Coffee has always been a stimulus for conversation and gathering. It has travelled across the globe and developed. Today, coffee houses are well spread out throughout the world and they are places that can bring people together as well as unite cultures. History always propels debate, but the general consensus on the history of the coffeehouse, seems to be that they started in Mecca around 1500's, and were banned about a decade after they first originated, for fear that they were a place where political sentiments were discussed. This ban did not stop coffeehouses from existing, as they then spread to Damascus, Constantinople/Istanbul, Vienna and across Europe.
That fear of political talk was probably in its place, throughout its history, coffeehouses or coffee shops, have been a space for gatherings, whether for political discussion, or for artists, writers and creatives to meet, exchange ideas and debate on the stories of the day. Many historical moments, such as the Café de Procope being home to the French Revolutionaries, Marat, Robespierre, or Danton, literary novels such as the Coffeehouse by Naguib Mahfouz or paintings such as Otto Dix's "Bildnis der Journalistin Sylvia von Harden/Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden 1926, take place or reference coffee houses. Around the world, the coffeehouse is intertwined with all our histories and cultures.
Lebanon is home to many coffee shops, they are a space to engage in conversation or gather ones thoughts and ideas. A morning wake-up delight or for a lingering afternoon. The devastation in Beirut on the 4th August 2020, left many of the coffeehouses around the areas of Gemmayze, Mar Mikhaël, and Achrafieh in ruins. On the 25th August, in a press conference, The Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs & Pastries, took the decision to no longer acknowledge the state, stop paying them taxes, start their own initiative for tourism and reopen during the imposed lockdown.
Rebuilding has started thanks to the civil society. Most coffee shops have Gofundme pages, if you can support please do, coffee shops engage the community, propel conversation, participate in the economy, and bring a smile to everyone's morning and a warmth to the afternoons. While unfortunately, we can't name all the coffee shops in Beirut affected, below are some we often visit when in Beirut. We wish them all a speedy recovery.
Kalei Coffee shop
An artwork at Urbanista Gemmayze torn by the devastation
Urbanista are currently delivering to all Beirut and plan to hopefully reopen after lockdown.
Glass not ice!
Papercup Store, fusing bookshop and café. This is a picture we took a year before the devastation
These two pictures were taken by the team at Aaliya's Books a week apart.
Tawlet is a restaurant, but you can also enjoy many coffees there.
This is a picture we took, of an art poster up on their wall before the devastation.