It is the story of a 300-plus years old Lebanese village, Arnaoon, situated in Batroun, in the north of Lebanon, which existed during the Ottoman era and had a glorious history of resistance against the ottomans. A woman, with strong patriotic roots, decided to revive this heritage by beautifying its landscape with the “Arnaoon Village” concept. This woman is Mrs. Dora Hkayem.
1. Who is Dora Hkayem?
It is hard for someone to talk about herself. I can say that I had a categorical shift in career from being a school instructor where I cherished bringing up and teaching children to becoming a full-fledged caterer where I and my husband, Majid, continuously dream of further nourishing and flourishing the venue that we own. I see myself as a person with strong patriotic and religious roots; someone who is a strong believer in optimism, determination and perseverance.
2. What is Arnaoon village and how did you start with it?
Arnaoon was a bare land on a 200m high hilltop. We applied a full landscaping job to it and rejuvenated its 300-year-old houses. The village is busy again with visitors, in a commercial sense, instead of its original inhabitants. We started as a wedding village that expanded to a full array of services that are still developing and increasing.
3. What does the word Arnaoon mean?
“Arnaoon” (or “qarnaoon”) is the actual name of the estate. Given its attractive originality and our role in maintaining heritage, we decided to keep the name and hence came “Arnaoon Village”.
4. Was it easy to come up with the Arnaoon concept especially that this sector of the market is very competitive?
Our clear vision and strong belief in staying true to what we stand for, lead to creating a solid competitive identity. Our vision is to become a touristic landmark on the local and international touristic map. Our identity and umbrella positioning is “the simple and serene life to which we escape”. Others can target and compete with that, however the uniqueness lies in the execution.
5. What differentiates you from other venues? IE why should one choose Arnaoon village?
Today after 7 years of launching the venue, Arnaoon Village represents the Lebanese authentic values and generosity to which people would escape and enjoy the daily missed quality times – the simple pleasures of life. It is that old genuine Lebanese village that we all miss and aspire to. In brief, Arnaoon targets the people who never had a village and those who miss theirs.
6. What were/are the challenges you faced/are facing?
Business challenges vary and count up. Yet we can sum our challenges to three: Seasonality, Standard of Excellence and National Security. We deal with seasonality by continuously creating thematic attractive events and activating our newly built in-door restaurant and ballroom. We strive to maintain our standard of excellence by perseverance in training our team members and presenting the most premium product that matches our clients’ expectations and budgets. As for security challenge that is a “force majeure”, we tackle it by positioning Arnaoon as a space of escape that is free from prejudice and discrimination, a place that offers a humble disconnection from unfortunate tragedies.
7. What kind of services you offer at Arnaoon Village? Do you work with exclusive providers?
Arnaoon hosts a variety of banquets and events: Weddings, weekends’ and holidays’ open buffets, school activities, corporate events and other private occasions in addition to our on-venue restaurant and ballroom. As for the providers, we have our list of preferred suppliers.
8. What are your future projects?
Two main projects are ahead of us with the first as work in progress. Since families are a huge source of our business, we target a kids’ indoor/outdoor playground for restaurant sustainability.
As the demand increases for lodging, we are planning to build 20 houses with a natural pool experience in Arnaoon Lebanese Architecture on an adjacent piece of land bought for this purpose.