An exciting fact that hasn't been mentioned is that I'm half Lebanese. Lebanon is a sovereign state in Western Asia, where my fathers half of the family live. After 10 long years not seeing any of them, I thought it was time to take a trip there and build my knowledge on the history and beauty of this country, as well as rekindle my relationships with my family.
After the media coverage on the country, you can imagine how sceptical I was and what my expectations would be... But it's nothing like how its portrayed on the media.
Arriving at 4am I had a whirlwind of emotions, going between happiness, fear, love and excitement. My auntie and sister were kind enough to greet me and take me to their family home where I would be staying for the duration of my trip. An emotional and loving welcome made me more excited to be reunited with the rest of my family.
So here is a little insight to my four days spent here.
An early start was necessary to fit in everything that was on my to-do list! Our first stop was to the Byblos Castle in Citadelle, Jbeil. It. Was. Amazing.
Walking on Lebanese ground gave me such an amazing feeling, and as I was looking over this beautiful land, I knew that my love for this country was growing stronger and I couldn't wait to explore more - and this was only the first day.
Walking through the castle I was also able to educate myself on the history that was among us, which as cliché as it sounds, made me feel so much more compassion to my home.
With views like this and company as beautiful as my sister and cousin, it really did make me proud to be Lebanese.
After the castle, we wanted to stop for a drink. Sailing is a known element of the Lebanese culture, and what better way embrace the beauty of the harbour than to have a drink looking over it.
Having my cousin and sister to tour me around Lebanon, we were able to go to the most interesting places that may not necessarily be on the top of a tourist list. We took a trip to Byblos old Souks which are markets through the old ruins. Of a nighttime its also an environment with bars and pubs. Whilst walking past stools I was able to see lots of iconic Lebanese souvenirs, which a lot of the time were handmade and stunning. I loved walking these beautiful streets!
Not only was I going to Lebanon to rekindle relationships with family I knew, it was also an opportunity to meet many more family members I didn't know I had! Going from England; where the surname 'Tarabay' is not only rare but foreign to many people, to every corner that id turn, there would be another cousin who shared my family name. What better way to bond than over beer, jager and music.
Whilst still recovering over my lack of sleep throughout Bestival, I was delighted to hear that we were taking a beach day at 'Loco Beach Resort'. Little did I know how beautiful the beaches here were. The smell of the salty water, the hot sun beaming onto my skin, I was so content.
My absolute favourite part of being in Lebanon was the food. My auntie made beautiful traditional dishes for lunch and dinner. We also had the opportunity at this resort to have Lebanese tapas which I could honestly eat forever. The food was beautiful and tasted even better with the view we had.
After falling asleep, I woke up to a beautiful evening at the beach.
Sad to be leaving the beach for the day, but excited to be getting to a rooftop bar with my sister and cousins for the night.
My family are so beautiful.
Today, was the most important day.
Coming to Lebanon, I was willing to do anything in my power to find peace with things that have happened between me and my dad. When my mum was in Lebanon, there was a specific place my dad used to take her. She persuaded me that by going there, I could find peace with everything.
The Gouffre de Balaa was absolutely beautiful. Just to stand and take in all of the beauty that was around me, I was able to reflect on everything. Definitely, a place for people to visit.
Today, I was also seeing my grandparents for the first time in years. It couldn't have gone better. It was such an emotional rollercoaster.
Walking up the stairs to the house that i vaguely remember, and walking over to my smiling Teta, to see her happiness, made me too happy. Being bombarded with smiles and kisses was an amazing feeling. My grandad is getting old. With bad memory along with hearing, I was so surprised when he remembered and recognised who I was. He only speaks Arabic, with some French, so when he turned around to me and said "How do you do" it was an amazing feeling that he was aware of who I was.
Visiting my grandparents just made my unconditional love for them grow.
Whilst being in the mountains we took the time to go to the biggest Cedar tree forest. This tree is the symbolic tree of Lebanon, and is the one featured on the flag. My auntie thought it would be a good opportunity for us to take a hike through the forest and see the nature of these trees.
When getting to the top, the view was unfortunately blocked with fog but it was still beautiful seeing the trees sit above them.
DAY 4, Home time.
What an amazing experience it was to be back in Lebanon, and see all my beautiful family. I know that I definitely left it too long before going back there, but I now know that I'm not going to leave it this long again. 4 days was too short, but I had the most amazing time with my family. 4 days filled with culture, views, shisha and amazing company.
Lebanon, I love you.