A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

shopping in Tripoli

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 24, 2008

I know: with a title like “shopping in Tripoli”, you were probably expecting lots of scenic souk photos. Well, we went to Tripoli on a Friday, and by the time we got to the souks, the shops that did open on Fridays had already closed. Not that I needed to buy anything – my bags were full to bursting, and my sharqiyyat collection is already fairly extensive.

What caught my eye as we were lunching in one of the only restaurants that we did find open was this:

ABC is the major department store in Lebanon. It started in the 1920s or 1930s as a fairly price-conscious five-and-dime-type shop in Hamra, and the branch there is definitely the homely older sister. When I’ve stopped in, the clothing selection has reminded me of a lower-cost, less-trendy version of Kohls, with outfits aimed at women with rural addresses and practical sensibilities. Lots of polyester blouses and wash-and-wear type clothing.

But the ABC’s marquee stores are dazzling: the colors, the clothing, the housewares – and the prices. (And if you are not suitably impressed, don’t think about hailing a salesperson. They are far, far too pleased with the store and their position there to be interested in helping you.)

When the ABC opened in Achrafieh in the early 2000s, it sparked a number of complimentary news articles, including this one from the trade publication Shopping Centers Today. It was seen as the signal of a new era, a new cosmopolitanism, a move toward the future, etc. etc. etc. – and when the company opened another super-store in Dbayyeh, that one was also lauded.

Meanwhile, the Hamra shop and apparently this Tripoli branch continue to plug along in the shadow of their glamorous younger sisters. They definitely don’t fit the chic ABC Beirut profile – and they aren’t even listed under the “Branches” tab of the company’s website. You have to click through to the “Contact Us” link at the bottom or the “Location Map” under the “About Us” tab. (And while you’re there, click on the “History” link and watch the company’s logo evolve – fascinating!)

I probably wouldn’t have bought anything from the ABC Tripoli even if it had been open – after all, the last thing I need is more clothing. But I did enjoy the surprise of seeing it!


5 Responses to “shopping in Tripoli”

  1. ABC was located originally in Bab Idriss.

  2. Sorry, after checking the ABC website, I discovered that the first sotre was in Borj sq (Martyrs sq). I remeber the Bab Idriss store, It got bombed in 1958:

  3. Kheireddine – thank you for keeping me accurate! I read that ABC’s first shop was in Hamra in one of Samir Khalaf’s books – or, who knows, perhaps I mis-read it. In any case, I should have figured from the timing (1930s) that of course the first shop would be downtown. Hamra didn’t “take off” until the 1950s/60s. Thank you for the correction – and for the fascinating, if sad, link showing the powerful “shock absorber” capacity of the old Mercedes.

  4. […] shopping in Tripoli […]

  5. […] I can’t imagine that a German company’s services come particularly cheap, especially after overseas charges and international fees are added in. And I’m having trouble envisioning what high-end stores in Tripoli might be able to afford International Service Check – the ABC? […]

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