In a city as vibrant, multifaceted and hectic as Beirut, it’s important to sneak in moments of solitude where you can, mainly to prevent your over-stimulated mind from imploding. That’s why when we were tipped off about local cafe-cum-bookshop Papercup, it was crucial to make a visit. Situated in Mar Mikhael, a short and devastatingly hip stretch of road that’s Beirut’s answer to Peckham, Papercup was set up by owner Rania Naufal after she moved back from New York to her home city. The idea for the store had been brewing for some time, not only did the local area lack a bookshop with a homey, library-like feel but opening an informal shop felt like a good way of honouring Lebanon’s rich publishing history and servicing Mar Michael’s growing creative community.
What’s perhaps so refreshing about Papercup (especially given its location), is that it’s not at all flashy. Designed by FaR Architects in collaboration with industrial designer Karim Chaya, it’s stripped back and minimal – the most overwhelming feature is the floor-to-ceiling bookcase that dominates one side of the shop’s length. There’s bistro-like tables for you to drink the store’s lovingly made coffee (high-grade stuff) or flick through the numerous architecture, design, fashion and photography tomes, as well as more than 200 carefully-curated magazines. And for those of you unwilling to abandon your gregarious ways completely, Papercup’s events schedule is so densely packed with book signings, talks and launches that you can gorge yourself on cultural socialising as well as damn fine cakes.