Back to basics at idyllic campsite in Amsheet

AMSHEET, Lebanon: While every New York Times travel feature on Beirut, and by extension Lebanon, seems to imply certain hotels in Downtown offer the only suitable places to lay your head for the night, there are several quirky and low-budget options dotted around the country, perfect for tourists or just those wanting to get out of the capital for the weekend.

One of these gems, well known to most young Lebanese, is Amsheet Camping, or Camping Les Colombes, located just north of Jbeil, the first campsite to open in Lebanon in 1965.

Open every day of the year, this idyllic spot, perched on the edge of a cliff with a sweeping view of the ocean, offers the perfect getaway – whether for a couple or a group of friends.

Call ahead to book your accommodations and then head north from Beirut to reach the site. Jump out of the minivan right after the McDonald’s after Jbeil, and the signs for Amsheet, and then Amsheet Camping, should be clear. It’s then a 10-minute walk to the site.

Places to pitch your tent or caravan are available for LL10,000 per person, and there are common showers and kitchens on site, but there are also a range of sheltered accommodations, the most basic being the “Tengalow” (tent + bungalow) – a 7-square-meter bungalow in the shape of a tent.

With two beds and a small toilet with shower head, the Tengalow is a modest LL30,000 for the night, or $15 if only one person is staying. Each hut has a small outdoor porch with a table and benches.

Next up is the Chalet, with air conditioning, fridge and television – though why you would want to watch it when there’s an ocean to stare at is another question – at LL50,000 per night, and then the Deluxe Chalet – larger than the regular and with a private terrace, for LL75,000.

If you’re feeling romantic, go for the Deluxe with Jacuzzi , which offers more privacy and a sea-view terrace, for LL180,000.

And if you’re with a large group of friends, the Apartment, with three bedrooms and able to sleep up to eight, might be the best option, coming, as it does, with a big kitchen and living room, for LL225,000 per night.

Once you’ve checked in to your room, simply sit and enjoy being in relative solitude, with the traffic horns of Beirut a distant memory. Take a good book and a pack of cards, or your swimsuit – if the water is calm enough there are two rocky areas where you can slip into the sea and cool down.

The whole site has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere – under the List of Things to Bring on the website, “Sense of humor” follows insect repellant and beach towel – and if you’re in the mood for making friends, by the end of the evening you’ll be sharing the warmth of your barbecue with people from around the globe.

But there are a few rules which visitors must abide by to maintain this chilled out vibe – one being, “Political and religious debates are forbidden.”

Amsheet camping isn’t a four-star hotel, but it doesn’t pretend to be. So sit back, focus on the gorgeous view – keeping the campsite’s feline friends away from your barbeque – and forget about those pesky Lebanese politicians for one weekend.

For more information call Camping Les Colombes at 09-622-401/402.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 28, 2012, on page 2.




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