This is a complicated place. As a visitor, you immediately feel the tension, the news reports, the armed guards, the crumbling buildings. It’s a beautiful, complicated place filled with people in the throws. A place where every person on the street has most likely seen more things, felt more things, or handled more adversity than most people anywhere else. Is it resilience? Is it adaptability? Is it desperation? Who knows but they are here.
The first thing that floors you about the mountains outside Beirut is how beautiful it is. It feels like Italy, but all the brochures were lost in the mail. How have I never heard of this? And the food, a cuisine and cooks that can go toe to toe with any country.
We travelled through Lebanon in early 2021. The financial crisis had hit and it was beginning to spiral fast. People were very candid about their country and their emotions. Some older who regretted not leaving when they thought they had a chance years ago, some who said they would never leave. Every individual we met in Lebanon had their own bag of emotions towards the country but they all took pride in the food and culture and potential. Like I said, it’s a very complicated place but it’s worth visiting because of the kindness and openness of the people. Very few other places that I have been, have the people wore their heart on their sleeve like Lebanon.
Sometimes you go to a place that you realize you’ll never understand. A place with so much twisted history and complication woven so deeply into its fiber that as a visitor all you can do is just observe. I observed warm people, taking each moment as it comes, too experienced to think too far into the future. I’ll admit, I came to Lebanon for the food, there happened to be a financial crisis, which you don’t fully understand until you step off a plane into the middle of one. It’s a place I felt on edge at times, one afternoon a car exhaust backfired on the promenade and there was a brief moment of confusion. In Lebanon you assume the worst when you hear a bang, it is not Florence, it has different levels of anxiety than most other places. It also delivers different levels of wonderment and joy, of shock in its beauty, in a stranger taking you for a tour around his home ski town with the youthful enthusiasm of an elementary kid at show-and-tell. People in Lebanon of all ages can flick to very old in spirit or very young in a moment. From jaded and careful and wise to positively giddy. I guess it's something you come to expect from a place where consistency is a fading commodity and taking every day as it comes is pretty much the national pastime.
I loved it. Lebanon is not for everyone but it’s a place that through feeling your discomforts with being there you understand your privilege and place in the world a bit better. And isn’t that what travel should sometimes be about?
Koko’s bakery Old souk, Batroun, Lebanon
Reggie Ate: Manousheh (Lebanese flat bread)
Cedars main road Inside Samar Resort Terrace access، Lebanon
Reggie Ate: Fattoush, local cheese, warak enab (stuffed grape leaves), fattet hummus
Route des Cèdres Bazaoun, Lebanon
Reggie Ate: Kibbeh Nayeh (Lebanese raw meat), labneh, baba ghanoush
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