Why is it that even the favorite ice cream shop of most Beirutis had to be demolished in the blast? This is one of the millions of questions that we have yet to find answers to but that deeply grieves many of us.
Formerly known as Helwayat Al Salam, Bouzet Hanna Mitri is the famous ice cream shop in Achrafieh, that even my father recalls going to in his early years. Tucked in one of Achrafieh’s charming little streets, the family-owned business attracted masses of clients all year long. Despite the run-down state of the building the shop was in, the Mitri family did not have plans to relocate to a more modern space. As a kid, seeing the success of the shop by having to wait in a huge line under the sun for my ice cream, I often wondered why; why not relocate to a bigger space, why not hire employees, why not have a larger freezer to serve greater quantities. It is only many ice creams later that I understood the essence of the family’s motives: serving our community while preserving the traditions and the culture of the space. Yet, despite these efforts, they did not succeed because of our “government” which allowed a blast to ravage the most precious parts of our city Beirut, of my neighborhood Achrafieh. Hanna Mitri’s shop was not just an ice cream shop. It was not just a spot where you’d bump into an old friend, a teacher, a cousin. It was not merely just that. It was part of our cultural heritage, a place of so many memories that go back generations. A place that I always told my dad I’d take my kids to, just like he took me there.
When asked what makes their ice cream the best, Mitri’s son says that there is no secret ingredient but working with love and compassion, which is the Lebanese people’s way of rebuilding everything. Bouzet Hanna Mitri successfully relocated to another shop in Achrafieh, and although the ice cream still has the same amazing flavors, it saddens me that despite their prominent effort to preserve the heritage, the family was stripped from their baby. Everyone lost something in the blast, but cultural heritage is not something that dies. It is a legacy that gets passed down from generation to generation. It saddens me that I won’t take my kids to the run-down building to get ice cream and explain to them why they do not expand their shop.
Bouzet Hanna Mitri was forced into modernity because of the incompetent people in power.
At their new location, the wife of Hanna and their son still serve their ice creams with great pride and big smiles, yet it is inevitable to notice the sadness in their eyes. Change is a concept we all fear to some extent, which is partly why the blast affected us so much. To me, it feels like the changes caused by the blast were my transition from childhood to adulthood. But do I really want to grow up already? Do I really want to stop going to the exact building I went to for 19 years of my life to get ice cream? I do not want the concept of Bouzet Hanna Mitri to change. I do not want to have to take a different route to get there. Change was forced upon us, but my new tattoo of a Hanna Mitri ice cream with the map of Lebanon as one of the flavors will forever be engraved in me to remind me of our heritage that we will preserve and of what, to me, represents the sense of community in my home, Achrafieh.
Je m’appelle Kyra, j’ai 19ans et je suis étudiante à Brown University. J’écris surtout en anglais dans la rubrique Art et Culture.