Friday night is the start of Eid of Fitr, a 2 day holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan, so the Muslim half of town closes down. This holiday is a very important family holiday, so I had planned on not being able to see many friends, and just staying at home (needed to catch up on work and clean the house anyway.) A colleague who knows I am American and not Muslim still asked me if I was going to spend time with family in my village? Seriously? I must fit in better than I think.
So half the town is closed while families are visiting each other. My Armenian friend who lives here (but whose family has homes in Cyprus, Lebanon, Armenia and the UAE that I know of) calls and invites me out for drinks. She is Armenian Orthodox so not celebrating Eid. A friend of her sister’s from the UAE is visiting and she needs to show him around—he is from Sweden, but has lived and worked in Abu Dhabi with my Armenian friend’s sister for the last 1.5 years. She is planning to take him to my favorite city. I had only been there during the day, and loved the small quaint sea port, ancient Crusader’s Castle and souk market. And this would be a chance to get out during the Eid and hang out with a good friend, so I was in.
The nightlife in this town was great! The cobblestone streets of the souk are filled with bars, couches, and stylish chairs at night! Bar right after bar each blasting their own techno/electronic/pop music dj-ed mix down through the cobblestone alleys where souvenirs are sold during the day. Just to get through you had to weave your way through the couches, chairs, and people, lots of people, while watching your step to not trip on a rock that had fallen out of place.
We had a very nice dinner at an expensive restaurant overlooking the castle. For some reason, the wait staff looked like pirates with black bandanas and shirts for the men and the women in low cut red blouses white bandanas—even my friend who has lived here for many years couldn’t figure out what style of “native” dress this was. But the food was great. The fattouch and hummus were a spin off the traditional but very tasty—and it is hard to improve on 1000+ year old traditional foods like fattouch and hummus. The Armenian and the Swede tried the dark house beer, then a red wine with the meal. So to not offend by toasting with my water, I ordered a Pepsi. And of course my Armenian friend insisted on paying for dinner. Hospitality is not lost by this hostess. We finished dinner around 11.
Then we wandered the streets till we found the first bar they wanted to stop in. We didn’t really go in, there is no “in” because everyone is sitting out on the cobblestone streets under the stars framed by the old buildings with French styled architecture. We were there for an hour when the Swede paid the waiter before we could object. Okay, so I have to pick up the tab at the next place—so far I have gotten a free meal and a free fruit punch, I made a mental note.
About 12, after walking the streets for several minutes trying to decide what place had the best music, of course defined by a standard very different than my own. It had been noted that the American was not such a big fan of techno/electronic music, but preferred country music, which you can’t find here. We found a small place with 4 tables next to the entrance of the souk. It was kind of far from the center of the party that I am sure the Swede was longing for, but I appreciated the nice fresh salt water breeze. As they sat drinking their local beers out of longneck green glass bottles, and I sipped my bottled water with a lime wedge, the Swede commented on the old rock arch over the street with a small statute of the Virgin Mary. Oh, how we have disgraced this place! What would the Saints have thought if they could see what we have turned this place into, he exclaimed sipping his beer. My Armenian friend agreed and added that right next to the Virgin Mary is a tattoo parlor. But of course these thoughts were passing and the next topic was the gay club in the capital city that had been recommended to the Swede as a joke—the Armenian’s eyes widened and she burst out laughing. She had been once just to see what it was all about, and quickly recounted the story as best she can between fits of laughter. Then it happened—Johnny Cash was mixed into the electronic music! “I Walk the Line” for a whole 30 seconds! The Swede and Armenian eyes immediately turned to the American who instantly mouthed the words and slapped her knee! We really did find the place with the best music—and the Swede and Armenian each heard some of their favorite songs too, like “Sex on the Beach” and “When Love Takes Over.” I took the bill from our third and final stop of the night. I gave the bartender a $50 bill and got $40 back in change but in the local currency, not USD.
We left the quaint sea port city, turned nightlife hub around 1:30 and made it home just after 2:00AM.
So where am I? Where do I live? Where could a Christine, Peter, and Laura have such a night? Seriously, where could all of this exist at the same time? Who knew such a place even existed? God where have you brought me?