HAMRA, THE MOST COSMOPOLITAN PLACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Sometimes, work does have its perks! Last night was definitely one of them. On that Thursday night, I was asked to try a fairly new place in Hamra. Hamra… One word that embodies all that is most inspiring and authentic about Beirut, to me. Just the name sparks all kinds of memories.
I decided to take along my work buddy, one of those Ashrafieh “girlie girl”, who probably have never crossed over… What an adventure!
As I was driving towards my destination, I couldn’t help but ask myself why I had stopped coming to Hamra. I guess what had dragged me there in the first place, about a decade ago, is what had also dragged along hundreds of newcomers in the recent years. The desire to capture spirit of the place. The energy and hype, the lights… Acting as an antidote to the rest of the city, when one starts to feel asphyxiated by the steel and glass of ‘Bling Beirut’. Long the center of intellectual life and leftist politics before the civil war, this neighborhood of small apartment buildings, green university campuses and funky street life has undergone a renaissance of its own. Indeed, new web cafés, art spaces, cosy bars, and music clubs are helping re-establish Hamra as Beirut’s most progressive, happening corner. February 30 is definitely playing its part!
The bar opened last March 16… and judging by its decoration, it feels like the designers wanted the place to reflect the spirit of Hamra, with shelves full of books and other pop culture elements cluttering the place, and certainly creating quite a visual stimulation. The seating is diverse, with everything from serious-dinner style tables, to extremely comfortable couches, or bar stools.
The menu offers a wide selection of international food, but we decided to trust our host, Joe, who manages the place, and selected for us a few house specialties. The nachos, mini-burgers with their variety of sauces, exotic shrimp tempura and grilled calamari were, unfortunately for my hips, all very delicious.
After a few very enjoyable drinks and crunchy bits, “Merci ktiiir Joe!”, we left the place feeling slightly tipsy, but o so joyous!
If I can’t remember why I had stopped going to Hamra, I sure know why I will be going back: not only motivated by my emotional attachment to a neighbourhood where I used to be drawn often in the past, but above all, for its restless, dynamic spirit, that emerges most fully as the sun sets. That spirit echoes from every corner of the neighbourhood. And February 30, with its genuinely mixed and lively crowd, will definitely be one of my venues, whenever I feel like a proper Hamra style night out.