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• 04 Beirut Lebanon

Preface On paper it shouldn't really work. But, despite everything, the allure of the Lebanese capital remains thanks to its cosmopolitan buzz, dazzling Mediterranean setting and the irrepressibly positive spirit of the locals .

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If Beirut were to be measured on metrics alone it wouldn't

stand a chance: its infrastructure is less than adequate, political instability is chronic and inflation is a problem. But Beirut is not the kind of city that likes statistics. Aided by a cosmopolitan population all too happy to show off its city, Levantine charm still operates in the Lebanese capital. Its patina, refined over centuries of tumultuous history, has given it a unique cachet. The Romans, Arabs, Ottomans and French: all of them stopped by Beirut to admire the snow-capped Mount Sanine and partake in the dolce vita. Add to all of this the remarkable topography, the sparkling Mediterranean sea, the glorious weather and the succulent food and you can understand why so many have fallen for Beirut. Meanwhile, shortcomings are almost always turned into opportunities and the can-do attitude is palpable. The gap left by a weak government has led entrepreneurs to provide basic services, while artists and designers have come up with creative solutions to everyday difficulties. There's also an un mistakable whiff of freedom in a place where no political force really dominates.This gives freer rein to the sexy pop singer recording her new video clip, the printer bypassing censorship or the young activist lobbying for gay and lesbian rights. In an increasingly conservative region, Beirut is decidedly on the rolerant side. The city also has its everyd ay perks. You can keep an open tab at the grocer's, leave your car to be parked with the valet working for the restaurant nearby or call the hairdresser to come and fix your hair at home. If the M iddle East was a gentler neighbourhood and Beirutis had a slightly stronger civic sense, this could be the best city to live in. - (i\I)


\\ny it works: CI C2

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Companies to learn from

09 M usarWine Ghazi1; Lebanon

Why it works .\iusar \\:.'int: nm1hinl..'.'s i.,_kcadt.:s or \\ lll(,,'In.1k111b krn'''kdg..: wi1h a story

fortillld(: and rerM"k'IH:\..'.'. Ldmmitment anJ a sens(' (lf ht.'ntaj.!c


Kria Cycles R eykjavik


Though Lebanon's Bekaa Valley has a tradition of wine-making dating back to the Phoenicians an d Romans, by the early 20th century viticulture was largely the preserve of C hristian monks. When the arrival of French troops in the 1930s created a new demand, epicurean Gaston H ochar set about creating his vintage. After a trip to France, he p lanted Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Carignan , Syrah and Cinsaut grapes in the Bekaa, which were ferried back to the village of G hazir on the slopes of Mount Lebanon, where the Musar cellar and headquarters are located . The trip proved a logistical challenge for Hochar's son, Serge {pictured), during the Lebanese war; when growing, let alone transporting, the grapes was a perilous enterprise hindered by bomb anacks, kidnappings and looting by militias. In true Levantine spirit, he continued to make and export wine. Today, Musar produces an average of 600,000 bottles a year, including the signature Chiiteau. "It's a very original wine that was made to age and evolve over decades," says Serge's son, named Gaston after the firm's founder. - (.\!)

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\\'h at next? l .c.:hanon''.S Jll)iili\..·al situation i~ 1..Hlstahlt:. i.\ \u~ar will ha\'~ lll'\\" chal1cngc"'.) c.ihcad. On ~1 (l'il1IlH.:n.:1al lll)ft'. : will han~ hl '.nno\alc lo keep ur with nwd~rn 'mlners wl"lik pres1.:n·mg its 1.:l~1s-.;1l identity and L ... drc n; ''Y,11 (U..,tor1cr:,.


In October 2008, British-born David R obertson returned from holiday to his Reykjavik home to find Iceland was in financial turmoil and his job, in an architect's practice, had vanished. That's when he decided to open Kria Cycles, starting out in a 25 sqm workshop inconveniently located up several flights of stairs in downtown Reykjavik. At the time, Iceland's cycling culture was in the doldrums - locals were much happier behind the wheel of a four-by-four. But Robertson 's plan was to seize the back-tobasics spirit that came about after the crash and get the nation whizzing around on two wheels. Today Kria has three premises, includin g its multiftoor showroom in the up-andcoming H6lmasl6d fishpacking district, where its staff fix and service bikes, give advice to customers and offer espressos from behind the wooden coffee bar. Today Robertson's main problem is finding time to expand into offering moun tainbiking trips around Iceland's ethereal landscape. "Business is booming. I have Icelanders in the shop buying cycles worth €5,000," he says. - ( ~1)

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Why it work s Kr ia\ '.'iimplicity. the warmth \_lf its work~hop and the quality o f its product all came at th<: right tinu.: for disillusioned k..:landcrs. In this

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I A thenaeum I Papercut I D o xou R ead Me?!

