Hamra, I believe is not a word that refers to a place, rather to a phenomenon. A friend of mine who hangs out in Ashrafiyeh, Kaslik, Jounieh, Monot and Gemaizeh from time to time (for its proximity to West Beirut, I guess), was telling me that he went yesterday to Hamra for a change. "I like diversity," he said, "but this is too much." He described wittygraphically a lady who was sitting on the next table: her nails painted four months ago had grown leaving "des marque en haut", as he put it. "I dont mind hippy, but there were spilled oil tâches on her shirt. Her boots, yes winter boots, smell. Bon, une saleté"
I laughed but it seriously made me think. The reasons why I love Hamra are exactly the same ones why I hate it because Hamra is different yes, but Hamra is no exception to the Lebanon psyche of exaggeration and ranking obsessions (As As’ad Abou Khalil graciously summarized it). A hippy in Hamra is the hippi-est, a leftist in hamra is a Mao, a drinker in Hamra is a Homer (Simpson), a philosopher in Hamra is an Einstein-looking, a beauty in Hamra is a dazzling beauty, and sex in Hamra is talked about loud as loud as can be, that's it, as openly as can be, as blatantly as can be. Talked about. Full stop.