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French Version

Travel guide for businessmen makes connections in Beirut

This is the third in a short series of reviews on guidebooks to the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The final one will appear next Wednesday.

Do you like budget hotels? Shared bathroom, cheap eats? Are you living from hand to mouth? If so then relax, you don't belong to the target market of "Lebanon - The Business Travelers Handbook.

" This guide to Lebanon and its capital, published in 2003, is designed to "cater for the needs of the discerning traveler," cutting out the troublesome backpackers' hostels and crowded beach resorts.

Ostensibly then, it is a travel guide for the cream of the crop.

The authors, James Lawday and George Asseily, two well-traveled experts on the country and veterans of doing business in the Middle East, take the reader by the hand and escort him out of harm's way to the comfy top-end hotels, restaurants and lounges.

"Lebanon - The Business Travelers Handbook" is not an ordinary tourist guidebook with endless listings and entertainment and cultural information but then it does not claim to be so. It speaks to the businessman who toys with the idea of setting up a company in Beirut, or the one who is passing through making connections.

Thus, in its 10 short chapters you will find not only a selected list of hotels, restaurants and places to go, but perhaps equally important advice on issues like investing in the country and local business practices, useful phone numbers and how to deal with the legal side of things as well as an overview of the major industries in Lebanon.

This approach is clearly helpful for the visiting businesssman. Contact details of various trade organizations and embassies will save time-consuming research at home. As a purely business manual for foreigners entering Lebanon, this guide is a worthy tool.

However, in its capacity as a travel companion "Lebanon - The Business Travelers Handbook" falls a touch short of the mark. Additional literature is necessary. Even hurried investment advisers might on occasion want to spend more time exploring the country they are traveling to, broadening their cultural horizons and with that in mind the entries are disappointing. The introductory passages are regrettably brief on Lebanese people and their history.

Finally, although the chapter about the ground rules of local business etiquette looks promising, it manages to remain superficial. With flippant and slightly condescending phrases like: "Lebanese have recently become used to being prompt for appointments," you might wonder why you invested $20 in the book. The business reader might have been better served by information on how to work within the confines of the petty and major corruption that is rife in much of Lebanon's business practice.

"Lebanon - The Business Travelers Handbook" by James Lawday and George Asseily, is published by Interlink Books and is available at all major bookstores in Lebanon, priced at $20.

Beirut 14-11-2005
Daniel Steinvorth
The Daily Star

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