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From Hamra To Achrafieh: Why?

September 5, 2010

😀

I am going to be an AUB student as of December, and that to me is very exciting. AUB is located actually in Western Beirut on Bliss Street. Like any sane student moving to Beirut, they would want to be close to their university of choice. That was the case with me, my dad made sure Hamra was where I would stay, and got me a place there. Actually my previous apartment was close to the AUB campus,  a five minute drive, and maybe 15 minute walk… max. Ideal no? I guess so. I decided Hamra was not a place for me, this trip. So I got rid of it, and moved to the other side of the city. Yes, I moved far away from AUB to Ashrafieh. “Are you crazy?”, many have told me, “why would you do that? Now, with all the traffic and hustle and bustle you will need 45 minutes drive sometimes to make it to school!”. Yeah… I know. And? Today, I came across a post on an awesome blog called Beirutspring.com. One post was comparing Ashrafieh and the Dahyeh, even though very slightly… check it out here.

Many don’t get why I moved to Ashrafieh, and thats ok… I mean, they want to make life easier without having to go long distances in Beirut, but I on the other hand looked at it in a different way. I want my safety, a little bit more civilization, and “rayee7 rasseh”. I’m not saying Western Beirut is not civilized, don’t get me wrong… it’s one of my favorite areas in the country… I love Hamra, cosmopolitan Ras Beirut, and the vast mixture of different types of people, religions, and “classes” in the area… but I don’t feel safe there. I may be blowing things out of proportion, but I do feel much safer in Ashrafieh in comparison to West Beirut. There’s too much tension there. May 2008 was a good example of that. Recent clashes are also very good examples of what I mean. Plus, I have come across many Israeli’s in my day, read a lot of Israeli papers, and follow two Israeli television channels, which are translated to English via my satellite here… West Beirut is much talked about. “A hub and future post for Hezballah”  is what they called it recently. What does that mean? Maybe future attacks on West Beirut? I don’t know, nobody really knows, but all I can say is I feel much safer on the Eastern part of the city. I, like many others, chose an area with a lower possibility of clashes, in comparison to other neighborhoods.  It’s not being cowardice, quite the opposite actually, it’s just that I would rather avoid problems and a headache as much as I can. I’m here to enjoy my country and my move, not to become involved in such possibilities of silly and often violent clashes, which will most likely cause me to hate Lebanon… no?

Another thing that strikes me is the structure of Ashrafieh versus Hamra. Ashrafieh is more… “French Colonial”, which many might think is a bad thing to say, but no… it has a certain “flair” and  “attraction” to it. The streets, the buildings… all of it. It seems like a different country sometimes, and I really like that about it. Not to mention 95% of my friends live in Ashrafieh, it’s also something I took into consideration. Having more friends in Ashrafieh does help… a lot. When making such a large and very drastic permanent move, friends and people you know does make it much easier. What if I am hit by a car (LOL)? My friends all live 5 minutes away, I don’t have to worry about being…. “alone” I guess. All my family is in the Bekaa, almost an hour or so away… so I took that into consideration. I guess thats fair too though… I want to be close to people I know, people I truest, and ultimately someone who can easily help me if I need anything and vice versa!

My personality also played a large role in my decision to move. I am going to be studying like crazy, literally, and I wanted to make sure I also have easy access to places where everyone meets, and I can have fun. Gemmayze… Monot… closer to Jbeil, Jounieh, and other areas. I like to party, I like to have fun, but I don’t like being far away, so that maybe played a large part in where I want to live in Beirut. Don;t get me wrong, I have my priorities, and I’m very very serious about them, but like everyone my age, I also like to wind down and let loose. My personality is also very, funky, sometimes wild, and very spontaneous… and I think Ashrafieh offers me that, while Hamra kind of limits me. I know, it’s all in one city, and I can be spontaneous whenever I want, free to go to Gemmayze whenever I want, and can be spontaneous anywhere. I also found Hamra, or West Beirut, to be VERY conservative. I’m far from conservative, I mean … I have absorbed a lot of the Canadian mentality, and Ashrafieh is a bit more “western” when compared to West Beirut. I know… “the west”, “the west”, ‘”the west” and it’s influences are not something a lot of people like, but hey, it’s not THAT bad. I mean I’d prefer a little bit more openness than the closed-minded mentalities. I’m not saying that in a bad way, I’m not there to “sleep around”, “score women”, and live like a rock star, I just like having that extra surge of freedom.

