Bettina's Take: Beirut Diary Part 1

Photo: Shabnam Melwani-Reis

Makram and Rena at the Zeidan's apartment for dinner the first night.

"OMG - Welcome to Beirut!", said the letter I received in my custom-made beach bag at the Four Seasons.

Beirut, you say? Let me explain. 200 lucky guests were invited to celebrate the wedding of our dear friends Rena Kirdar (Sindi) and Makram Abboud, and as anyone who knows Rena will tell you, it was going to be epic. Four nights of "full-on" celebrating, Lebanese-style. For those who could still function during the day, there was sightseeing and world-class shopping. The group was a reunion of sorts from the days that Rena, author of Be My Guest, ruled the world of chic New York dinners, throwing the most memorable and mind-blowing theme parties. She is now a partner at Dalani, the UK's answer to One King's Lane.

Photo: Shabnam Melwani-Reis

Santiago Gonzalez, Rena,  Shabnam Melwani-Reis, Peri Bassatne, Carlos Mota and Neva Anton at Nelly and Mohammed Zeidan's apartment.

The first night we were received for dinner and dancing by Nelly and Mohammed Zeidan, in their beautiful apartment in Verdun, filled with an eclectic collection of contemporary art. Their Iraqi chef prepared a feast, the likes of which very few guests had ever experienced. Rena looked stunning in a feminine, flouncy and sexy red dress designed by Alvin Valley.

The New York contingent included Dayssi and Paul Kanavos, Marcia and Richard Mishaan, Tracy and Jay Snyder, Ashley and Jeff McDermott, Alvin Valley, Carlos Mota, Dori Cooperman, Eva Lorenzotti, Dennis Basso and Michael Cominotto, Serena Boardman and John Theodoracopoulos.

From London, Karen and Ferdinand Groos, Damian and Lillian von Stauffenberg, Joana and Henrik Schliemann, Rola and Lloyd Gordon, and many more. Kathy and Rick Hilton flew in from LA, Shabnam Melwani-Reis came from Singapore. The Paris contingent included Ulla Parker, Cyril Karaoglan and Prince Pierre d'Arenberg.

Beirut is a fascinating city. Most of it was destroyed during the Civil War in the '70's. Downtown has been rebuilt tastefully, as have a few pockets here and there, but the rest has been hastily and haphazardly slapped together, and there is hardly an inch of space left. The people are beautiful, friendly and hospitable.

The next morning, after my Lebanese breakfast of mini pizzas, labne, bread and eggs, I was determined to go to the gym, but Valley convinced me to go shopping with him instead. "You can go to the gym in New York, don't waste precious Beirut time," said Valley wisely. Instead we went on a wild goose chase, trying to find Carlos Mota in the "design district," ending up instead in a shady part of town, in front of a big military tank with soldiers and machine guns. We flagged down a taxi from the '70's with no seat belts and went back Downtown where almost every designer you've ever heard of has a store, and the department store called Aishti could give Barney's a run for its money.

Photo: Mark Cohen

Adam Lippes, Rena, Eva Lorenzotti and Alvin Valley at White.

Photo: Mark Cohen

Mohammed & Peri Bassatne, Nada Kirdar and Rena at White.

Photo: Mark Cohen

Michael Cominoto and Dennis Basso at White.

That night, Peri and Mohamed Bassatne hosted a dinner in the VIP section at White's, the huge and over the top open air nightclub that is one of the most popular destinations in Beirut for the gorgeous international crowd. Rena, radiant in a gold Herve Leger, was her warm, welcoming, high energy self. The VIP section is high above the rest, so we got a great view of the club as it filled up, flitted around the white leather banquettes and nibbled on sushi, burgers and bottles of Moet. No one sat for long, as the DJ knew exactly what to play.

"Did I really see you leave at 3 AM?", asked Harold Smith the next day. Absolutely, Harold. I was just following Alvin's advice.