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DSC01198Beirut is a cacophony of delights. And ArabNet is fantastic. Mind you, it’s nothing too exotic. Many of the faces have already said their bit in Dubai, some several times. I told Omar Christidas, the man behind ArabNet, as much when i interviewed him. But it’s not only about the stories.

It’s about creating an environment where people bound in and out of rooms, exchanging hugs, kisses, shoulder squeezes and ideas and gossip. I ran into @meinlebanon, courtesy an intro by our very own @Mich1Mich of #MichCafe blog fame, and also entire squadrons of other delightful people.

The atmosphere is truly electric. The moshpit of ArabNet has hundreds packed into a couple of halls. One can surf the morass of humanity, from one end to the other, and back again. Without ever getting feet on the ground.

 

The staple food at ArabNetME? Canapes and calamari. Adequately geeky food for a brilliantly geeky event.
The Ideathon, where entrepreneurs got up on stage to pitch their ideas to investors, was gorgeous. So were some discussions on new marketing techniques involving QR codes. Nothing brand new, but still fascinating. The social media panels were like social media panels anywhere: they basically went along the lines of: socmed’s great. Use it. Great for business. Great for flossing teeth. Great for curing male impotence. Great for getting women to orgasm. Great for testicular cancer. Etc.

Ossama Fayed, the man behind the Oasis 500 fund brilliantly explained the difference between venture capitalists and angel investors into the creative lab twofour54 mic I was carrying around for the occasion. You can check out that video interview, and many others, at www.creativelab.ae.

There were many great people to be met, all very generous with their time in front of people and camera.
And then there was the ArabNet party in Solidaire. It’s the newer part of Beirut, with Mango rubbing shoulders with D&G. Very much an al fresco shopping mall.

A posse of us Dubai types, along with a few Beiruti friends, traipsed to Jameyze for a few afters. Meho of Spot On and I played at tag with our cameras. In this instance, her’s turned out to be bigger than mine.

There’s a lesson to be learnt. Actually, quite a few.

a) Bars in Jameyze stop serving at two on a school night.

b) Jameyze is a residential area too, which means you can’t really be very noisy very late.

c) Last, it is possible to practically get kicked out of a bar at two in the morning for singing too loudly. Even in Beirut. When there’s a 70 year old man living upstairs. And when Adam Flinter of ex-Gulf News fame joins you in singing the refrains of Hallelujah. You’re asked to stuff David’s secret chord where the sun doesn’t shine.

Another lesson – sometimes a point can be honed with utter finesse. Let’s assume (with a healthy dose of this really happened):

I’m at a petrol station, buying cigarettes at weirdly wonderful o clock in the morning. I get ensconced with love. After the purchase, I get invited to an impromptu round table political discussion- in the station’s convenience store. A discussion that involves politics and identity and very strong Beiruti mixes. Where it’s mostly the good stuff, and very little in the way of diluters.

They ask, I tell them. I’m Pakistani. They start talking about Kandahar. Bad place, they say. How do you cope? Well, I say. Kandahar is not in Pakistan. It’s in Afghanistan. Different country. Different language. I can’t go there. Pah, they say. Same area. Same same. How do you manage?

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so I took a drag and  a sip. And a sip and a drag. And then asked: “How’s your President Bashar? Is he stepping down yet?”

“Bashar?” they ask, with horrified expressions. Yakhi, he’s Syrian.Ana Lebnani. Bashar –  hammar, khanzeir.

Same language, I say. Same people. They’re in your country all the time. Same same. Why don’t you like your president?

I may not get invited back to that discussion, but there were no fisticuffs. Only, only in Beirut…

Notes on the images:

There’s two trees incorporated into the design of an underground parking lot in one.

The girl with the funky hair was our bartender, Nancy. She liked our rendition of Hallelujah.

Many of the pictures are from the ArabNetMe get together in Solidaire.

There’s one of Meho (Maha Mahdy) tagging me as I snap her.

The rest, you lot can figure out yourself.