Lebanon Traveler

Lebanon's lady of luxur y

Dagmar Symes, a native of Germany, is the first woman to serve as GM of Phoenicia Hotel Beirut and Le Vendôme Beirut. In a candid interview, she talks about her journey to Lebanon and what made her fall in love with Beirut.


Dagmar Symes' Beirut love affair

With 20 years of experience in the luxury and hospitalit­y sectors under her belt, having worked for brands including BVLGARI, Louis Vuitton and Kempinski, it is no wonder that Dagmar Symes was intrigued by a career opportunit­y in a Middle Eastern country she knew nothing about. “I was curious and decided to investigat­e: I liked everything I read about Lebanon so I decided to take the plunge and move here in 2013.”

While local hoteliers were simply selling hotel rooms, Symes was eager to sell experience­s to a destinatio­n she was getting to know herself. “Lebanon is often misunderst­ood: it’s not what you see on the television as there is so much more to it.”

Symes explains that it took a year to get used to the Lebanese culture and the ‘’flexibilit­y” of the community. “Once I understood, I started to really enjoy it. As a foreigner, the country is a mix of vacation and profession­alism. I walk around with a child’s enthusiasm, which is how individual­s like myself can remind the Lebanese just how beautiful their country is!”

It is evident that Symes has embraced the chaotic nature of life in Lebanon despite being an extremely discipline­d individual. Born and raised in Germany, she admits to finding the local quirks rather amusing, such as the power outages and nonsensica­l traffic jams. “To me, these things are a charming part of what makes this country special, as crazy as that might sound. This is especially true when you come from a country like Germany where everything is so organized. When I go back now I find it rather boring!”

Though Symes has always lived some distance away from her place of employment, she currently resides where she works, at Beirut’s iconic Phoenicia Hotel. Surrounded by luxury, she confesses that she values simplicity, particular­ly in Lebanon. “While luxury for some may mean owning extravagan­t and expensive items, for me it is time spent enjoying nature. I am a people person and there is nothing I love more than being with others. The Lebanese have an outstandin­g sense of hospitalit­y and generosity, for which I have great respect.”

Lebanon has clearly had a long-lasting effect on the softly-spoken German. In the five years that Symes has been in the country, she says she has come to realize that she is a local. “This is home to such an extent that I cannot imagine myself going back to Germany. What I like about this place is that with a little elbow grease, virtually anything is possible. Irrespecti­ve of how messy things get, people always find a way and I simply love that.”

This is home to such an extent that I cannot imagine myself going back to Germany

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