20 Nigerians on a group trip to Lebanon…we still don’t know how we pulled this off! It still feels like a dream. We started off hoping we will find 10 adventurous Nigerians, willing to explore this unusual destination. In our words “we will be lucky to just get 8 or at least 10 people”. The group expanded from 10 to 15 and finally 20! We spent 5 spectacular nights exploring 7 cities in Lebanon; Beirut, Byblos, Batroun, Jounieh, Tyre, Deir el Qamar and the famous Cedars of Lebanon. Lebanon is a relatively small country; we pulled this off nicely and even had one full day of rest.
We sneakily took footage of the Jeitta Grotto, got a few bruises from a pebble beach in Batroun, hiked the famous cedars of Lebanon, spent the night in an amazing guest house/cabin overlooking the cedars, visited the biblical city of Tyre and Sidon, shut down clubs and roof top bars and taught some locals how to do the “shakushaku”.
What they say about the flavors of Lebanon is true; every street corner in Beirut had a restaurant or 2 or 10. Every meal we had was a hit, back to back.
From the mixed grill, flat bread and hummus, to the wraps, tabbouleh, and fatoush. After trying out Lebanese hummus with spiced meat and pine nuts, we knew that every hummus served in Nigeria was a scam! This was the real deal. The flavors all hit the right spot and no one had a reason to whip out “ata gungun” (dry pepper). Thank God for that!
We’ve surely added a few inches and our love probably now has handles. Lebanon was worth every ounce of fat and we are happy we dived into this unusual terrain and trusted the entire process! Everyday we were in a new town and each place brought something different to the table.
We must also add that the saying “in life it’s not where you go but who you go with” resonated so well on this trip. The group was perfect! We had a perfect blend of characters on this trip; everyone on a different mission in Lebanon. We had the party animals and we had the explorers. The history buffs, fun lovers and social butterflies. We also had baby girls and “bucket list items”. Some came to party all day all night, some came to explore, some were hoping to find Lebanese partners (which may or may not have happened), and the list goes on!
Each day brought on something new, something exciting and we have no regrets putting this destination as one of our group trips for the year. We cannot wait to conquer the rest of the world this year (you can sign up for our group trips here) but first off all, check out what we got up to in Beirut!
DAY 1- HELLO BEY, SHOW US WHAT YOU GOT!
BEY as Beirut is fondly called (it is also the airport code) was half asleep when we got in. Our flight landed at 2.00am, we got our visas upon arrival at the airport, got our bags and headed to our home for the next five days. Our home was an AirBnB located at the Sin El Fin District in Beirut. Accommodation (read hotels) in Beirut is usually pricey and if you are on a budget, Airbnb’s are the way to go! Our Airbnb had a cool artsy vibe and everyone kept gushing about it. Each room had a theme and the décor stayed true to the theme. It really felt like “home away from home”.
We napped, showered, ate breakfast and were ready by noon! The itinerary for the day was a trip to the JeittaGrotto, ride a cable car in Jounieh and visit our Lady of Lebanon. The drive to the Jeitta Grotto took about 30 – 45 minutes from Beirut. The Jeitta Grotto is the longest underground cave in the Middle East and the online photos did this place no justice. Photos and videos were not allowed but someway somehow, we managed to sneak a few struggle photos. We felt like we had been transported into another planet, everyone was in awe! The grotto consists of the upper and lower grotto. At the lower grotto is a “lake” of freezing cold water and you have to take a short boat ride across it. Jeitta left us all speechless and it is not to be missed when visiting Lebanon.
Jounieh was next! We took a drive there and got on a cable car to Harissa. Harissa houses the famous our lady of Lebanon. She’s placed strategically at a vantage point, with her hands spread out almost as if she’s overlooking the entire city. As we approached the statue, the guards offered those of us “inappropriately dressed” scarves to cover our thighs. When we got in, we understood why. Our Lady of Lebanon is more than just a statue; it is also a place of worship for Lebanese Christians. We all had to talk in hush tones as people were meditating and praying as well.
The first day went pretty well and the trip to the Jeitta Grotto set the mood for our entire stay in Lebanon. Everyone was looking forward to the subsequent days.
DAY 2: A PEBBLE BEACH IN BATROUN AND EXPLORING THE QUAINT CITY OF BYBLOS
Day 2 was called “Beach Day!” on the itinerary and Beach Day it was. We took a drive to a pebble beach in Batroun, got sun burnt, lost a wig and got bruised in the process.
The beach was a great way to spend the first leg of the Sallah break and everyone was excited till we had to walk across the beach. If you’ve ever been to a pebble beach you’ll understand how frustrating it is navigating your way around the beach. Your feet will hurt but this didn’t stop us from trying to get formation photos.
The beach had loads of instagrammable spots and we definitely maxed out taking photos everywhere. After the beach, we stopped by the famous Hilmi’s Lemonade stand, which is said to be the best Lemonade in Lebanon. We had dissenting opinions about it. Some loved it, some didn’t.
Byblos was the next city on the agenda and what’s not to love about Byblos? There was something very European about it; cobbled stones, outdoor cafes, a sea view and a castle. Byblos is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and as we walked right in, we were tourist attractions. “Such beautiful people, where are you guys from?” A lady having lunch in one of the street cafes asked. “We are from Nigeria”, we happily echoed. “Welcome to Lebanon”, they all chorused. We felt right at home.
