We’ve all experienced it. The dread over having to frantically run across Beirut to find souvenirs for friends and family abroad. I personally try to match friends’ personalities to their gifts, but usually that just results in me being extremely stressed out and wishing I just got a bunch of those awful “I <3 Lebanon” or “Hi Kifak Ca Va” t-shirts instead.

Fret no more. You should never have to buy one of those shirts unless you’re buying it ironically (which I may have done). And probably not even then. Here are a few souvenir ideas which might be a little more impressive than those god-awful name keychains.

1. Anything from Ants

Ants is a good choice for gifts with a handmade appeal. There are loads of jewelry, leather accessories, and knickknacks to choose from. I personally picked up a few awesome stone ashtrays with monkeys carved into them. There were no ordinary monkeys either—they had straw mohawks. Needless to say, they were a hit with my friends abroad.

2. Vintage items from The Vintage Shop

You can’t step into this place without finding something that catches your eye. Besides unique furniture and vintage gadgets, this place has some cool smaller items that are great conversation pieces. For example, they’ve got some old Lebanese license plates, perfect for light and funky gifts for non-Lebanese friends.

3. Art from Plan Bey

For a selection of work from Beirut-based artists, check out Plan BEY. You can buy a set of handmade notebooks for friends who like to write, posters and prints for art lovers, coasters and stickers. These are perfect for offering friends a taste of Beirut’s vibrant art scene.

4. Books by Lebanese authors

Another cool way to support local culture and let your friends know a little bit more about Lebanon is to check out the selection of books by Lebanese authors at a local bookshop. Check out these booksfor some ideas. My personal suggestion would be Koolaids: The Art of War by Rabih Alameddine, as it offers commentary on the AIDs pandemic and the Lebanese civil war.

5. Honey or herbs from Souk El Tayeb

Don’t underestimate the power of a bag of zaatar or a jar of honey from the cedars. Souk Al Tayeb has a selection of fresh ingredients you can take back with you, and the best part about it is that they’re from local farmers. You can hit two birds with one stone and support your local farmers while also grabbing a tasty gift unique to Lebanon.

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