I know, many think I’m being ridiculous, but really… I don’t know if I am. I could be just finding excuses to be in Ashrafieh, but I see what I mentioned to be viable and pretty reasonable reasons. What do you guys think? Was I too rash in making my decision to be in Ashrafieh? I mean, I was really determined to be there. You tell me.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2010 10:01 pm

    I don’t know why some people are so prejudiced against Achrafieh, what a provincial mindset. Perhaps all they know of that area is ABC; mostly I think there’s envy in it, dissing the very things they wish they could partake in. When I was looking for an apartment, Achrafieh is where I looked first. I would never even consider living around Hamra even though I’m there almost every day, for different reasons – too noisy, too crowded, too locked up inside Beirut (I have classes and my group of friends outside Beirut and it would be hell to head north every evening if I was stuck in Hamra – somewhere near the edge of Beirut is much better.) But you’re absolutely right in terms of safety and open-mindedness: after the 2008 clashes, friends of mine with a leftist mindset, who had resolutely spent the 75-90 war near Sanayeh and would never have considered settling in East Beirut, suddenly sold their house and moved to Achrafieh proper, because the polarization had become, in their words, scary, and they had children to think of. It’s just a quiet and pleasant area and the rest of the city could take a leaf out of its book, whether they like to admit it or not.

    • BeirutiAdventures permalink
      September 5, 2010 10:06 pm

      *applause* VERY WELL SAID!
      It’s such an awesome place, I have alot of friends who would turn red knowing I left the “gharbiyyeh” for the “shar2iyyeh”…. little do they know these terms no longer apply.
      Oh well. Ashrafieh is where it;s at!

  2. September 5, 2010 10:24 pm

    From my experience, having lived on the green line all my life (and boy do I have stories), Beirut isn’t divided into East and West, but into people who reclaimed the whole of their city when the division fell, and idiots (on both sides) who refuse to reconcile with the other side because in their little heads the line is etched forever. And they’re not difficult to spot, either.
    Plus you have the hypocrites who want to have it both ways, and do go to Gemmayze or to Hamra and then return to their side to report on how “nye2” the other side is.
    Lots of people need to be bitchslapped in this country.

    • BeirutiAdventures permalink
      September 5, 2010 10:33 pm

      Very true, you see… people like you mentioned are the ones that make my life so much more difficult. I watched MTV the other day, and it was the news. They were discussing the electricity problem, one bozo decided to say “The shar2iyeh pays it’s bills, deal with the nawar bil gharbiyyeh”. Ok… he could say whatever he wants, but then states he works for a company in Hamra, and he loves his job. Not only do they need to be bitch slapped, I think we need to ship these people to an island somewhere, maybe they will learn their lesson. My friend parties in Gemmayze, and lives in ABC… but when you say Ashrafieh, he says “disgusting” right after. It’s so hypocritical and sad. Their lives are based upon this stupid green line, which separates them, when in fact it should bring them closer together. You’d think they would learn from the 15 year civil war. I cant stand it.

      • September 5, 2010 10:45 pm

        And let me guess, they tend to be young people who didn’t experience the civil war first hand, only inherited their parents’ prejudice and add onto them cuz they need a cause?

      • BeirutiAdventures permalink
        September 5, 2010 10:51 pm

        Exactly who they are. Know nothing about the past, the cruelties, suffering, and the results of prejudices…. but choose to follow these footsteps for one reason or another. Quite sad. I must say, I have met a lot of parents who make sure these prejudices are carried on by their children, so these young people I cannot blame all the time. Being raised for 17 years on hatred and anger, they have no choice but to be this way.

  3. September 6, 2010 12:47 am

    My place on Bchara El Khoury is literally a 5 minute walk from Achrafieh. The recent incidents (clashes, electricity riots) all took place in my area or close to it on the Western side. This makes me agree with you with regards to safety. We came to learn to expect the unexpected in this area. It’s unpredictable. That’s why I spend most of my time in Achrafieh. Even though it’s 5 minutes away from my area, you feel you are in a completely different and safer environment.

    Even when I have relatives visiting from outside the country, they choose to stay in hotels on the Eastern side.

  4. September 6, 2010 2:33 am

    I think Hamra and Ashrafieh are equally amazing, they both have an amazing urban design, with beautiful demographics. It’s your absolute right to think about your safety nowadays.

  5. Dar El Akhdar permalink
    September 6, 2010 2:43 am

    The AUB-ite (and Ras-Beiruti) in me declares this post unfair! 😀

    You probably should have given the multiple areas surrounding AUB more credit: you could have found a gem of a location in Clemenceau (Jumblatt’s hood), Ain el Mreishe (Raouche baby!) or even Koraitem (Hariri’s bastion) that would not be as crowded as Hamra but that would still be close to uni

    Believe me : driving or commuting to uni everyday is no fun – ESPECIALLY that you’ll have the chance to study in a relatively pedestrian-friendly city like Beirut, with its ups and downs and colorful streets

    I remember having the time of my life at a friend’s place in Bliss where the gang would hang out and laugh like crazy while having their study groups (I was a Political Studies major – they were engineers :P)

    But if you have more friends and relatives in Achrafieh (and it is one BEAUTIFUL area of Beirut), best of luck with your move buddy!

