Bourj Hammoud; Safe haven for the survivors of the Armenian Genocide

Disclaimer: “Go ahead, destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a new Armenia.” William Saroyan

Today we mourn the death of 1.5 million Armenians, 950,000 Greeks and 750,000 Assyrians under the directives of the Ottoman Empire rulers. This extermination policy led Armenians to flee (warned by their Kurdish neighbors) to neighboring countries in what is known as the death march. Many settled in Der el-Zor (Syria) and more reached the coastal city of Beirut (Lebanon).

You can read my blog post on on the centennial commemoration of the Genocide by clicking on the link below; https://patylsperspective.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/the-story-of-an-armenian-genocide-survivor-my-grandmother/ 

Today I wanted to share with you all a glimpse of the safe haven Armenians built in Beirut city known as Little Armenia to some and Bourj Hammoud to most of you. This neighborhood, built out of a swamp, turned into an industrial and residential area for Armenians and other ethnic minorities over the years.

This past month I have visited Bourj Hammoud more than I have in the two decades I have lived in Lebanon. Many errands kept me going back and forth but it is mostly the genuine, cozy interaction with its residents, the real-feel of intimacy from its narrow streets and that old/vintage vibe that kept me going up to more than three times a week.

The infrastructure of Bourj Hammoud is an interesting one. Unlike its neighboring district, houses are built three/four stories high and the buildings stack up one next to the other each being polished its own unique way. The survivors of the first genocide of the 20th century did not despair about their fate. They took matters into their own hand and started building their future in this welcoming unknown territory. Most of them got employed just so to put aside some money in order to feed their families and eventually open their own businesses.

When strolling through the streets of B.Hammoud you will instantly notice that Armenians are handymen i-e they excel in the craft of art. They are known to be famous jewelers hence the stretch of jewelry shops on its main road. Furthermore when you enter the streets parallel to the famous Arax street, you will come to notice small shops selling dried food, spices and unimaginable artifacts (sometimes all sold under one roof).

The streets are narrow and permit one car to pass through (very slowly). Pedestrians walk in the middle of the road as well as on the pavement when permitted since most items from shops overflow onto the pavement. Although it is a busy street, you do not feel overwhelmed. People are lively, interactive and very much happy. If you have not heard Armenian before, be prepared to be drawn by its hubbub. Clothing shops tend to compete with each other and if you look closely you will notice that most of them sell to an extend the same products. I don’t know what you have heard but it is not easy to bargain with an Armenian. But you will most probably have heard before (and many times) that they are the most honest businessmen and their work speaks for itself.

How many of you have gone out of your way to buy in bulk from an Armenian vendor in Bourj Hammoud?

How many of you go first to an Armenian jeweler for an honest opinion about the price of a stone?

How many of you fashion designers have settled a deal with an Armenian clothing manufacturer to produce your collection pieces?

and again I’m going to ask you

How many of you swear by the work of Sako, Ara and Garo?

There you got it.

We might have been persecuted a century ago. We might have fled our home country. We might have spread worldwide. But we maintained our integrity, our faith and our trust in God that no matter where and no matter the circumstances we are going to remain and fight against all odds thrown our way.

I encourage you to visit Bourj Hammoud, take unique pictures, mingle with its residents and have a bite of some delicious Armenian food.

Trust me, the experience is one of a kind.

 

 

 

Open mindedness & disrespect; women draw that line.

Disclaimer: In no way this post is intended to a specific person. So if you feel targeted, take a chill pill sweetheart and ask yourself, why you do feel I’m addressing you? Thank you! 

In Lebanon, every woman considers herself from the highly esteemed ‘haute société’ however forgets to behave as such in society. We have said it many times, ‘l’habit ne fait pas le moine’ (the cloths do not make the man) but alas such expression reaches the deaf ears of Miss Louboutin, Mrs GuccixRandomLebaneseFashionDesigner and the lot of them.

However I am not here to judge your cloths, they are gorgeous, but your attitude? Nay Nay/ Abort. Who am I to judge? Well I am a very concerned citizen (and yes I come from a highly respected family-the real deal B), a woman who is alarmed by the high rise of disrespectful, vulgar and ugly women inside and out elevating in social circles and being given credit and respected for doing nothing at all. Well technically, not nothing at all, #BlessedForSugarDaddy’s helping wallet in accessing the right circles…

On the other hand, let’s forget the aesthetic and focus on personality.

