I have been following Luai Ahmad Alkilani on social media for some time now. A big reason why he's captured my admiration is because, despite being Kuwaiti, he showcases life in Lebanon more fervently than the Lebanese themselves, especially the cuisine.
When I reach out to the businessman-turned-blogger, he tells me his love affair with the country began in his childhood when his parents used to whisk him away to the scenic hills of Bhamdoun, Falougha and Hammana for summer getaways. Now 56, Alkilani has woven a bond with the country that transcends both time and nationality.
While his first wife is Kuwaiti, Alkilani's second wife is Lebanese, solidifying his deep-rooted attachment to the country.
“Kuwait is where I primarily reside, but I often travel to Lebanon and typically dedicate my entire summer to being there,” says Alkilani. "My family, children and friends also cherish the country due to my frequent visits and extensive explorations.
A self-professed “food enthusiast", Alkilani says his adoration for Lebanese dishes sparked his mission to advocate cross-cultural gastronomy.
“I adore Lebanese food in all its varieties,” he says, with his favourites spanning street food classics such as mankoushe and falafel to delicacies served at fine-dining restaurants.
“I often contemplate crafting fusion dishes that combine Kuwaiti and Lebanese flavours, to satisfy people from both nations," he adds.
"These creations would blend Levantine-spiced rice with signature Gulf sauces, for a culinary blend that could yield exquisite, innovative dishes for dining tables across the region.”
With 150,000 social media followers, Alkilani views himself as a bridge between cultures. His posts, which spotlight not only Lebanon's culinary treasures but also its natural beauty and hidden gems, evoke wanderlust and curiosity among his followers who have affectionately dubbed him the "Lover of Lebanon", a title that fills him with “immense joy”.
The country’s varied landscape across its four distinct seasons is another reason why Alkilani feels a profound attachment to Lebanon. From snow-clad winters and serene mountain retreats to vibrant spring blooms and refreshing summer dips in the sea, the country’s natural beauty makes it a haven for visitors all year round.
“You can swim by the shore and dine in the majestic mountains within a 45-minute drive of each other, with temperatures transitioning from coastal heat to a refreshing 15°C in Faraya,” says Alkilani. “It is simply splendid.”
The Lebanese people, too, have deeply impacted Alkilani. He says he admires their resilience, generosity and vibrant approach to life. “They truly relish joyful moments, be it relaxing by the sea or socialising in restaurants or nightclubs," he adds.
Alkani is most fond of Achrafieh's lively streets and Bourj Hammoud's hidden corners, where he sees a shared sense of care, cleanliness and an ingrained hospitality that resonates with him deeply.
“My morning walks are pure delight," he says. "I've roamed every avenue, every alley. Even the entwined power cables in Bourj Hammoud have their charm.
“The spotlessness of Achrafieh and Bourj Hammoud is captivating. There's a collective dedication to keeping streets, homes, balconies and even plants tidy.”
As he prepares to retire, Alkilani wants to embark on a new mission: cherishing life's simple joys and sharing them with others. His aim is to unite cultures through food and travel to shine a hopeful light in our often-convoluted world.
“Choosing early retirement, I've embraced leisure," he says. "Savouring various cuisines is my personal joy, as is the chance to be a carefree guest, share my thoughts, enjoy every moment and slip into a peaceful sleep.”