A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘nightlife’ Category

bar by consensus

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 14, 2009

Now that Lebanon has a government, its time to celebrate. But where to go to toast the new cabinet?

In honor of the consensus government, how about a consensus bar?

how about … mybar?


Of course, there’s a catch: mybar doesn’t exist yet. That’s where all of you come in. And as with many things, all it takes is money.

Here’s what mybar’s board of directors has to say:

mybar is an innovative and exciting approach to bar ownership that provides you with a unique opportunity to fulfill your dream of owning a bar. You can choose to invest in one of four different levels of ownership. You decide how much you want to invest, and you benefit from all the perks of being a mybar owner. As a Barnote owner you receive a percentage of voting rights, weekly sales reports, and an annual dividend distribution. Simply put, mybar lets you… Own it. Live it. Profit.

I’ve actually never dreamed of owning a bar. And the main “perks” of ownership, at least at the low-end $2,000 “owner” investment level, seem limited to “access to weekly sales and cost reports” and “name engraved on plaque entrance”. (Let’s gloss over the weird grammar of this latter perk – I assume it means: “name engraved on plaque at mybar’s entrance”.) In any case, the fusty investor in me would like to point out that $2,000 would put you almost 60% of the way to a nice Berkshire Hathaway Class B share. Perks of that investment include an invitation to the annual shareholders’ meeting, which is not only a total hoot (and a real slice of midwestern Americana) but itself a pretty good provider of access to some very interesting, if old-school, investment thinking.

Oh, but wait. This mybar perk might truly tip the scales for some of you: If you invest now, before the first $1,000,000 has been raised, you will be eligible to vote on the three options being considered for mybar’s theme.

Actually, the three options are really more like two, plus a blank space.
Here’s option one:

Think of a London or New York loft with large windows, high ceilings and wooden floorboards styled for a sophisticated drinking and dining experience. A long bar crafted to host a selection of the finest cocktails. The sound of urban modern jazz playing in the background keeps your feet tapping but conversations going. You can choose to sit on the large plush leather couches and enjoy that whiskey on the rocks or a dry Martini, or choose the high chairs and bar tables for a round of shots.

Here’s option two:

Inspired by Las Vegas and Miami night clubs, this concept boasts large spaces that allow you to let loose and absorb the lights and sounds of upbeat progressive music.  Whether you are on the dance floor or chilling out on the surrounding bed sized couches this concept will provide the perfect venue for a night of debauchery.

Excellent. The last time I went out to bars on a regular basis was around 2004, which means that I will feel right at home in either theme. In other words: yawn.

Which brings us to option three:

mybar – 1344 Park Avenue,  Beirut, is situated in the heart of the Beirut Central District. If you have a concept or an idea of what the next trendiest bar in Beirut should look like then start a thread on the wall describing it and see if your fellow Barnote owners agree with you. If so, your idea might be chosen as one of the three final concepts that Barnote owners vote on.

Please save mybar from being invaded by people who think that lychee martinis are hip. If you invest, please help your fellow barnote’rs and submit a new theme along with your investment application. Think of it as working toward a new consensus :).


Posted in advertising, Beirut, economics, nightlife | Leave a Comment »

Les hommes de ma vie: Dalida at Bardo

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 30, 2009

It was a warm spring evening in 2007, and G and I had no real plans. K had just returned from two days in a place I think of as ‘Maronite Central’, without being converted OR raising sectarian tensions, – an achievement that we thought deserved a drink in honor of religious diversity.

But given that it was spring 2007, and late spring at that, we were still wary of heading out to the marquee boites. So we met at the usual spot: Bardo, whose out-of-the-way location and bunker-like appearance had made it our number-one choice for bomb-free evenings out.

We arrived to find people spilling out into the garden walkway: Bardo was packed, and mostly with young, well-manicured Lebanese men. It was so crowded that not only were neither of our two usual tables available, but nothing was. We sat outside, at one of a set of makeshift garden tables brought out to accommodate the overflowing crowd.

What is going on? K asked.

A “Dalida tribute night”? G asked, horrified, after reading the chalkboard. I don’t think we want to stay at this place.

