If you watched or read the news in the last days, you undoubtedly saw videos of the killer blast originated at Beirut’s port that created a gigantic wave, leveling buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods. Around 300,000 people were temporarily displaced from their homes, and collective losses according to Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud might reach $15 billion. The explosion originated from 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely at a warehouse in the port since 2013, when a cargo ship traveling from Georgia to Mozambique docked in the port because of technical issues.
Lebanon’s corrupt political oligarchy and the economic crisis have been the target of the Thawra (revolution) uprising since November 2019. In fact, the Lebanese have endured a lot in the last months: revolution, pandemic, Lebanese pound devaluation, all followed by this catastrophe. The exchange rate to the US dollar has soared in the last months (from 2,300 in February to 7,550LBP early this month) making it hard for low-income families to be able to afford basic goods.
Kalei Coffee owner Dalia Jaffal and I talked a couple of days after the blast. One of Kalei’s locations—featured here on Sprudge—was greatly damaged, but she worries that there are other poorer neighborhoods aside from Downtown, Gemmayze, and Mar Mikhael—the more touristic ones—that were also affected and are not being covered by the news. While these areas do not have specialty coffee shops exactly, they do have coffee gatherings of other sorts inside small cafes or restaurants and are not getting enough spotlight. Jaffal also adds that Kalei is going to be offering temporary workspaces and desks to people who have lost their studios in the blast as well as offering their outdoor spaces to serve all the good work NGOs and other volunteering groups have been doing. “Every one of us should put forward a way of helping the city find its pace again.”
Kalei has 25 direct beneficiaries and at least half of them have dependents, Jaffal tells me. Given the current economic setting, these people need the coffee shop to be fully functional soon, so they can go back to work. To help them and have access to more information, go to their campaign page.
Gabriel Al Cham along with his brothers Michel and Raphael are the owners of Gold Monks, another coffee shop that was affected by the explosion. The cafe is located .6 miles away from the site of the blast, and their house has been affected as well by the leveling waves. Customers and owners survived without a scratch, but now they need to rebuild what was damaged on August 4th. They have set up a GoFundMe campaign in order to fix major repairs. To help them and have access to more information, go to their campaign page.
Jean Antoun and Hany Bourghol are the owners at Cortado Espresso Bar in the Gemmayze neighborhood. Their shop was also damaged but thankfully they were able to rebuild the main entrance the next day and are finishing up minor repairs in order to go back to business in the next days. They are located at about 1.5 miles from the explosion but still, many of their neighbors on that street got seriously affected.
Also in the Gemmayze neighborhood, Sip Café was sadly not spared from damage. Omar Jheir, the owner, was at home at the time of the explosion and suffered multiple injuries but thankfully was released from the hospital. When I asked him for photos of the cafe, he said that he only had photos on his phone, as his laptop and everything else was gone along with his house. To help them and have access to more information, go to their campaign page.
Any help from the international coffee community is greatly appreciated and will be used towards Beirut reconstruction. “We are moved by expressions of love and solidarity from all around the world and want to be able to use this help to inject most of this love back to where it is needed most,” summarizes Jaffal. If you wish to help other organizations, please consider the Lebanese Red Cross or Impact Lebanon, which are both actively helping the most vulnerable who were affected by the explosion.
Juliana Ganan is a Brazilian coffee professional and journalist. Read more Juliana Ganan on Sprudge.
All photos courtesy of the cafe owners, used with permission