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Shaking it up in Tel Aviv
Story and photos by Donna Yuen

Thursday night is the night to party in Tel Aviv, and my nightlife guide, Doron, plans to see to it that we do just that! We start our bar hopping evening in Nanuchka, a Georgian restaurant bar with a unique décor, which is popular with the locals. Its terra-cotta walls are adorned with large mirrors and oil paintings. Garish chandeliers dangle from the ceiling providing a warm welcoming glow. The restaurant area hosts a calmer and relaxed crowd, while in the bar the patrons appear ready to jump up and dance all night long. I am told the place really gets hopping after midnight. Like most places in Tel Aviv, the bar scene does not get started until around 11pm and often runs until the last patron leaves. Nanuchka is located in the Rothschild quarter on Lillienblum Street, also known as the area to go clubbing in Tel Aviv. After a few drinks, we are ready to move on another bar in the party district.

We make our way to Abraxas, a dark, smoky grunge bar with DJ'd Jazz music. I notice nearly everyone is wearing black as we sit at a small table people-watching. I ask about the folded paper coasters on the table, my guide tells me that smoking is prohibited here therefore ashtrays are not placed upon the tables. Rather, the patrons use the folded coasters and when a loud bell is heard ringing everyone stamps out their cigarettes as it signals that the inspectors are coming.

Seeking some fresh air and en route to another bar we stop to join a street party led by a ten-piece band. Drums, horns and saxophones blare into the night as people dance in the square. The atmosphere is lighthearted and relaxed. Bystanders drink Cava (a Spanish sparkling wine) straight from the bottle while watching the party from street corners. After an impromptu street dance and a few more bars, Doron is eager to take me to what he calls a mega bar.

High Windows, known to the locals as Hachalonot Haguoim, is located in a nondescript building with a huge lineup outside. As I scan the crowd, I see this where the beautiful people go to see and be seen. It is helpful to know someone in order to get in, as patrons stand outside trying to negotiate with the doorman over the loud music. With Doron's connections, we finally make our way into the packed bar. Neon lights dance across the ceiling as the mid-20s to mid-40s crowd pulsates to the music. Throwing one's arms in the air, dancing, screaming and laughing appear to be popular pastimes here and Doron enthusiastically coaxes me into the crowd to join the party. I soon find myself with my arms in the air, screaming to be heard over the music and laughing at the insanity of all. Israelis know how to party.

We finally decide to call it a night and as Doron leaves he informs me that tomorrow he will show me the 'real' Tel Aviv as we attend one more musical event at Dolphinarium Beach. Also known as the Drummers Beach, drummers gather here every Friday in the late afternoon and play until late into the evening. This community-based event to welcome the weekend is open to everyone. Suitable for all ages, bystanders routinely stop by the free event to watch the drummers, dancers and jugglers perform. Dozens of drummers line up in rows against the colorfully painted wall, beating a variety of drum types from Congas to Bongos. Dancers add to the festivities shaking it up with their tambourines. Sometime after sunset, I begin my walk along the beach back to my hotel. The drummers continue their performance long into the night. The rhythm of the distant drums resonates across the sand in the darkness; their music accompanying me all the way back to my hotel. Tel Aviv is known for its nightlife and Israelis are proud of their social scene; while not heavy drinkers they clearly enjoy socializing and partying. So whether you want to be a bystander or to shake it up, Tel Aviv is the place.

If you go:

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