A little over a year ago, a classmate at AUB told me I should “check out a little café I know in Mar Mikhael called Sole Insight”. Still fresh off the plane and mystified about how exactly to negotiate the taxi-service world, their advice slipped my mind.
A few months ago, after Mar Mikhael became a regular hangout for me, I discovered the café entirely by chance. It instantly appealed to both the coffee addict and the art historian in me.
While I’m sure the phrase “nestled in the stairs” has been exhausted as a way to describe Sole Insight, it is really the only way to illustrate it. “Nestled” conveys the exact coziness and warmth of the café and its funny way of appearing to have been squeezed into the wall of a building off the Vendome Stairs.
I usually visit Sole Insight to work on weekends or grab a beer with friends after class. Recently, however, I found myself also drawn to the café for artistic reasons. Not only does it seem to be a gathering place for creative minds, but there are also consistent displays of paintings or photographs, as well as musical performances, within the vicinity. Currently, there is a wall of abstract and figurative paintings lining the stairs opposite the entrance.
On its Facebook page, the coffee shop describes the space as a “philosophical-artistic café and ‘mouneh’”, a space of contemplation”. The shop is motivated by the desire to bring philosophy and art into the daily lives of those who pass through, as well as to create an intellectual experience and build a community founded on art, music, poetry, and philosophy. Performances of music and poetry occur regularly on the stairs in an effort to blur the boundary between daily life and artistic pursuits. They want to expand art to all, “making space more public and “public more spacious”.
For anyone, regardless of background or interest, Sole Insight provides a relaxing yet stimulating place for both quiet study and unique conversations. In a recent trip, I ended up listening to a conversation about Southern Blues music, reading a book on Bertolt Brecht, and writing consistently for two hours—a very rare occurrence for me. Maybe there is a creative vibe that you absorb while you’re there, or maybe they’re just really great at decorating.
Either way, there’s no denying that whether you go to Sole Insight to enjoy their menu of traditional vegetarian Lebanese dishes, a coffee or cold Almaza, or see a performance, there is a place for all to participate in the environment of the café. Regardless of your interests or outlook on life, grab a stool on the stairs and see what happens.