Preserving the past: Metro al Madina

Having witnessed the destruction of so many Beirut buildings over the past two decades, it’s refreshing to see some businessmen interested in preserving the past.

One such venture is Metro Al Madina (above), a relatively new bar and stage venue on Hamra street.

Instead of tearing down the old in favor of glitzy furnishings, Metro tries to take a step back into the past by reviving Hamra’s theatre and cinema scene, which peaked in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today most of Hamra’s theaters have been boarded up, while others reportedly sold to developers. Rather than reinvest in rejuvenating this once-vibrant entertainment scene, most big investments in the neighborhood go toward glass and steel residential towers and trendy bars and restaurants, often modeled on outlets in the West.

But Metro Al Madina has traded tapas for Lebanese mezze, served to patrons while watching a 1950s style variety show… in Arabic:

And it was a packed event, with the audience singing along to old folkloric songs. No mind-numbing, unintelligible techno lyrics. Good for them.

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