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The Armenian Neighborhood in Beirut

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

Think about a pair of words that you usually use together because you have heard them before and understand their concept but have never wondered why the words are paired together. In Spanish, for instance, people use the word ‘blujeans’ to refer to a pair of jeans. Not to refer to a pair of ‘blue jeans’ precisely, but to ‘blujeans’ that could be black or brown and thus you may hear someone say “hand me the black blujeans.”

So, when it comes to Turkish Delights, I did not think that there are other delights—although I should have—and I just used the term in an Armenian crowd in Bourj Hammoud. Roasted! The owner of the delights’ store was so upset that he made sure I understood the candies in his hands were Armenian delights and not Turkish delights and their differences. I still don’t see the differences but he does because of the genocide. My bad...

Bourj Hammoud is a neighborhood (2 km in size) in Beirut and It is the place where some Armenians emigrated to escape genocide from the Ottomans in the early 20th century. So, Beirut was one of their very few options.

They grew into a big community and they maintained their own language, customs, religious traditions, sects, cuisine, style, and on and on. It is called Bourj Hammoud because Bourj in Arabic means tower, and Hammoud is a proper noun. Therefore, it’s name is The Tower of Hammoud. Now, when I asked where was that tower, they told me it was a 2 story old building that is part of the Mar Doumit church. If you think about it, a tower could be anything if we are talking about the years between 1915 and 1935 where there was barely nothing in the surrounding.

Hammoud Arslan was a well to do Lebanese Druze landlord and the peasants worked for him. He brought business to the region and settled with his family while putting a name for this neighborhood. The neighborhood is 2 km square and each one of the streets is divided into the regions they used to inhabit before they were exterminated by the Ottomans.

I joined a walking tour around Bourj Hammoud which, by the way, it was very safe. There is an Armenian man who takes foreigners and locals all about the district and teaches them about the streets, the history, the commerce, and the cuisine. I will leave his contact below in case you go to Beirut and want to go on the tour.

Our tour made a stop in a homey restaurant and we had a sample of each one of the dishes most often prepared by Armenians. Plus it was fairly cheap; I ate like a horse and I paid 7 dollars.

The Armenian Neighborhood has the best prices of Beirut, not only in regards to food but clothes, jewelry, groceries, and others.

Armenians are traditionally Christians and they built an Orthodox church in the same spot twice. The first time, its dome fell and they had to reconstruct it. Today I found a beautiful orthodox church painted in dark pink that resembles the famous Armenian stone called tuff. But it was too heavy and too expensive to bring it to Beirut, so they fixed the colored part.

Finally, I got to play baclgammon with a 95 years old man and I lost. I usually win at backgammon but I lost this game. Hey! He has 70 years more experience.

If you want to join the tour, contact on Instagram @routeonfoot

For now I say goodbye. But I will post soon.

Instagram: @saluakamerow

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