Festive market affords unlikely platform for innovation
From retro gaming to cigar trays, businesses use event to introduce new ideas to Lebanon
NACCACHE, Lebanon: Amid a parade of floating elves and the musk of mulled wine, local businesses peddled their wares to shoppers at the Noel avec Elle Oriental Christmas market, a four-day event organized by Elle Oriental magazine.
“Our main purpose was to ensure families can get together and spend some quality time” while also supporting local businesses, Cynthia Darrous-Khoury of the United Nations Information Center, under whose patronage the event was held, told The Daily Star.
Profits from a raffle that will be held, as well as the booth rental fee charged to the businesses, will go to the Rotaract Club of Beirut and the Kids First Association, which provides medical assistance to children who have cancer.
Many of the local businesses present said they’d come to the event to tackle one of their major challenges: introducing unfamiliar concepts to an often reluctant Lebanese market.
One such brand is Couvent Rouge, an organic wine produced in Lebanon. Cynthia Melhem, a representative of the company, founded just a year ago, says that as a Lebanese wine boasting an Arabic label, it has sometimes struggled to compete with European competitors.
But most people who tasted Couvent Rouge at the booth liked it, she adds. And those who purchase it support a good cause: The vineyards are cultivated on former cannabis plantations, and the farmers make more money now than than they used to, enabling them to stay on their lands.
Another vendor at the market is the Lebanese furniture line Dusted Arts, whose booth presents miniature fireplaces, brass lamps and what the business calls a “cigar tray,” made from concrete, that holds an ashtray, a candle, a cigar cutter and a whisky glass.
“What we do is about creativity,” Elie Moughamess, a co-designer for the brand, says. “We’re not copypasting, we’re not Googling, we’re not getting new ideas from other people. We’re creating our own ideas.”
The Lebanese market is, however, less amenable now to expensive luxury goods, he says.
So Dusted Arts’ products are designed “to deliver premium quality at affordable prices,” the most expensive at the booth being $200.
And a few steps away from the main stage stands a video game tent.
At one booth are TVs rigged with Super Mario Bros, Sonic and other games from the 1980s.
“I am a legal consultant but my hobby is old video games,” Hadi Ramadan, owner of Retro Games Beirut, which runs the booth, told The Daily Star.
The Lebanese market isn’t familiar with retro video games, he says, and children especially tend to prefer gorier, modern ones on new consoles like the PlayStation 4.
But, Ramadan adds, retro games can offer educational value as well as joy, and says he has been overjoyed to see parents relishing the chance to share their childhood gaming memories with their kids.
“[The stand] seems to make people of all ages so happy.”
The Noel avec Elle Christmas village will run until Dec. 9 at the Zero 4 restaurant complex in Naccache. Admission is free of charge.