Samandal comic book, debut issue, 2008, Beirut, Lebanon

I met Omar Khouri and Hatem Imam, two of the founders of the trilingual graphic magazine Samandal, a couple of years ago at The Prague, a dimly lit café in the stylish West Beirut district of Hamra that has the tattered couches and studied cool of an artists’ hangout in Williamsburg.  Omar had told me to look for “two hairy guys with funny mustaches” and when I finally found him and Hatem sitting by the bar in the back I realized he meant that in a hip, Shaft-era retro sort of way.

Their magazine, Samandal, is about as uncurated a publication as I’ve ever seen, with something of the unrestrained energy of street art bound between covers.  They run work by everyone from professional artists to veiled teenage girls in Tripoli, mostly but not exclusively from the Arab world.  The debut issue pictured above is from 2008 but they make a digital version of every issue available free on their website through a Creative Commons license.  It’s worth a look: the eclectic mix of stories, graphic styles, and languages (including Arabic, French, English, and the hybrid mobile phone text language that uses numbers and Roman letters to render Arabic) perfectly captures the intriguing cultural mixed-up-ness of Beirut today.

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Click here to read how my journey to Beirut ended up being exhibited on an art gallery wall or here to learn how a London tote bag led to a run in with Robert Fisk and created a security risk in a Beirut elevator.

 

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