BEIRUT: Ball drops, light shows and rooftop fireworks, revelers rang in the New Year at parties across Lebanon’s capital.
Beirutis greeted 2013 drained from holiday spending, endless feasting and all-night open bars – but happily entertained nonetheless. The belle of this New Year’s ball: Haifa Wehbe.
Wehbe performed alongside Assi al-Halani at a sold-out New Year’s party at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure center. About 1,500 people gathered for a three-course meal and open premium bar, party poppers and champagne.
At midnight, a specially designed LED lightshow led the crowd in counting down to 2013 and the entrance of Lebanese pop diva Wehbe.
“The show was spectacular,” said Natasha Salameh, CEO and managing partner of Cameleon MGT, who organized the event.
The show was full of surprises. Halani brought in special performer Murad Bouriki, winner of The Voice, a reality-TV singing competition. Wehbe invited her French choreographer, who put together what Salameh described as a “great performance.”
Next door at BIEL’s Royal Pavilion, pop stars Maya Diab and Ragheb Alama greeted 2013 in song at a similarly lavish event.
Across town in Karantina, a youthful crowd gathered for B018’s New Year’s celebration inspired by New York City’s Time Square. The classic American celebration, aired on televisions across the country, features live performances from major artists and a midnight ball drop ending in a flurry of confetti and fireworks.
“At midnight, people gathered upstairs and in the club, and held their breath, screaming the countdown as fireworks lit up the city while the most colorful ball dropped,” said MIX FM, a co-host, in a post-party statement.
Table and bar tickets sold out days before B018’s event, and partygoers received themed goodies, such as stickers of Time Square, hats shaped like the Statue of Liberty and party glasses imported from New York City.
The party continued to 7 a.m. so that partiers could watch the real Time Square ball drop in Manhattan.
For those looking for a less extravagant night out, many brought their own booze and hung around Hamra’s crowded side streets.
Young people packed Hamra’s Alleyway, its venues reporting a mixture of sold-out success stories and less-than-standard nights of expensive booze and cover charges.
February 30, fast becoming Hamra’s most popular bar, sold out its New Year’s open bar deal about 10 days ago, a bartender said. Other open bars along the cozy street, such as Dany’s, attracted huge crowds.
Another Alleyway bartender estimated 30 percent of the crowds were free loaders, who gathered with their cheap, store-bought booze to take advantage of the party atmosphere.
Drinking from bottles of Almaza and cheap sparkling wine, the boa-and-mask-bedecked crowd erupted into five minutes of cheering following the end of 2012, the bartender said.
As the last of the staff and patrons left the Alleyway, those with more stamina moved to Bobo, a quaint pub serving drinks into Tuesday afternoon.
Some of Beirut’s newer bars celebrated their very first New Year’s with smashing success.
Uberhaus, Hamra’s new underground nightclub, sold out their tables before the weekend.
“Yeah, it was really great,” said Gus Naamani, ambassador for Uberhaus. The new bar celebrated with bartenders in their signature tutus and pixie up-dos, live DJs and an open bar.
Now that the festivities are over, Beirut is getting back to the daily grind and looking forward to a peaceful and prosperous 2013.
Posting on her Twitter page after her New Year’s Eve performance, Haifa Wehbe wrote: “365 days with 365 new pages to write a story of happiness and success. Let’s make it the best of all stories.”