As seekers and promoters of Arabic visual culture and its manifestation in design and typography, ArabicTypography.com has put together a selection of must-see gems in Beirut - Lebanon, that would interest designers, typographers and visual culture enthusiasts alike, whether visiting or residing in this up-beat city.
1- Book Bazar
Book Bazar is a unique little bookshop in the Hamra district in Beirut that sells and buys old books and magazines. To the fanatic designer, this little shop filled with shelves and disorganized piles of books, is paradise. The old Arabic publications provide rich visual content full of inspirational vernacular graphics. Colorful and nostalgic book covers present some interesting design solutions and offer a flash back towards decades-old Arabic graphic design styles. Even the simplest titles of books and magazines generate particular areas of interest: a design approach filled with great calligraphic compositions and innovative typographic lettering. In short, Book Bazar is a typographic treat: you can spend hours digging for inspiration on future design projects or just pure pleasure for the serious collector.
2- Hayete Guesthouse
The Lebanese shabby-chic-styled Hayete Guesthouse, located in the Ashrafieh district, has become a favorite accommodation spot in the city center. Its charming and distinctive flavor sets it apart from the plethora of pre-packaged hotel chains spreading around the city. Set in a historic 19th-century building, Hayete Guesthouse encapsulates the golden age feel of an authentic Lebanese home when 'the Paris of the Middle East' was at its peak . Authentic vintage tiles floor the rooms, typical of that period; the overall decor is artistic and elegant. Their spacious rooms, adorned with hand-picked retro furniture make for a great backdrop to a 1942 genuine Lebanese-styled photo-shoot!
As the small B&B offers only four rooms, make sure to book well in advance! www.hayete-guesthouse.com
3- Paper Cup
Paper cup is a small bookstore in a charming genuine area, Mar Mikhael. It is probably the best specialized art and design bookshop in the city, if not the only one! Its modern interior hones long shelves of organized books and publications of all visual art and communication disciplines. Every international major design magazine can be found here. More importantly, a significant collection of local publications and books are to be found - which makes this store a great way to get an overview on design publishing in Lebanon. After a long stroll in the city, Paper Cup is ideal place for a cup of coffee and some quiet time browsing a rich specialized collection. www.papercupstore.com
4- Street Typography Spotting
Hamra street and its neighborhood is an excellent location to experience the local urban-typographic scene of Beirut. A walk around this busy commercial neighborhood will provide a rich experience in environmental typography. Rows of posters on virtually every corner give an overview of the local poster design practice as well as an outlook on various cultural events taking place in the city. A mix of old pre-civil-war and contemporary store signs provide a rich calligraphic and typographic inspiration. Hand lettering and street stenciled Arabic typography are wonderful popular graphics to be documented. This walk can always end at Hamra Café, a design concept reflecting the rich visual culture of this neighborhood with a sharp contrast between past and present.
Kitsch is a unique concept store that is located in the well-preserved and hyped Gemmayze area in an old authentic Lebanese house,. This boutique-café-bakery offers a variety of items under one roof. Its typical Lebanese architecture- with its charming floor tiles, arches and window details- is probably its best design added value. The colorful interior and pattern rich furniture makes this place a cozy location for coffee and homemade cupcakes. The store's collections include fashion pieces, bags, accessories and books. One book in the collection stands out: Shop Beirut, published by ABCD Publishing. Beyond just a regular shopping guide, this beautiful publication provides a rich visual journey into Lebanese culture through its art & design scene. www.kitschconcept.com
6- Beirut Art Center
Beirut Art Center (BAC) is a non-profit association, space and platform dedicated to contemporary art in Lebanon. Set in an industrial neighborhood, the stand-alone building of whitewashed cement, is a contrast against a visually stunning backdrop of small warehouses and factories, car dealerships and squat buildings that bear the scars of bullets from Lebanon’s wars. The aim of the center is to produce, present and promote local and international contemporary art and cultural practice, and hosts frequently changing solo and group shows. This is very relevant in a place where there is no contemporary art museum. www.beirutartcenter.org
7- Tawlet Restaurant
The widely acclaimed and highly publicized Tawlet restaurant is a spin-off from Lebanon’s first farmers’ market - Souk El Tayyeb. Tawlet, found in Mar Mikhael, offers local organic food and fresh produce within a modern interior mixed with traditional and rustic Lebanese furniture. Depending on the time of year and the chef, you get a wonderful distinct Lebanese culinary experience accompanied by a fantastic list of Lebanese wines and arak. The diverse mix of hearty tradition and modern interior, both in the atmospheric and culinary experience, makes this place a common favorite among the design-conscious crowd. www.tawlet.com
8- Khan al-Saboun
Just 20 km out of Beirut, the historic city Saida hosts Lebanon's first soap museum. Khan al-Saboun is set in an old medieval house built in the 13th century, later transformed into a soap workshop in the 19th century to meet the needs of the hammams. The well laid-out galleries with trilingual (Arabic, English, French) explanations take you through the entire soap-making process, from the massive stone tub where the raw ingredients were mixed together, to the shaping and cutting of the still-warm liquid, leading to our favorite part of casting and stamping charming Arabic calligraphy into the soap. These cute items make for great gifts, sold in the stylish museum shop. You can also buy books and locally produced bath products.