, they’ve added caviar since I’ve last flown them).

I’m also looking forward to finally visiting Beirut, and hopefully checking out a couple of cool hotels.

Comments
  1. In Beirut the best hotel is Le Gray. The others you mentioned are ok but not as nice, imo.

    Em Sherif is an amazing Lebanese restaurant. Probably the best I’ve ever been to. All included, amazing value. I went with some locals who thought it was the best they’d ever had.

    Make sure you do a day trip to Byblos and have your driver stop at the caves on your way. Your hotel will be able to arrange.

    It’s an amazing city and country. Have fun

  2. I stayed at Hotel Albergo in Beirut in 2009, before the Four Seasons existed there. Perfectly fine, intimate hotel, pleasant. Doubt it’s as nice as the Four Seasons.

    In Dubai, I usually stay at Burj Al Arab. I know many think it’s way too “blingy,” but the rooms are two floor suites with every luxury. Great breakfast buffet. Fun to sit on the private Burj beach with the hotel in front of the beach. Don’t care for the dinner restaurants there though. Spa and pool area, like the interior of the hotel, mesmerizing with colors.

  3. Beirut is a good stop in between journalism projects within the middle east. Having been there more than a dozen times, my most memorable and preferred areas of the city are Hamra and Raouche. In el Hamra, I often stay at the Le Bristol. I have enjoyed the Lancaster Plaza in Raouche. Recently, I have stayed at apartment rentals on Raouche Rocks – a beautiful experience. Hope you make wonderful memories in this gem of a city.

  4. I have the Grand Hyatt Dubai booked for the middle of next year. Would be nice to have a review of it from you before I go.

  5. I actually like the Phonecia in Beirut. It’s not the most modern but located blocks from the Corniche.

    In Dubai, I am partial to the Ritz-Carlton (Marina, not DIFC). The hotel and grounds are beautiful, there is a beach, and the staff in the Club are phenomenal. It is also in walking distance of restaurants and shops.

  6. Lucky – highly recommend staying at a Beit (a B&B owned by one of the best restaurants in the city). We stayed at Beit Douma – a traditional house with an amazing cook who can make you dinner and breakfast.

    In Beirut, stay at O Monot, Le Grey, or Albergo if you don’t need to stay at an SPG/Hilton property.

    Go to their restaurant, Tawlet, in Beirut.

    http://www.soukeltayeb.com/beit/beit-douma/

  7. Just finished a stay at WA Dubai in the Palm. Family loved the property. Beautiful swimming pools. Incredible views on Burj Al Arab. I would stay there again, if traveling for leisure. Please note, you are 30 min taxi ride pretty much to anywhere

  8. In Beirut, either Four Seasons or Le Gray.

    2 weeks ago, I just stayed in Dubai at
    Palace Downtown. It’s on Khalifa Lake. My suite had a view of the dancing fountains and we walked over to Burj Khalifa. I would rank it 4+ star, not 5 star and doubt it would compare to Armani, One and Only,
    or Burj Al Arab blinged out luxury but it does have a super location that is very walkable to many restaurants and shopping venues.

  9. I’ll echo much of Bob’s post as I stayed at the Waldorf earlier this year. Awesome hotel, great breakfast/food/pools/etc. Biggest downside was the distance from everything once you’re there, but otherwise it was totally worth it.

  10. I stayed at the Albergo and it is one of my favorite hotels. Intimate, tastefully decorated, excellent service. Our office rate was at Le Gray, and colleagues liked it, but I have not stayed there. Location wise, Le Gray is close to the center of downtown and all the international shops. Albergo is 10 mts away and in a nice residential neighborhood.

    While Beirut looks like an international city, the Lebanese government has decided to keep some buildings in their war-torn state, i.e. the facades are still pock-marked with bullet holes and is a rememberance of the civil war. This could freak out some visitors, so prepare your guests for that.

    I highly recommend a visit to the caves, which is 45 mts outside the city. Make sure to visit both the high and the low cave. It was a highlight of the trip.

  11. I’m rather perplexed as to why Lucky is not considering Le Gray. It’s far superior to the dowdy & dull Four Seasons.

  12. @Lucky: just been Beirut on the Inaugaral AMS-BEY direct flight on Transavia (HV). It’s a great place, very friendly people and amazing restaurants and Nightlife.