But I was hungry and lazy, and in any case our options were somewhat limited. So we stayed through a quick dinner and a round of drinks, as the volume of the speakers inside the restaurant increased steadily to the point that we had to lean in to hear one another speaking. And meanwhile we found ourselves eyewitnesses to at least one segment of Beirut’s vibrant gay culture. Dalida isn’t my favorite singer, but she clearly resonated with the young men around us, who sang along enthusiastically.

You too can enjoy an evening dedicated to video clips of such hits as “Helwe ya baladi” and “Je suis malade” sung by a woman who appears to be the Levantine gay male answer to Bette Midler. According to Time Out Beirut, Bardo is hosting another Dalida tribute this evening:

A tribute to Dalida
9pm Bardo, Mexico street, Opp Haigazian University, Clemenceau, 01 340060 Reservations recommended.
Bardo invites you to come celebrate the Egyptian Italian singer Dalida. With DJ Laila playing her tunes accompanied by clips from Dalida’s movies, this promises to be a nice evening full of nostalgia for a never forgotten singer.

Posted in Americans, Beirut, music, nightlife | Leave a Comment »

Gem from Gemmayze

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 25, 2009

This weekend I did all the new year cleaning that I ought to have done earlier in January (Or maybe I’m more of a Chinese New Year cleaner.) – including tidying up my computer files.

As I weeded through the photos I took during 2008, this lost gem caught my eye:


I took this photo one sunny March afternoon, during Lebanon’s first 2008 Easter weekend, when I was giving my parents a walking tour of Gemmayze. (I called it a walking tour; but since I made them hoof it from downtown through Gemmayze and then up to the ABC mall, they refer to it as The Long March.)

80’s Arabic music? I don’t know ANYTHING about the Arabic hits of the 1980s. Someone, please: send me a few titles/artists! I’m imagining a Jordanian Bon Jovi and a Lebanese Boy George … can’t wait to hear about the real thing :).

Posted in Arabic, Beirut, Lebanon, music, nightlife | 5 Comments »

falafel epiphanies

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 7, 2009

Last night I had an amazing dinner at ilili. The mezzes were overpriced – $9 for tabbouleh? – but so, so good. And the esmalieh bil ashta was almost beyond words – it more than made up for the freezing cold night.

This morning I found an homage to more homestyle Arabic food in my new Cooking Light‘s letter from the editor, who cheerfully informed readers that:

“Homemade falafel is a revelation – even reheated for lunch”. And yes, the bolding is in the original quote.

Um. I’m game to test the magazine’s falafel recipe, although skeptical about its lack of bekdounes. But revelatory falafel? Revelatory, reheated falafel?

I think the Cooking Light crowd needs to get out more.

Posted in Arab world, food, Lebanon, New York, nightlife, words | 6 Comments »

liquor licenses at home and abroad

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 7, 2008

Years ago, during my first summer in Damascus, I was fascinated to learn that Syria’s laws prohibit serving alcohol within so many meters of a mosque – or at least, this is how the law was explained to me. It made sense – after all, most believers agree that Islam does not welcome alcohol – although a Christian friend later mentioned that similar rules apply to churches. And really, what worshiper would like to come out of a service to find disco music and drunken revelry just next door?

I assumed that these laws reflected the religious sensitivities of people in the Levant, and filed away the information in the “interesting facts” folder of my brain. But yesterday I was reminded that I live in a country that is also filled with religious sensitivities. After reading a letter to the editor questioning how a midtown church could receive a liquor license for its new restaurant, I did a bit of research and learned that most US state and city laws restrict liquor licenses – and especially bars – to a set distance from houses of worship and schools.

