Credit: Lana Chukri
Magnetic's Beirut Dispatch: Introducing the Lebanese Scene
Shaped and molded throughout the years by many great civilizations, Lebanon is situated off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is home to around 4 million people and 18 different religious sects. Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, is a very cosmopolitan city known for its energy and urbanity and is one of the more liberal cities in the Arab region. It is seen as a top destination spot for tourists and expats and is everything but dull. When the political situation is somewhat stable, there is always something to do or look forward to doing within and around Beirut.
It’s a Friday night and I find myself throwing on some comfortable kicks and heading down to The Grand Factory for their Fac Friday nights where old school hip-hop, soul and funk are played into the early hours of the morning. The venue boasts an industrial vibe, with its concrete walls and warehouse-style space, while always maintaining a cozy and warm atmosphere. Dihzahyners, the team behind the street art NGO Paint Up, alongside one of Grand Fac’s collaborators, Tala Mortada, added their artistic touch by painting a number of walls throughout the space, adding bursts of color to the otherwise grey walls.
The venue is also home to other parties, with C U NXT SAT bringing in renowned international acts every Saturday night, that hail from the world’s electronic dance capitals. Resident DJs that grace their decks are Vanclod Jandam, Jade, Tala and Ladybug, among others. With Decks on the Beach at Sporting, Rubik currently at Concrete, and electronic Fridays at The One, rest assure you will not run out of options.
For the dedicated party-lovers the night does not stop there. BO 18, a very well known after-hours club in the industrial area of Karantina, is a hot spot for all EDM lovers. Designed by well-known architect Bernard Khoury, the club was built on a former Palestinian camp that housed thousands of Palestinian refugees. It was completely obliterated during Lebanon’s Civil War with its residents killed or displaced. The club itself is underground and resembles a grave sinking into the ground.
On Beirut’s waterfront, a 10-meter steel dome stands erect, marking the location of The Garten by Uberhaus, an open-aired venue running only in summer, providing an outdoor clubbing experience. It is not your regular club that has a bar, a sound system and possibly a dance floor. The Garten has an outdoor cinema and more. At around 7pm, happy hour kicks off. You can have a drink at the bar or lay back on the grass, munch on some popcorn and enjoy movie classics like Thelma and Louise and Easy Rider. Hungry? The Garten also has hammocks, a couple of food stands and stalls that sell jewelry and the likes. Come 10 o’clock, international DJs and homegrown talent kick off their sets while club-goers dance until sunrise.
If one is looking to indulge in something a bit more low-key, the lively streets of Hamra, Gemeyzeh, Badaro and Mar Mikhael offer a wide range of resto-bars and pubs. Street drinking is big in Beirut where patrons find themselves spilling onto the sidewalks, buying beer from local mini-markets and mingling amongst the many familiar faces. Behind the Green Door, L’Avocat, Locale, Internazionale, Radio Beirut and The Junkyard are some of my more frequented spots.
There are also a number of rooftop bars that line the coast of Beirut. Coup d’etat is one such venue that offers great music, good food, affordable prices and no pretentiousness, unlike some of its other rooftop compadres. For the more upscale partygoers, open-aired rooftop bars like the world renowned Sky Bar and Iris play more commercial music than some of the abovementioned venues, as well as some pretty good lounge tunes. A tad more glitz and glamour than Coup d’etat, these high end venues have a dress policy.