    I stayed at the Phoenicia Beirut, which is an InterContinental. Upgrade through Plat Ambassador status etc. Grande Dame hotel with Classic Luxury and good service. Location on the sea/marina.

    Please note that Beirut is not for everyone, while I felt perfectley safe, there is armed military on every corner. Next to the Fancy Phoenicia there is an old abandonded Holiday Inn hotel full of bullet holes as many other buildings in town have. Just saying if you are going with older people who haven’t travelled as much, they might feel a bit intimidated.

    Do go for lunch to Em Sharif Café (rue Rafic Salloum) for a Parisian/Lebanese al fresco feel. Brunch is great at Liza in a beautiful old Town Villa. Mayrig is great for Armenian food.

    Mar Mikhael is the area to go out at night, great bars/clubs etc. Do take UBER everywhere in Beirut, works great and way cheaper than the overpriced taxi’s.

    The MEA lounge at the Airport is nice and modern, don’t hesitate to fly them. Take plenty of time to the airport (checkpoints).

    Enjoy!

  13. While in Beirut, you should visit Batroun which has amazing little beaches and beach clubs ( Bonita Beach Club ie.) with wonderful local seafood. Worth visiting even in winter.
    The Waldorf Astoria is a great Hotel if you wish to stay on Palm isl most of the time.
    Best regards,
    Frank

  14. I stayed at the Waldorf Palm earlier this year and loved it. Super nice rooms, friendly staff, wonderful amenities etc. But it is a hike of course from other areas.

  15. For Beirut restaurants someone mentioned Em Sherif above, there is the proper restaurant and the cafe. For a full on experience go to the restaurant not the cafe (different locations). I also recommmend Mayrig, which is an Armenian influenced cuisine serving yummy dishes. The phobia of overflying Syria is so overblown. Its been a decade with multiple daily flight crossing the Syrian desert with not a single issue. At the slightest risk, MEA already diverts over Sinai. MEA makes a killing on the Gulf routes due to the shorter flying time and you would be fine. I just flew from Beirut to Doha and enjoyed the shorter flying time. If you need more Beirut info feel free to contact me.

  16. Hilton:

    I’d go with V over Habtoor Palace for the views. The decor is a bit stark white spaceship-y but the higher suites are great. Nothing in immediate walking distance of either.

    There is a Waldorf DIFC opening in March, which is next to Dubai mall, new hotel for you to review but otherwise a business hotel in financial district. Probably will be the most popular Hilton option in the future.

    Marriott:

    Le Royal Meridien

    Magnificent (not sure if OMAAT has had a terrible experience there), its better than the adjacent Ritz and is run by and owned by the same guys at Grosvenor House. Completely renovated with new Meridien decor and lounge, the Club Lounge is better than Grosvenor, it has a private beach (rarity on JBR) and the beach has a……camel!

    W Palm

    Will open in Feb but suffers from same issues as Waldorf Palm.

    JW Marquis and Renaissance

    Marquis is dirt cheap on BRG, Renaissance has amazing decor and Burj Khalifa views (Marquis has burj views from suites only and those of one building only) but both are tall business hotels in the urban jungle.

    La Ville is a charming Autograph Collection property in Citywalk (walkable outdoor market/mall) very close to downtown but questionable elite upgrades (also they’re small and frequently full).

    Non-chain:

    Caesers Resort on Bluewaters Island (new) is reasonably priced (yep its the US Vegas chain).

    Nikki Beach Resort in Jumeirah is one of the best hotels in city with absurdly low rates on the HotelTonight app.

    Both of these are Meraas owned properties (the cool cash flush developer doing unique things, they have the best Marriott properties too like Lapita, Bvlgari and La Ville). Both Caesars and Nikki have the most ‘open’ beach in Dubai (most others have beaches with either impeded views or stuff nearby that’s visible and affects water flow).

    Mandarin Oriental opens March and offers good benefits via the Fans program.

    Atlantis is mid-way through renovation and the renovated rooms are quite nice.

