This is yet another location that I have come to visit and experience first hand. It has been described as a hub of diplomacy, art, freedom and politics. It is nothing but a mere street, lined with cafés, restaurant and shops. Yet, I could discern much more than just pavement and asphalt.
Here I am standing on this pavement, watching the people pass by, some wearing suits and carrying suitcases, others in casual apparel bearing laptops and heading to one of the numerous cafes to study or finish projects. I am standing in Hamra Street, one of the oldest social, economic and political hubs in the country.
Hamra Street is situated close to the beating heart of Beirut. Numerous cafes, theaters, restaurants and boutiques line the street offering a wide spectrum of products and services. In order to understand what that boulevard really is all about, one has to take a stroll and experience the singularity that such a melting pot of sects, races and minds offers you in terms of exposure to the numerous facets of Lebanese life. I rarely call Hamra a “street” anymore, I have walked along the sidewalk so many times, stumbled across friends and met new ones that I feel my footprints and image, as well as many other peoples’, have colored every nook and cranny and brightened every corner; you could meet a jock heading to Fitness Zone; one of the best and most popular gyms in town, a mother dragging a nagging child telling him off and making everyone laugh in the process, a group of pretty girls fanning themselves in the heat of the summer or musicians carrying their guitars and equipment down to al-Madina theatre where yours truly and others have had the chance to perform a number of hits.
It would be an understatement to call Hamra a “popular” location. For many people, Hamra is a lifestyle and a home; some describe it as a refuge away from daily routine while others view it as a form of physical social network. Away from all of the hustle that such a busy location could involve, I have come to discover a peculiar, concealed source of inspiration. DarBistro and Books is the place where my dream/fantasy of having food and a bookstore in one place came true. I was thrilled when a snapshot showing the cozy, Lebanese/international bistro popped up while I was browsing the net looking for a new, inspiring place to have some good coffee and a new taste. It took me some time and a lot of walking to finally reach my destination but once there, all that sweat - yes, it was hot and I was walking in the early afternoon in the bright sunlight, smart me! - Seemed to dissipate. I just clamped my hands on my mouth in awe when I laid eyes on the totally gorgeous, renovated, two-story, Lebanese, house with the lanterns hanging in the corners, straw chairs and relaxed atmosphere. Once settled in and my order placed, I craned my neck in search of that bookstore, and there it was in the room next to the open kitchen where you could see the pristine worktop, utensils and cutlery. I delved into that small bookstore and satiated my thirst for books and stationery. Once done and back into my sweet little corner, my taste buds kicked into full throttle when I tasted the exquisite salmon steak along with DarBistro’s special lemon sauce – talk about a massive explosion of flavors.
I would totally recommend Hamra in general and DarBistro and Books in specific to anyone looking for a true Lebanese or culinary experience, as well as exposure to literature and art or just a place for mingling in a tranquil and stress-free ambiance despite being in one of Beirut’s main “arteries”.