By John Ehab
Longtime residents of
There is, however, another
At the time
“We used to live on this land, tending the garden for the Mezhers,” recalls Mahmoud. “After the Mezhers sold the land … we moved.”
Not long after, Mahmoud adds, foundations were laid for an enormous 10-story, double-bloc building with 140 flats. Unlike the colonial style of
Samia al-Assi moved into the Yacoubian in 1974 and never left. In the days before
The Yacoubian used to boast a famous nightclub – the Venus – situated one floor below ground. A legend in its time, the Venus welcomed Cabinet ministers, MPs and army commanders alike. It was also a favored destination for wealthy tourists from the Gulf. Shortly after the Civil War broke out, the Venus closed its doors.
In the years that followed, the internally displaced sought shelter in the building. Among them was Mohammad Sweidan, otherwise known as Abu Ali. During the war he became the Yacoubian's natour, or concierge.
“I [saw] terrifying days during that war, and often received death threats,” sighs Abu Ali.
All the local militias passed through the Yacoubian, and therefore past his post.
Abu Ali says he was twice kidnapped by militiamen who were inquiring after arms. With the Israeli invasion in 1982, he adds, an officer pulled up to the building and called on all inside to surrender their weapons.
Around 60 pistols came tumbling down into the courtyard, says Abu Ali, who was ordered to collect them for the officer. The next day he found one pistol left behind. He sold it to a banker for LL500.
“Like anything else in
These days, the Yacoubian is known as the home of Abu Elie, the bar that occupies the lower back corner of the building.
“The people who come here are mostly intellectuals, mostly leftist and always progressive,” says Nina Jamal, a customer.
Posters of Che Guevara dominate the walls, along with pictures of Marx, Lenin, Nasser, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Samir Kassir and George Hawi.
Abu Elie himself once lived in the Yacoubian and ran a sandwich shop in the neighborhood. In the early 1990s, he moved back to Bourj Hammoud and opened the bar.
Still, confusion abounds. Since the “The Yacoubian Building” has been screening in
Source: The Daily Star, 11 November 2006
Read Azad-Hye report on the