Travelling with locals – Discovering Lebanon

Roughly 30% of Booth’s full-time program is composed of international students, hailing from all corners of the earth. Over the years, international students have planned “unofficial treks” to their home countries and invited fellow Boothies along for a glimpse of their rich cultures, customs, and stomping grounds.

Before heading back to Chicago to start classes, I travelled to Lebanon with a group of 11 2Ys for a week-long country tour. My classmates, Jad Houry and Stephanie Saade, grew up in Beirut and were the perfect guides to show us all that Lebanon has to offer. We got the opportunity to not only visit Lebanon, but experience the country through the eyes of locals.

And what better way to share this Booth experience than to show you?

Travelling with a great group
Our group arrived in Beirut from different destinations across the globe. Among the 11 of us, we represented 8 countries: Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, India, Kuwait, Lebanon, Spain, Sudan, and the US. After getting situated, we spent some time exploring the city and enjoyed a welcome dinner.

Discovering Lebanon’s Natural Beauties and Rich History
We first drove north to Jeita Grotto—a system of two separate but interconnected karstic limestone caves. The caves are situated in the Nahr al-Kalb valley and hosts over 280,000 visitors per year.

Next, we stopped by the Our Lady of Lebanon shrine—a French-made 15-ton bronze statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks Beirut.

One of my favorite activities was visiting the ancient city of Byblos (modern day Jbail) which dates back to the Neolithic Period (New Stone Age; c. 8000–c. 4000 BC). We had the benefit of having an official tour guide that gave us a proper history lesson, proving once again that Boothies are constantly learning!

Another morning was spent hiking through the Valley of Qannoubin, followed by a traditional Lebanese lunch, including kibbeh niyyah (a raw meat) and Arak the national liquor made from Anise seeds.

The trip ended with a visit to the Temple of Jupiter, which is the largest pagan temple ever built in the Roman Empire. It could easily fit several Harper Centers!

Home Cooked Food and Music
Stephanie and her family were gracious enough to host our group for dinner at their home. We were served traditional Lebanese dishes and sweets while getting to know the Saadeh family and friends.

Mr. Saade, played us a few songs on the oud (a traditional Middle Eastern string instrument) and sang classic Arabic songs. As he sang, Stephanie translated the lyrics and clapped along.

A taste of nightlife
Lebanese love to enjoy life and this includes listening to music and dancing!

Situated at the top of a ski slope, our group stumbled across a secluded outdoor bar, Frozen Cherry, that hosts cover bands. We were taken back several decades when we attended BO18’s ‘80s night. The night club is located in an old bunker and was established during the Lebanese Civil War as a way to provide an outlet to ease stress.

Music Hall is a beautiful outdoor venue that presents a variety show. Acts included music and dancing from the Middle East, Latin America, and the West.

Traveling with my fellow Boothies was a tremendously enjoyable experience. We got to explore a new country together and grew closer as we did. This will definitely not be my last Boothie trip, but it is certainly one of the most memorable!

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