Be­hind the scenes

B 018: Le­banon's most fa­mous night­club

Lebanon Traveler - - CONTENTS -

Lucia Cz­ernin takes a unique look at Beirut’s most iconic night­club

It’s of­ten said that war is a mil­lion miles away when the Le­banese be­gin to dance. This state­ment couldn’t have been truer when mu­si­cian Naji Ge­bran started host­ing mu­si­cal ther­apy ses­sions in the ‘80s at his sea­side apart­ment lo­cated 18km north of the cap­i­tal. “They used to come be­cause of the mu­sic, to for­get the war,” says Ge­bran. To the tunes of jazz, blues, funk, soul, classical and Ara­bic mu­sic, peo­ple who weren’t able to live their dreams would dance them in­stead. Soon, these ther­apy ses­sions were re­ferred to as B 018, an ode to the se­rial num­ber of the beach chalet host­ing them.

It wasn’t long be­fore the big suc­cess of Ge­bran’s mu­si­cal ther­apy nights led to an over­flow of danc­ing dream­ers and the party re­quired a larger venue. In 1994, the club found its new lo­ca­tion, while main­tain­ing its old ref­er­ence B 018, in Beirut’s Sin el Fil neigh­bour­hood. The site, which had no per­mit, could only be reached via a dirt road and quickly de­vel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for its un­ortho­dox at­mo­sphere. In the same year, Ge­bran’s cousin Bernard Khoury ar­rived from Har­vard Univer­sity burst­ing with cre­ativ­ity and it is he, Le­banon’s most vi­sion­ary ar­chi­tect, who made the club ir­re­vo­ca­bly dis­ap­pear from the sur­face.

B 018 made its home, where it stands to­day, in an un­der­ground bomb shel­ter just east of Beirut in 1998. Khoury’s rather won­drous cof­fin-shaped de­sign for the club, ac­cessed via a metal stair­case, was in­spired by the dark his­tory of its grubby Karantina lo­ca­tion. Here, on Lot #317, lo­cal mili­tia mas­sa­cred Kur­dish and Pales­tinian refugees in Jan­uary 1976. Faced with the dilemma of cre­at­ing a venue of plea­sure against a grim back­drop, Khoury sunk his project in the ground like a com­mu­nal grave. Leav­ing the sur­face of the area to its doomed past, he added a re­tractable roof made of heavy metal, giv­ing rev­el­ers an un­par­al­leled ex­pe­ri­ence of danc­ing un­der Beirut’s night sky. “The en­ergy we in­jected into this sec­tor is in my opin­ion far more wor­thy than what a post­war rhetor­i­cal mon­u­ment could pro­vide,” Khoury said in an ear­lier in­ter­view.

In a city with no short­age of nightspots, B 018 has stood the test of time. It re­mains one of the most successful, and equally con­tro­ver­sial, en­ter­tain­ment projects to have emerged from the re­gion, re­peat­edly be­ing ranked in the top five of the world’s best clubs and bars. Ge­bran feels re­as­sured: “The prizes and awards for B 018 are prov­ing that my dream has come true: to change the mu­si­cal scene in Le­banon, for the bet­ter.”

© DW5 Bernard Khoury. Photo: Jon Shard

© DW5 Bernard Khoury. Photo: Ieva Sau­dar­gaite

© DW5 Bernard Khoury. Photo: Ieva Sau­dar­gaite

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