Special Lebanese Souvenirs: Design Made in Lebanon

Featuring modern designs or inspired by the past, Lebanese design is on the rise.

One-stop-shops

Towards the end of Hamra, opposite the Commodore Hotel is Ammar Stores souvenir shop, filled with oriental gifts including backgammon games, jewellery, leather goods, scarves including “keffiyeh” and “all kinds of ladies wear.” Ask Ammar about the time when he used to work as a fixer, assisting foreign crews covering the civil war…

Besides offering a unique insight into Lebanon’s ancient history and astonishing artifacts, the National Museum is one of the best shops for souvenir shopping in Beirut, offering a good selection of local designer items. The brief designers were given was that each of their articles must be related to the Lebanese Heritage or the National Museum collection. The museum shop collection includes design items specifically designed for the store but also keeps an eye out for new talented designers as well as receiving frequent requests from designers to have their creations taken on.

These range from bookmarks to trays, boxes, scarves, glassware, ceramics, and Astrid Honein-designed bags. The selection of books includes coffee table books about art, archaeology, and Lebanon’s natural beauty, showcases some of the country’s finest literary output, and also caters for younger audiences. A cute series of children’s books authored by Youmna Jazzar Medlej and Joumana Medlej about various Lebanese cities, cultural practices or natural phenomena is available in English, French or Arabic.

Look out for Marc Dibeh’s Beirutkon that allow you to build the city with quirky foldable cards or to light Beirut’s skyline up and Choux à la Crème’s must-have notebooks and cards, which include cheeky oriental motifs.

The National Museum shop does, of course also stock replicas of the famous Phoenician sculptures found in Byblos, not surprisingly, a top selling souvenir.

You’ll also be able to source Images d’Orient’s eye-catching products here and some of Nada Debs’ elegant notebooks.

Larger in size and one of the top interior decorating and retail stores in the Lebanese capital and region, Orient 499 is pure eye candy. Founded by Frank Louca and Aida Kawas, the shop showcases the best of Oriental lifestyle. Besides clothes (abayas) and objects, including furniture and decorative pieces, there are household items like glassware as well as ceramics. The boutique, which also has an atelier, sells exquisite jewellery and also stocks a range of Oriental wellness products such as soaps from Tripoli and Aleppo. The clear or typically blue and green coloured water jugs and glassware is hand-blown in Sarafand in South Lebanon. It is only one of two places in Lebanon where this tradition dating back to the Phoenicians is still kept alive.

Design Made in Lebanon

Lebanese design is on the rise and increasingly gaining international recognition. Why not spoil someone special with a Lebanese design piece?

Based in Saifi Village Nada Debs, one of Lebanon’s most successful designers, blends Far Eastern aesthetics with Middle Eastern lines – and beautifully so. Her output is phenomenal and ranges from furniture – some with beautiful and intricate mother of pearl inlays, to carved wood. Her creations blend different materials, including wood but also Plexiglas and even concrete. Debs is also active in preserving, supporting and promoting regional artisanal skills and know-how.

Based nearby is Johnny Farah, the mecca of luxury leather wares in Beirut’s “Village”, specialised in bags, belts and accessories including shoes. Farah’s high-end, high-quality artisanal creations fuse his Lebanese identity with the years he spent in Copenhagen and New York, where he opened his first boutique in 1980. Sold across the world, his collections are made in Lebanon. Besides being the owner of two of Beirut’s best restaurants (Casablanca and Lux). Johnny Farah is, simply put in French, an “incontournable” of the international and Beiruti fashion scene.

Rana Salam opened a small store on Abdel Wahad Inglizi, a few minutes from Sodeco Square, where her funky and colourful creations are on sale. Besides Arab pop culture-inspired kitchenware, cushions, stationary and mobile phone covers, look out for The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie she co-authored with Malu Halasa.

Based in the quaint neighbourhood of Badaro, in the shop their father set up in the 1950s, the Pipe-Brothers aka Alexi and Toni Abou Sleiman sell impeccably assembled lights and home objects. Their funky Chicken is a top seller.

Fashionably responsible: Bags, Accessories and Home Ware

The key materials used to craft the impeccably finished Vea Wear bags and accessories are the inner tubes of the tyres of bicycles, motorbikes, cars, or trucks. Vea Wear is a fashion statement with a twist and a green philosophy, launched in 2014 and presently based in a pop up store at Beirut Souks where Patrick El-Zoghbi has the growing range of bags, accessories and home wear on display.

The range of bags, some designed by local designers, includes small sling bags, as well as toiletry bags, a ping pong bag, laptop bags, carrier bags, tote bags and The Sportier. The inside of the bags is lined with sturdy upholstery fabric and where fitting, the bags also feature re-used safety belts.

Vea Wear also stocks furniture, glasses, ashtrays and candleholders made by artist and entrepreneur Wissam Muases. His company Artafif uses recycled bottles that are decorated with local artist Ali Rafei’s distinct calligraffiti motifs.

Must-have Mugs and Fridge Magnets

Young Tripolitan artist Rimal Abeed’s #MugsByRimal makes mugs that she hand paints, with Arabic slogans and motifs. Contact her a few days in advance to place orders on 70516676 and pick up in Tripoli or Beirut.

The Bayrut Express, which stocks some of the Vea Wear and Pipe Brothers’ range, also sells fun mugs with “good morning” or “Beirut” in Arabic written on that a colleague, friend or niece will definitively enjoy.

The Bibies of the World will rock any fridge! Hiba Nassar came up with the idea and has had a lot of success with it. Typically three Abous (uncles) wearing the tarboush (red felt hat worn up to the 50s) and big smiles, are seen posing, dancing the dabke or posing with other symbolic items like coffee cups around them. The magnets, keychains, coasters and gift cards can be found at the following stores in Lebanon.

Traditional Soap

The traditions of olive tree cultivation and soap making go back thousands of years and are closely connected, in the Eastern Mediterranean.Sharkass Soap based in the Khan al-Misriyyin, which dates back to the 14th century is in Tripoli’s Old Souks. Mohammad Sharkass is the latest in line of a long family tradition, which he has already started to pass on to his children. After all, the Sharkass have been making soap since 1803! Sharkass Soaps is based on the first floor – make sure to go up an old stairway, on top of which there are usually soaps laid out. There are boxes of soaps in various shapes and flavours on display, including grape and prayer bead soaps and soaps waiting to dry are stacked up in cylindrical towers. Half workshop, half shop, this is a great place to see how natural soap is being made.

The Soap Museum in Sidon as well as Orient 499 stock and Eshmoon Holistics make high quality soaps.

This Article is a 3 part report on Lebanese Souvenirs - Subscribe to Secrets of Beirut to receive updates on the coming updates to this 3 part Feature.
 

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