Zahed Sultan’s Travelogue

Post by Mark

Travelogue is a new short film travel series by Zahed Sultan. It’s a fast-paced video diary that captures the little moments Zahed gets to experience as he takes his music to different countries and cities around the world.

I was just thinking the other day of a cool way to document all my traveling and I think local musician Zahed Sultan cracked it. All I do at the moment is Instagram pictures with the hashtag #markinsomewhere. Some people collect shot glasses, some people collect fridge magnets and I’m collecting hashtags I guess. So far this year I’ve collected the following:


Zahed Sultan’s video diaries (I think he is going to be doing a bunch of these) is a fantastic way to document all his traveling. I love it. [YouTube]

Note: You can’t view my Instagram photos unless you’re following me @mark248am

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Next time you’re in Lebanon, visit the Baatara Gorge

Post by Mark

This past weekend I was in Lebanon and up in the area Tannourine so I decided to pass by the Baatara Gorge. I had only seen pictures of it before and really wasn’t expecting it to be so huge. The gorge is around a 5 minute drive off the main road and then around a 15 minute hike down a valley. There is no tour guide there or any fees you need to pay its just there for you to see and explore.

During the spring there is a large waterfall that flows down through the gorge but when I was there it was just a small stream of water dripping down. Still it was a beautiful sight to see and since it’s in the middle of nowhere it was very peaceful. There are no fences or any kind of safety features so it wouldn’t be recommended to go with children. I took a bunch of pictures but they really don’t do the place any justice.

You can check out some great photos of the gorge [Here]

While in Tannourine I would also recommend you visit the large Cedar Reserve (pictured above), it’s a great hike on a trail with beautiful views as well. [Link]

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Aloo ISDN by Fasttelco

Post by Mark

A couple of weeks back Fasttelco hooked me up with a product they have called Aloo ISDN. Aloo ISDN is a phone line to use when traveling which will allow me to make and receive unlimited calls to and from Kuwait for free. It’s a really great simple product but a bit complicated to explain so I will try my best to be very clear.

– When you sign up to Aloo ISDN, Fasttelco will provide you with a local number, in my case its 22200XXX (XXX because I don’t want everyone to have my number)

– Once you get the number you then need to download the free app “Media5” from the app Store and follow Fasttelco’s setup instructions. I am personally using the application “Bria” instead of Media5 but it isn’t free. Both these apps work on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The product requires the internet to work so your device needs to be connected to WiFi or 3G/4G LTE. I used Aloo this past weekend while in Lebanon and I thought it was great.

Before I left Kuwait I forwarded my Viva number to my Aloo number so that any phone call I receive while in Lebanon I would get to answer using my Aloo number. You don’t have to do that but I found it easier than giving everyone my “travel number” and that way I also avoid getting calls on my regular number and paying roaming charges.

The product works. I didn’t have access to WiFi while in Lebanon but I did have a 3G connection. I used the Aloo number a bunch of times and only on one occasion did I have a connection problem but at the time I was driving on a mountain road so my guess is the 3G connection was dropping. Using the number is fairly easy. When you get a phone call the app would pop up and ask me if I want to answer the phone call. To make a phone call I just launch the app and either dial the number or find one from my contact book. I was actually surprised I was able to use the service with a Lebanese 3G connection since the connection in Lebanon isn’t that fast. If it works in Lebanon it should work even better in European countries or the States.

If you travel a lot and pay a lot of roaming charges then this product could save you a lot of money. For a regular number is costs KD70 the first year and then KD60 every year after that so unless you make and receive over KD60 worth of roaming calls a year Aloo is not worth getting. They also have more premium numbers, the number they gave me for example is a silver number and costs KD120 the first year, gold costs KD200 the first year, platinum 500, diamond 1000 and royal 5000. All the numbers then cost KD60 a year after that. If you’re interested in signing up or getting more information you can call Fasttelco on 1838485.

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Best Airports in the Middle East

Post by Mark

1 – Abu Dhabi International Airport
2 – Dubai International Airport
3 – Bahrain International Airport
4 – Doha International Airport
5 – Muscat International Airport
6 – Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport
7 – Kuwait International Airport
8 – Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport
9 – Riyadh King Khalid International Airport
10 – Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport

I love Qatar Airways but their Doha airport is just depressingly cramped and crowded all the time. I’d even go as far as saying I prefer Kuwaits Airport. For the list of best airports around the world click [Here]

Note: Image above is of the Kuwait Airport when first constructed. More pictures can be seen [Here] For pictures of the new Kuwait Airport that will hopefully be built one day click [Here]

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Kuwait Airways not even a Top 100 airline

Post by Mark

According to the Skytrax 2013 World Airline Awards, Kuwait Airways is so bad it didn’t even make it into the Top 100 Airlines list. The #1 best airline in the world according to Skytrax is Emirates while the Royal Jordanian Airlines was ranked #100. Below are the Top 10 Airlines in the Middle East for 2013:

1 – Emirates
2 – Qatar Airways
3 – Etihad Airways
4 – Oman Air
5 – Gulf Air
6 – Royal Jordanian Airlines
7 – Saudi Arabia Airlines
8 – Middle East Airlines
9 – Air Arabia
10 – flyDubai

For the list of Top 100 Airlines in the world click [Here]

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Don’t go to Lebanon

Post by Mark

Love. [YouTube]

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Have a traffic fine? Pay it now!

Post by Mark

According to Major General Abdul Fattah Al Ali in the video above, they will soon be slapping travel bans on anyone who hasn’t paid their traffic violations. So if you have any fines (like I did) then you better pay them now. [YouTube]

You can check and pay your traffic violations online [Here]

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Hayete Bed & Breakfast – Beirut

Post by Mark

I really shouldn’t be posting about this place since I love it so much and don’t want it to be fully booked every time I want to go down to Lebanon. But, since I always put the blog ahead of myself, here is everything you need to know.