Here is the relevant section of New York State law:

    7. No retail license for on-premises consumption shall be granted  for
  any premises which shall be

    (a)  on  the  same  street  or avenue and within two hundred feet of a
  building occupied exclusively as a school, church,  synagogue  or  other
  place of worship or

    (b)  in a city, town or village having a population of twenty thousand
  or more within five hundred feet of  three  or  more  existing  premises
  licensed and operating pursuant to the provisions of this section;

    (c) the measurements in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subdivision are
  to be taken in straight lines from the center of the nearest entrance of
  the premises sought to be licensed to the center of the nearest entrance
  of  such  school,  church, synagogue or other place of worship or to the
  center of the nearest  entrance  of  each  such  premises  licensed  and
  operating  pursuant  to the provisions of this section; except, however,
  that no renewal license shall be denied because of such  restriction  to
  any  premises  so  located  which  were maintained as a bona fide hotel,
  restaurant, catering establishment or  club  on  or  prior  to  December
  fifth,  nineteen hundred thirty-three; and, except that no license shall
  be denied to any premises at which a license under this chapter has been
  in existence continuously from a date prior to the date when a  building
  on  the  same  street  or  avenue  and  within  two hundred feet of said
  premises has been occupied exclusively as a school, church, synagogue or
  other place of worship; and except that no license shall  be  denied  to
  any  premises,  which  is  within  five  hundred  feet  of three or more
  existing premises licensed and operating pursuant to the  provisions  of
  this  section,  at  which  a  license  under  this  chapter  has been in
  existence continuously on or prior to November first,  nineteen  hundred
  ninety-three;  and  except  that this subdivision shall not be deemed to
  restrict the issuance of a hotel liquor license to a building used as  a
  hotel  and  in  which  a  restaurant liquor license currently exists for
  premises which serve as a dining room for guests  of  the  hotel  and  a
  caterer's license to a person using the permanent catering facilities of
  a  church,  synagogue  or  other  place of worship pursuant to a written
  agreement between such person and the  authorities  in  charge  of  such
  facilities.  The  liquor authority, in its discretion, may authorize the
  removal of any such licensed premises to a  different  location  on  the
  same  street  or avenue, within two hundred feet of said school, church,
  synagogue or other place of worship, provided that such new location  is
  not  within a closer distance to such school, church, synagogue or other
  place of worship.

    (d) Within the context of this subdivision, the word "entrance"  shall
  mean a door of a school, of a house of worship, or premises licensed and
  operating  pursuant to the provisions of this section or of the premises
  sought to be licensed, regularly used to give ingress to students of the
  school,  to  the  general  public attending the place of worship, and to
  patrons or guests of the premises licensed and operating pursuant to the
  provisions of this section or of the premises  sought  to  be  licensed,
  except  that where a school or house of worship or premises licensed and
  operating pursuant to the provisions of this section is set back from  a
  public  thoroughfare,  the  walkway  or  stairs leading to any such door
  shall be deemed an entrance; and the measurement shall be taken  to  the
  center of the walkway or stairs at the point where it meets the building
  line  or  public thoroughfare. A door which has no exterior hardware, or
  which is used solely as an emergency or fire exit,  or  for  maintenance
  purposes,  or which leads directly to a part of a building not regularly
  used by the general public or patrons, is not deemed an "entrance".

Very interesting. Establishments that serve alcohol are thus restricted not only in terms of their distance from schools and houses of worship, but also in terms of how many there can be in a particular area relative to the size of the overall population. I am not sure whether New York’s population is simply so large that the population requirement is satisfied, or whether it has been granted a general exemption, but there definitely are a lot of bars and restaurants clustered together here, in both the city and the boroughs.

In any case, I am glad to have had the chance to think again about the many ways in which we on both sides of the world are alike – and for the reminder of how far I sometimes travel in order to learn more about my home country 🙂 .

Posted in Americans, Arab world, beer, Damascus, New York, nightlife, religion, research | 6 Comments »

Lebanese social life

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 6, 2008

I have been slowly working my way through one of my recent Lebanon-themed purchases: a copy of The Green Guides: Beirut and the Republic of Lebanon, written by Rouhi Jamil and published by the Catholic Press in June 1948. Its another ebay purchase, and was a bargain compared with the $45 I see it being sold for elsewhere.

This book is unlike most of the other guidebooks I have found over the past few years – its focus is on educating the reader about the country, rather than on practical advice. There is no information about currency conversions or the costs of various transport and lodging; hotels are relegating to the very last page, and are listed by name only, with no indications of ratings, amenities or costs.

But what the book does focus on is fascinating – at least from my point of view. Did the author really think that tourists would be so interested in maps of the rainfall patterns in the country (p. 45) or its winds (p. 48)?

