People, About the city, Culture

Hamra: On the Rise again

Per: Karen ATHWAL  

NEIGHBOURHOOD The City of Beirut has a long and turbulent history that spans over 5000 years. After years of war and destruction, the city has once again become the Middle Easts cultural and the spotlight in particular is on the up and coming district of Hamra.

Once called the 'Champs Elysées' of Beirut, the city was a hotspot among tourists , but it had not always been that way. Hamra was once a garden farming area with an uneven landscape, Hamra's urbanization and popularity really came about in the late 50s and 60s and prior to 1975 one of the main streets of Beirut, Hamra Street, became known as the tendiest place to be in the city. 

Before the Civil War, the districts sidewalk cafes, theatres, boutique shops and authentic Lebanese restaurants  attracted tourists to the city all year round. This is where the city's elite resided, in the heart of Beirut, among multiple religions and cultures. The geographical location of the district that connects the Central district of Beirut with the Ras neighbourhood and the close proximity to the American University of Beirut, is also an attraction for anumber of students and intellectuals alike. 

After years of Civil war in Lebanon, Hamra lost it's title as the city's cosmopolitan hub, largely due to high rent that forced out Beirut's socialite residents and saw many cafes and shops close down. Although fashionistas soon began flocking to neighbouring streets such as the equally fashionable Rue Verdun, Hamra has remained at the epi-centre of commercial activity and as a tourist hotspot, due in-part to it's historical significance. 

Today Hamra Street is lined with Beirut's top bars and clubs, charming cafes, including a few international chains, designer boutiques, hotels and remains the headquarters of several news publications and private banks. The introduction of Hamra street festival has also done much to keep the district alive by celebrating the cultural diversity of Hamra with concerts, art exhibitions and street performers and attracts numerous crowds from all over Lebanon and further afield, every year. 

Text Karen Athwal