Before becoming the new hot spot, the neighborhood, which almost sits on the outskirts of the city, was known for its craftsmanship, repair and spare parts shops. During the day, one can still see this very industrial side and stumble upon an old traditional metal shop in some back alley, among beautiful old houses which sadly are becoming run-down, to be slowly replaced by towers.
In the heart of Mar Mikhael in a small side street, in between a garage, a trendy burger restaurant, and a church, lies one of my favorites cafés in Beirut. It’s my little escape from the constant commotion of this noisy city, my little moment of calmness where I surround myself with beautiful art books, great music, and my coffee.
Owner Rania Naufal set up Papercup after she moved back from New York. Inspired by her passion for books and in hope of creating a cozy, neighborhood spot, she opened Papercup in June 2009 as a dedicated specialized bookshop. Located on a charming little street the café is stripped back and minimal, the most overwhelming feature is the floor-to-ceiling bookcase that dominates one side of the shop’s length. Its shelves are filled with beautiful books on art, architecture, design, photography, and fashion. Those are complemented by a curated selection of magazines, children reads, graphic novels and stationery finds, as well as their bespoke ordering service. Designed by the architecture team FaR Architects in collaboration with the industrial designer Karim Chaya, Papercup’s concept is that of coffee-infused book therapy.
This small but well-stocked store always feels, as a good bookshop should: warm, inviting and excited about its stock. Their layout is brilliant at enticing you towards something you didn’t necessarily know you wanted or were interested in.
Those stolen afternoons I spend at papercup are my little secret pleasure. There are days when I sit alone among those beautiful books with a cup of coffee as my friend and a book as my reason for why I stay so long. Pretending not to watch, not seeing anyone, I stare at my book enjoying the fresh breathe of coffee and the clinging and clinking of the glass cups. Quiet whispers, pages flipping as a melody plays while I sip the hot liquid within my cup. The twinkle of this small street with its old and new inhabitants walking winks at me as I sit observing the outside world. At peace, cocooned in this little art bookshop, I sit inside this floating like place, wondering if the world went a bit quieter outside, whether I should venture out or stay in just a little longer. A plane flies above our small city, all the while here I am a little happy soul, in a little beautifully decorated bookshop, enjoying the few and wonderful serene moments in life.
Because books like friends should be few but good, here is to a small place in this busy town that makes me feel like I am home away from home.