I personally believe that any form of (well brought up/good family *hint hint) personality overshadows materialistic cloth. I will give you credit. Ok. Fine. However, surprise surprise. I wish I left you at Prada and never let you open your mouth. Looks like being liberal and open minded has led you to another complete stratosphere.

I have come to notice that, as of late, women are being tacky and petty in the name of ‘being liberals and open minded’. I have nothing against these two features, however etiquette should be brought into the equation. A well brought up woman (so she says whenever she wants to address her family roots in public) should not turn into a loud mouth babbler whenever she wants to make a public statement. Ranting is good. Being moderate is even better. However ranting on anything and everything is just not making a point. It is being a vulgar psycho socially. Take a chill pill babe.

For crying out loud, what happened to women being poise in society? What happened to brilliant minds? All I see is them being overshadowed by loud mouths? What happened to tackling a problem or making a point in a polite way? Diplomacy anyone?

What happened to Lebanese women raising the standard high? Yes there are very successful women out there. And yes many of them come from neat background, however shouldn’t we start giving credit and elevating these successful minds up the bar instead of those trolls parading on and offline?

Again I am not against the concept of being liberal and open minded, however I am for tact and a woman behaving like one.

Draw that line. Please.

xo

 

The wonders of Baalbek City.

Can you imagine I have been living in Lebanon for three decades and I have never ever visited the city of Baalbek located 85 km from Beirut in the northern Bekaa Valley.

For those not familiar with the city of Baalbek you might be wondering what’s so special about this city in particular. Well within the following post I will paint for you the historical rich city of Baalbek, its Roman temples of Jupiter and Baachus Temple, the remains of the Temple of Venus…  I bet I caught your attention now!

We woke up my sister and I energized on this Sunday morning (two weeks ago) excited about visiting Baalbek with a couple of other friends. My camera was all set, being charged the previous evening, phone batteries check, coffee sipped quickly and off we were picked up and on our way to the Bekaa.

The Bekaa region is a fertile valley within the eastern part of Lebanon. It is a farming area which I advise you to take nice shots of when seeing its sight from the mountainous height before descending towards it. I did not have the privilege of snapping some shots as my lovely riders were more interested in their bellies and looking for a snack to have breakfast. We stopped at Jaber Jaber, one of the snacks along the roadside and they each ordered a couple of 2arisheh. The latter is a famous sweet made of cottage cheese wrapped goodie with honey that is well known in the Bekaa area and to which many Beirutis drive to eat solely at. Not something I would eat but they swore to me it was delicious. I believed them as they ordered more than two (but hey who’s counting, right? 😉 )

We continued our trip after our 30min break.

A little bit of history.

As I mentioned, Baalbek is at 85 km from Beirut. It is a long road trip so I advise you to have an iPOD plugged into your car radio as the frequency gets messy the further you distance yourself from the capital. According to an online website, “Baalbek is Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure and can be counted among the wonders of the Ancient World. They are the largest temples ever built and among the best preserved. Baalbek is located among two main historic trade routes. One between the mediterranean coast and the Syrian interior and the other between northern Syria and northern Palestine. ” .

Tourists flock to the city of Baalbek to visit the famous temple complex of Baalbek which is made of the Jupiter Temple and the Bacchus Temple adjacent to it. Further away is the circular Temple of Venus and  only part of the staircase remains of a fourth Temple dedicated to Mercury.

When we first reached Baalbek, we instantly saw the imposing monument of the Temple of Jupiter. You must be blind not to be hit by its beautiful stand on your left side. We parked on the road and started walking towards it. A nice man led the way to the entrance, of course beware of the local vendors who would insist on you buying scarfs or souvenirs from their cart.

We walked for more than hour. We took a lot of pictures. We met many foreigners visiting the site and listening avidly to the stories of their respective guides. It was charming listening 60+ year old guides talking fluently in English to their visitors. Which further proved to me of Lebanese pride in their history.

The Temple of Jupiter is made of six Corinthian columns thrusting 22meters into the sky. Built on a podium of 7 meters this would give you an idea of the vast structure at its original structure. Originally it was surrounded by 54 external columns which at this day lay in fragments around it. The standing columns are decorated by a frieze of bulls and lion heads.

Next the Little Temple of Bacchus is anything but little. Constructed during the half of the 2nd century, it is said that the temple was consecrated to a mysterious and initiated cult around the Young God of Baalbek. This God was identified as a solar and growth deity, whose birth and growth promised regeneration and eternal life to the faithful. Thirty three steps leads to its entrance, adding to its structure sitting on a platform 5 meters high.

