“1975” is the name of a nightclub in Muno Street which lies in east Beirut. It is the street that manages to rob Downtown of many of its people and competes with its diverse and attractive climate, making it a milestone on the Lebanese tourist map.
The name “1975” may be insignificant for the average tourist or passing visitor, or even the new generation of the Lebanese youth. It may be perceived as a mere number within the crowded nightlife of Beirut or it may even be understood as another witty Lebanese way of naming things, using the art of wordplay to arouse curiosity and admiration. Yet, 1975 is a point of history worthy of much attention by those who know it and lived through it but wished it never happened. However in reality, it did happen. At the beginning of spring in 1975, the Lebanese civil war erupted, lasting for 15 long years, destroying all of Beirut, its economy and its tourism.
Before this, Beirut was a vibrant and exciting city that never slept and was full of life, not only in Muno Street which is renowned for its student hostels and old buildings, but throughout the city in Rawsheh, Hamraa as well as other parts.
After 1975, Beirut was similar to a ghost town in that it would use the morning hours for work then close in order to protect its inhabitants from the bullets of snipers, misled explosive shells or some dirty street war.
Muno Street was a centre for all of this as it remained the division line between the east and the west of the city.
Thus, the name ‘1975’ seems controversial as well as the shop that takes that
name and borrows its decoration from that memory.
‘1975’ now is a unique nightspot that has been established amid a street-block that from the outside begins with a row of sandbags on the platform attracting one’s attention to the scene behind it and reminds those who lived through that period of an image that they are unlikely to forget. However, curiosity will drive you in for sure and attract you to the street-block rather than trying to avoid it as was the case during the war.
On entry to this exceptional attraction, one should bravely prepare to hear the sounds of war such as a shell exploding. This explosion is an important part of the theme of the place, as is the decoration and more audio and visual effects.
After entering, one will further hear the voice of Fairuz and the music of Ziad which many of the young generation here consider as their code of life and their daily lexicon.
After the audio experience a visual one awaits where one can witness the change from a war arena to a recreational one. It could be said that ‘1975’ is a cinematic scene from a movie that attempts to re-enact war. One could also argue that ‘1975’ is like a souvenir that constantly reminds you of the host city!
It remains a curious place where stories are retold by young people (over 30 years of age) about themselves, their families and their companions.
The decorations are also inspired by the war as there are some remnants of items torn out by shells for example a broken doll, holes in the walls, ammunition boxes with defused grenades, bullets and empty shells. The waiters are dressed in camouflage military uniforms studded with grey and dark green. Adding to the scene is a large mannequin representing an armed militiaman who is climbing the wall. The ground area of the place is segmented in a military manner. The bar looks like a trench under a small hall, with no tables or chairs, only some cloth is thrown in the middle. You would sit exactly as you sit at the street- block, so close to the ground as if the attendants of the place are hiding away from a virtual bombing.
War slogans and phrases are inscribed on the walls such as, “Beware, a sniper”, “Don’t lower your head, Care only for the memory”, “Mr. ‘X’ passed through here”. This ‘Mr X ‘ might have been Abu El-Leil (father of the night) or a martyr of one of the fighting factions like the Murabetoon, Al-Pasha group or the Commandos Force. Who knows?
What about the attendants?
A waiter answers: “They are mostly from the 1975 generation. Some of them are former militiamen who wish to recall the memories of their glorious days when they used to control the area and spread terror among the people living in this quarter. They lost their jobs as well as their pride and influence as civil peace and security were restored. Nowadays, they have become “nobodies” and each of them is striving hard to earn a living. Therefore, the place was an attraction to such people looking for their lost glory and reminding themselves of the days when they were the heroes”. One of them once said: “Oh, I wish the war would come back only for one day then I would prove to everybody who I am and show them what I am capable of.”
Still, the war is over and “1975” is a place now that shows how historical symbols could be utilized by presenting them in a unique environment, making the horrible “past” an entertaining “present” for tourists and foreigners who would enjoy attempting to understand that era and sharing discussions of emotional adventure with the followers of ‘1975’.