“You don’t get results by focusing on results. You get results by focusing on the actions that produce results.” – Mike Hawkins
How often do you enter a place and say, “I have just found my spiritual HOME?” Well, Al Makan in its peculiar location in Mar Elias, Beirut, feels so much like home with its cozy positive vibes in there that make its guests, or family members per say, enjoy the serenity and peace!
But Before talking about Al Makan, you should be introduced to the prevailing culture in Lebanon, which is considered a collective country. Family life is essential in the Lebanese culture where most of its community tend to be loyal and close-knit. Further, some groups of people are loyal to their religion and/or to their political affiliation. Despite the collectivity, many people just find it difficult to lay their hand on a safe place where they can acquire a sense of belonging without the fear of being judged or condemned for who they are. Unfortunately, neither their families nor the religious communities they belong to provide this insight.
For that reason, Al Makan emerged as the awaited hope for a spiritual and cultural hub with its founder Dr. Hiba. She is an Associate Professor of Public Administration at the American University of Beirut and a holder of both positive energy and spiritual enthusiasm.
At first, Dr. Hiba rented a small underground apartment to organize intellectual events, religious gatherings, art exhibitions, and concerts. Ultimately, Dr. Hiba felt the urge to own a physical space, a space of her own for her people.
And That is how Al Makan started! As Dr. Hiba describes, it is the seed that she has planted. We may say it is a seed that was well planted, nourished, and taken care of. Most importantly, it functions as a third space where a community can develop and retain its sense of cohesion and identity, something that is much needed in Lebanon.
“Al Makan is what I call the third space, in other words, the place where people will find you if you are not at home or in the university or at work” says Dr Hiba. In her opinion, Arab and Muslim countries did succeed in creating associations and groups, but have failed to create communities. While associations and groups are exclusive, communities are on the contrary inclusive, and Dr. Hiba insisted on making Al Makan as inclusive as possible.
Al Makan is known for its open policy and the sense of freedom it provides. In other words, when visitors decide to come, they can come anytime they want and choose to leave at any time they want. The front door is there to welcome them, and the back door is there for them to leave whenever they feel like leaving.
With its spirituality and openness, Al Makan is very much inspired by Islamic values, but it is not solely for Muslims. It is a place for all where no one’s identity or essence as a human is to be hurt or judged. As Dr. Hiba quotes from Quran “You have your religion and I have mine”, she continues to ensure that “you can come to Al Makan as you are. It’s not a place to judge someone. People can come to Al Makan, they could be atheists, agnostic, and non-Muslim”. Regardless of religion, people strive for spirituality, and this space in the heart of Lebanon offers a dynamic that speaks to the heart, mind, soul, and body.
Although Al Makan is principally a space for women, it nonetheless opened its doors wide to all volunteers after the Beirut explosion. That means that both genders can depend on this place to provide support to the families who have been injured or have suffered damage in their houses. What’s peculiar however is that 70% of volunteers did not know about Al Makan!
As our series is inspired by the Beirut explosion, the upcoming story will show some of the fruits that Al Makan has given. With its generous helps and donations, Al Makan did prove to be a seed that kept growing and growing over time and became ready to give its fruits in the most difficult and challenging situations Lebanon has ever faced.