Print charming Global

Preface Like that other prematurely obituarised format, the vinyl record, magazines are enjoying a

renaissance in both creativity and pop ularity. There is som ething uniquely satisfying about com municati ng ideas through a good-looking physical object and if it can all be soaked up in a welcoming space along with good coffee and cake, so much the ben er .


P apercup Beirut

At Papercup, the beautifully designed shop in Beirut's quaint Mar Mikhael area, sales of international books and foreign m agazines have grown steadily since it opened in 2 009. The store holds 250 magazine titles, most of wh ich you won't find elsewhere in Leban on, and 1,600 international books focused on art and architecture. Books are sold at list pr ice while magazines are up to one-and-a-half times the cover price, making them, owner R ania Naufal concedes, " luxury products". Papercup boasts a loyal following and has helped lure in the designer shops, art galleries, bars and restaurants that have opened nearby. "All I've done is identify a frustration at having to order books and magazines from abroad ," says Naufal. - (.\!)

pupercupstore. com Papercup picks : 0 1

An hook: SalmM Nuou,/a C/10ut'<1Jr

by Jessica .\lorgan r'fate Publishing; 02

03 04


lntc:rior design bi.)Ok: ,\·orlft1...'Tll [)._·fig/:ts hy Emma Fcxcus and SYcn Ehmann (Gcstalten) Photllgraphy hook: .d11Jt.ric:d11 Prospcr:ts by Joel Stcrnldd (Steidl) Ciathcr]ountal (biannual n1agazinc) K i11fnl/, (q uarterly magazine)


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08 Hom e




Space and light Batroun


Preface Having previously been left to rack and ruin, this former patrician's house has been transformed into a refuge full of life and tradition thanks to the fi ne work of a fa shion designer and a food activist.

â&#x20AC;˘ Traditional Lebanese architecture is disappearing fast. Every day, perfect stone cubes with red-tiled roofs and elegant arches are torn down and replaced by generic glass towers. Thankfully, there are pockets of resistance across the country. Tucked away in the vibrant port town of Batroun, some 5o krn north of Beirut, is one such example. Dating back ro the 19th century (with older foundations), this patrician's house was built by the Akl family, a clan who dominated local politics for generations. Located between the Italianate St Stephen (Maronite Catholic) church and the majestic Phoenician sea wall, its overgrown pink bougainvillea singles it out from afar. In dire need ofrepair, the house was rescued by a fashion designer and a food activist who offered the owner, a Lebanese emigre living in Colombia (no, not Shakira), the chance to restore it. It was agreed that the new tenants could live there for nine years rent-free in exchange for paying for the restoration costs. "It was an original system that benefited both parties," says one of the tenants. It meant that the house's design and traditional layout were p reserved; some frescoes were even uncovered. Averse to clutter and home appliances, the tenants' simple wish was "to enjoy the luxury of

the space and the light." Little furniture was added and the walls were painted white, forgoing the remains of the "faux marble" decoration except in the projection room. In the dar (main sitting room), alongside two custom-made elongated couches, is an Eero Saarinen table "that floats like a tray in space''. The nearby bedroom is almost empty apart from a stencil painting of Oum Kulthum, the late Egyptian diva who transfixed the Arab world for decades. On weekends, the Akl house receives an eclectic mix of guests from Beirut and beyond, sharing incredible meals - think stuffed squid and fried red mullet - in the garden. Later, over a glass of chilled arak, they might take turns composing zajals - Arabic poetry - in the secluded garden. "This is not your typical Lebanese beach house - or chalet as people call it here that is closed up for most of the year," says a tenant. "Sure, you can dive into the sea in less than a minute. But when you come back, you come back to a real house." - .\t


