Friday, 26 August 2011

The Brit goes to Maameltein

So, on Wednesday night I had my first Maameltein experience.

A good friend of mine is getting married today, so on Wednesday night a group of around 10 guys all met in a Hamra bar before heading up the highway to the red light district of Lebanon.

Now, I’d heard a lot about Maameltein, usually in hushed tones or as the subject of a ribald joke and was looking forward to seeing what all the fuss was about.

At this point I’d like to point out that I’m not a strip club kind of guy. However, I’ve been to a few as a result of stag parties in the UK and the rare drunken decision while out with the boys. But, aside from a light-hearted introduction to the Lebanese club scene at Hamra’s Tiko Tiko (two rounds of 20 USD Almaza, a platter of watermelon – bizarre – and a Russian woman doing the robot dance around a stripper pole), I hadn’t ventured through the doors of a “super nightclub” before.

Boy, was I about to be disappointed.

Now I’ve always been of the opinion that, in the vast majority of cases, strip clubs are profoundly depressing places. The women gyrate away in varying states of undress as older men, as likely as not smoking cigars, salivate freely. The dimly-lit, smoky bar creates an atmosphere that altogether clashes with the pulsating, optimistic beats of the latest chart toppers. The glazed eyes of the women hint that far from being aroused by their companion, they’re actually composing tomorrow’s shopping list as they grind up against the pole or have their thigh stroked.

Maameltein was no different…

We walked through the door and the average age of the clientele dropped by around 20 years. Sitting at tables surrounded by couches were older men, the obligatory cigar and Johnny Walker in hand, while a table of younger, mainly Eastern European, women sat sipping on soft drinks in the center of the room. From time to time one of the women would be beckoned into the presence of a patron whereupon she’d sit down and allow herself to be pawed.

The scene of the crime

We’d been told there was no show on that night but, given the drive from Hamra, we decided to have a drink before deciding on what to do. Several drinks later an impromptu performance started up, with several (clothed, or at least covered) girls heading over to the poles and beginning to dance.

Now, I’m a red-blooded male, but there’s something about a pole dance that really doesn’t do it for me. What was interesting however was the immense strength demonstrated by these tiny women as they reached the top of a 2.5 meter pole, flipped upside and then hung horizontally while moving in vague time with the music. Looking around the table and deciding that the majority of guys in our group would struggle to get over ten pull-ups, it was something of an eye-opener.

However, perhaps the oddest moment of the evening was watching a girl high-kicking away to this. Strange … and not very sexy…

By this stage most of us were getting twitchy. The drinks were weak, the show uninspiring, our fellow club-goers geriatric, the whole environment seedy beyond compare. After offering to pay for the groom-to-be to sit with a girl for half-an-hour and seeing him frantically shake his head we decided to make a move.

We decamped to White where the girls of the group had been ripping it up for around three hours … Needless to say, the “What Happens in Maameltein” rule lasted all of about 30 seconds as our unofficial omerta dissolved in the face of our relief at the end of this almost Tarrentino-esque experience. By far the better part of the night was spent at White … minus the eye-watering bar bill.