By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea

Okay so first of all, Friday night was fantastic! My friend Lara, a former AUB student, introduced me to some of her friends here in Beirut who invited me out for the night. The first text came in the late afternoon from Lara’s friend, Jana, informing me that we were all meeting up at 8:30 pm in Gemmayze. Around 8 pm, I texted back to find out where, to which the response was: “Sorry u can never set a time with Lebanese…meeting at 10:30pm at Gem.” I love it!! These are my people!!

Gemmayze is in the western part of Beirut and is known for its crazy nightlife. It’s a really beautiful part of the city as well – it wasn’t damaged as much as other parts of Beirut were during the civl war and as a result, the streets of Gemmayze are lined with these old, charming buildings with beautiful iron-wrought balconies and large, arched windows.

gemAt 10pm I bartered my way through taxi drivers to find one who would take me down to Gemmayze for 5000 Lira (about $2.50). After 40 minutes of bumper to bumper traffic (a trip that normally takes about 10 minutes via taxi), I was dropped at the bottom of the St. Nicholas Stairway on the busy Rue Gouraud and rushed up the steps to Gem, to meet Jana and Taarik. The bar is actually built inside a renovated, old stone house and has a trendy indoor section and a spacious, outdoor section. A really relaxed, chill place to start the night.

Jana and Taarik

Jana and Taarik

Soon after I got there we were joined by more friends of Jana and Taarik – Sulaiman, Saher, Abdoun, and about 4 or 5 other people who’s names I’m embarrassed to admit, I’ve completely forgotten. Almazas, tequila and lots of talking. Most people in Beirut speak English and Arabic or French and Arabic, or all three, and all the languages are mixed in conversation. For example, Hal has a shirt that says ‘Lebanese greeting’, above which is written ‘Hi, Kifak?, Ca va’ (Hi in English, ‘How are you?’ in Arabic and ‘I’m fine’ in French). Taarik is a Lebanese Brit, and like me, doesn’t speak Arabic fluently, so for our benefit, most of the conversation was in English with the occasional Arabic word or phrase thrown in. So fun! And such fantastic people!!

Around 1am, we all split up and Jana, Taarik and I headed off to a club called Basement where we danced till 5am. $1 hot dogs at a stand outside the club at 5:15am and then home again home again where I covered my head with my sheets to try to block out the rising sunlight and muffle the sound of the neighbors rooster and the call to prayer echoing from the nearby mosque.

At 10am, I rolled out of bed, not particularly well-rested, but happy and awake nevertheless. I slipped on my bathing suit under my clothes, grabbed an apple for breakfast and ran out the door to meet Lara, Taarik, Suleman, Abdoun and Yasmine (Taarik’s cousin) to drive to the beach.

One of the pools in 'Oceana'

One of the pools in 'Oceana'

The beaches here in Lebanon are almost all private, and if they’re not, truth be told, they’re pretty nasty. That means that unlike in San Diego, where anyone can go to the beach for free, there are a series of, for lack of better words, beach clubs which require an entrance fee and provide access to the beach, but are also equipped with multiple pools, bars, DJs restaurants and insanely beautiful people. Unfortunately, the sea is actually pretty polluted, so most people stay in the beach clubs, swimming in the pools and sipping cocktails. It’s a little excessive, but not a bad way to spend a sweltering summer afternoon.
The boardwalk in Oceana leading to the other pools and restaurants

The boardwalk in Oceana leading to the other pools and restaurants

At Oceana, the beach club we went to (about 20 minutes outside of Beirut located in the middle of a seaside banana orchard) there were three swimming pools – one that was relatively small, and surrounded by lounge chairs, each with their own nargileh (shisha, hookah, water pipe – whatever you want to call it); a second pool that was primarily for children; and a third pool for those 18 and older. Lara, Saher, and a couple others met us there where we all spent the afternoon sunbathing, snacking, talking, napping and swimming. Around 6:30pm, we all headed home, sunkissed and smiling. I love summer!

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