    Not sure what your dates are but there is a Hilton and Marriott cluster opening on the trunk of the Palm (more sane location with the best views in Dubai IMO) later in the year.

  17. Some more I missed:

    Anantara Palm and Jumeriah Al Naseem are two of the best especially for hard product. Anantara has lagoon (artificial) accessible rooms. Can be pricey on weekends. Al Naseem is the most modern of the Madinat Jumeirah cluster and can be pricey as well.

    Jumeriah Al Seef is in a heritage area on the creek. This Meraas hotel is basically a boutique ‘travel back in time experience’ with lamps, switches, everything from before Dubai became…..Dubai. Very cheap compared to the others listed above.

    Am obviously ignoring the extremely expensive hotels in this list entirely.

  18. Also, I’d recommend the Conrad Dubai. Fantastic property. Beautiful rooms. Great pool area. Near downtown Dubai. One of my favorites.
    Screw Dubai entirely and just go to either the rosewood Abu Dhabi, the four seasons Abu Dhabi, or the st Regis on the corniche.

    And again, I can’t emphasize enough for Beirut- LeGray and Em Sherif for dinner. Byblos for day trip.

  19. The Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai opened last month and is positioned as “the most significant hotel opening since Burj Al Arab” – and it truly is. It’s on the Palm but is totally worth it. Make sure to check it out!

  20. Yes, definitely a day trip to Byblos and the caves. What nobody seems to have mentioned is that you want to make sure nobody has an Israeli passport stamp when trying to enter Lebanon. Passport control in Beirut will scour your passport looking for an Israel stamp, and you will not be admitted if you have that, even on a transit visa. Order a second passport if you are already stamped by Israel.

  21. You need to review more Waldorf Astoria and Ritz-Carlton properties as many of your readers will be redeeming points at these brands.

  22. I forgot to add that the Waldorf Palm has a strict one category upgrade policy. You know as well as I do that they’re well within their rights to do so and so the suite upgrade % there is exactly 0 despite what anyone says. This policy seems non negotiable and I’ve seen other regular diamonds fare no better. I’ve been in suites but always by some alternate method (book the highest non suite room etc.)

    I dare say there is no Marriott or Starwood property here that would deny you a suite here provided it was available for the length of your stay. Waldorf almost certainly will.

    The Kempinski above rivals the Burj for blingiest decor (it’s basically Louis XV’s palace) but doesn’t fit your criteria for budget and is also at the end of the palm.

  23. Re: Dubai, strongly recommend the JW Marquis. I’ve always been upgraded to a suite as Marriott Platinum (now Plat Premier), it’s one block from the metro or a cheap Uber anywhere, and the exec lounge is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Plus, rates are usually low since it’s a massive property (tallest hotel in the world until this year).

  24. My entire family is from Beirut. I have been a few times. I highly recommend Restaurant Mhenna. You will not be disappointed.

  25. I still have a copy of Voyager (January 2010), the magazine of the erstwhile British Midland International, which had a detailed article about Le Gray. The hotel was spectacular at the time and, given all the commenters, that should be the case now too.

  26. Can’t wait to see your thoughts on etihad first. I loveddddd it. Although thought food average. So much more space than other airlines and I thought the bed was fine.

  27. I spend about two months a year in Dubai, was just there last month and returning in two weeks. I’ve stayed, almost, everywhere.

    Here are my two dirhams:

    For years I have stayed at the JW in Business Bay, for the above mentioned reasons. Last month, though, I found it to be showing wear and tear, and the lounge a bit bland. The lounge is still okay, but it’s easy to get stuck there for “free” average when you could spend a little elsewhere and get awesome.

    If you stay on the Palm (and yes it’s far), Waldorf is nice but service is better at Anantara.

    Jumeirah Ocean View on JBR is very good if you’re with the fam, very easy walking in that area, and I also like the Hilton, though it can be pricey even with points.

    Renaissance is new by Dubai Mall but awkward location and I didn’t love it, felt like I wasn’t anywhere.

    Of the former Starwood/newly minted Hiltons, the V is the old W and has the best views. I had a full tour of both the W and the Westin after they opened and easy choice for the W / now V.

