Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beirut: Part 2

So, onto the fun. Or mayhem, whichever you want to call it. Beirut is full of bars and clubs and its reputation certainly precedes it. On announcing our trip in the office people were literally beating a path to my door to impart tales of where we must go, best places to eat, drink and be merry. Thanks to Salam who I think spent a good 30 minutes giving me advice - with maps/drawings and dress codes all listed out! And so much hospitality: you must meet up with my friends/brother/family and they will take you out - thanks to everyone for being so, so sweet.

One very refreshing part of Beirut, quite literally, is that you can walk around, not only are there (shock horror) pavements, but it's also a good deal cooler than Dubai right now - drops to about 22 at night. Combine this with the fact that there are whole streets full of bars (think the Northern Quarter in Manchester or Greenwich in NYC) and it all adds up to a very cool night out.

The first night we started off by hitting Gemayze street - bar after bar after bar. I mentioned the blonde thing being a bit of a novelty, yes? Ok, so no sooner are we out of the cab than it starts, flash bulbs, car horns, people stopping us to talk......hilarious. And it continues inside the bars - but it's not sleazy, even groups of girls are chatting away to us. Everyone is just super friendly, which takes a bit of getting used to when you're a cynical Brit! It's a real mixture of people, of course Lebanese, but groups from Dubai, the States, all over.

And once you're tired of a bar - well you just rock up to the next one. Things don't get going til pretty late in Beirut - much like Dubai. We didn't leave the bars for the club until 3 am. Yes, 3 am...And the club we headed to is a little different to those in Dubai - basically because you can't see it from above the ground. It's an underground bunker - a real one, left over from the war, that's been converted into a club. Call me old fashioned, but since when has it been de rigeur to have club so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face? Maybe it's my age. The other main difference is that at about 5 am, the roof comes off, and you dance underneath the stars. Fabulous.

Anyway, thanks to the Dubai wedding gang for very kindly hosting us at their, so, much fun was had. And when leaving – there’s a variety of people competing for your attention to offer you a taxi ride home. We decided on a guy called Joe – well, you have to, don’t you – and decided that by taking our photos with them we at least had evidence if he did turn out to be a murderer. Seemed logical at the time! By 6 am we were a little on the hungry side having skipped dinner for a disco nap, so we then began a tour of Beirut on the hunt for manakish. I’ve definitely mentioned these here before – we have them every Thursday morning in the office – for those non Middle East dwellers they are gorgeous flat breads filled with cheese and then anything else you like – I went for olives. A bit like the UK equivalent of heading to the chippy or the kebab house after a night out!

Even the manakish take-away became a huge social event, with the entire place stopping to check out the crazy English blondes…..and refusing to let us pay for them. Bless.

So, onto night two. After the prerequisite disco nap, we donned our finest and headed out. No Skybar or White as the world’s biggest thunderstorm chose that moment to erupt – not that it stopped us, of course. After a quick drink in the Buddha bar (enormous, 3 floors of gorgeous people partying) we headed to Monot – another street load of bars and clubs. Despite our taxi driver speaking no English or French we discovered that the international language of party will get you want to be: just say DISCO and boom! You’re at a club. Very different to the previous night, this was very much a local place, with lots of Arabic music – and even a signer and keyboard! Not speaking a word of Arabic meant we weren’t really sure of what was going on, but judging by the way the crowd went wild, we think he was singing pop songs. The ‘Heigh Ho Silver Lining’ of Beirut, if you will.

Again, we were the only blonde girls to be seen in the place which led to the inevitable attention. Thanks to the bar staff, the Beirut Richard Branson, and countless others for the free flowing drinks and seats in the VIP section. Come 3 o’clock and it’s clearly way too early to be heading home, so we left and headed to Casino.. Not an actual Casino, a club. I’ve since been told by Lebanese friends that this is a ‘Beirut Mafia’ hang-out. Whoops! It certainly explains a lot!

Time to go home and of course no night out is complete without a complete photoshoot with the local militia. Yes, we hung out with the army boys who are so kindly stationed outside local hostelries to ensure your safe return home. Suffice to say it’s a story that I think they’ll be dining out on for years. Bless them. So sweet. 22 is WAY too young to be in the army. The next day was a bit of a blur and we only managed dinner and drinks in the evening. Getting on a plane with a hangover was not high on my list of priorities.

So there you go. No wonder I’m exhausted now. Non-stop. You are of course reading a slightly sanitized version of events: what goes on in Beirut, stays in Beirut. Mum: I did behave myself, honest. Those that know me, KNOW.

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