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don't have to be an earth mother or a sensory expert to appreciate the notion that it feels nicer to touch wood than linoleum. Natural materials are therapeutic. They age well. Wood, leather, metals, stone, marble: they might be more expensive but they are worth spending more on because they last - and they bring lasting pleasure. I'm yet to visit a happy home that is lit entirely with overhead lighting. Overhead lights are fine so long as they can be dimmed and are partnered with an abundance of standing and table lamps. Natural light is of course needed, though the tendency of many architects to replace walls with glass in favour of ··letting light in" is another fallacy that it's time to drop. Technology is all very well and exciting but be careful not to let it take over. A living room should not revolve around the television and if you have to have a cinema-sized screen, it's a good idea to hide it behind shutters or invest in a projector and pull-down screen instead. Likewise, hi-tech solutions for security, lighting and sound might be tantalising, but avoid the temptation to completely dispense with good old-fashioned switches and locks (swiping lights on and off is maddening after a while). When you rely on an electronic system, the workings of which you don't fully understand, you can find yourself in all sorts of trouble when things malfunction - which inevitably they do. Knobs, knockers, switches and keys add character; they aren't inconvenient, so there's no need to eliminate them from our lives. F inally, on the fiddly topic of furniture and decoration, there's just one approach that works in creating a home. It's been drummed into me in every residence I've visited by any collector or gallerist and it's very simple: surround yourself with things that you like. But herein lies the difficulty of making a home. When we've all been indoctrinated for decades now with notions of"good taste'', how is it possible to separate training from an impulse that's a little truer to what we actually like? It's a question of confidence. As with everything in life, if you can be comfortable within yourself as to why you like something, you can sure as hell explain it to anyone else. However, you should never feel that you have to explain or apologise for anything you have in your home that you like (unless it's silk bed linen). Happily, I believe our understanding of home is entering a new phase. Continuing economic uncertainty for the majority of the world is beginning to dispel the aspirational anxiety of more plentiful times. Interiors magazines are gradually undoing their top buttons, responding to the rise of tides such as Apartamento that reflect real life in all its attractive, appealing grunge. Furniture retailers are as keen to show "environments" as they are chairs, illustrating how things might be lived with in combination rather than just pushing individual items as badges of good taste. The meteoric success of Airbnb, which has opened doors around the world to a new generation of work-and-play travellers, has had an unlikely impact on our attitude to what constitutes

a home, too. We are now not just able to see inside the homes of people we never would have met, homes that would never have made it into magazines, but we can live in them for days or even weeks. Inspiration for making a home doesn't just come from magazines these days: it comes from real-life experiences of living in someone else's home and experiencing how they've put their own space together. All this has imbued a younger generation with a greater honesty about the way they live. I frequently feel like a hypocrite writing about homes because I'm the most nomadic homemaker I know. I've lived in eight London apartments (and one houseboat) in the past eight years. Yet, in many ways this has been the greatest training. My understanding of what constitutes a home is almost wherever I lay my hat. Except for me, it's wherever I can squeeze in my Gordon Russell sideboard and display my small (10-strong but growing) collection of ceramics and pair of old Globe-Trotter suitcases. Though a good hard bed and powerful shower certainly help, this is the sum of the furnishings it takes for me to feel happy and at home in almost any place. Home is as much a metaphysical construct as a reality: it's a state of mind as much as a building and its contents. Just be sure to let people drink red wine in yours.


Our brcakdm•n of the perfect home inµrcdients by culture: <J

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09 Service



I B lue R ibbon Downing S treet B ar


Where everybody knows your name Global


Preface Creating a space where patrons can leave the ou tside world at the door and relax into a unique atmosphere is something bar owners everywhere aspire to but few achieve. T wo spots in radically different cities, one impossibly ancient, the other resolutely m odern, manage just that. And their loyal clients testify to the allure of that most elusive of finds - a good bar.


D ragonfly Beirut

Bars come an d go in Beirut but only a few become classics. One of those is D ragonfly, opened by German-Lebanese J\!lichel Said ah, whose credits include som e of Beirut's best watering holes. The bar is in the historic Gemmayzeh neighbourhood, which reminds Saidah of "places you can still find in Buenos Aires and Paris but which are being heartlessly destroyed in Beirut". The storefront leads to a wood-and-stone bar with vintage lamps and furniture and the cosiest light in town. The clientele is an eclectic mix of lively students, smart architects and seasoned foreign correspondents who come here for the first-rate cocktails, the atmosphere and the music. "I wanted Dragonfly to be like Beirut's bars of the 1960s," says Saidah, "when excellent service catered to a glamorous crowd of foreign and local patrons." Delivering such service is chief bartender Nassif "Nino" Aramouni. With each drink, such as house favourite Arom atic Zaatar Sm ash, which mixes wild thyme, grapefruit, ginger, rum and Saint-Germain, patrons are served a glass of water. "It's not about getting drunk," he says, "but enjoying each sip." - (lll)

Gouraud S1rce1, Ge111mayzch

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Lebanon in Monocle's Guide  
Lebanon in Monocle's Guide  

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