    And here is a dark horse you are going to love: the new Aloft / Element in Dubai Production City. Cheap miles and absolutely fantastic, best value in Dubai right now. Beds are the most comfortable I’ve had in Dubai (even over the Waldorf). Service and internet are both 5-star.

    Have fun!!

  28. I have stayed at WA Dubai this March. While it feels luxurious and up to date, I doubt if I will stay there again.
    Diamond treatment was non-existent, breakfast was extremely crowded (though selection was amazing), the distance from the city was the real deal breaker.
    We were lucky to use their shuttle service to the city, but the trip back to the hotel was just too difficult. I heard they elimated the shuttle service altogether.

  29. I was in Beirut over Thanksgiving and enjoyed my time. Le Gray is a nice hotel in what I say centralize location to see Beirut sights. I stayed around the corner at Etoile Suites which I also recommend. Do note there are many armed guards around this area. They are there for safety. The souk which is a modern shopping mall (highly recommend Restaurant Ummi for fresh taste of Lebanese crusine).

    Must see sights: Jeitta Grotto (get there ASAP at opening before the tour buses arrives), just north of the grotto is Lady of Lebanon or aka Harissa. Take the skyway or skytram from Jounieh. Then next stop Byblos – ruins and the souk. That alone is one day trip.

    Next day Baalbek and check out the town beside the ruins. I haven’t been to Athens, but I was totally wowed! FYI there are a handful of police checks on the main road so again done be too paranoid. It daily life here.

    If possible head to Sidon for more ruins, souks , and soap museums. Plenty to eat in Sidon.

    We did an overnight in Tripoli while another amazing sight to see, it was too local for me.

    Travel tips that I I became aware upon arrival; everyone we encountered was friendly, honest, and helpful. They are desperate for tourists USD is accepted everywhere. You can withdrawal local currency or usd from the ATM. Uber is available in Beirut. Once outside, non existent. Better to hire a driver and it was a lot cheaper for the both of us that doing a tour group. No Israel stamp on passport and they passport control questioned me if I even been to Israel. I arrived to the airport three hours before departure and we barely made it. Slow lines is the norm. So if you want to use the airport lounge get ther four hours early. Enjoy

  30. Just briefly: absolutely don’t miss out on Balbek: it’s the biggest Roman temple built ever anywhere. Jetta Grotto, Harissa and Byblos (a port city with Phoenician remains as well as some of the oldest prehistoric dwellings worldwide) can easily be combined in an easy half-day trip out of Beirut. Go to a village on the mountains :-).

  31. Ritz-Carlton in Dubai is a nice property, though if you’re also looking at non-points properties — the best hotels are in Madinat Jumeirah! Al Naseem has a bit uncomfortable room, while Al Qasr, Mina A’Salam and Dar Al Masyaf are awesome.

  32. The Park Hyatt Dubai really is nice and they allow Globalists free access to anything in the minibar and they do keep it very well stocked. They also still have such nice welcome amenities. They are also in the process of completing a large lagoon-type pool, which should relieve crowding at the very nicely shaded and beautiful pool they already have. Their car service was also much nicer and more reasonably priced than a taxi. It’s a very tranquil setting, something Ford’s mother might appreciate for some relaxing during what may be a very busy trip.

  33. In Beirut I recommend the Gray in the downtown area but personally I love the Albergo and the area it is in, more fun in the evenings.
    I would do a day trip to Jeita caves, our lLady of Lebanon and Byblos one day, Definitely Baalbek as it’s amazing and one day in the South with Sidon, Tyr and Cana. Also don’t miss the national museum in Beirut (closed on Mondays)
    Liza is excellent for Lebanese food and lovely decor
    Have fun, it’s a great place

  34. So forgot to add that you can arrange these trips with driver and guide through local agencies (Nathalie is a good one)

  35. You gotta try the burj al Arab, as expensive as it is, it is worth every penny.
    If there’s one hotel in the world worth splurging on its this one without a doubt!

  36. For Dubai I would not recommend staying on The Palm if you are not hiring a car; it’s just too far away if you want to get out and about.

    I saw a mention above for the Royal Meridien, I’d agree with this. It was a few years since I was there, but it was one of my favourites when we used to use hotels. The private beach makes a big difference, and it’s a real beach, not a fabricated one like you get on The Palm!