    • BeirutiAdventures permalink
      September 6, 2010 9:18 pm

      I know, I was probably being a little bit over-dramatic… haha like I said, I may have been trying to convince myself it was a good move 😛 . I really do love Hamra, and west Beirut in general, I spent ALOT of good times there, with unbelievable amount of beautiful memories, it’s home. But I guess, the advenrtuerer in me also wanted something “new” and wild 😛

      Thanks alot bro! Badak tzourneh with Miss Zeina haha 😛 🙂

  6. September 6, 2010 5:49 am

    well ya habboub if anything bad is to happen it will happen anywhere! It’s true that in Lebanon some places are safer than others but that’s all relative to whom are fighting at that time LOL!
    I worked in Achrafiyeh last spring, and mom almost had heart attacks everyday, since I used to finish work something around 8:00 PM, & she used to hear that there were lot of thefts and raping going on in Achrafiyeh on the news! Well nothing bad ever happened to me lol! You get my point eh?

    On the other side I worked in Hamra last winter as well (I’ve worked in lots of things before I settle at this job lol) and you made a great choice for wanting to live in Achrafiyeh, for one main reason: if your school and home are in the same area you’ll be limited to this place and bored to see its beauty properly.

    I love Hamra, no actually I’m in love with Hamra haha but when I used to work there I hated it! You need to stay far from something to miss it, then enjoy it! =)

    I love achrafiyeh, I used to work behind MTV studios which is a residential area with a school nearby. I enjoyed the early mornings with Ladies all dressed up going out, fathers sipping there coffees at the balconies while their babies are playing on the floor.. 🙂

    Plus achrafiyeh is closer to Mathaf haik bseer 2a2rab eli ta zoorak 😉

    • BeirutiAdventures permalink
      September 6, 2010 9:15 pm

      Thats true! Hahaha you made some very good points, which by the way incuded your zyarrat! That was the deal breaker! haha Ahla w sahla fikeh anytime! 🙂 I always look forward to your comments Em el Zouz! 🙂

  7. September 6, 2010 7:10 am

    hmmm..talk to me when you start going to school. When you have to wake up an hour earlier to get to class on time, sit in traffic, and fight for a parking space. For me, the most important thing is convenience and practicality. But it seems like you’ve already made up your mind!! Good luck!

  8. September 6, 2010 7:16 am

    I’m going to go ahead and copy-paste Dar El Akhdar’s comment because, word for word, his position is mine (except my major was not political studies, but my friends were engineers.)

    The AUB-ite (and Ras-Beiruti) in me declares this post unfair!

    You probably should have given the multiple areas surrounding AUB more credit: you could have found a gem of a location in Clemenceau (Jumblatt’s hood), Ain el Mreishe (Raouche baby!) or even Koraitem (Hariri’s bastion) that would not be as crowded as Hamra but that would still be close to uni

    Believe me : driving or commuting to uni everyday is no fun – ESPECIALLY that you’ll have the chance to study in a relatively pedestrian-friendly city like Beirut, with its ups and downs and colorful streets

    I remember having the time of my life at a friend’s place in Bliss where the gang would hang out and laugh like crazy while having their study groups (I was a Political Studies major – they were engineers )

    But if you have more friends and relatives in Achrafieh (and it is one BEAUTIFUL area of Beirut), best of luck with your move buddy!

  9. Armigatus permalink
    September 6, 2010 5:00 pm

    You make it sound like 2 different worlds; Less than 2 klms separates Achrafieh from Hamra

    • Julia permalink
      September 6, 2010 9:03 pm

      But I really do agree with Seif. i find them two totally different cities! I mean architecture, design and life…. it’s weird. Seif talks a little bit about a more civilized and stable Ashrafieh, I found this the case for me too! I mean Im lebanese living in London, and Ashrafieh is much more civilized…less noise, less traffic, less 3aj2a and yelling lol. But I do love west beirut, and Dar El-Akhdar makes some very good points as well!

  10. September 8, 2010 6:31 am

    I am a hamra lover. I don’t mind achrafieh. Most of my friends live there. I work there. but I prefer the ecclecticness of hamra. I would only move out when my family throws me out. I surely can’t afford the rents there. i lived the war in that area and I never felt unsafe. I was kidnapped as a child by a woman, the whole area monopolised until they found me. I’ve know the hamra of before and the hamra of today. It is the one place where everybody is welcomed and accepted despite their religion or political affilities. Achrafieh has its charm but Ras-Beirut symbolises the pre-war Beirut

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