Sunday, July 18, 2010

Different shades of white

My first visitor might be living in the bling that is Dubai, but it's the light of Lebanon that charmed him more - the light reflecting off two very white Lebanese must-sees. One in the form of a rooftop lounge known as White (no guesses as to the interior - well, exterior - decor colour scheme) and the other a luxury beach resort in Jiyeh called Orchid (also all decked in the neutral colour).
The thing with White is that it's the kind of place you have to reserve a table at in order to find a seat - and these tables are reserved a month in advance. Plus, they prefer to give them to Lebanese people (the ones without a South African accent). I still don't quite get why there's this big thing about sitting around tables at nightclubs in Lebanon, but it was explained to me that even though people arrive at 11pm after dinner and have no intention of sitting down to a meal at White, they have become so used to the practice of reserving a table (since the good old Lebanese heydays) that they've now come to expect to have a seat to sit at and a table to leave all their bags on. This means that the space for dancing is limited, and everyone dances around their table, so there isn't the kind of dancing and mingling I'm used to, and when I did try to do the mingling thing (let's just say there was a very good-looking Lebanese man two tables down), it was not well-received for me to be bashing past the stiff-dancing Lebanese dollies trying to keep their make-up from smudging down their perspiring summer-night faces onto their Botox lips. After my edging past, they immediately gave a shove of their cleavage, readjusting it in their designer dresses while they did little tap-taps on their red-soled Louboutins.
I must add here that when Swiss-Dubai visitor sent his girlfriend a message that we were heading out on the town, she sent him one back asking whether we were going to White. It seems it was recently written about in a Swiss newspaper as the place to see and be seen in Beirut. And somehow, it is. Which makes it even more surprising that Swiss-Dubai visitor and I managed to get in without a reservation. A month ago three of us gals tried entering - we'd gotten dressed up especially - and were turned away by the burly bouncers without so much as a 'sorry we made you put on such high heels'. So this time we got there early - early in Lebanon means 9pm. This clever tactic scored us two seats at the white Perspex bar.
This luck is what ricocheted us into a weekend of all-white decadence, thanks to a wild Lebanese girl who was seated next to me at the long bar. She insisted I tell the guy at the end of the bar to move up and make everyone else do the same so that I could fit my chair in, as it had been edged out as soon as we were shown our place, by the guy who sat down before us. This meant that I was sitting right on top of Swiss-Dubai visitor and wild child, forcing us to become big chommies. While Swiss-Dubai visitor treated me to a colourful (and very expensive) bar dinner and cocktails of every description (we may have tested the entire menu!), two of wild child's friends were chased off their bar seats to make way for two higher-paying gents. Of course this didn't go down well with wild child, who put up a big fuss with all the White managers, but unfortunately this didn't help and they ended up sitting at a table behind us until the people who had reserved that table arrived - and then they just hovered nearby.
Wild child was livid. She's been a White regular since last year, when she used to go every weekend, even getting a turn at the DJ booth now and then. Everyone who works there knows her by name, she isn't afraid to spend on booze and tips well (she didn't tell me this, I witnessed it myself!), so it was a real slap in the face.
At the end of our night, when it was just wild child, Swiss-Dubai visitor and I left, and we'd decided it was time to depart, a bottle of Moet & Chandon arrived in front of us at the bar (the tiny space we were still confined to, where we were dancing like wild-child converts). Attached to it were fireworks, spitting sparkles. We were each poured a glass and offered it by the barman - this was White management's way of apologising to wild child for the incident. And so we drank some more. That's where things went downhill...
There was an incident with a dropped glass that landed on my knee and foot, causing three blood-oozing gashes. But there was no pain (thank goodness for alcohol), so the dancing continued when my favourite Lebanese party song played (I wanna flyyyyyy with you babyyyy... or something like that). Then there was the attempt at chatting to an engaged guy (bat!), and then the drops of blood on a hotel lobby floor when showing Swiss-Dubai a cool artwork upon leaving White. That's where you say thank goodness for the taxi...
Understandably, waking up with a sore knee and an even more damaged head and very dry mouth leaves you wanting to veg out completely and drink lots of water. There's no better place to do this that at Orchid beach resort. Heck, there were even waves beyond the all-white decadence, that I kinda felt like I was 'hanging' back home. The Ferraris, Porsches and other slick wheels parked outside were an immediate indication of what we would find inside. Model-like bikini babes and, well, Lebanese men (I'm still not convinced of the hotness of these men). Private plunge pools and cordoned-off sections are found a little way from the circular common pool - which is anything but common - and white loungers are dotted all around the white, wooden decks, where waiters and other towel-carrying 'slaves' cater to your every whim.
I remember looking up from White, into the night sky, and asking my companions when the angels were going to appear. It seemed fitting. But then I guess all the angels were busy preparing to appear at Orchid the next day. That's what too much whiteness does to you...

(Please excuse the photo quality - they were all taken on my camera.)

We arrived at White just as the candle-ligting 'ceremony' was taking place.

With Swiss-Dubai visitor. Note the empty tables behind us. Three hours later one couldn't move an inch through that space.

One of the barmen.

An open rooftop bar in the middle of Beirut.

Louboutins are mandatory.

Outside Orchid.

Inside Orchid.

The Mediterranean on one side and the mountain on the other.

One of the private pools that can be rented out for the day.

The common pool for everyone who pays $20 for the day at Orchid.

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