  37. The bigger question which I’m surprised no one has asked … how are you upgrading your Emirates flight for 15k miles?! The Skywards chart shows a minimum of 71250 for the cheapest upgradeable fares.

  38. Albergo or le gray hands down

    Sporting Beirut https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sporting-Club-Beach/135439096527603 one of the oldest beach clubs and restaurants known to all beiruties, you can eat some nice mezzeh tere, order a few of the starters and then choose your fish to be fried or bbq (ask for the Auberjine Feluka). sit on the deck below outside rather than in the restaurant.
    Mayrig (my favourite restaurant) Lebanese/Armenien,its concept of mezzeh as well:order the Itch salad, the batata Harra (spicy potato) its incredible, lthe mixed platter of kebbeh the stuffed veggies,the cherry kefta. http://www.mayrigbeirut.com

    go to Byblos :visit the old city & fort take a guided tour of the fort. and then have dinner or lunch at Pepe’s on the old port.
    Clubbing at Grand Factory
    For a street full of bars and pubs go to Mar Mikeal.
    imm sharif for another amazing lebanese.
    use Uber or allo taxi +9611 481985

  39. You should consider reviewing the W on the The Palm in Dubai, which opens next month. Booking is now open for both cash and points.

  40. You should strongly consider the FS Dubai Jumeirah beach. Entry level rooms are >700sq feet and while expensive, the facilities more than make up for it.

    Service is great, location is key as you’re 15 mins away from City Walk and Dubai Mall and you have coffee shops and restaurants up and down Jumeirah road. Ford will also appreciate the marble bathroom and high thread count linens.

    I would highly advise against staying on the Palm – you’re at least 30-45 minutes away just to get off of it. The only one that is good is the One&Only the Palm because you can take the ferry to their landslide hotel and catch a cab from there but that property is likely above budget and is too romantic to bring a parent along.

  41. I love Beirut and lived on el Hamra street for a year. Definitely get a meal at the T-Marbouta and at the Em Sherif Cafe in the el Hamra district. That’s my favorite part of the city to visit and to live in – I would highly suggest lodging with a B&B if you are interested. The Grand Meshmosh “Hotel” is one. Another local establishment, very popular with tourists, is the Hotel Hamra Urban Gardens. Both are situated at the best locations to venture into the wonderful old streets. Enjoy.

    I have no recommendations on Dubai since I have never really enjoyed my visits there.

  42. While others have recommend some over the top properties in Beirut, I will suggest the Intercontinental Le Vendome. By Intercontinental massive standards, this is a boutique hotel. It is located right on the Corniche. It has a bar and restaurant overlooking the water. There are several great Lebanese restaurants just across the street on the water.
    If this is Ford’s Mom’s first immersion into the Middle East, would recommend a visit to the National Museum of Beirut. Pales in comparison to the Cairo Museum but has some amazing exhibits for newcomers to the region.

  43. I spend 2x a year in Beirut for the past 4 years.

    Hotels: four Seasons (nothings around it but it’s traditional Arab owned style Four Seasons), as everyone else says Le Gray is great- right by the mosque- beautiful views. Phoenicia is the most famous and easiest accessible. I’ve stayed at Radisson and SPG properties and they’re the lowest you can find.

    Food: MUST MUST go to Sultan Ibrahim (Jounieh, not downtown) as a pescatarian- my favorite restaurant in the world. Go at sun down (a lot for traffic time to arrive) views and food are unparalleled.

    Have fun! Don’t be scared at the presence of military as everyone mentioning and the “under developed ness” you see outside of the corniche (near four seasons)

  44. For another option in Beirut, what about the Mövenpick? It is right on the water by Raouché. I’ve never stayed there, but I had a training there. The views were nice with a cool elevator that looks out over the water, and there seemed to be a nice pool. I think the Kempinski would also offer a similar experience. Raouché is not as close to the Souks, Corniche, or Zaintunay Bay as the Four Seasons or Le Gray though.

