When you’re American and you tell people you’re heading to Beirut on vacation, nobody will believe you. “Sure,” they will crack, “Beirut makes a lot more financial sense than North Korea.” Perhaps after a quick Google Maps search to remind themselves where Lebanon actually is, they will inform you that it shares a border with Syria, and that Beirut is but 70 short miles from Damascus. Here’s the thing: People in the rest of the world have been partying here for ages. In the Middle East, Lebanon is considered a beacon of peace and progressivism. It’s where rich kids from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Gulf buy their luxury goods and blow off steam. I spent three nights in Beirut this spring, and the only time I ever felt unsafe was when my Uber driver couldn’t figure out his GPS. Yes, the city was once wracked by civil war, but that war ended 27 years ago. Beirut today is a gorgeous place, a picture of cosmopolitanism, with a promenade along the Mediterranean Sea and maybe the best nightlife I’ve ever witnessed. The weather’s balmy. The food’s incredible. You should go. Here’s how to do it.
The subterranean nightclub B018 is to Beirut what Berghain is to Berlin, a venue so famous that it’s almost a cliché. Whatever. The place rules. It’s a former bomb bunker located in the middle of a circular parking lot, and it’s emblematic of Beirut’s civic disposition—which, as one prominent Middle East scholar puts it, is to make something useful out of its war-torn history and keep on dancing till the world ends. Anyway, there’s no building: just a staircase down, down, down.
When you finally reach the dance floor, you may have to pay a cover charge. Mine was $50 and included three drinks, which by the standards of New York City constituted a bargain. From there it was pretty much like being in an American club, in that the music was Drake and Migos and the other usual suspects that get played everywhere around the world that people gather to have a good time. But it was different from an American dance club in that the venue was not populated exclusively with douche nozzles.