BEIRUT: With catchy music, cool clothes and a lively crowd of technology mavens, the evening’s event left no doubt that geek can indeed be chic.
On a hot and sticky Thursday night, Beirut’s fifth annual Geekfest, which took place in Gemmayzeh’s Alleyway, brought together around 300 members of Lebanon’s Twitter and blogging community through live presentations broadcast on a large screen.
This year’s theme was fashion, typically not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of computer nerds. But some participants made a persuasive case that unconventional clothing can be appealing if worn with confidence and verve.
Beirut fashion blogger and tweep Maya Metni explained that “Le Geek, C’est Chic,” and provided the audience with “a practical guide” to dressing like a geek. For women, this often includes baggy clothes and large eyeglasses. Metni credited Yves St. Laurent for starting the trend of understated and practical yet sophisticated clothing.
Next, Lebanese musician and director Toni Yammine praised the enthusiasm of participants in a recent competition he hosted, and emphasized the importance of the online community.
In line with the geeky fashion theme, “self-tracker” Hind Hobeika, a mechanical and electrical engineer, gave the audience a guide to some of the best self-tracking devices she has come across – from counting calories to measuring sleep.
She also seized the opportunity to plug her own product, ButterflEYE – goggles that track a swimmer’s heartbeat rate under water. Hobeika said that she has discovered an entire community of self-trackers organized throughout the world in different localities.
While the online world has become renowned for tracking and gauging the latest trends, Beshr Kayyali hopes that its ability to connect with everyone will help spread and promote independent Arabic music. Through his website Sawt.com, he provides users with the opportunity to do just that.
In the spirit of making technology accessible to all, Bassam Jalgha used open source media to demonstrate how to build an audio synthesizer in 10 minutes. Elie Habib, founder of Anghami, a computerized music storage unit for the region, described how his project enables music to be a springboard for social and other networking.
The event, organized by Beirut's Online Collaborative, wrapped up with a fashion show by Loryne Atoui, a graphic designer who has put her skills to work in the fight against breast cancer. Other fashion bloggers and designers also participated. While some models strutted their stuff in colorful graphic T-shirts, others wore bras specifically designed for women who had undergone a mastectomy, a way to draw attention to an issue that some say is still largely taboo in the region.
The fashion show brought together Lebanon’s online community, including engineers, entrepreneurs and bloggers, and encouraged the idea that being fashionable is for anyone – even the geek who doesn’t fit the conventional standards of cool and beautiful.
“It’s a nice statement that not everyone needs to have model bodies,” said Beirut-based political blogger Gino Raidy, who postponed his flight to Dubai when asked to participate in the fashion show. He added, “I didn’t think I’d get the chance to be in another fashion show again.”