    For those who mention Jeita, the grotto with the boat ride (lower one?) is usually closed in the winter due to flooding. It is very rainy in Lebanon during the winter. Combining Jeita, Harissa, and Byblos (Jbeil) makes for a logical daytrip.

    I also highly recommend Baalbek. Someone else commented that there are a lot of checkpoints on the way there. It is located in Bekaa, which is a Hezbollah stronghold. If you go to Baalbek, I would suggest adding Aanjar, which is a Mamluk ruin site. Aanjar is very close to the Syrian border. These would be points to keep in mind with Ford’s mother. If it would make her feel any better, Baalbek is in the green zone of the UK Foreign Service’s map of Lebanon, so they consider it to be safe. Many guided formal tours will often do Aanjar + Baalbek + quarry + Ksara winery.

    I live really close to Mayrig and often take visitors there. It is an Armenian restaurant that is considered to be pricey for Lebanon, and there is a location in Dubai too. I have heard very nice things about Loris, which is just down the street from Mayrig and in an old house. Tawlet mentioned above is a nice buffet, and it is the top choice from Lonely Planet. The Beirut Mar Mikhael location is only open for lunch.

    My favorite place in Beirut is a museum/gallery called Beit Beirut at Sodeco. It opened in October 2017, but it is only open when there is an exhibition going. Located on the former “Green Line” separating East and West Beirut, it was a sniper’s den with many scars from the war still visible. The ground floor has an exhibit called Project Mario showing photos from an old photography studio that used to be in the building. The upper floors are used for temporary art exhibitions.

    Beit Beirut is relatively close to the National Museum and the famous competing Falafel Sayhoun shops, which are two falafel shops owed by two brothers who have not spoken to each other in over ten years. There is a restaurant called Al Faliminki by Beit Beirut where many locals go to eat mezze, smoke nargileh (shisha/hookah), and play backgammon (tawlet). Sodeco is close to the Albergo Hotel. Actually, Beirut is a really tiny city, and everything is pretty close. Traffic is a different story though…

  45. In Beirut, I echo those who recommend the Phoenicia Intercontinental.

    As to Dubai, I lived there for 4 years and am probably moving back there soon. Agree with those who point out that anything on the Palm is a headache as far as access. A trip from there to anywhere else is a nuisance, and traffic is only getting worse as they are building a huge mall on the trunk which leads to all sorts of extra delays. However, an excellent Palm hotel generally not known to Americans is the Rixos – the prices are quite favorable compared to other similar Palm resorts.

    Also consider the Westin Mina Seyahi. This is a large well appointed beach resort very near transportation, which is important as you will want to take your family around town. You can actually take the tram across the street to the metro (something most Americans never do, but a nice eye opener to see new clean reliable mass transit, unlike NYC’s awful subways). The Ritz JBR is very nice, but located in an area that also can be a traffic headache. The Ritz DIFC is more of a business hotel. Anything in the Madinat Jumeriah is amazing, such as Al Qasr.

    What time of year are you going? The weather may dictate the type of property you are thinking about, particularly for your companions if they like to walk around. Winters are beautiful, summers are hellish.

  46. I was stayed in Waldorf Astoria The Palm in October and this is a fantastic hotel and I love the location being the private beach but on the other hand you can easily get into the city within 20 minutes

  47. Em Sherif Restaurant for dinner a must.

    In Dubai, I am staying at the relatively new Jumeirah Al Nassem on the beach and recommended by locals.

    I would avoid the Palm if you need to be in and out every day because of the traffic.

  48. Would love to see a review of the iconic jumeirah beach hotel. Recently had a huge refurb so would be great to see the new standard

  49. Regarding Air France, Ben, I was just offered a $1600.00 upgrade to Le’ Premiere for a flight tomorrow to Paris from IAD. I took the offer it as have never experienced it and been wanting to. I find it interesting as it is considered the most elusive First Class booking there is. As well, that I am on an award ticket in business class. With that it seemed like a good compromise. Apparently Air France is loosening up from the days when they would rather fly Le Premier empty than compromise the elusive feel.

  50. Lucky,

    You state that it is not possible to earn points or air miles at the Address Hotels in Dubai. This is not true. You can earn Emirates Skywards miles for stays in any Address hotel or resort.