I suspect that what readers would have taken with them was less the information about Lebanon’s climate and more about its other features – like its social life.

Here’s what Jamil has to say on that subject:

It is agreed that social life in Lebanon has never been sudden or unusual, or an accidental event due to haphazard circumstances; rather is it a complete whole perfectly sequenced, and in view of which Lebanon has continuously acted ever since the day it was constituted as one of the firmest exponents of human civilization and one of the most essential backgrounds of that magnificent and majestic achievement.

Whew. I needed to take a breath just after typing that sentence. So social life in Lebanon is both a sign of the perfection of human civilization and the foundation that made this perfection possible.

But that’s not all.

Lebanese social life is, therefore, the result of this double and profound action which, while exerting a definite influence on the life of the Lebanese people, enabled the latter to conceive, in an original manner, Truth, Knowledge, the Good and Civilization, all of which are fundamental spiritual values without which life is meaningless.

I will never, ever, look at an invitation to spend the evening at someone’s table at Sky Bar in the same way.

Posted in Beirut, Lebanon, nightlife | 1 Comment »

learning to brunch

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 16, 2008

Last week I received a charming news update from AME Info, titled: “Dubai hotels issue guidelines on brunch etiquette”.

Interesting, I thought to myself, wondering what exactly this entailed. In the US, brunch seems to be either a wholesome post-church family activity or a sluggish friends & lovers post-Saturday night-drinking gathering. Happily, the two groups usually brunch at different times (the churchers are up-and-at-’em a bit earlier than the partiers) and different venues – but both seem to do fine without guidelines.

What could these guidelines be? I wondered. A step-by-step guide to following either of the US models seemed excessive; and more basic hints like “napkin in your lap” seemed both condescending and also, if truly necessary, important for all meals – not only brunch.
Several hotels in Dubai have begun to inform guests of the etiquette expected of them at Friday brunches, Gulf News has reported. Al Qasr Hotel, part of the Jumeirah Hotel Group, has started leaving cards on dining tables that list the do’s and don’ts of brunch behaviour. The move comes as a British couple was found guilty of having sex on a Dubai beach after consuming a large amount of alcohol at one of the city’s brunches.

I typed in “Dubai brunch guide” and happily this article, from Australia’s Daily Telegraph, soon set me straight: brunch was the occasion for distributing the guides – not their focus.

Guests at one of Dubai’s most popular hotels are being handed ‘etiqutte guides’ at brunch to avoid being arrested for showing too much public affection after two British tourists were convicted for having sex on the beach nearby.

The Madinat Jumeirah hotel advised that guests should “employ discretion” and “anything more than a peck on the cheek” could result in police involvement, reports the UK’s Daily Mail.

The guides suggest the hotels guests could be arrested for inappropriate public displays, are left on tables at the hotel’s weekly brunch event.

Not quite as much fun as imagining a guide that instructed people following model one in the fine art of determining whether orders of sugar-spike items like cinnamon rolls and pancakes are really the best choice for one’s children. Or instructed people following model two in how much grease will soothe one’s alcohol-ravaged tummy, and how much will further irritate it.

But a very interesting testimony to Dubai’s ongoing efforts to navigate between its heavily promoted overseas image as a place of fun and magic, and its need to remain accountable to Emiratis who appear to feel concerned that their culture and mores are slipping away.

Posted in advertising, Arab world, church, Dubai, family, food, nightlife, parenting, tourism, words | 1 Comment »

Halloween, Egyptian-style

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 1, 2008

Last night we met our friends K & J for dinner in the city. We thought about doing various Halloween’y things – making sugar skull crafts at the Day of the Dead Celebration at St. Mark’s Church, attending the concert at the New Museum – but in the end, we settled for a low-key, its-been-a-long-week get together.

Except, of course, that it was a low-key get-together in Greenwich Village, which is also the home of the city’s Halloween parade. So our dinner locale, which also had a sizable bar, became a revolving door spectacle of costumed celebrants dressed as everything from Frieda Kahlo to a mouse and cat pair.

After dinner, H suggested going for a drink, so we could enjoy a little more people-watching. The nearest bar with not-too-loud music and ample seating (not only were we not hip enough to be in costume, but we compounded our un-hipness by wanting quiet and rest) turned out to be an Egyptian hookah bar. The bouncer was thrilled by H’s Arabic, and H in turn was thrilled by the music, which ranged from hip-hop to merengue.

