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Stuff We Love
Myriam Khoury 25 Aug 2015

Four Hidden Gems in Hamra

Technically, Hamra is a street in Beirut; but as many of us know, Hamra is a world of its own. Some would say that it’s practically hell due to the constant traffic jams, the high prices, and the notorious difficulty to find a parking spot. Others will tell you that it’s heaven, a place where art, culture, and diversity flourish; where artisans survive and intellectuals thrive. Having lived in Hamra for many years, I have had the pleasure of discovering many a wonderful spot, and I’m always surprised when people don’t recognize the shops I’m talking about. So here are four of Hamra’s many hidden gems.

Deep Music – music shop

I had passed by this music shop a million times before noticing it existed, and even when I did, it was only because I heard Fairuz’s voice floating out of a small door. When you walk in, what hits you first is a feeling of instant nostalgia emanating from the cassette-covered walls of the teeny shop. For a moment, you feel like you know and miss all of these Lebanese singers and composers, though most have probably died before you were even born. The richness of this place lies in the fact that it’s an archive of Lebanese artists who produced timeless music, some of which most of us grew up hearing. Want a cassette for your grandparents’ old radio? They have hundreds. Want that artist on a CD? No problem. Want some compilation of your favorite artists? Sure! This place has it all. Literally.

Address: Baalbak Street, Hamra. Open from 9:30AM to 7:30 PM.

Al Sharif – Lebanese restaurant

When you’re looking for some good old Lebanese food, but you want something so clean and authentic it feels homemade, Al Sharif is the place to go. Hidden in a narrow alley, right in front of the Lavender Café, this place offers hearty, homey traditional food in generous portions, for next to nothing. Famous for its “Fattet Hummus” (which is truly like none other I’ve ever tasted,) this place even offers to prepare food for you to put in tupperwares and take home, which makes it a go-to stop for foreigners who want to eat homemade Lebanese food without paying a fortune. Did I mention the Fattet Hummus? Try that, seriously.

Address: Commodore St., Hamra, Beirut, Lebanon
Telephone: +961-1-354865

Melki – Haberdashery (or that place with all the buttons)

I’ve always been a fan of DIY projects. Making stuff is as gratifying as it is relaxing, and you end up with handmade masterpieces (or so your mother says.) The only problem is: where to find all those little things you need, like ribbons or thread, or buttons or googly eyes? Hamra (of course) has the answer for you. Melki is a small place just off of Hamra main street, where you can find all sorts of fabrics, bows, sewing material and so much more. Whether you’re looking for parts for an old sewing machine, specific fabrics, crochet needles, or those fancy sewing-material baskets all our grandmas hide in their closets, Melki has it all. This is your chance to get started on that knitting hobby, because you know, winter is coming.

Address: Makdissi Street, Hamra.

Ants – Accessories, Clothing, and Decorations

I’m always baffled at how few people know this place. Although it’s rather small, it’s a veritable Ali Baba’s cave of Indian and far-eastern treasures. Ants is located just over Bliss Street. In the crammed space inside, you’ll find everything from earrings to necklaces, rings and bracelets, clothes and scarves, handbags and statuettes, artwork, woodwork, CDs of local artists and vintage vinyl records, and tons of handmade leather items in between. Everything you see is either handmade here in Lebanon, or imported from India and other magical kingdoms. Well-crafted, original, beautiful handmade pieces with a soul of their own? Yes, please.

Address: Makhoul Street, Hamra