    My personal favourite at this point of time is the Address Boulevard. The interior design, based on a French chateau, and the generally quite environment inside the hotel makes it a calming and exquisite property to experience. There aren’t enough superlatives to describe the service I experience at this property. As a regular guest at this hotel, I know many members of staff and will be happy to put you in touch with them to help you plan your stay.

    The Address Downtown is also fantastic although I have not experienced it since it reopened. Having stayed in many hotels in Dubai since 2005, these two Address hotels, as well as the Address Dubai Mall to an extent, are outstanding. Do consider them as part of your planning process – and remember you will earn Emirates Skywards miles.

  51. I second comments in favor of both Le Vendome and Phoenicia. Those are classic hotels with some history. I especially love Le Vendome. I am a major non-fan of the Four Seasons. It is a blah luxury property that could be anywhere. It’s also the one hotel that I feel a bit weird about showing up to with “family.”

    Two restaurant recommendations:

    1) Abdel Wahab
    2) Mayrig, which is the best Armenin food I’ve ever had (better than my mother-in-law and anywhere in LA)

    In terms of sights, do take the time to see the national museum. It has an excellent collection of stuff from Lebanon’s Phoenician past. Muse Sursock is also fantastic.

  52. Ben, why dont you stay at the ICONIC Jumeirah Beach Hotel? It just got refurbished/remodeled, perfect location, right in front of the Burj Al Arab, private beach….and not expensive.

    Also, instead of Lebanon you should take her to Israel. Much safer and you get to fly El Al’s new business class!

  53. Lucky, I do not think now is a good time to go to Beirut (even though it’s a fantastic destination). Amman, Muscat, maybe Larnaca but, in my mind, the risk of being stuck in Lebanon if major hostilities break out is too high.

  54. Also, yes, the paint is just about dry at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel renovation. I stayed there 10 years ago, and even then the rooms were a bit dated, but views of the Burj … incomparable.
    Jumeirah I have found to be an excellent brand, particularly on the F&B side.

    Kempinski used to be my favorite, but I haven’t stayed there in a few years once I got sucked into the points game and not sure how it’s holding up.

    That said, the Madinat, less so the Al Qasr, etc., I find to be a bit too touristy in general, and I don’t have the patience to sit on a gondola any time I want to venture from my room. Best to just hit the Meat Company for dinner one night and enjoy for what it is.

  55. Unless the parent is into mega (both in size and price) malls, I’d definitely pick Abu Dhabi over Dubai. You can still fly to Dubai, and then take a car to Abu Dhabi. The car ride itself could be a nice experience.

    Regarding where to sleep, why not spend a night in the desert? Sure, there are great beach hotels, but they are the same as anywhere else in my opinion…

    Finally, you could take a day trip from UAE to Oman.

  56. Skip the four seasons in my opinion. I’ve heard Phoenecia hotel near Zaytouna bay is phenomenal, along with Le Grey. There are some great restaurants very close by these hotels as well. I highly recommend Em Sherif (Lebanese food) and Onno (Armenian food). Reservations are good to have, but I went in the busier summer time so I’m unsure if they are necessary for you.

    ‘Service’ or a shared taxi is 1500 (1$) LBP/person depending on distance within Beirut (If the destination is far or out of the way they sometimes they want double the fare). If you want a private taxi use Charlie Taxi or 4u taxi. These will run you a flat rate of 8000-10000 LBP within the city, no matter the amount of people. If you have 3-4 people this might be a better plan and a tad safer.

    To go anywhere out the city a driver/guide/private taxi is best. My family got a guide/driver on our trip up north to Jeitta/Harrissa/Byblos and he was very friendly/knowledgeable. Highly recommend doing that, and you can probably set it up with your hotel.

    I hope you enjoy Beirut and MEA!

  57. Ben, haven’t you been to Israel? If so, Lebanon is likely to refuse you entry. You can hope to slip through without being noticed, but be sure that you don’t have a passport with a stamp indicating you have visited Israel (e.g. with land border crossing stamps into Jordan or Egypt) or any evidence of travel there (even passport security stickers).