We climbed those stairs and entered the temple you see above in the picture. It is very imposing. I left like an ant within its walls. Notice the man sitting in the middle? Turns out it is a popular place to take a picture of yourself sitting on a throne and imagining being a King- like.

We ended our tour and have we had the time would have visited the city itself. However it was already time for sunset and we preferred having our two hour drive back home in daylight and before the rush hour (it was Sunday, remember?).

On our way back, we stopped at a bakery and my sister and friends ordered the renowned ‘sfi7a baalbakiyeh’  which is a dough filled with meat. Another goodie that I did not try because I don’t eat meat (boohoo sue me!). However I did try a veggie item which I loved.

The return back to the capital was exhausting. It was longer than I imagined, but it was worthwhile discovering the Temples of Baalbek. My sister and I agreed that another visit is a must to explore the city itself and mingle with its inhabitants.

Visiting Baalbek should be crossed off every Lebanese citizen’s list.

Xo

An open letter to my boss; I’m out!

Dear Sir, 

Let me be frank & direct and ask you the following; who the fuck do you think you are treating your employees like their life has stopped the moment they were employed in your establishment? 

Who do you think you are, confined in your glass walled office, to yell at me and abuse me verbally for not conforming to your last minute demands? Who permits you to threaten me if I do not comply by your demands? And most importantly, who the hell granted you the mighty power to suggest I pack my bags and leave if I am not comfortable with my ‘altered’ job description?

I have my rights even though they were thrown out of the window the moment I went out of my way to work longer hours.

I have my dignity even when I sat silent in front of disgruntled and disrespectful customers because of the establishment’s motto “the client is always right”. 

I have my self respect even when my colleagues seem to have sold it for less for their end of the month meagre paycheck.  

I am an accomplished woman who takes her job very seriously but to a certain point. Don’t walk all over me, that’s what I am going to say.

My bad for not listening to my friend’s advice about my choice of employment. I have always stooped to bureaucratic jobs below my league. 

A job is a job regardless of your social status, I believed. However when your rights are null and you are taken for granted and disrespected, that’s where I draw the line. 

I am leaving.

So long bureaucratic slavery. So long arrogant employers. So long ungrateful colleagues.

I am leaving. 

Because I am worthy of respect, of gratitude and acknowledgment. Because I am not as much in need of this job as you are of an employee. Because I believe that receiving merely a paycheck above the SMIG is not worth the abuse, workload and ungratefulness of everyone present.

I wish you nothing at all. 

Sincerely not yours, 

The one with her self- respect intact, who left.

(NB: To those in the same position as the above mentioned woman, just leave because you are worth better elsewhere).

When the past catches up the present; The KhanAmirian X Mukhi story.

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My father was a man of many values. He was upfront and direct with people and cherished honesty and respect. He was a person who had an eye for everything beautiful. He used to tell me ‘I love Beautiful things because beauty is nice to look at and soothes the eye”.

hokiss-toun

Two of his biggest passion were watches & jewelry. I used to accompany him every year religiously to the annual Jewelry fair at the Beirut Waterfront (BIEL) and walk up and down the aisles looking at the latest creations of renown jewelers. To my surprise he used to know the lot of them as he was friends with many of the patriarchs of the households exhibiting. He used to have an eye for specially carved pieces and on many occasion splurge me with a gift. Shockingly enough at that time, I was not your typical “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” kinda girl. But I cannot say I did not learn a lot from him about the world of jewelry.

I believe in signs. Do you? Sometimes we might be at crossroads, undecided and over the course of the day something happens, a sign pops & guides us towards which road to take or decision to make.

Saturday was a very normal day for me, unaware that the night will tumble my thoughts upside down.

I was out & about in downtown so I decided to visit my dear friends Meena and Maya Mukhi, my jewelers “de réference”, who recently opened their flagship store in downtown Beirut (behind the Municipality of Beirut). The Mukhi Sisters, flagship store is the fruit of three sisters,Maya, Meena & Zeenat, who a decade ago (2009 to be precise) came together to follow the footstep of their grandfather.

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The latter relocated his family in Lebanon so as to expand his jewelry business in the Middle East and Northern African provinces. An ambitious father/grandfather figure who seized the opportunity to expand on foreign soil facing a clash of civilization that his children overcame and integrated fully while falling in love with the city and its people. The fruit of this relocation led to the union of two important families of jewelers into one. Mister Chandru Mukhi, first of his generation married Miss Effat Kreidiyeh in 1979 and brought to the world three beautiful, ambitious daughters/sisters that inherited their love for jewelry and crafted this store in the heart of their hometown, Beirut. A step they dedicated to their role model, the men they are all thankful for and a legacy they are imprinting not only in the history of the Mukhi family but of their country.