But the musical highlight of the evening came when the DJ played the Village People’s “YMCA”. This song is a huge, huge hit all around the Levant – not least, I imagine, because the people who love it there are blissfully aware of the gay-pride reputation of the Village People. (At least, I’ve never known anyone there to wonder about a song that suggests that a “young man” look for a place where he can “hang out with all the boys” :).)

Anyway. The song is a perennial dance club favorite, along with “Its Raining Men” and the dance remix of “I Will Survive”. But many people in Lebanon and Syria dance to “YMCA” no differently than they do to any other song.

In other words, they miss out on this:

(Image courtesy of the Fairview Lakes YMCA)

American-raised or-educated Lebanese are more likely to do the arm gestures, so its less strange to do them in Beirut. But I have memories of a moment of acute embarrassment from a night out in Damascus several years ago, when my British-raised friend S and I were the only ones YMCA’ing.

No one else in the club thought our gestures were hip – or even cute in a goofy-foreigner way. What are you doing? one friend hissed at me. Are you okay? asked another.

Okay, yes. But deeply mortified. So it was nice to see “YMCA” being celebrated with traditional no-holds-barred gesturing last night 🙂 .

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Beirut, Damascus, Egypt, friends, holidays, Iowa, Lebanon, nightlife | 1 Comment »

the slow pace of innovation in Jezzine

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on September 3, 2008

I love the English-language news services in Lebanon. Between Naharnet, Now Lebanon, and the Daily Star, there is always at least one article or news update that leaves us torn between scratching our heads and laughing out loud.

Yesterday, the Daily Star was the big winner, with a ridiculous piece on how Jezzine’s cafe and restaurant owners have discovered a “new way” to prepare argilehs: through a hollowed-out fruit.

Here’s the article:

“Narguileh takes on new flavors in Jezzine”

Owners of cafes and restaurants in the Southern region of Jezzine have found a new way to serve narguileh – the traditional Lebanese water pipe – as part of this summer’s tourist strategy to attract additional visitors.

“Making narguilehs is no longer limited to their different flavors and sizes,” Youssef, a waiter at Jezzine’s Sakhret alShalal restaurant, told The Daily Star on Monday.”We now use fruits instead of the heart of the narguileh that is usually filled with water.”

According to Youssef, fruits like watermelon, muskmelon, coconuts and even lemons are being used to smoke flavored tobacco. The fruit, Youssef explained, is pierced from the top and the traditional narguileh pipe and hose are then inserted.

“We [also] fill the emptied fruit with any juice flavor upon [the] customer’s request,” he added. “These are fresh and natural water pipes.”

Youssef said that these improvised fruit narguilehs were attracting scores of smokers, whom he said “prefer them to the ordinary ones.”

“The Lebanese people are known for their innovation skills,” he said. “They always create something new to draw tourists and promote the tourist season in their country.”

Oh, those innovating Lebanese. I’m sure that I’ve never heard of argilehs run through fruits before – not in Syria, not in Egypt, and not in the Gulf. Thank goodness those restaurateurs in Jezzine put their thinking caps on.

I can’t wait to see what they might think of next – the Internet, perhaps?

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Beirut, food, internet, Lebanon, media, nightlife, science, travel, vanity, words | 6 Comments »

the presence of men

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 3, 2008

The advertisement below has been running on the Daily Star, thanking Lebanese people for attending the free concerts held downtown last week. Seeing it makes me furious. Can you guess why?

Why are there no women anywhere in the first ten “rows”? What kind of public space did these concert-givers create, in which women felt either physically or psychologically unwelcome?

Did women move out of the front rows because there were too many aggressive young men jostling one another for a better view? Did they leave because there were too many hormonal young men with whispered comments and groping hands? Did they leave because their parents would not let them stay out so late on a week night, while their brothers were less restricted?

I find this advertisement, and the reality its photograph depicts, appalling. This is not the image of Beirut that I want to “live on”.

Posted in Beirut, Lebanon, music, nightlife, women, words | 6 Comments »