With Asia firmly behind him our travelling DJ Tony Montana heads for the Jewel in the crown of the Middle East – Lebanon
The scene around me sitting in Doha airport waiting for my connecting flight resembles something out of Star Wars. Desert men jostle with camels and goats. Saudi princesses talk into solid gold cell phones. Myrrh perfumes the thick air. Adhan wails through the departure lounge. This will be my first time in the Middle East and already it’s a wonderful experience. I’m going to Beirut to DJ at a party and spend a week exploring the country. This will be fun.
The flight into Beirut offers a glimpse of the coastline. A mountain-ridge stretches all of Lebanon’s 220km of Mediterranean shore, with it’s capital, Beirut, situated roughly in the middle. At the airport I am grilled with questions as to who I am, and what my business is here. It seems like security is gonna be tough, but I pass without a hitch and am greeted by my Lebanese agent, the fantabulous Suzie Selman. She takes me to Uberhouse Hotel and instructs me to get ready – the party is about to start. I change and check through my music selection for the night. Everything looks good. We jump in the car and speed across town to the venue, a large converted warehouse called Concrete 1994. The music is pumping and we down our first drinks. My first impression of the Lebanese is of their good looks. Both sexes are intensely good-looking and grooming is a national pastime. Feeling a little self-conscious I fix my hair and take to the decks. Bottles of vodka arrive in the DJ booth and heavy drinking begins. 1 drink, 2 drink, 3 drink, 4. At 3am we stagger out but the party is not over yet. The night is only half done. Our second venue, B018, has been running 20 years and is famous worldwide. I am impressed with the set up and instantly take to the club. At 7am the club closes and we cruise back in the morning sunshine … ahh bliss.
Leaving the party life behind I begin to explore the capital. Beirut has seen war and earthquakes and been rebuilt six times. This is Beirut number seven. Some old colonial French buildings have survived and are the most pretty. There are also large swathes of Art Deco. Downtown I lose myself in small crowded streets full of cafes, bookstores and bakeries. The food is out-of-this-world and every mealtime is a treat.Click to view slideshow.
I gorge on homemade humous, mutabal, fattoush and tabouli. Smoking Sheesha is another favourite activity and a great way to relax and talk over the days events. Life is good in Beirut, I must admit.
The following day we get out of town and check out the coast. 30km to the South are nice sandy beaches and a string of alluring beach clubs. We enter Lazy B’s and are greeted at the door by a $30 cover charge. Expensive entrance but once inside you realise it’s fully worth it. Lazy B is the most delightful beach club and the day just melted away inside its lush gardens and pools. We also stumble upon Pierre & Friends beach club, which is more rustic with a pebble beach, and spent an evening in the fabled fishing port of Byblos, the oldest continually-used fishing port in the world. Byblos is also home to the ancient Phoenicians, an ancient semitic civilisation who sailed the Mediterranean and settled in places like Ibiza. There are old ruins here, plenty of churches and some yummy fish restaurants overlooking the harbour.
Lebanon produces fantastic wine and visiting the wine county was a must. 60km to the north of Beirut is the Ixsir vineyard, where we stopped for wine tasting and a tour of the estate. The grapes have been growing here for 200 years and make really delicious wine. If you ask me, Lebanese wine should be more widely recognised and would compete with the best of European wines. Travelling further north we arrive in the historical and picturesque Qadisha Valley (UNESCO World Heritage) which houses some of the oldest crusader monasteries in the world. Nearby are the vestiges of the Great Cedar Forest. The cedar tree is on the flag and was highly prized in antiquity for it’s building qualities.
Returning to Beirut I take in another weekend of parties and reflect upon the trip. Lebanon with it’s many treasures is “The Paris Of The Middle East” and a real jewel. I hope to be back soon but now my attention turns to the next destination. Yes it’s that time of year again … Hello Ibiza.
Here are Tony’s latest 2 mixes online