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1920s is a special year for two families. The Mukhi’s stepped into the shores of Lebanon while my father was born, making him the first generation of KhanAmirian to come to life.

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Flash Forward to 2017.

On Saturday night I decided to take my jewelries out and look at what my father left me. I came to love each piece and wear them proudly at any given outings. My eyes caught a box nestled deep in my drawer. I was intrigued as I had never gone that deep. I opened it and at first didn’t know what I was looking at. A pendant, I noticed after untangling it, paired with clip-on earrings. I remembered my dad opening this same box once years ago, showing me its content and doing the sign that always warmed my heart. You know that sign you do when something is beautiful to your eye. I call it the picture perfect sign. My father never bought anything out of obligation. He bought beautiful things as he loves beauty. Then it hit me. The name on the box was none other than Ashoka. A name I had heard only a few days before as Meena was narrating me about her family’s history and her father’s shop in Hamra, Ashoka.

I was dumbfounded. My father had actually met Chandru Mukhi and bought a piece of art from his store. I shared my founding with Meena. She in return shared it with her family. Everyone reminisced at his own pace. What were the odds? The previous generation had already established connection while we, the future, were strengthening ours.

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I believe in signs, in faith, in whatever you want to label it. I believe in that. We say each generation to its own. However, some generation’s bond is stronger than we believe. Life plays in mysterious ways. And life brought the Mukhi and KhanAmirian families once again together.

To you Souren, watching my life unfold, I know you are there for me when you send me signs from above. You are still here in spirit. I love you. Until we meet again ❤

us

Peace

XO

ps: I am sure you are curious about the piece I discovered. Click on the following link https://www.instagram.com/mukhisisters/ and let its design unravel the Indian world within the confines of the Lebanese territory.

The Friends from the past; a blast!

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“There is something about childhood friends that you just cant replace” Lisa Whelchdel

If you are at university , even in high school, then this post’s timing couldn’t have been perfect. Mark my words when I say that, flash forward ten years, you will come to realize that good friends were, are and will forever remain the ones you spent most of your childhood days with.

Your childhood friends are those;

you have spent all your recess time with,

you hung every Friday after noons together at the mall,

you went to the movies, grabbed a bite, gossiped over your crushes,

all these and more will forge a place in your heart and will forever remain your most cherished memories of your past.

Come university years, many of you will separate and your path will diverge. Your dreams will take you to distant lands, different educational systems and rare, rare are those who will remain in contact with one other.

Within the confines of your new environment you will meet people that will share the same interests as you. The physicality, the distance, will play an important role in the separation of your childhood friends. Maybe not the first semester, but later on. Trust me (again).

I am sharing this with you because I experience this first hand (twice).

Georges was my best friend in high school. He was like a brother to me and always there for me. The true definition of a best friend. At university we separated and each went to its own. Thankfully the rise of social media brought us back together (online only). However, after 16 years of separation we finally made it and met over coffee. I did not know what to expect, yet I found my old friend. Same old Georges + married + wiser + as witty as before. I realized that after two decade of separation (HEY! I’m rounding the years here) we turned out to share more similarities in thoughts and how we viewed life and society in particular.

I really enjoyed my time with him and I anticipate our next get together before the distance separates us again.

An old friend of mine, whom I met a couple of months back (after 6 years of separation) told me something that struck in my mind “Your good friends are always going to be those that were in your life during your late teens. Those that no matter the separation, once met for coffee, will make you feel as if it were yesterday you last saw each other. And you will pick up the pieces and forge a stronger bond ..as if nothing ever happened”.

To you my friends, the day will come and when you go and catch up with your high school bestie, remember this; she/he will always be there anytime anywhere and any way imaginable.

xo

ps: do not misundertand me ; the friendships forged later on in life are genuine as well. However, those will never understand you fully, deeply as they were never there when your roots were being built.

pps: same goes to those childhood friends that were always there all those years; you grew up together only to be set apart unexpectedly suddenly…

 

New Year resolutions? Yes & No and how it all changed for me!!

