Bourj Hammoud Marash Street – witness to the deportation of Armenians 

  • by Western Armenia, March 04, 2022 in Society

  Bourj Hammoud Marash Street of Beirut is an open window for the Armenian community with its grocery stores and culinary traditions. The long narrow street at the entrance to Burj Hamud is full of small grocery stores. The tablets are written in Arabic and Armenian. Most of the names come from the city of Marash in Western Armenia-Tenbelyan, Nerses El-Halabi, Garo or Khano Cafe. Garlics, eggplants, dried fruits and vegetables decorate shop windows. There are mixtures and decoctions necessary for the preparation of medicines according to the grandmother's prescription.

A city in Cilicia.

Marash was one of the richest and most populous cities of Cilicia in the south-west of Western Armenia. This was stated by the Berlin-based Memorial Association, which works to preserve the memory of Armenian life during the Ottoman Empire. Before the genocide against the Armenians, about 40,000 people lived here, who were engaged in crafts, trade and agriculture.

Most of the merchants on Bourj Hammoud Marash Street are residents of the city.

They carefully preserve the family history and pass it on from generation to generation. There is also a grocery store owned by Azad Tashjian, which operated until 1952, when the Bourj Hammoud Municipality was founded. Harut Tenbelyan belongs to the third generation after the genocide. His grandfather's ancestral village was located in the southeastern province of Haijin. The village is known today as Saimbeyli. According to him, the grandfather supported the existence of his family by producing spices, the recipes of which are carefully stored.

Anthropologist and author of the Bourj Hammoud study Joan Nucho said: "Marash is the first district built in the northwestern part of Bourj Hammoud, where each of the individual districts is named after the hometown of the Armenian family living there." Bourj Hammoud was created through the efforts of Catholic Father Pogos Aris, who was the first chairman of the local council in the 1940s.

"The spice trade on this street developed along with the development of Bourj Hammoud," says Arpi Mangasaryan.

Around the 1930s, "merchants' ' sold their goods on Marash Street in a room of their house facing the street. Over the years, they have expanded their business and rented more space.

Today, Marash Street attracts tourists from all over the world and the diaspora. Stores export their products to regular customers.

Shahin Khanom's shop at the end of the street looks like a spice museum, where the goods stand up to the ceiling. His family was born in Sasun.

"My family has been selling groceries since 1880, and it had mills in Aleppo," says Shagin. "My father moved to Lebanon in 1974. Our surname comes from the word khan or market. The spice mixes I offer are family recipes."

Although Marash Street is mostly decorated in the colors of the Armenian three colored flag, and the signs are written in Armenian, Bourj Hammoud has a rich social structure. Its population consists not only of Christian Armenians, but also of Shiites, Kurds, Syrian refugees and numerous migrant workers. According to the World Bank, about 150,000 people live here.