I do not throw terms like best bar in Beirut around without good cause, but the Abou Elie Pub fully deserves this crown. While communist themed pubs are a dime a dozen the Abou Ellie Pub is not communist themed, it is an actual communist bar, with pictures of real martyrs, as well as more standard stuff like a Che poster put up.
It it also perhaps the only pub in the world where I have seen Stalin and Trotsky side by side – something I shall deal with later.
The Pub Scene in Beirut
Things are undoubtedly better in Beirut than the civil war times. Daring that period merely the name Beirut denoted a bombed city, but things are nominally OK. I say nominally OK because there is hyperinflation and content power-outs, but hey better than war.
Nightlife is centred around Hamra Street as are the cool restaurants and hotels. You will not find the brothels of the Lebanese “superclubs” here and aside from some begging you are largely left alone.
I found one good English pub and of course Little Beirut which you can read about here.
What is Abou Elie Pub?
While located within 10 minutes walking distance from the main drag in essence it could not be further away, being located not too far from the Mozart Hotel where we started our tour and in a residential area.
In fact if you did not know it was a pub you would not come in here with the outside being rather unassuming.
If you do brave entering though you will be gifted to not only a visual delight, but also a broad range of “progressive” clientele as well as the tough nut to crack that is the owner.
Abou Elie Pub – really communist?
The bar is named after the late husband of the owner, a lady in her 70’s and has been going for 34 years. I obtained this information after having to pass a test on my communist credentials as the owner was only too wary of nosy types, fair enough when you have been through what she has.
The family were part of the Lebanese Civil War, members of the Lebanese Communist Party and had spent time in the Soviet Union. It was at this point I decided to ask about why Trotsky was on the wall only to be told “some customers like it”, although not the owner who declared “I am an unashamed Marxist-Leninist and not reformist”. Not a fan of Gorbachev either, but amazingly her favourite Soviet leader was Andropov, but that was more linked to him being in charge when she was there rather then anything to do with his short rule.
The drink, the decor and the vibe at the best bar in Beirut
The customers and staff are “mostly” communist with their being a Parisian artisan type flair to it, with older experienced reds accompanied by youthful types supping drinks smoking cigarettes and discussing the many problems of their country.
The bar is small, but well decorated with Communist attire, as well as photos of the many people linked to the bar that died as martyrs during the horrific civil war in the country. There are also AK47’s on the walls, which were not as we were to find out in any way replicas.
There was also the chance to write on a banknote and have it put up on the wall, which I duly did for YPT!
Maybe this pub is not for everyone, but in my mind by far the best bar in Beirut and sure to be one of the mainstays of tours to Lebanon and Syria.
To read about our tours to Syria click here.
And for drinks? We started with Cuba Libre, before finishing with Jameson on the rocks, barely spending 10 bucks a pop.