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With a 458 Italia and 458 Spider, two Lebanese television stars accompany us on a journey across a country that unites the charms of coastal roads with the demands of a mountain drive. Ferrari is enjoying ever-increasing success in Lebanon, where there is also a great interest in the Tailor-made personalisation programme.
Few people know that, for centuries, Lebanon was a country where religious tolerance allowed various faiths to live side by side in a lasting peace. Few people, because this magical country overlooking the Mediterranean entered a tormented phase in the post-war period; one which transformed it from “Switzerland-by-the sea” into a land driven by conflict.
If DNA guarantees the repetition of situations and behaviours in the human body, the same thing applies to a country with a history stretching back thousands of years. For a few years now, Lebanon has returned to being a place of tranquillity, founded precisely on traditions that allow people to live together peacefully. This in turn has enabled Beirut to re-establish itself as a kind of glittering Paris of the Middle East and re-launch its tourism industry and banking activities, even if on a basis consistent with the current economic climate.
Ferrari has an increasing number of enthusiasts and connoisseurs in the country, backed up by some very impressive sales figures. This should come as no great surprise. A people who conquered the world, first using ancient ships, made of those same cedars that still adorn the national flag, those of the Phoenicians, and who then later, as emigrants, were highly skilled in every activity and renowned for their creative cuisine, would inevitably feel a great attraction for such a unique brand.
No surprise, because a territory that combines dramatic coastlines with forests and mountains is perfect for enjoying the best of a car that wears the Prancing Horse. Not only the convertible California and 458 Spider models either, but also the FF that, with its four-wheel drive, allows comfortable travel up to the snowy mountains that rise just beyond the capital. For this discovery of Lebanon, we asked two of the country’s best known television personalities to guide us from the sea shore to the winding roads leading to the mountains. Two Ferrari 458s: the Spider for Hilda Khalife, the TV anchor-woman best known for presenting the pan-Arabic talent show Star Academy, and the Italia for Tony Baroud, the journalist who has presented The David Letterman Show in Arabic, in addition to presenting and producing major events both in his own country and in Hollywood and Monte Carlo. For both of them, being at the wheel of a Ferrari was like discovering an unknown corner of their own country: everything appeared different, all thanks to the magical sound and power of the engine, and the ease of driving.
Both on the coast roads, and above all, on the demanding mountain bends, the speed of the Formula One gearbox, the perfect road holding ability and effectiveness of the brakes
showed them a Lebanon at a very different pace from the norm. Not to mention the great sense of wellbeing prompted by the admiring glances of those able to glimpse the superstars at the wheel of such special cars. First, Hilda. ‘The day of the shoot in Batroun was so lovely and crisp. When I laid my eyes on this magnificent piece of machinery, it was love at first sight.’ As you’d probably expect from such a stylish individual, Hilda highlights how the colour of the car’s body combines well with the leather of the interiors, pale and in perfect contrast. However, what struck her most was the actual driving. ‘It’s unlike any other car I’ve driven before. Having all you need focused mainly around the steering wheel took some getting used to. But once I got the hang of it, which didn’t take long, we became good friends and I felt the joy people describe when they talk about Ferrari cars and the pleasure they give, not to mention the adrenaline and fuzzy feelings.’ Totally at ease while dealing with the demands of the photographer, Hilda was more than happy to be pictured as a driver, as well as a proud representative of her country. ‘I spent a wonderful day driving around in that spectacular car. It was a great experience and it has its special techniques, instruments, buttons, the feel of it and the sound of it when you speed off that just make it so very
easy to fall in love with.’ Those who remember our issue 17, devoted to Ferrarista women, will recognise this kind of reaction to the car. Ferraris may still have a certain reputation, but the latest generation of cars are accessible for absolutely everyone. They prompt a kind of admiration among the type of women who are confident behind the steering wheels of cars that few people are lucky enough to try out, and ones that are perceived as being difficult to drive. ‘Yes, gentlemen, now I know what you get so excited about!’ concludes Hilda with a smile, unaware that Tony, even if from a somewhat different perspective, has reached the same conclusions. The biggest difference being the context. Tony Baroud is able to measure the capabilities of his 458 Italia by climbing into the mountains, almost up to the snow line. The landscape is magical, amid mountains and sea, but the day, even though it is late spring, is still very cold. Not that Tony’s too bothered. ‘Ever since I was a little child I have always had the dream of driving or owning a Ferrari one day,’ he enthused. So, the 458 Italia became an opportunity. Indeed, it transpired that the local Beirut dealer had already tried to tempt Baroud a number of times, being well aware of his weakness…
Tony was even able to transform the car into a kind of fellow adventurer with whom to share his feelings. He laughs. ‘While I was enjoying driving the Ferrari from the sea to the beautiful
mountains, I had a very interesting conversation with her. Yes, believe it or not, this is the only car in the world you can actually talk to. You can drive a Ferrari today and tell your friends tomorrow, “Guess what, I had very beautiful company yesterday…”’ Tony’s comments suggest that this passion for Ferrari is not a fleeting one, not a carefree adventure that lasted just a day. ‘I really don’t think I’ll need any plastic surgery or Botox in the near future to look younger on TV. I only need to drive a Ferrari to look 20 years younger… ‘Conclusion: with Ferrari there is no conclusion. We could talk for hours and hours about this car without ever getting bored, but let me say one thing: I had the most beautiful photo session in the world, with the most beautiful lady in the world. But the big difference here was that this particular lady is gorgeous both in every way.’
Tourism is one of the main industries in Lebanon. It is a country blessed with excellent food, with wines full of flavour. The weather is beautiful, the sea ideal for bathing and the mountains ideal for skiing. There is also a great history here, one that makes this a fascinating experience for those ready to discover it. The Lebanese, thanks to their unique mix of races and cultures, have a true vivacity and lust for life. It can be no coincidence that you can also enjoy the possibility of personalising your Ferrari in this country. Tailor-made cars are certainly becoming very popular. The ownership of a Ferrari is a proud milestone in your success. Finally, Hilda and Tony were able to share their experiences thanks to the invaluable support of Sport Motors Group SAL, the local Ferrari importer, who helped us put this story together.
Da issue 21, may 2013