Where The Wild Things (Really) Are

September 16, 2011


Where the Wild Things (Really) Are  

Okay, pop quiz, look at the picture above, where am I?

A)   Bonaroo Music Festival

B)   Hell’s Hippie Colony

C)   Grateful Dead Cover Band Show

D)   A Psychedelic Rave, in the Forest, in the Mountains, in Lebanon, in the Middle East

Yeah. Seriously. It’s a 4-day long rave party stowed away in the wilderness that blankets Lebanon’s mountains, and it only happens once a year. As luck would have it, my friends and I made the scene for the final, and most anticipated night of the event. I am still trying to catch up on sleep.

Souk el-Tayeb  

But first, its good give credit where credit is due, and the adventure of shopping in Lebanon merits credit as well. Two shopping experiences of the last week are especially notable. The first that sticks out in my mind is the visit to the pirated DVD store, where hundreds of dollars worth of media, can be had for fewer than 20 bucks. I’ve also been intrigued by the availability of the enduring cassette tape that seems to show up all over the Mid East.

However, despite its entertaining side stores and high-end retailers, you haven’t shopped in Beirut until you’ve been to Souk el-Tayeb. This “delicious market,” is a truly unique and under-sung gem in the city. A visit to the Souk lands you inside Lebanon’s first farmers market. It’s a vibrant atmosphere alive with the aroma of artisan breads and other traditional culinary of the region. But underneath the ambiance Souk el-Tayeb has a more significant role to play.  The farmers market has managed to bring the Lebanese away from their various factions and unite them toward a cause:  To preserve tradition through food, promote wholesome produce and overcome religious barriers.  Of all the ways to prevent war, this has got to be the most delicious.


For me, Lebanon has always seemed just out of reach of comprehension. Lebanon appears to embody Middle Eastern stereotypes while breaking them all at the same time. Simply put, it’s a place without constants. In my short time here I have seen Christopher Hitchens books along side religious texts and heard the call to prayer from the footsteps of a bar. Then, just when I thought I had seen it all, I went to Forestronika.

A Hippe rave in the forest in the Middle East?! It was the kind of thing I had only known about through rumor but needed do see to believe. One of my friends had wanted to go since 2006 so when the weekend rolled around, four of us caught a mini bus up a mountain to the city of Allay, before finding a cabby who knew where the party actually was.

Our tiny car crested the summit and we descended into the forest toward the valley floor. After a few hairpin turns, the hustle of Beirut faded away. We arrived just in time to rent one of the last two available tents and steak out a campsite. Somehow, we managed to set up right next to a guy I had met before at the Beirut Mac Store.

Cloaked in the shade under the forest canopy, anything is game. Liquid Acid, Jello shots, actual shots, Ecstasy, Lebanese hash and assorted alcohol all made their appearances. At the “Main Stage” DJ’s broadcasts electric soundscapes throughout the night. Everyone was celebrating, although no one knew exactly what. When the sun went down lights lined the winding stairwells and rocky paths along the stream. Between the sound of the brook and the glowing bulbs I felt as if the rebellious youth had taken over Never Never Land and I ended up at their housewarming party.

By the not-so-early morning dancing began to feel more like an aerobics session so we retired to our tent. Having just my camera bag, I tried to sleep with only the layer of tarp between the ground and me. It might not have been so difficult had we not left the tent flap slightly open. A mosquito found her way in and managed to buzz me awake until daylight. When I opened my eyes that morning, I counted no less than 18 of them on the inside walls of our tent. Later that day we were able to hitch-hike our way out of the valley and back to Beirut. Tired, malnourished, in need of a shower and out of money, I felt like I had become part Middle Eastern hippie myself.

Souk el-Tayeb

These are Real-Fruit Roll Ups

Fresh Bread


This is the Paint Ball Field

The Forest in the Mountains

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One Comment on “Where The Wild Things (Really) Are”

  1. pandoratheexplorer Says:

    I LA LA LOVE THIS! ❤ So Jealous!! I have been to lebanon going on seven times and I've never heard of this?!


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