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Beirut’s Beat

There is something about Lebanon that enchants locals and foreign visitors alike. It goes beyond its borders and sets it apart from an often prohibitionist and conservative region. It has taken the unofficial title of the party city of the Middle East, which the tiny nation has been able to maintain through the years. From traditional Arab cafes to ever-inviting beach parties, and from mountain-view venues to the shining lights of countless nightclubs, Lebanon showcases best what nightlife is all about in the Arab world.

Walking through the lively streets of Mar Mikhael in the evening, with its trendy concept restaurants, crowded bars, and endless lines of people gathered and laughing on its narrow streets, it is easy to get a taste of what makes Lebanese nightlife what it is. When strolling around the narrow streets of Hamra, there is a sense of the spirit and celebration of the Beirut of the 1960s and early 1970s. Venturing out of the city across the highway that heads north of Beirut the selection turns into high-class and luxury clubs that redefine the idea of a night out in the 21st Century. Moreover, since the hospitality sector has become a hallmark for Lebanese entrepreneurship, the bar and club scene has benefited from an influx of creative ideas, which have transformed the entire region to an arena for social nightlife experiments never seen before.

The charm of Lebanese nightlife does not end at the country’s borders. The number of Lebanese bar and club concepts that have expanded into other countries is on the rise. Add Mind, the machinery behind White and Iris that has taken the UAE by storm, is one of the most obvious reflections of this nightlife imperialism. As Add Mind CEO Tony Habre puts it, “Working in Beirut for such a long time, with the inherent adversities brought about by this market, has given us thick skin when taking on new endeavors in and out of Lebanon.”
While from the point of view of Michel Elefteriades, the guru of Lebanese nightlife, the uniqueness is in the fact that “Lebanese people know how to enjoy nightlife; as opposed to other Arab nations, alcohol is permitted in Lebanon without any restrictions or social taboos, and this makes a huge difference in why our nightlife is so vibrant.” Elefteriades drops a hint that might explain why Lebanese nightlife stays ahead of the curve: “Going out here still holds that glamorous side to it; people still take time to dress up to go out, and they make the night time the highlight of their day. This is something that some societies have lost but that Lebanon still holds tight at the core of its cultural background.”

The cedar nation has also successfully presented itself as an ideal place for foreign companies to set up their regional bases, luring operators with an ever-growing client base that is both domestic and international. Such is the case of Diageo, the largest producer of spirits in the world. According to George Rbeiz, the company’s General Manager for the Middle East, “Lebanon is a unique and dynamic market, in particular with its nightlife and celebration culture; Lebanese nightlife is a major driver for brand building and growth, and that makes Lebanon a market equally as important as the US or Europe for us.”

As resilience is without a doubt the Lebanese cornerstone, the country’s nightlife scene keeps going strong, despite security risks or economic downturns. As a night out in the sprawl of Beirut can attest, the spirit of enjoyment and amusement of the Lebanese is unending, and its many layers of attractiveness are hard not to succumb to.

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