Born to Lebanese parents, jewellery designer Noor Fares grew up in Paris before moving to Boston to study history of art. Now based in London, Fares creates jewellery which fuses her multiculturalism with a smattering of mysticism.
Most prominently, it is her Lebanese heritage and strong belief in the totemic quality of jewellery that informs her work. Believing that jewellery carries special meaning, her colourful modern-day talismans are steeped in symbolism.
From mystical symbolism of Hindu mandalas in India to intricate geometric patterns found in Middle Eastern architecture, each piece tells a story and holds a special meaning to the wearer. Fusions of art and exploration, travel is at the forefront of her designs.
A lapidary and a life force, Noor shares her favourite jewellery pieces plus the cultural hotspots not to bypass on your next trip to Beirut.
What inspires your designs?
I am constantly inspired by my surroundings whether it be when travelling, visiting an exhibition or just at home researching. I love collecting images and turning them into mood boards which become the inspiration for new collections.
Your favourite pieces in your jewellery box are…
A few of my favourite pieces are an art-deco amethyst cabochon and diamond ring from S.J. Philips, an opal and diamond ring designed by my mother, a Venyx coin pendant and a Fernando Jorge pink opal ring.
Where should we head to check out Middle Eastern designs and pattern work?
At L'Artisan du Liban you can find so many objects, from homeware to jewellery and fashion that reflect the Middle Eastern designs. Their method and the craftsmanship have been the base of l'Artisan du Liban designs since the very beginning. Also, visit Liwan for beautiful silk slippers on Madrid Street.
For the best design stores in Beirut head to…
Nada Debs. Working across craft, art, fashion and interiors, what ties her work together is her ability to distil culture, emotion and craftsmanship into the pieces she creates. Bokja design store, situated in the heart of downtown Beirut, is great for homeware. It's based in the Saifi Village's Quartier Des Arts, a recently restored historic neighbourhood which has become a destination for art galleries and designers. Sarah's Bag is a Lebanese fashion house and social enterprise that creates one-of-a-kind luxury, hand-crafted bags and accessories that empower both the women who make them and the women who wear them.
Elie Saab aside, who are the Lebanese couturiers to watch?
Rabih Keyrouz and Sandra Mansour.
Your pieces have a talismanic quality - is protection an important component to your jewellery?
I have always believed in the healing properties of gemstones so this is something I incorporate into my designs allowing them to have a talismanic touch that resonates with the wearer.
For some healing or a little TLC in Lebanon where should we head?
Yoga Souk centre, a Jivamukti and Ashtanga Yoga centre that focuses on both physical and spiritual practices. It is a practice that brings about serenity, clarity, mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as self-confidence.
For a health fix we should visit…
Dermapro is a beauty centre committed to offering the safety and excellence of a medical facility in a serene and soothing spa environment. They bring the latest rejuvenating technologies and create personalised solutions for an improved appearance, as well as weight management and invigorating wellness.
Best hotel in the city?
Le Gray Hotel in the heart of downtown Beirut. Perfectly located for both business and leisure, it is one of the city's most iconic luxury hotels.
Some great lunch spots include…
Eat Sunshine for a very healthy and delicious lunch. Meat the Fish is good for a stylish crowd while Em Sherif Café is an elegant Lebanese café, suited to families, and offers an a la carte Lebanese and international menu in a relaxed atmosphere.
Where should we stop for something sweet?
Oh Bakehouse is a lovely gluten-free, dairy-free bakery and pastry shop in Beirut; one of the best for healthy treats. Backburner is a specialty coffee shop serving artisanal coffee as well as freshly baked muffins, croissants, energy balls and gluten-free sweets. For a traditional and exquisite Arabic pastry, visit Amal Bohsali.
Where should we head for a casual dinner?
What about for a special occasion?
Centrale is a sophisticated French restaurant and one of the best eateries in Lebanon. La Parialla, perched on the rooftop of Warwick Palm Beach Hotel,is really popular during summer. During the winter, head to Ashrafiye, a fine-dining grill house and bar serving a wide variety of international dishes. Alternatively, Casablanca, situated in a traditional and charming villa in the Ain el Mreisseh area, offers all kinds of food.
For after-work drinks stop by…
Joe Penas and Pacifico are fun Mexican pubs; both serve great small bites.
Where should we go for a night out?
Capitol, a restaurant-lounge, is considered one of the loveliest and most cosmopolitan rooftops in the heart of Beirut City. Also, Music Hall showcases a series of short live musical acts where performances are accompanied by hi-tech on-stage spectacles and gourmet menus.
Where should we head on a Saturday morning?
Go to Bkerzay, an eco-friendly hotel complete with restaurant, pool and pottery classes. Mir Amin Palace in El-Chouf, is a charming palace to visit before lunch - follow with a dip in the pool.
Where can we do an early morning workout?
U Energy Gym in Downtown Beirut.
For Sunday brunch book a table at…
Great day trips from the city include…
From Beirut to Faraya: rent an ATV and head for the beautiful mountains, stopping by Montagnou for lunch or drinks.
From Beirut to Jbeil: walk around the Old Souk, a beautiful walk in the old city with traditional shops and great to buy souvenirs.
From Beirut to Batroun: head here for great local beach spots such as Jungle Beach or Pierre and Friends.
One place only locals know about is…
Sporting Club Beach. If you're from Beirut, your parents are bound to have told you stories about the times they spent there in the 1960s. Since then, remarkably little has changed at this Beiruti gem. The beach is renowned for its authentic Lebanese vibe and simplicity, which coincides with an equal sense of luxury. Treat yourself to a five-star seafood meal at the Feluka Restaurant upstairs or enjoy a more laid-back Lebanese meal at the poolside restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
A book to read before we go?
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
Best souvenirs to bring back home…
Plates, prints and pillows.
And finally, what's in your SUITCASE for a trip to Beirut?
Lots of cotton kaftans from Orient to keep cool and Liwan slippers.