- Urbanism: the city of the future of Saudi Arabia
For more than three decades, he is the undisputed "emperor" of the Beiruti nights, the craziest and most electrifying of the Middle East. The kingdom of Michel Elefteriades - a rare Lebanese avis who is, at the same time, a politician, artist, businessman and former militiaman - has just expanded his domain. His legendary Music Hall in Beirut, an exclusive club where the country's jet set meets, has opened a franchise in the region's most Puritan land, Saudi Arabia. The place is located in the City of King Abdullah, around Jeddah, the most liberal of Saudi cities. "It is working very well. We are the first nightlife space in Jeddah . It was the Saudis who contacted us," explains Elefteriades to PAPEL, proud that his fame as an entrepreneur of the night has extended beyond his homeland . "There are many changes taking place in the kingdom and one of them is the commitment to entertainment. I feel we are making history. It is very beautiful to be part of this and to be a pioneer."
At the beginning of the year, the General Entertainment Authority presented in society an ambitious project to overwhelm the Saudis of shows, an unusual recipe in the land of Allah. The remedy to conservatism that for decades isolated the country includes a transcript of Valencian failures and the Sanfermines or the Music Hall where wealthy Beiruti dance to the rhythm of the heterodox selection of artists of Elefteriades, a inveterate traveler who lived for two years in Cuba and boasts friendship with the daughter of Che Guevara and the grandson of Fidel Castro. "The Music Hall has become an icon of many places. It is very eclectic. I myself am a mixture of various cultures. The club is similar to me, my culture and my roots . It is Mediterranean but, at the same time, it has Latin and African music, "replies this son of a Lebanese mother and Greek father who was born in Beirut 49 years ago.
The branch of Jeddah is so faithful to the origins of Lebanese cabaret that no detail is foreign to its original. "There are only three colors: black, gold and velvet red . It has a golden proscenium and a stage with red curtains," details its inventor. When the drapery reveals the scene, a diverse succession of artists parades before the public. "It's so diverse that sometimes we have singers from Mongolia , shamans who make guttural music. It's a very rare thing to see outside of Russia," Elefteriades boasts. In their newly opened Garda de Yeda, the evenings are enlivened by a Mexican woman who sings mariachis or French Catalans who put the rumba. "We have, in addition, rock, an Italian tenor who sings arias, a girl who makes Anglo-Saxon and soul pop and a Lebanese artist", lists the businessman, who for years declared himself emperor of his own State, "the Country from nowhere" . "Everything in the establishment of Jeddah is the same as that of Beirut. The only thing that lets you know that you are in Saudi Arabia is the presence, among the public, of men dressed in white abaya (traditional tunic)," he slips.
In the "Music Hall" of the Saudi city, on the shores of the Red Sea, there is also the red alcohol line. There are no rivers of gin, rum or whiskey running on their tables. "There is no alcohol. It is not allowed but in many concerts in Europe neither is it. Our customers in Jeddah enjoy the show while they eat dinner and drink non-alcoholic beverages. It is not a punishment," says who has just opened a new place in his Beirut natal, in the confines of Zaitunay Bay, one of the fashionable areas surrounded by the sea.
"The connection between the Civil War and the love of the Lebanese at night is a legend . Before even the conflict, in the 1960s and 1970s, the Lebanese already professed that passion. We are a mixture of Mediterranean and Oriental. When you combine both origins, it happens that even those who don't have much money save to go out frequently, "says Elefteriades. "That people like to sleep late and go out is very good for night professionals but not for the economy. I think one of the reasons why Germany is doing well is that its population goes to sleep at 10 of the night and he gets up at five o'clock. We are not bored but our economy is collapsing, "jokes his high-minded soul highness. Since three years ago the Lebanese police briefly arrested him for being the author of about twenty bronze sculptures that "worshiped the devil," Elefteriades only spends his summer in Beirut. The rest of the year resides in a palace that he acquired in Florence. "I suffer from Stendhal syndrome. The first time I visited Florence I felt overwhelmed by such beauty. I went crazy with the city. I have invested a lot of money in its historic buildings," he says about his new outburst. " I consider myself an artist who has been successful in business. Somewhere in my mind, I believe that there will be a second Renaissance on the planet and that it will start again in Florence ."
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