Hayete is a small bed & breakfast situated in the very beautiful and super busy Achrafieh area. It’s an apartment located inside a traditional/old Achrafieh style building that was converted into a cozy little guesthouse. The place is managed by a very friendly husband and wife and I’ve stayed there two times so far and on both occasions I had a great experience.

Hayete which means “My Life” in Arabic has just 4 rooms. Two of the rooms share a bathroom, the third room has its own bathroom and the 4th one has its own bathroom and an extra room (so it’s actually two rooms with two beds). The first time I stayed in the large two room room while the second time I stayed in the regular room with a shared bathroom. I loved staying there on both those visits.

No two rooms are furnished the same or even look the same. The floor tiles are exposed showing the original apartment tiling while the furniture is all vintage and really beautiful. There is a nice lobby area for entertaining guests and a balcony as well with a wooden table and benches in case you feel like sitting outside. I usually rent a car when I’m in Lebanon but since Hayete is located in Achrafieh, I usually prefer to skip the rental and cab it instead. Hayete is a 5 minutes walk to the main road where you can easily find a cab. More importantly though, Hayete is a short walk to the trendy Gemayzee street.

The rooms are pretty affordable starting at around $75 a night and that includes a traditional Lebanese breakfast served on the balcony every morning. It’s a super cozy guesthouse that feels like an apartment which is why my friends always love coming over to hang out a bit before heading down to Gemayzee. I highly recommend the place unless I find it fully booked the next time I plan a trip and then I’m going to delete this post. For more information and beautiful pictures of the place, checkout their Facebook page [Here]

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Next time you’re in Lebanon, take an ATV road trip adventure

Post by Mark

This past long weekend I spent it in Lebanon and among the activities I did the most fun was an ATV road trip adventure. I didn’t really know what to expect, I had just previously heard off a friend that you can take an ATV trip with a guide from the popular ski area Faraya, all the way to the Cedars (a few mountains away) and back. The trip ended up being just unbelievably fun.

Depending on where you stay in Lebanon, getting to Faraya will take you anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour with no traffic. Faraya is a popular destination in the winter since a lot of ski resorts are based there, but in the summer, it’s a popular destination for outdoor activities like offroading, mountain biking, camping and ATV exploration. I had booked a bunch of ATVs for me and my friends before arriving to Lebanon and because we wanted to start the day early we got to the starting location in Faraya at around 9:30AM. From there we got geared up, given basic safety tips and the chance to try out the ATVs before heading out on our trip.

The trip is 80% off road with the rest of the time being tiny tarmac roads. It was an incredibly fun journey full of beautiful scenery and general seclusion with no people for miles and miles away. The route heading out was different than the route coming back so that way we didn’t get to experience the same scenery twice. We weren’t expecting the weather to be cold so we didn’t get jackets but our guide recommended we got some since we would be going up to the highest peak in Lebanon (around 2,750 meters high). Luckily we found a small store near the starting point that rented out ski jackets and good thing we got them because with the jackets on we were still freezing our asses off in some stages of the trip.

The journey in each direction took around 3 hours and we past through a variety of different environments and terrain. We were constantly putting on and taking off our jackets and the road surface would change from rocks to dirt and to sand as we went up and down different peaks and valleys. Our destination was a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere next to a beautiful lake. Once we were done with lunch we headed back to our starting point but this time on a different route and an extremely beautiful one filled with green fields, lots of hills and a dirt trail (a lot more comfortable than a rocky one).

The total journey with lunch lasted just over 7 hours but time really flew by quickly and I even wished it had lasted longer. There were a lot of interesting things we got to see along the way as well. At one point I thought I was going to get kidnapped when a man on the side of the road walked towards me with an M4A1 Carbine Assault Rifle as I drove by. Luckily turned out he was after something/someone on the other side of the road and not me. We also got to drive through huge (and I mean HUGE) cannabis fields where at one point a dodgy looking lifted pickup truck filled with men tried to stop us as well. Our guide had also told us we would be driving through snow walls as high as 6 meters. Of course none of us had believed him since we were in June so you could imagine our surprise when we did end up surrounded by 6 meter snow walls at one point of the trip.

This was an incredibly fun adventure and one I really can’t wait to go on again. Since we were four people the cost for the trip was $225 per person (guide included). If you’re less than four it’s $250 and if you’re more than four you could probably negotiate a better price. You could also share an ATV with someone else since it can hold two people and that way split the amount. But I have to say it was EXTREMELY worth $225. Make sure if you do take this trip to expect to end up covered in dust and dirt. Also bring a jacket with you as well. We rented the ATVs with the guide from a place called Red Runner. Their phone number is +9613178866. Have fun!

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Long term parking in the short term airport parking lot

Post by Mark

Since this weekend was a long one, the long term parking at the airport was completely filled. Usually I’d wait outside until someone leaves but I figured this time around it wasn’t going to happen so I decided to park at the short term parking lot instead. According to the sign at the entrance of the short term parking, the cost would be 200 fils for the first hour and then 400 fils for every hour after that. Calculating that into a day would mean it would cost you KD9.4 for 24 hours which is a ridiculous sum. Luckily, thats not the case.

The short term parking has a maximum fee of KD4 a day. Although expensive, it does mean if you’re traveling for just the weekend and the long term parking is full then you could park in the short term one as an alternative option. I left Thursday morning and came back Sunday morning and the total was KD16, double the price I would usually pay if I had parked in the long term lot.

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