I have had some of the craziest nights out in my life when being in the Middle East. Cities like Beirut, Istanbul and Damascus offer an amazing night life, where people put away their troubles at the door and do their very best to have fun, not limited by the bar closing at 1 am or queuing for a humiliating number of hours before maybe being let in. Yes, I have been clubbing in New York too, I still consider my Middle East partying experiences the very best!
When I first started travelling in the Middle East I was surprised by how people I met could spend a fortune on their outfits and drinks when I knew so many of them were struggling just to get by; students depending on their parents and recent graduates with low salaries in ridiculously expensive cities. But even if the show-off hurts the pockets, I learned to have fun and not care about tomorrow’s worries – a good lesson for a Lutheran Swede.
One night in Istanbul me and my girlfriend took the bus from our gloomy hostel and hopped off in Taksim area, walking around aimlessly until we heard some reggae music and popped in to the Riddim bar, that still exists, but at that time only was a small bar crowded with the alternative people that Taksim loves , or vice versa. We had no plans for the night, not the right outfits and not enough money, but we quickly made friends with the bartender who treated us to drinks, then early morning made us company to a rooftop club where people made out, smoked pot and discussed how to get away from doing the military service, until they fell asleep on the many pillows on the top floor. On the street downstairs a fight broke out and someone pulled a gun (but no one got shot), the party continued anyways. At 6 or 7 am the tired staff that wanted had to shake everyone awake and force them into the elevator. A night like that would never had happen in the quiet little university town I was living in back home.
But a girls night out for me in the Middle East, can also mean playing tawla and smoking sheesha until late hours, while discussing the most important things in life; love and relationships. I guess these things never change?
Photo: copyright Sweden and the Middle East Views Blog