The souks reminded us of the souks in Morocco. A lot more organized and definitely more charming. The Lebanese men are nothing like the Moroccans. You do not get harassed or scammed into buying anything. We visited the castle grounds and got some history lessons on the city of Byblos. On our way out of the souks, we found a guitarist who played “Marry You” by Bruno Mars and we gave him a good display!
As the night drew nigh, exploring the nightlife in Beirut was the first thing on our minds. We had heard so much about the bustling nightlife we decided to give it a try. We started off with Fabrk, a roof top bar at the Mar Mikheal area where we convinced the DJ to play “legbegbe” by Mr. Real. After an hour of convincing, the DJ finally played the track and we shut down the entire bar. Everyone at the bar was recording us and we got the attention of the cops! Lets just say the DJ didn’t pay any other Nigerian songs.
An electro club, B018, was were we called it a night. We reluctantly paid $15 (after negotiation) for entry and it came with one free drink. It was a weird place for most of us, because of the music, but it ended up being a lit night.
DAY 3: A FREE DAY AND ONE WILD NIGHT
Today, Nomads were free to roam the streets of Beirut or Lebanon. While some went as far as Batara Gorge others just slept in. Everyone got dressed and ready for the night. By 7.00pm we were all at pigeon’s rock for dinner. Dinner was splendid and the views are probably the best in Beirut. We spent at least 1-hour taking photos. We caught the Nigerians match, sang the national anthem and raised our flags so high…. only for team Nigeria to disappoint us.
The night ended at Iris, a popular roof top club in Beirut. The DJ this time outrightly refused to play any form of Afro beats and we decided to take matters into our own hands. We remixed every song he played that remotely sounded Nigerian. We were so loud that we got the attention of the entire club with our unplanned choreography. A couple of people joined our table either to learn Nigerian dances or give us free drinks. We had such an amazing time and everything said or read about the Beirut club scene is true! A night out in Beirut MUST be on your itinerary when in Lebanon.
DAY 4 & 5: HIKING THE CHOUFS & CASTLE PHOTOSHOOT…THAT NEVER WAS.
We got to our guesthouse in Deir el Qamar after a two-hour drive from Beirut. Tony, the owner of the property, was such a delight. He showed us our rooms and ensured everyone & everything was fine. Our guesthouse viewswere spectacular and Deir el Qamar fast became everyone’s favorite city.
The drive from the guesthouse to the cedars took an additional 30-45 minutes. Hiking gear ready, we got to the choufs and our guide gave us a little history lesson. The park we hiked had over 3 million cedar trees and there were a total of 7 million all over Lebanon. We saw cedar trees of 3,000 years old and it made us feel like we were transported to pages of the Bible. This is perhaps the most spectacular trail anyone will ever hike. You shouldn’t miss it. It’s a perfect spot for meditation and just being at one with nature. We didn’t get enough time to soak in the environment and just breathe the air for 30 minutes. We hiked in and hiked right out, lol.
Our last supper was at the Amin Palace hotel, a majestic hotel tucked right in the heart of Beit ed Dine. If ever you are looking for spot to have a destination wedding, this is most definitely for you. Games night was the perfect way to end our last night in Lebanon.
In typical Naija Nomads style, we usually have a theme for the trip (this time it was soft pastel), find a location and take photos for memories (strike through) for the gram. We had picked the location, a castle in Beit Ed Dine but luck was definitely not on our side that day. When we got there and it was under construction. We were so bummed as we had imagined what the photos were going to look like. We ended up using the Amin Palace Hotel and some parts of the guesthouse we stayed in. The photos turned out great!
#NomadsinBey came to and end with a quick stop at the Biblical city of Tyre and Sidon. We made a quick dash to the roman ruins, took a few photos and back to Beirut to pack up our luggage and head to the airport!
2 flights later, we were back in Lagos and #Nomadsinbey came to an end. We’ll round up with some top tips for Nigerians looking to visit Lebanon:
- Nigerian citizens can obtain their visas on arrival at the Beirut airport. Visas cost $20.
- There is a $2,000 mandatory cash for entry into Lebanon but you can wiggle your way around it. They asked us for it at Lagos airport and we let them know we had some cash and the rest on the card. In Beirut, the immigration officers are a lot nicer. Once you can show proof of accommodation and already booked tours, they’ll most likely let you go through. But do not take our word for it, take your $2,000 with you!
- Everywhere you go, there is a Lebanese person that has visited Nigeria. They’ll spot you from your accent and say “Nigerians?” when your answer is in the affirmative, they’ll say “I lived in Ibadan for 4 years”. We met so many people that lived and worked in Lagos, Warri, Porthacourt and Abuja. Most of them worked for/with the famous Chagoury.
- Lebanese cuisine is spectacular; We had zero complains when it came to food. We all know Nigerians are not very adventurous with their palates, for restaurants to satisfy 20 Nigerians time and time again.
- Lebanon is a relatively small country and most major cities are around a 30 minutes – 2 hours drive from the capital, Beirut. If you had to visit just one other city in Lebanon, let it be Beit ed dine!
For lessons learnt from the trip, read our story here.
We hope you enjoyed reading our Bey experience as much as we enjoyed sharing it with you. Do you want to join our next movement? Sign up here
Next stop on the Green Passport Movement:
- Rwanda 22nd August-27th August