Going from Syria to Lebanon was quite a change. The border just stamped my passport, and on the way to Tripoli not a single police officer wated to stop us to check our documents. Prices there were also many times higher than in Syria.
The border with Syria
My time in Syria has been absolutely fantastic, but I felt a bit relieved to be out and be able to relax and not worry about being arrested by the police and be accused of being a spy etc. Lebanon is a country I had visited before and I also had friends I wanted to meet up with while being here.
Last time I was in Lebanon, five years ago, Tripoli was a city that was off limits to tourists due to violence going on in the streets. I was glad to see that it was a city completely at peace with no signs of destruction like I had seen in most cities in Syria.
Walking around the port side of the city I came across a cemetary for trains which really fascinated me.
Also the older parts of the city, there are three of them and therefore the city is called Tripoli, was great. Just walking around, seeing the soap market, narrow streets and the fortress with a fantastic view and rich history.
Another highlight was the Tripoli International fair. It had been designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer who also designed the city of Brasilia. They never finished it, and I was told that the reason was that they didnt want to attracr mass tourism. Now instead it is a peaceful and quiet place where people go jogging, on picnics, practise kickboxing or yoga and in the evening spend time at the Christmas market.
Also on the way down to Beirut from Tripoli I made a stop at the Colonel Brewery in Batroun. The place was super hip, serving beer tasters and had a nice park where there were lots of kite surfers and SUPers hanging out.
Just want to share a picture from downtown Beirut as well with a mosque, church and a synagoge all next to each other. A perfect place to finish off my Middle East trip
I had booked flights so that my last nights in Lebanon would fall on a weekend in order to experience the famous nightlife of Beirut. I asked a local Lebanese girl to show me around, which she said that she happily would. Not did I know that she would drive me and my friends from Beirut Hostel all around the city and insist on paying our drinks in all places we visited. The Friday night was well finished in BO18 a club where the roof suddenly was rolled away to reveal a beautiful starsky over us. Saturday night we went to the Grand Factory where we got to go backstage talking to the famous French DJ Miss Kittin.
I had booked a day trip to Baalbeck from Beirut the next morning which had gotten cancelled last minute. I was on my own and had to take local buses as I would not want to leave Lebanon without seeing it’s most famous attraction. On the way there were lots of military checkpoints where the soldiers came into the bus and wanted to see our passports. The situation had escalated over the last days and I had decided to make it a quick visit to only see the Worlds biggest rock and the historical site of Heliopolis. I insisted to the bus driver to take me all the way to the gates as the city itself was not very safe. A few months ago it was tried taken over by the Islamic State and today it was the base of Hezbollah making it a target. When safely inside I heard an explosion following two-three minutes of intense gunfire before it got quiet again. When asking the people working there they said it was normal to hear gunfire, but that it was completely safe at the site. The huge area was all sealed off and guarded and the Roman ruins inside were just incredible to walk around and look at. Flying out to Jordan the next morning I had a feeling that I was happy with what I had experienced during my days in Lebanon and was ready to get out.
I was warmly welcomed by my couchsurfing hosts Jen and Pat when arriving in the Worlds second oldest city, Byblos. They were also so kind to introduce me to the Lebanese cooking and introduced me to the history, politics and situation in their country.
On the second evening thousands of people had shown up to see the Christmas tree being lit. Even with only forty thousand inhabitants the city had won the prize for the worlds second most beautiful christmas tree and this year they were aiming for number one. At the same time the Christmas lights covering the whole city were lit while a band was playing at the stage.
The next morning Pat took me to a waterfall an hour drive away from Byblos. The place was well hidden outside a small mountain village and the picture underneath do not at all make justice for how beautiful the waterfall really was.
My last day in Byblos I was left to do some exploring in my own so I headed straight to the Jeita Grottos, which are some huge caves that I got to explore by foot and by boat.
On the way back I stopped at Harissa, where there was a cable car going up to a church and a Maria statue in similar style to the Jesus statue looking out over Rio. All in all I had a great start in Lebanon with my visit to Byblos.