A great article by Hrag Avedanian
Located on the eastern banks of the Beirut River, Bourj Hammoud is one of Lebanon’s most dynamic cities with its multifaceted residential, industrial and commercial dimensions, which connect the capital Beirut to the Mount Lebanon governorate.
Above and beyond the 2.5 km2 of gridiron plans, architectural features overseeing the Mediterranean and infrastructural facilities of a city, Bourj Hammoud is the manifestation of the collective memory of a people uprooted from its ancestral homeland. It is a yearning for home, away from home. It is a place of memory. The product of refugees. A city in exile.
While the land on which the city stands existed for centuries as small and disbursed settlements, swamps, marshlands and as agricultural fields, the city of Bourj Hammoud, as we know it today, was founded in the early 1930s by survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian refugees who fled the Ottoman massacres initially found refuge in tent settlements in the adjacent areas of Karantina and Mar Mikhael in the 1920s. However, after consistently facing pressure from the landowners to evacuate the area and multiple cases of arson, Armenian organizations sought the purchasing of land in Bourj Hammoud and planned the construction of a new home for these people. What was supposed to be a ‘temporary exile’ was soon to be a lasting one with hopes of reconstituting lives they left behind.
Father Boghos Ariss, a visionary Catholic priest, played an instrumental role in planning and overseeing the founding of a city which would become the religious, cultural, social, educational and political center for the post-genocide Armenian communities of Lebanon.
The etymology of Bourj Hammoud is debated. The literal meaning is “The Tower of Hammoud.” It is believed that Hammoud designates Mr. Hammoud Arlsan who, a few centuries ago, lived in a two-story stone structure which enabled him to oversee the agricultural lands and monitor the work of the peasants. For the peasants, who often lived in shacks, that structure was considered a tower. The area soon became known as the land of Bourj Hammoud. It is believed that the structure persists to this day and is in the premises of the Mar Doumit non-Armenian church.
Bourj Hammoud became an independent municipality in 1952 with Father Ariss as its first mayor. The city was divided into quarters. Quarters were organized by and named after the ancestral villages of Western Armenia (modern-day Turkey) where these communities came from. The quarters of “Nor Adana,” “Nor Marash,” “Nor Sis,” “Nor Giligia” are some manifestations of that, with the word ‘nor’ meaning ‘new.’ In other instances, cities of modern-day Armenia are chosen to name segments such as the residential quarter of ‘Arakadz,’ the ‘Yerevan’ flyover bridge and the major commercial street of ‘Arax.’ In many ways, Bourj Hammoud is the reconstruction of the diasporic version of the Armenian nation.
Read more on: https://armenianweekly.com/2021/08/04/bourj-hammoud-an-armenian-city-in-exile/