The comedian with wanderlust reports from Cheltenham

I’m just back from eight wonderful days travelling around The Lebanon. There is currently no government, the economy has collapsed, savings have been confiscated, there are electricity cuts for 20 hours a day... but enough about the UK (BOOM-TISH), Lebanon carries on. People have adapted.

The entire economy is cash-based, nobody will put their money in the banks. The most common things to see on the sides of hectic Lebanese roads are billiards advertising money-counting machines, safes and portable generators.

The money-counting machines are very necessary. The Lebanese pound is now in freefall and nobody takes credit cards. A meal in a restaurant for four can cost two or three million Lebanese pounds, so you carry around vast wads of high-denomination cash.

Great British Life: Lion's head and cornice, Baalbek, Bekaa Valley, The LebanonLion's head and cornice, Baalbek, Bekaa Valley, The Lebanon (Image: Dom Joly)

But, what a country! I grew up there, but my wife and kids had never been. So, we went for a summer holiday. We tramped through cedar forests high above the Mediterranean. We marvelled at the ruins of Baalbeck, the greatest Roman temple complex in the world. We quaffed some of Lebanon’s fabulous wines, kept cool in barrels stored in 2,000-year-old tunnels. We swam in ice-cold rivers, clambered over Crusader castles, floated through the grottos of Jeita, and bar-hopped in the trendy Gemayze area of Beirut.

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Of course, we ate ourselves silly. Lebanese food is the greatest cuisine in the world, and I will not be taking questions. Whether in atmospheric restaurants by the sea or on bamboo-covered terraces with views over the pine tree covered hills of Mount Lebanon, we tried everything. One of my personal favourite dishes is Kibbeh Nayeh (raw lamb mixed with bulgur wheat and herbs and eaten with bread, onion and olive oil). I was thrilled when my son also acquired a taste for it, although it’s really not something you want to have before a date.

Great British Life: You have not tasted hummus until you try it in the LevantYou have not tasted hummus until you try it in the Levant (Image: Dom Joly)

Other old favourites included moujaddarah (rice and lentils topped with fried onions), innumerable aubergine dishes, fattoush salad and, of course, hummus.

The hummus in The Lebanon bears little resemblance to the grainy mush we are served here. In the Levant, hummus is a work of art. It comes in beautiful bowls, creamy and silky-smooth with a dash of olive oil and a pile of soft chick peas in the centre. It is out of this world and you have not tasted hummus until you try it there.

Lebanon is, of course, still recovering from the catastrophic explosion of the grain silo in the port of Beirut in 2020. The blast devastated large swathes of an already crippled capital city. We drove past the smouldering remains (unbelievably, some of the grain is still alight, like a slow burning peat fire) and viewed the enormous crater. It was post-apocalyptic.

Great British Life: The Joly family holiday in The LebanonThe Joly family holiday in The Lebanon (Image: Dom Joly)

Great British Life: The Joly family holiday in The LebanonThe Joly family holiday in The Lebanon (Image: Dom Joly)

The silo was such a prominent feature of the Beirut landscape and clearly visible from the family house in the hills above the capital. My sister’s office was about 500 metres from it, and totally devastated by the force of the blast. Beirut, however, is once again attempting to rise from the ashes, and you can only admire the dogged resilience of the Lebanese.

I wrote about Lebanon in my book, The Downhill Hiking Club, where, five years ago, two friends and I walked the length of Lebanon, from the Israeli border in the south up to the Syrian border in the north. It took us 27 days, and reconnected me to what I truly believe to be one of the most extraordinary countries in the world. This time, to be able to take my family, and for them to fall in love with the place as much as I had, was truly special.

Follow Dom on Twitter: @domjoly

Dom Joly’s Sunday Session is on every week between 12 noon-2pm on Jack FM.