Beirut’s funky Metro al Madina cabaret club

In the city’s cultural centre, this intimate underground venue sums up Lebanon’s diverse and indomitable artistic spirit

Pre-civil war (1975-1990), the Beiruti neighbourhood of Hamra was peopled with poets, academics and revolutionaries. It was considered Beirut’s cultural heart, and you were never far from a theatre or cinema. Today, though more rambunctious, Hamra is still bursting with that artistic spirit, and some of the city’s new talent is nurtured at Metro al Madina, which was “built from rubble and ashes with love and hard work”.

The car horns and drills fade way away as you descend two flights of stairs to enter this underground bar and gig venue. Waiters in big-collared shirts with embroidered name badges serve sazerac cocktails, made with rye whiskey, syrup, absinthe, Peychaud’s bitters and lemon zest.

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