Monday, September 07, 2009
By Cagil Kasapoglu
Special to The Daily Star
Nautical Nightlife in Beirut
BEIRUT: It’s time to set sail, Captain! Beirut’s party lovers are “on board” and heading out to the Mediterranean in a new floating club, The Blue Dawn. The boat represents a welcome change for the clubbers of Beirut. Tired of squeezing into the packed bars of the capital, the city’s party-goers are happy to find their “sea legs” and depart upon this new floating party-zone.
It’s believed to be a post-war first: regular night-time cruises off the coast, from Dbayyeh to Raouche, to cater a sudden upsurge in tourist activity.
“It’s not unexpected, for Beirut,” said Anastasia Khatr, a 21-year-old Lebanese-Greek student who passes her summer vacation in Beirut, visiting family and friends.
“There is nolimit for us. Lebanese people would even party on the moon if there was a chance,” she added.
While partying with her friends on board the Blue Dawn, Khatr recalled a previous floating experience in 2006 with other Lebanese acquitances: a similar crown on a similar summer night, but for a starkly different reason.
“Three years ago, I was in a military boat being evacuated to Greece because of the war. Back then, I was hiding in the basement [sic] of the ship. Now I am on board and partying,” she said.
The Blue Dawon Night Club tours depart from Dbayyeh Marina every Friday.
Scheduled to set sail at 11 p.m., the boat often departs closer to midnight, when all the table bookers arrive.
The Blue Dawn was built in the 1960 for use as a German naval unit, before chalking-up years of service as a commercial transport in the Baltic Sea, ferrying passengers between Norwegian and Denmark.
Since 2004, she’s been the property of Fadi Hachem, a local physician who transformed the boat into a floating nightclub in 2009.
“It’s a sister ship to the Christina O,” Hachem said, referring to the boat that used to be owned by Greek billionaire Christina Onassis.
“Those two are the only [vessels] of this type existing in this world,” said Hachem, pointing out the classic design that has remained in place both inside and outside the boat. “It’s kept its form, after a few reconstruction operations,” he added, showing off the antique ornaments distributed around the Blue Dawn.
The idea to transform the boat into a nightclub was pitched by Bassem Khazal, who also owns a bar in Gemmayzeh, an area well known for its nightlife.
“It was time for a change in night life,” Khazal recalled, smoking a thick cigar.
Dressed in a perfectly-ironed naval uniform, Captain George Semaan comforts his passengers, detailing the security measures in place for those who might have trepidations about taking their party to sea: “There are 500 life jackets and a sufficient number of rafts for all the passengers. We never had any problem, and we never will.”
Loaded with a seemingly endless supply of alcohol and food from the local fast-food chain BarBar, the luxurious boat weighs anchor and heads north to Jounieh, allowing guests to absorb the beautiful night-time view.
Waving at Harissa on the one hand, the crown keeps busy taking pictures to be posted on their Facebook profile the next day. Composed of mainly Lebanese youth, the clubbers dance the night away on the top of the deck.
The clientele have various reasons for giving the Blue Dawn a try. For Michael, a 22-year-old student at the Lebanese American University, the boat offers an ideal opportunity to socialize.
“Honestly, I’m here to pick up a beautiful Lebanese girl,” he said, pointing the group of brunettes in short skirts and brightly-polished nails.
It would be difficult for Leila, a 20-year-old native of Jbeil, to conceal her reason for taking the five-hour cruise as she poses for a cameraman who’s busy gathering shots for a well-known Lebanese society magazine.
“I want to be photographed, and I’d go anywhere that makes me feel attractive,” she exclaimed, after directing kisses at the lens.
The music is toned down at around 4 a.m. as the boat returns to Dbayyeh Marina, its arrival heralded by the muezzin’s call to prayer.
While the revellers order their last calls, those left on land tuck into their final meal of suhur, before a rigorous 15 hours of Ramadan fasting begin – and both groups look forward to catching up on some much needed daytime sleep.
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