In the age of workaholics and swipes, it is hard to meet people the old-fashioned way. In Beirut, when you’re at a dinner thing, it’s with people you see every 3-6 days instead of new humans who introduce you to other bubbles.
Here are some options for meeting movers & shakers in this tiny town:
A DINNER THING
Every month, two ladies throw a mystery dinner in a mystery location with 20 mystery guests and you have to apply to get a spot. When you #getonthelist, you’re notified that you’ve snagged a seat at the upcoming dinner but you don’t know where the dinner will be held until a few hours before. I’d first heard about this via Vogue’s article on Beirut and, although getting on a list has a pretentious feel as expected when being featured in a luxury publication, the dinners are exquisitely put together, change in terms of theme and style every time, and allow you the opportunity to meet 19 fresh faces in an intimate gathering. Meeting these 19 other strangers (sometimes less because Beirut is the size of a scorpion’s…tail) from various fields is the highlight. The one I attended was a candlelit dinner in a carpentry workshop. I met the Lebanese architect behind the new Mukhi sisters boutique, a brand manager who introduced me to leaves with carpaccio doused in Macallan whisky, a film agent based in the UK who connects directors to projects in our region, and a guy who’s side gigs are the next two activities in this list.
@adinnerthing is what a dinner thing is supposed to entail: encountering the unfamiliar with lots of wine, food, and pretty table settings.
TACOS & DANCING NIGHT
So at A Dinner Thing, I met Mikey Mu who’s an actuary-by-day/event-planner-extraordinaire by night. The first Mikey-event I attended was Tacos & Dancing Night at Taqueria del Jefe in Gemmayzeh. It’s once a month and at random so follow Mikey or me on whatever channel you prefer and stay tuned for the announcement of the next one. Much like the taco joint, it’s a laid back crowd chilling to old school r&b and all the jams that got you through calculus. Was that just me? Math was the only subject I could do to music.
Born in NYC 3 years ago, afikra is a get-together that features two speakers presenting topics on Arab culture that happens every 4-6 weeks. As of this year, afikra is active in 5 major cities (NYC, DC, Dubai, Montreal, and Beirut) and will be launching in 4 more in the next year.
“The name itself is play on words in colloquial Levantine Arabic. When pronounced a’fikra (or 3afikra) it means “by the way”, but if pronounced a fikra it sounds like the English word “a” and the Arabic word “thought”, as in “a thought”.
Stepping away from the name, the mission of afikra is to create a space where our members can congregate and communally explore topics related to the Arab world. We want to build a community of young curious minds who are interested in promoting intellectualism around these topics.
Anyone can be a speaker, all you do is apply. There’s only one condition: you have to have attended an afikra session before. I’ll be speaking at afikra vol4. SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTIONAL PLUG ON MY OWN BLOG.
Mikey also organizes How Have I Not Seen That?, Freelancer Breakfasts, AND happy hours every other Wednesday at Antwork, a coworking space in Hamra. Follow their page on Facebook to be up-to-date. It’s okay, Mikey makes me feel super unproductive too.
CERVANTES (or any language center)
I just wanted to learn Español para viajar por California but apparently this is a thing guys do to pick up chicks. Well, GOOD FOR US LADIES. Any class or skill you decide to learn will introduce you to fellow curious students. It’s like uni days except most of the people in class are also slaves to The Man. Cervantes offers classes with multiple time slots in their Centre Ville location so you’ll have an excuse to roam through the ghost town at least twice a week.
Obviously, I’m going to mention the free Nike running and training clubs since this is where I adopted so many new BFFs. Ain’t nothing like suffering and sweating together via a healthier lifestyle choice that brings you fun peeps in spandex, amirite?
Bonus: Communal tables at cafes and restaurants. Seriously, they’re hotbeds for social interaction and elbow friction. Meow.