“Do you know what is the hobby of Armenians?” asked the engineer, driving the car along the central street of Bourj Hammoud.
“What is it?”
“Building. When a Lebanese gets money, he buys clothes or a car. But an Armenian… They buy bricks and put them together one by one.”
His words were true — small cranes and concrete mixers could be seen all over Bourj Hammoud. And one more feature.
I first found myself in a place where Armenians constitute the majority of the population, where shop signs are written first in Armenian and then in Arabic, where Armenian is spoken in public, where Armenians receive medical treatment and where teeth are removed by Armenian dentists, where meat is butchered by Armenian butchers, where clothes are made by Armenian tailors, where entire sections of bookstores are dedicated to Charents’, Totovents’, and William Saroyan’s books.
There is an Armenian football team here, and everywhere under the cars lie, with their legs sticking out, Armenian mechanics. The streets bear the names of the lost cities: Aintab, Marash, Adana… All this was perceived as a manifestation of confidence or challenge that I had not yet encountered. It seemed that the Armenians have originated in these places.
Bourj Hammoud is a modern settlement. It seemed that this was the only place I have ever seen in Beirut where people were busy. Here, everything is in full swing, everyone is in a hurry, and all this is thanks to the trade flourishing here; the residents of the rest of Beirut are attracted to here by the occupation that they prefer to anything else – shopping.
An excerpt from the book of Philip Marsden “The Crossing Place: A Journey Among the Armenians.”
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