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With less than a week to go till the New Year, many of us have different kinds of expectations of 2017. Some of us can’t wait to put behind 2016 and move on whereas others are a bit nonchalant and quite frankly dismissive of this whole end of the year fiesta. This is where resolutions come in (with a bang). It is not until a couple of weeks back that I took a look at the passing year and realized that I, Patyl- Astrid, have completed unconsciously many of the New year resolutions of 2014-2015 and 2016 combined in one single year. How did I do that? Did I mean to cross off those jotted points from my diary? (yeah I am one of those- with the diary I mean) What did I feel when I came upon this discovery? To be honest, I was dumb struck! Why? Because as I mentioned it earlier, I did not plan it, nor realized any of it until I was done.

 

Resolutions. Resolutions.

 

If we look closely at each other’s resolutions, we notice that we have more in common than meets the eye. The first thing we all jot down is cutting down on vices and embracing the opposite. Mine, as well as your resolution for the past so many forgotten years has been to start a healthy lifestyle by going to the gym and cutting down on alcohol and junk food. Am I not right? Well to be realistic such drastic change cannot and never has begun over night. It takes patience, a lot of it, and most importantly acceptance that this is what we are going to dedicate to become within the upcoming year. And how many of us failed at it within a couple of months of the New year? The reason? We are so determined to jump on the gym bandwagon for the sole purpose that we started to get nauseated by the end of the year back to back parties and dinners. We think solely on the spot by letting our momentary feeling take the best of our decision- making. Once we heal (for some by the end of January) we get back to our drinking /night out splurges.

A shout out to the single ladies out there as well as those spoken for, don’t we all just want to be in that secure ‘the one’ kind of relationship and tie the knot? Come on, I know that you dream of your wedding day and those who are tying the knot during the holidays are not helping with their Instagram postings. One of the resolutions I have witnessed many to vow by in the next year is falling in love with ‘the one’ and settling down. Seriously? I did not know that there was a timeline set for such thing. Now if you are already with ‘the one’ then maybe you are stating on taking the next step and getting engaged. Now, even that you can’t just pinpoint it on paper. It is something that both parties have already agreed on prior (whether you are going to wait a couple of years before getting married) or happens on a sudden whim from the boyfriend/the one, one night at dinner or after implementing an orchestrated adventure for two. Both cases, ladies you are not in charge of the emotional side of things. Your heart controls you. Single ladies you can’t force yourselves to fall in love and girlfriends you can’t impose your other half to take the next step if he is not ready yet. Hence, do enter the new year on good foot. Embrace your future day by day. Do not jump big leaps and fall into oblivion. Those single hearts out there are going to be full of love when the time, I mean, the right person comes along.

 

Resolutions. Resolutions.

 

I am not trying to turn you against your New Year resolutions. I know too well how exciting it is to imagine oneself in the near future as a near perfected woman. The New Year brings out an emotional roller coaster within us. A strength, a determination that, we only witness in the month of December. You know what I am talking about, right?

I want to tell you ladies that writing down open- ended generalities as New Year resolutions will only bring you down when they are not fulfilled. Why don’t you jot down your resolutions into a step by step goals? Why not embrace the fact that much of your goals are set to become part of your lifestyle than just a box to tick off once you have accomplished it.

By summer 2016, I stopped smoking. An accomplishment by itself because it was one of the many vices that I did not intend to quit, even though I repeatedly written it as a New Year resolution. I don’t even think about it nor crave it till present day. How did I do it? Well I unconsciously started smoking less. A pack a day turned into ten cigarettes a day and so on so forth.

Moreover, being in a relationship with my boyfriend of more than a year, I know we are meant to be together (forever) by tying the knot someday soon yet not having a date in mind does not make me want to go write down 3/3/2017, right? I want to remind you that I have been single for many years prior just like yourself (and at times with the wrong type of men), and I did intend on finding my one the upcoming year. However what I realized when I met my boyfriend was that I can’t put a ticking time bomb on my heart. He came un-expectantly into my life (way after I had given up on that aspect of my life) and I do not intend on losing him because of some time set goal.

My career is up till this day in shambles and I am not worried about it. I am carrying on with my artistic projects and I am not setting unimaginable goals. My goal for my art is near attainable than my grandiose dream ever was (for now of course, remember being passionate should not set you limits).

I took control of my life summer 2016 and from than onwards everything seems to fall into place. When you are at peace with yourself and from within, you can set your mind to do almost anything. Everything is possible from then onwards. Hence my accomplishments step by step. I know you will all reach that point one day, hopefully sooner than you think. Just don’t go writing down general predictions on your to-do-list only to be disappointed flash forward six months within 2017.