Located northeast of the capital, Bourj Hammoud is one of the most densely populated areas in the entire Middle East. With a large Armenian community, the neighborhood has become a firm favorite with locals and foreigners alike, who revel in the many unique attractions the area has to offer.
1. Buy Jewelry
If you’re looking to buy gold or silver, Bourj Hammoud will not disappoint you. Armenia Street, the main thoroughfare, is packed with countless jewelry shops selling everything from major bling to modest items. You can rest assured that prices are fair and you won’t get ripped off easily – you can probably even find yourself a bargain.
2. Wander down Arax Street
Arax Street can be summed up in three words: chaotic, crowded and narrow. Running perpendicular to Bourj Hammoud’s main Armenia Street, Arax is a well-known hotchpotch of shops selling everything from clothing to linens, haberdashery, and souvenirs. Check out the wires that dangle precariously from one building to the next, while you browse weird and wonderful knick-knacks in the little stores.
3. Eat at Apo
A trip to Bourj Hammoud would not be complete without a bite at Apo (03 325402). The no-frills restaurant, tucked behind the main street, serves delicious sandwiches and a variety of main dishes. Specialties include the kabab karaz (with sour cherries), the kabab Armany (a spicy Armenian sandwich) and the kabab batenjen (with grilled aubergine). Be sure to take a break here, have a chat with Apo’s friendly owner Kevork, and tuck into something yummy from their extensive menu. Your stomach will thank you for it!
4. Make new friends
Bourj Hammoud’s maze of interconnecting streets can give even the most adventurous explorers a run for their money. Wandering around the area is a rather entertaining endeavor and there are photo opportunities around every corner so be sure to grab your camera. The friendly locals can often be found chatting with neighbors from their balconies or engrossed in a game of backgammon on the narrow sidewalk. Don’t be shy in striking up a conversation; you’ll probably make some new friends in the process.
5. Grab some yummy stuff to take home
Don’t think about leaving Bourj Hammoud without making a beeline for the spice souk on Marash Street. You can find pretty much every kind of herb and spice imaginable, as well as a huge selection of dried fruit. Café Garo (01 261287) is particularly well-stocked and meticulously organized. The store, run by Garo’s daughter, is famous for its sweet soujouk (made with grape syrup and walnuts) and its red pepper paste that comes in a range of spice levels.
For the untrained eye, Mano (01 268560) appears to be just another fast-food restaurant with brash neon lighting, but a closer look soon reveals something rather special about the place. A true landmark, Mano attracts visitors from far and wide for its house basterma (spicy air-dried cured beef) and soujouk (spicy beef sausage). You might need to stand in line but it’s worth it.