Mapping project

Comparative Neighborhoods : Barbour and Barbir

For my mapping project and throughout the 2016 Spring semester, I took many pictures in Beirut by using an application entitled “Fulcrum”. One of the striking pictures that I took were in Barbour. This neighborhood is a commercial street, surrounded by different kinds of stores. Barbir, is also an neighborhood surrounded by stores but not as much as Barbour. In this particular final project, I’m going to compare the languages used in these two neighborhoods.

To begin with, in order to specify where these streets are located in Beirut, I’m going to start by showing  where Barbour and Barbir are placed in this following map, and where I mainly took pictures of signage in them.


In this screenshot, one can observe a general view of the points that symbolize the pictures that i collected in the Barbour and Barbir together.

Here is a map of the points in ORANGE that symbolizes the pictures that I took in Barbir, whereas the PURPLE points refer to the pictures that I collected in Barbour.

Now that one can understand how these two streets are very close to each other, I’m going to show and analyze how the two streets differ according to signage. I would like to mention that it’s very shocking, yet so interesting to look at the different characteristics  between these two different streets, especially when it comes to language.

One of the differences is the use of French. As we all know, the use of French in Lebanon is huge. One can actually notice in the following map, a lot of use of French in Barbour, yet so little in Barbir.

There is also a specific use of the word “boutique” in Barbour, which is not found in Barbir. It can be seen on shopping stores such as “Boutique Fatima” and “Boutique Noor”. I have interviewed the employees in these stores about the choice of including the word “boutique” on the shop’s signage, but it turned out that there was no particular reason for that. Adding to that, one can find in Barbour a lot of Italian, or Italian mixed with French or English. For example, Bella Reve, Bella Flora, Bella shirene, and La bella laundry.


In this picture, one can see a unique use of language on this store’s signage. The languages used are in French “Reve”, Italian “Bella” and its Arabic version. This multilingualism is found only in Barbour and not in Barbir.

I think the reason behind the use of Italian in Barbour is due to the usage of French. As we learnt in the book “Inventing English” by Seth Lerer, he claimed that languages are related and mixed together. Italian and French are very alike because they are both located in Europe, and people tend the use loan words from other countries.

Moreover, in order to promote and advertise commercial stores, Lebanese people tend to use other languages when it comes to signage. Their aim is to attract visitors and tourists. This way, the merchants will benefit from this opportunity to earn more money. Other reasons that can be conceivable behind the usage of French in Barbour, is having some French educated citizens living there, and that are probably aware of the French culture.

Furthermore, Barbir is an old street that dates back to 1975. It was built after the civil war that took place in Beirut during the same year. Barbir’s signs are mostly in Arabic and English. One might find some French but it’s actually rare, and there’s no use of Italian in it. Some of the French words that I found were the following: Bon coin, Argent, and Chemise. In contrast, Barbour was reconstructed in 1995. New infrastructures, walk sides, and lighting were added, whereas, Barbir, is surrounded by old sidewalks, ancient buildings and stores. For this reason, no wonder Barbir is mainly limited to English and Arabic, and Barbour has new stores that include a more up to date usage of other languages.