Global Bar Report 2022: Africa and Middle East

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Change is afoot in the Africa and Middle East region, and their bars reflect it, with venues raising the bar of service and winning top awards.

The bar scene in the Middle East and Africa has rebounded from the pandemic

Today’s theme is renewal. While many governments in the Middle East and Africa eased restrictions early on – or never locked down in the first place – the coronavirus has done a lot of economic damage in the past year, in addition to the loss tragedy of human lives. Once vibrant tourist hubs such as Jordan, Morocco and Tanzania have healed their wounds in 2021, deprived of vital income from abroad.

Meanwhile, a succession of bans on the sale of domestic alcohol have significantly damaged the South African hospitality industry and the livelihoods it supported.

“Businesses really suffered last year,” says Cape Town resident Erica Taylor. “But people were determined to keep fighting: bars have been refurbished and are excited about the prospect of a vibrant summer season.”

In 2022, a tangible sense of optimism is in the air. Indeed, if anyone wants an example of how two regions can bounce back, they should look to the Middle East and Africa.

Once renowned for its cookie-cutter hotel bars, and little else, Dubai increasingly boasts of a glut of trendy independent venues, boosted by increased investment in the hospitality industry. country entertainment.

“The hotel monopoly on consumer destinations in Dubai has faded,” says Jimmy Barrat, founder of Ergo in Dubai. “To me, the current trend is for hotels to attract independent food outlets by leasing their space and bringing in the energy of various standalone brands to create new beverage destinations.”

Tourists are also returning to Tel Aviv in Israel in droves, as Beirut rebuilds its infrastructure following a tragic accident in 2020 – an explosion that killed more than 200 people.

The residential district of Badaro, surrounded by verdant pine forests, may seem like an unlikely choice for a booming nightlife scene, but that’s exactly what investors have been trying to create, launching new venues and raising the bar. of service and training to new heights.

Like their neighbors in the Middle East, the Lebanese must also adapt to a new wave of social liberalism, driven by millennials, which may be at odds with the more conservative tenets of Islam. Their societies are changing at an unprecedented pace, and nothing can stop it. However, the changes sweeping through Africa are more economic than cultural.

Despite the loss of tourism revenue during the pandemic, major sub-Saharan economies such as Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana have seen their GDP grow steadily for more than a decade. In the 21st century, Africa’s population is increasingly concentrated in large urban centers, and by 2030, more than half a billion Africans are expected to belong to the middle class, according to the multinational Deloitte.

If there’s one sector that has really thrived on this seismic shift, it’s the hospitality industry: innovation is raging in the cities of Nairobi, Johannesburg and Lagos.

“The bar scene in Nairobi is changing rapidly, and there is a lot more creativity and incredibly motivated new bartenders challenging themselves to be the best they can be,” says Richie Barrow, General Manager, Catering, Trademark Hotel, Nairobi .

“I’m really excited about the future of the scene here and the quality of talent coming through the city and region. And it’s even more exciting to see all of Africa rising. From South Africa to Ghana, there is an unparalleled level of dynamism that drives us forward.

Historically, Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation has stolen the show when it comes to African nightlife, attracting top talent, global investment and prestige.

From one perspective, not much has changed: Cape Town has the most sophisticated and diverse bar scene in the wider region. But when Kenya’s Hero Bar was featured in the expansion list of the World’s 50 Best Bars 2022, it offered a taste of the growing competition to come. It is a continent on the move.

You can read our Global Bar Reports for Europe, North America and South America here.


Ergo – Dubai, UAE

No expense was spared in bringing Jimmy Barrat’s fledgling solo project to life, which opened in August 2022. Former director of global restaurant development Zuma hired designer Standpartners to create a chic minimalist space, with Kintsugi cracked concrete walls, black marble bar tops, and Palladian stone floors.

Yet alongside the venue’s tough chic street furniture, there’s a softer element, driven by Ergo’s leather banquets and dim lighting. The cocktail menu, meanwhile, is fun, innovative and just right. Patrons will love Barrat’s signature Mr Pink cocktail, spiced up with Malibu, for example, while the Jim and Tonic is a simple yet sophisticated expression of a classic.

“It’s every bartender’s dream to open their own concept; in my experience, it’s the magic of a chance encounter,” says Barrat. “Finding the right person who believes in your vision and a business partner who encourages you to be yourself is key. The most important aspect is to express yourself without limits.


Hero Bar – Nairobi, Kenya

Trademark Hotel’s Hero Bar is more than just a nightlife destination in Kenya’s main city. It is a symbol of the pride and optimism that now defines life in every corner of urban Africa.

“I believe our greatest strength is our bar culture – every member of the team comes to work in a place they call home,” says General Manager Richie Barrow. “Although it is common to have cocktails across the city, very few destinations in Kenya focus solely on them.”

Since 2019, Hero Bar has been responding to this growing demand by serving a range of bespoke drinks with unobstructed views of the breathtaking landscape. Designed as a speakeasy with a discreet entrance and Prohibition-style bar, Hero is fortunate to work with Kenya’s top mixologist. This year, head bartender Francis Ndung’u represented his country in Diageo’s World Class 2022 competition, winning the title.

But every member of the Hero team is committed to providing five-star service with a smile. The best bar in Kenya? Oh yes.


Fable – Cape Town, South Africa

Fable – Cape Town, South Africa

Josh Sarembock’s Fable has helped redefine the concept of a destination bar in Cape Town’s city center – once a ghost town after 6pm – with an innovative approach that combines exceptional cocktails with irreverent murals.

“You don’t just come to Fable for the drink — you come for the vibe,” says Sarembock. “We have intentionally sought to provide an alternative to the rather stiff service and laid-back atmosphere that we believe pervades most of South Africa’s top cocktail bars; we wanted to create a space for a younger, more optimistic audience to experience the flavors on offer.

Packed to capacity every weekend, Fable is an integral part of any barfly’s South African itinerary.

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