Fes­tive mar­ket af­fords un­likely plat­form for in­no­va­tion

From retro gam­ing to cigar trays, busi­nesses use event to in­tro­duce new ideas to Le­banon

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LUBNAN - By Be­hbod Ne­gah­ban

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.

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