132m - While Onno’s branch in Badaro may have introduced the place to a wider...
Armenian restaurant and launching pad into Burj Hammoud’s rich world of artisans
Near the Beirut River, amidst Burj Hammoud’s narrow, bustling alleys, lined with shops and workshops, Armenian flags and washing lines above, Badguèr stands out like an oasis. The Pink House, built in 1930, is a promotional center for artisans and creativity and home to an authentic and delectable Armenian restaurant, comprised of traditional recipes and carefully prepared dishes on the ground floor.
On special Armenian holidays, such as New Year’s or Easter, to celebrate the Pumpkin Festival or the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, Arpidé “Arpi” Mangassarian and her team put together special menus that locals and visitors enjoy in a convivial atmosphere.
Badguèr has exhibition venues, conference and training rooms upstairs with a special section dedicated to exquisite Armenian craftsware, some dating back decades. The dining room is spacious and bright with cozy tables covered with crocheted tablecloths, decorative rugs on the walls, and a piano. In the room adjacent to the restaurant visitors can watch a film about Burj Hammoud’s artisans.
“I wanted to create links,” Mangassarian explained her motivation behind setting up Badguèr, which means image or photograph in Armenian. “Keeping to ourselves will be a disservice, we need to engage, we need to open windows, create passages to make people curious [about Burj Hammoud].”
Often hiding behind non-descript shop fronts are jewelers, hat and bag makers, tailors, shoemakers, ceramicists, medal carvers, blacksmiths, locksmiths, setters and many, many more. Some professions are becoming rare. The area also abounds in repair shops. Armenians were Beirut’s early recyclers. Among the artisans Mangassarian herself sees her role as an intermediary and frequently takes visitors around. Her aim is to make the artisans’ work known and connect them with people who will appreciate their artisanship.
Burj Hammoud goes back to the 1920s. Once a wetland it became the stopping point for Armenian refugees who had managed to survive the genocide and escape its Turkish perpetrators. Badguèr is a stepping-stone, a launching pad into a rich world of highly skilled and dedicated artisans, who managed to give their families a new life in Lebanon and preserve skills that had been transmitted from their fathers and forefathers and that is bound to change the way visitors look at this story infused with trauma, resilience, creativity, and spirit.
Beyond that, it also offers a formidable insight into Armenian culture, which to Mangassarian is a component of that rich Lebanese culture, in which she firmly believes.