American University of Beirut

Street names underscore unique relationship between Beirut and AUB

​​​​​Many people know that Bliss Street was named for the founder and first president of AUB, but far fewer know that there are 45 other streets around Beirut named for people associated with the University. “46 Streets: AUB’s Imprint on the Streets of Beirut” seeks to address that situation and, in the process, highlight the shared history of AUB and its home city.

This special booklet, prepared as part of AUB’s 150th anniversary, was a joint project between AUB’s Neighborhood Initiative and the University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections Department in order to document the streets of Beirut named after people associated with AUB and offer some historical background on them.

The booklet’s author, Dr. Maria Bashshur Abunnasr, introduced the contents and structure at a launch event in Jafet Library, explaining that it is a bilingual book—English from one side and Arabic from the other—which makes it accessible to a wider audience in the community, and that it includes a color map to help people locate the streets.  She also noted that the booklet was designed by a recent alumna from the Department of Architecture and Design, Ms. Reem Ghaddar, and went on to explain the rationale behind the project.

“The purpose of it is basically to show connections: to show how Beirut's street names represent a concrete, tangible link between the University and the city, between AUB and Beirut, and specifically between AUB and Ras Beirut, which is a very unique relationship,” Abunnasr said. “It really reminds us that one would not have thrived without the other.”

Each entry includes a short biographical sketch for the person or family associated with AUB, accompanied by a street and sector number to locate it on the enclosed map. The 46 streets are divided into four categories, with the first being streets named after the earliest Anglo-Americans who helped establish AUB in the late 19th century, such as Daniel Bliss and Cornelius Van Dyck. Then there are streets named for specific individuals associated with AUB’s 150-year history, such as Kamal Salibi and Ibrahim Dagher. The third section has streets bearing the names of well-known Ras Beirut families whose members attended AUB in various numbers over the years, like Bikhazi, Tabbarah, and Rubeiz.  Finally, there are 18 streets outside of Ras Beirut named for individuals associated with AUB, including Wadad Makdisi Cortas, Charles Malik, and Saniya Haboub.

The idea for this project started with Samar Mikati in the Archives and Special Collections Department, who noticed that many streets around the University carried names of AUB alumni and professors. She and her team started documenting them, but were unable to proceed due to a lack of time and resources. The AUB Neighborhood Initiative learned of this project and signed on to help because of the community connection. The joint project then received much-needed funding from the AUB 150th anniversary committee.

On hand at the opening was the former director of the AUB Neighborhood Initiative, Dr. Cynthia Myntti, who helped spearhead the “46 Streets” booklet and told us: “I think it is really important for the younger generation to know who Nami Jafet was, or who Mansur Jurdak was. I think it’s important for people to feel connected to a place.”

The current director of AUB’s Neighborhood Initiative, Mona Hallak, also spoke at the launch and talked about other ongoing and upcoming projects focused on the wellbeing and heritage of the neighborhood, such as making Jeanne d’Arc Street Beirut’s first pedestrian-friendly street and the Wall of Kindness on Abdel Aziz Street where people can donate clothing.

Following the launch of the booklet, copies will be made available to the public through the AUB Visitor’s Bureau, at Jafet Library, and from the Neighborhood Initiative office. There will be no charge for the booklet in order to reach the widest possible audience and because this project was fully funded by the AUB 150th Strategic Partners and their generous support of the University’s sesquicentennial celebrations.


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