martes, 16 de noviembre de 2010

Night life

Something I didn't know about Beirut when I got here was how active and exciting nightlife actually is in the city.

My husband and I have gone out again as if we were 25 (but unfortunately the following morning is much rougher than back then...) and discovered some of the great clubs of the city.

I must say that going out in Beirut is similar to the Mexican nightlife from the late 80s and 90s in the sense that what is cool is to go to the club, reserve a table, order a bottle (not a glass) of your spirit of choice and people-watch.

The ladies in Lebanon are insanely done up, with beautifully revealing clothing, lots of jewelry and make up and a totally jet setter attitude. Guys are definitely into jet-setting too, displaying some insanely big watches, and driving cars that you only see in James Bond movies.

My jeans and I usually get a bit self conscious at some point during the night...

Something I had only seen in Acapulco (one of Mexico's party centrals) is the whole sparkler show followed by a line of waiters when someone orders a bottle of champagne for the whole club to see. You gotta love it.

Following, a brief review of some of the places that I have been to, but that do not constitute an exhaustive list, since I haven't gotten the chance, nor the energy to visit all the nightclubs yet.

B018 comes to mind as the coolest place I have visited. Built by the famous architect Bernard Khoury, this place was built on the site of a massacre, so it is shaped like a coffin. This is a rather underground scene, where people go after hours. The 80s night on Thursdays is a-ma-zing. And the ceiling opens so you can party under the stars. Really cool.

White is a place where DJs like Paul Oakenfold have played. This is a place to go to over the summer, as it is open air. The ambiance is rather chic, but people definitely let themselves go to the very good electronic music.

Fly is owned by our friend, and is also a cool summer bar to go to have a drink and enjoy the open air night life in Beirut. The music is more laid back, playing pop and rock and the volume refreshingly lower, which is rare in bars in Beirut where you usually can't hear what other people are saying (OK, did I sound too old there?).

Myu is a cool bar in the Gemmayzeh district, that my friend calls the fishbowl, since the whole front is a giant glass, so you can look at the people inside from the street. Excellent cocktails, laid back music, with some napking-throwing at some points during the night to the great excitement of patrons.

And the Sky Bar, where everyone wants to go, the place to be in Beirut. I must confess that the view of the Mediterranean is quite spectacular and the fireworks at midnight are mind blowing. This is a place where you have to be dressed to the nines to get in, that is if you get in. The sound is pretty monstrous although the resident DJ is not as good as DJs I have heard in other places. And rumor has it that the Saudis fly for the night to Beirut just to spend it at the Sky Bar.

This doesn't count all the amazing restaurants we have visited. I will leave those for another time. Plus there are the clubs that only open during the winter that I haven't been to.

But for the time being, I hope this review encourages you to visit us. Let the party begin!

lunes, 15 de noviembre de 2010

Going the distance

If you live in Lebanon for a while you start getting used to the metal barriers.

These metal barriers are the ones that you see for "crowd control" I guess in other parts of the world, but in Lebanon there is usually a guard with some sort of rifle (I am sure it's more like a machine gun) standing next to them.

These barriers are at the entrance of official buildings, all over the place in downtown, in some roads when you drive, on sidewalks, in military posts on highways...

When I just got here I remember not knowing what to do with them: Do you stop? Do you avoid them? Does it mean it's dangerous? Do you ignore them?

After being here for a while, I have gotten used to them, they are just there, dividing areas, separating people, stopping traffic and pedestrians, or keeping "undesirable" people at bay.

Last week, I ran a 10 K race that was part of Beirut's International Marathon. There were thousands of people in this event, and lots of barriers directing the race. The difference this time was that we were all inside of the barriers. It was crowded, believe me. But for the first time I witnessed a true mix of Beirutis of all ages, genders, income levels and religious backgrounds.

That day I realized how separated I had been from everyone. How enclosed life has been since I arrived here. How exclusive I turned these metal barriers, and as a result how I have built mental barriers to justify my separation from the others, to be safe.

That day at the race I was squeezed and pushed, but I also got to see, feel, and laugh with everyone around me. I was uncomfortable, yes, but I wasn't unsafe. It was just a bunch of people standing there, hanging out on a Sunday morning. And the only distance that day was the one we had to run. We were cheering one another, drinking water under the scorching sun, suffering on the uphill together...

I really understood that Beirut is just a city like any other, where a bunch of people live, work, get together, die. This place is not unsafe. I make it unsafe with this distance I place between me and others, with all these barriers in my head.

I think it's time to see beyond them