  58. In Beirut, I would definitely avoid staying outside the city, the traffic is usually frustrating in Beirut so it will be annoying to be stuck in it all the time. Four Seasons is great, there is also a new Kempinski but the Four Seasons has a better location. There is a restaurant called Kasr AlBouhayra, the food is good and the views are stunning. There is also another place called Blue Jay Valley which is also a Lebanese restaurant with a nice atmosphere.

    As for Dubai, The Four Seasons Jumeirah was really nice. Armani was disappointing.

  59. Hi Lucky,

    I am an avid reader of your blogs (mostly with a ton of jealousy 😉 ), and I hope I can help you out in choosing a hotel. I travel often to Beirut as my partner is Lebanese and my in-laws live there. I have seen the three hotels that you would like to try, but I have never stayed in any. If I had to choose, I would choose Albergo. It is part of Relais et Chateaux and it is located in a very charming area called Achrafieh on East Beirut. The area is mostly residential, but there is a big mall nearby (ABC), and a lot of shops and galleries. Rooms look traditional, and you are within walking distance from Gemaize and Mar Mikhail, which are the hip areas of town, and the National Museum. The Four Seasons is in a completely different area. It is near Rauche, where the famous arch-shaped rock stands. This is on West Beirut, right by the Phoenicia, the Movenpick, and the abandoned Holiday Inn. You are close to the sea (where I would not swim, at least not in Beirut), and you are within walking distance from Hamra, which is a very busy street full of bars and activities to do. Neither of the two is located right on downtown, but you can easily get there. Keep in mind that traffic in Beirut is beastly! As for the Grand Hills, this is located in Broumana, where my mother in law is from. It is some 30-40 min drive from downtown Beirut (mind the traffic). Broumana is quite charming, but it is not Beirut. It is a place I would visit, but I would not stay there. You will go crazy taking taxis to the city every day, and this may prevent you from getting to see the main things. That being said, you can get to see a lot of Beirut in a couple of days, and then you can visit other nice places like Jbeil (Byblos), Baalbak, Deir el Qamar, and Beiteddine, in which case, the location will be more secondary. Once again, choosing a hotel is a very personal choice; what I appreciate may not be what you are looking for. If you don’t want to risk it, go for the Four Seasons. I would go for the Albergo. Hope my review helped

  60. I neglected to add a few recommendations and warnings. Food safety in Lebanon is not the same as in the states, so avoid seedy places. My favorite restaurant in Beirut is called L’Os (http://www.restaurantlos.com/). I have only tried the one out of the city! Other good restaurants for you to try are Diwan in Achrafieh, Em Georges in Gemaize, Ta Marbutah in Hamra or a place called Cantina Society in Sodeco. DO NOT MISS eating Kneffeh from L’abeille d’or, and Man’aish from On the House. As for places to go: The national museum (very small but with a unique hellenistic sarcophagi exhibition on the basement), the sursock museum, rauche and the corniche, mar mikhail, anywhere where there is nightlife (if you like that), Jbeil is a big must, and anywhere in the chouf (Beitedinne, Bakline, Deir el Qamar, and the cedar park in the area).

  61. Funny what say about the hotel choices in Dubai, to a “T” they reflect my opinions as exactly! The StR just lost a sale as I’m not going as a LXR. The Grosvenor House has always treated us well and their lounge is well serviced. The Le Meridien is probably the nicest in the world. There’s a new W on the Palm Jumeirah but it’s otherwise far from everything. There’s some beautiful RC up in RAK to the north but no breakfast guarantee.

  62. I would absolutely recommend staying at Hotel Albergo in Beirut. I will be staying there for the third time next month. Small, quaint Relais and Chateaux property, it’s in the heart of a fun, very walkable neighborhood. Very centrally located. Love the personal service and attention there. You feel like youre staying in a luxury piece of old, authentic Beirut.
    Just a few doors down on the same street is a restaurant appropriately named, “Abdel Wahab”. One of the best restaurants for authentic, local cuisine. Love this place for a long lunch.
    Also nearby and walking distance from Albergo, “Liza”. Arguably one of the most beautiful restaurants.. without the highrise/hotel feel. Gorgeous cuisine with a flair.

    Enjoy Beirut!! It’s a truly magnificent city.

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