With the boom of social media fluctuating across the Arab world, it's not surprising that new tech spaces like Lamba Labs, Geek Express and TechnoFuture Lebanon are blossoming in Lebanon's stagnant economy.

Redefining jumbled up semantics like "geek", "nerd", and "hacker", these spaces provide outlets for the tech-savvy, creative and curious mind, solidifying the mainstream notion that geek is totally in—even in the plastic high-maintenance culture of Lebanon.

Manifesting the human persona of Reddit, Geek Express, created by Tarek Dajani and newly opened on December 18, is the colorful mesh of five different concepts—presented within the artful constrains of an old-school grotto in the heart of the Beirut Digital District.



Enclosed within its bronze rock walls, Geek Express unveils its five treasures—a fabrication area, museum, coffee shop, workshop area and Sparkfun selective distributer stand—corner by corner, each more captivating than the last. The fabrication area boasts a wide variety of tools, including a 3D printer, eggbot, hologram machine, and a Maker Bot Replicator 2. Their cafe, serving up Urbanista's best, provides cozy seating and free wifi, and a prime view of their Star Trek-named self-tweeting Bonsai Tree, @TiberiusGE.

Beirut.com was given a tour by GE Manager Bassem Dghaidy and Marketing Manager Lina Moubarak, who explained that Geek Express “Is all about the space. We're trying to make it fully equipped for artists, geeks, designers, engineers." Dghaidy is also one of the founders of Lamba Labs, remarking that GE hopes to partner up with both Lamba and TechnoFuture, as it provides technological equipment that services both spaces.



Another technology driven enterprise on the Lebanese scene is TechnoFuture, and within it, TechnoKids Inc., which aims to enrich Lebanon's scientific education, providing classes, workshops, and hands-on projects for interactive and stimulating learning. Beirut.com intereviewed Omar Hussein, Chairman of TechnoFuture, via email, who explained that the need for TechnoFuture is based off of the bridging gap between schools, universities and the market. Hussein spoke of the success stories of TechnoFuture Lebanon's sister initiative, TechnoFuture Egypt, who's students have already contributed to their scientific communities in remarkable ways.



Already headlined as one of the main technology communities in Lebanon, Lamba Labs was created a year and a half ago as the brain child of six founders. A self described grassroots community that caters to the hackerspace initiative, Lamba has the main aim of creating a place to empower youth, and hopes to soon be a legally recognized NGO.

"We're a hackerspace," explained Marc Farra, one of the co-founders of Lamba. He emphasized that the word "hacker" should have a positive connotation, underlining that "to hack is to take something and make it better. Hacking culture is the democratization of invention."



Though Lamba Labs has many similarities with Geek Express—including a workshop and media space hosted at Karaj, art and tech supplies and even a 3D printer—the main difference between the two is Lamba's emphasis on community rather than consumerism. GE is to LL as a creative space is to the hacker/geek community. Farra elaborated on this point, explaining "We'd be Lamba without a space.... a space is just an extension of the community," while Maya Kriedieh—another of Lamba's co-founders—added that "the community spirit exists and will persist, even if Lamba Labs does not."

Unlike LL and GE, TechnoFuture targets the younger population, specifically youth ages 4-17. They provide education in the fields of Robotics Programming, Technology and Engineering, Business, Life Sciences, and more. Hussein explains that TechnoFuture is all about the education, not the competition. "All of the organizations that are involved in this field have more or less the same values that I have, which is enabling our youth for a better future."

Overall, the three initiatives share one main aim: nurturing the creative culture of science and technologies in the Lebanese population. Phrasing this mindset beautifully, Kriedieh explained that many people feel that they need to travel for lack of opportunity in Lebanon: "[Lamba] has sprung from the need in Lebanon [for a place] where like-minded people can meet and collaborate on a different framework. We all like sharing, lets just do it together."

"Our main goal now is to raise awareness of the maker culture, that inventing really is possible in Lebanon and that we have the talent to do and create," remarked Dghaidy. "We have the potential to do crazy things."

Beirut Tech Spaces: Where Being a Nerd is Awesome
 

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