21st November, 2019 by James Lawrence
While some governments are still cracking down on alcohol, there are plenty of places serving innovative top-of-the-range cocktails.
The Art of Duplicity bar in Cape Town features in our pick of bars to watch next year (Photo courtesy: Benjamin Reisner)
The unifying characteristic that continues to bind together the African and Middle Eastern nations is the ability to confound expectations. The tension between Islamic tradition and modernity is still present in many Middle Eastern cities – Turkey tightened its alcohol laws in 2013 – but rising social liberalism among the region’s millennial generation cannot be underestimated.
Indeed, visitors are often surprised by the level of dynamism in the region; the younger firmament is fuelling burgeoning nightlife scenes in Israel, Morocco and Beirut – including a noticeable growth in LGBT‐friendly venues – while investment is largely being driven by local entrepreneurs, rather than global enterprises.
Yet the major conglomerates also continue to invest heavily in the region, which suggests political forces calling for further alcohol restrictions will not triumph over a society increasingly looking outwards, not inwards. Even the United Arab Emirates (a notoriously alcohol‐phobic region) has a thriving nightlife industry, albeit the customers are almost exclusively tourists and expats.
Meanwhile, using the epithet ‘Third World’ to describe Africa is now grossly outdated and ridiculous. This is a continent experiencing unprecedented levels of economic growth and development – key African economies are now transitioning from resource exporters to consumer markets. Where wealth has historically been concentrated within the elites, prosperity is starting to find its way to the broader population who desire the same entertainment options as their western counterparts. That, combined with the (general) lack of cultural restrictions regarding alcohol consumption, has led to an explosion in urban nightlife in recent years.
From Accra to Nairobi, Lagos to Johannesburg, African cities now play to the tune of thumping beats, cocktail shakers, sophisticated lounge bars and cutting edge mixology. You’ll notice South Africa features heavily in our list of bars to watch; Cape Town and Johannesburg have transformed their cocktail scenes over the past decade, ensuring that Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation is the best place to enjoy a night out in this beguiling continent.
Click through the following pages to discover Africa and Middle East’s bars to watch in 2020.