Lebanese High Society

Natalie Naccache

"We can be like the Europeans, not like the Arabs", Beatrice Bekhache, 18, a Lebanese Debutante Ball participant. Lebanon was known as the Paris of the Middle East before the civil war took place, it was a haven for the Arab elite filled with both Casinos and an active nightlife.

Whilst Lebanon is facing regional political turmoil, Lebanon's High Society continues it's gala dinners and Debutante Balls. The exclusive social group is made up of "well known, wealthy families with 'high status'".

Born to Lebanese parents, but raised in London, when visiting Lebanon, I was exposed to large, extravagant, theatrical weddings; the push for perfection was all so visually exciting.

I was drawn to photograph glamorous Lebanese weddings, and through this, I explored their glamorous lifestyles which included events such as hosting 1,000 guest weddings while being entertained by A-list Arab pop stars, attending extravagant dinner parties, and celebrating with lavish baby showers, all while adorning designer dresses and dripping with jewellery. As Lebanese society is so close knit, weddings and other social events are where families can "show off" their wealth.

The Annual Debutante Ball is designed to introduce young ladies from all over Lebanon, aged between 15-21 to Lebanese High Society, whilst raising money to buy ambulances for the Lebanese Red Cross. Every year, the Ball is broadcast on National television, and a foreign Prince as well as Lebanon's first lady are invited to attend. The Debutante committee carefully selects these ladies, who all come from “good, wealthy families”. To take part it costs approximately $2,000, which the participants describe as "the best night of their life".

With the constant push for perfection in this society, the Ball and other luxurious events are a form of escaping a harsh reality currently faced in Lebanon.

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  • 10/08/2013 KASLIK, LEBANON
    Young Lebanese ladies practice their Debutante dance, at the Portemelio Hotel in Kaslik, Lebanon. The ladies have weekly dance practice on Saturdays.

  • Sara, 22, who graduated five days before her wedding, waits in a holding room before she makes her entrance to her 650- guest wedding in BIEL Center, Beirut, Lebanon. Her dress weighs 15 kilos.

  • 02/11/2013 JOUNIEH, LEBANON
    Debutante ladies dance with their partner at the Debutante Ball infront of an audience of 600 people, tickets for the Ball ranged from $150 or $200.

  • 19/07/2013 HAMMANA, LEBANON
    Ghina Arslan (L), her friend, with their new baby daughters in Ghina's husband's mountain home in Hammana, Lebanon. Following Lebanese tradition, Ghina welcomes her baby Karma with a baby shower after Karma is born, where family and friends attend a brunch.

  • 05/08/2013 BEIRUT, LEBANON
    "Pearly", Salwa Choukheir's cat sits on an armchair at the Choukheir residence in Beirut, Lebanon.

  • 05-08-2013 BEIRUT, LEBANON
    Salwa Choukheir, who sponsors the Debutante Ball, and finances various charities, with her Chihuaua dog in her living room at her home in Beirut, Lebanon.

  • 23/11/2013 BEIRUT, LEBANON
    Rosy Boulos, (center) part of the Debutante Ball committee, and head of Emergency Medical Services for the Red Cross, at Edgar and Jessica's large wedding at the BIEL center.

  • 29/10/2013 DBAYEH, LEBANON
    Beatrice Bekhache, 18, a Debutante lady, who is taking the center stage on the night of the Ball tries on a dress by Lebanese designer Georges Chakra. Beatrice and her mother Odette discuss her high heels.
    George Chakra, and George Hobeika, both leading Lebanese designers requested for only the tallest ladies to wear their dresses for the Ball.
    Each young lady is lent a designer dress from a Lebanese designer for the night.

  • 02/12/2013 ADMA, LEBANON
    Tamara Hobeika, 18, a Debutante Ball participant in her bedroom, a week and a half after she had a nose job operation. "I hated my nose, I was sad because of my nose, and was obssessed with it. It's not superficial to repair the nose, like all the stars here. I love it now because it looks natural, it's me."

  • 19/07/2013 HAMMANA, LEBANON
    Baby Shower gifts are given away at Karma Mezher's baby shower, consisting of glass perfume container, sweet almonds, and chocolate, at their family mountain home in Hammana.

  • 24/08/2013 JOUNIEH, LEBANON
    Regina Fenianos, President of the Debutantes Ball, in her garden in Jounieh. Mrs Fenianos created the Ball 16 years ago, being brought up in Brazil where Debutante Balls are the norm at 15, Fenianos' dream was to create one for her future daughter. However she had three boys, and so, she created the Ball for Lebanese girls to make "their dream come true and become a princess for the night". To take part, it costs approximately $2,000.

  • 02/11/2013 JOUNIEH, LEBANON
    Taline Mansour, (center) poses for a self portait on her mobile phone, while amongst Debutante Ball participants, before the Ball at Casino du Liban where the Ball is held.

  • 23/11/2013 BEIRUT, LEBANON
    Jessica Obeid and her female relatives fix ther make up in her holding room before she enters her large wedding. Her mother, Leila Obeid, is a famous beauty consultant featured on National television.

  • 01/11/2013 JOUNIEH, LEBANON
    President of the Debutante Ball, Regina Fenianos, gives the sound mechanic directions at a Debutante Dance rehearsal, at Casino du Liban, where the Ball will be held.