Faqra is a sprawling gated resort community at the bottom of the Ferraya ski slopes, where many rich Lebanese [mostly Christians, but also Sunnis], including the richest of them all, the Hariri family, keep "chalets". “Chalet” apparently refers to anything from a condo to a castle.
Responding swiftly to the laws of supply and demand, many Beirut nightclubs and restaurants moved their operations to Ferraya. The place is usually most popular during the winter, but this is no time to be picky about your party location. The nightclubs Element and Cactus, Al Balad restaurant of downtown Beirut, and Crepaway have all sought refuge in the hills. Crystal, a bar frequented by rich teenagers on Monot street in Achrafieh imports champagne and a sense of normalcy. Not even a war can put an end to its famed ritual of wheeling out a $5000 bottle of Magnum champagne to the pubescent buyer who is temporarily engulfed in a spotlight, for all to see. Reservations in a restaurant are necessary a few days in advance, parking impossible. Children are free to roam around on their bikes with their Filipino nannies in stiffly-ironed uniforms chasing after them.
I did not hear any news; there were no TVs blasting Al-Manar or even Al Jazeera; not in homes, not in bars, not at the pool, not at the club. Up there, you cannot hear the bombs, you do not see the smoke. My only exposure to the outside world came from a Spanish girl baking in the sun at the side of the pool. She occasionally retrieved news summaries from her cellphone, careful not to spoil her freshly manicured nails, and read them out loud: Ooh, Isra-ayl wizdrooh fram Bint Jbeil...”
Followed by, “Ooh, I zink I got sahnbernt. Let's dreenk Vodka Toneec. It's foh o'clock. Heppi hour!"
The owner of the bar and nightclub Igloo was in a near panic when he spied my camera. He grabbed my arm: Don't take pictures of people; a man might be here with a woman other than his wife". His anxious wife hissed, "It's not a joke. People are dying in the streets", as two champagne bottles and a chocolate cake whisked by, amidst a spectacle of flare candles, whooping and clapping. I asked her politely if it is the documentation or the act itself that renders this grotesque. She scowled at me, while her husband-- a fat, bald man in a T-shirt that says "The man" with an arrow pointing upwards, "The Legend" with an arrow pointing towards the general vicinity of his crotch, carefully selected music appropriate for the occasion: one meaningful song, followed by a fun song, followed by a tearjerker. A techno remix of Elton John's "Don't Go Breaking My heart", comes on the heels of Madonna's "Don't Cry for me Argentina", followed by John Lennon's "Imagine", followed by everyone's favorite, "I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor.
They don’t want their clientele to feel guilty, someone explained to me. Do you really think it will effect their spending and consumption, though? Guilt might be lucrative; people will drink more, I suggested.
Another woman wearing blue contact lenses, nearly spilled a cocktail over her little red faux-diamond encrusted dress, which was miraculously strap free: "Why do you want to photograph us, to make us feel guilty for having a good time?" She agreed to have her photo taken only after I guess which celebrity she resembles. "Penelope Cruze", I estimated, trying to make out her facial features through the thicket of makeup and silicone. "Julia Roberts!", she replied, before posing for the camera with her girlfriends.
A girl at the private pool club, informed me that in Byblos, a majority Christian port town, "we have 12,000 Shia", some of whom hoisted a Hezbollah flag to the top of their apartment building. The police rushed in to remove it. "Shia women all carry guns", she says. How else has the war effected you? "We are all unemployed now; there's no work in marketing and promotion."