Photo by Philipp Breu

Shafic Mayassi, 25, store manager and chef

“It started because of culture and the religion of people, the Druze. They built a police station at Rue Istiqlal and named it Karakoul, which means station.”

Mohammad Othman, 34, shoe store owner

“There used to be a police station here; the Druze lived around it. I think the Druze worked inside the prison.”

Mounir Bou-Majahid, 64, baker owner and insurance company employee

“There used to be a house where a Druze lived. The people came to him to solve their problems. The police did not have to do their job. I don’t know – this is what my grandfather told me.”

Najia Safi, 70, housewife

“I have been living here since I was born. The prison was built for the Druze; the French were there before. I don’t know who built it.”

Mariam Rizik, 53, housewife

“There was a jail here. The residents lived next to the jail.”

Salim Mosleh, 75, convenient store owner

Baklava in Karakoul

Baklava in Karakoul

“The police station, during the Ottoman Empire, was built on Rue Mar Elias. The Druze came here because there is a religious site next to Rue Mar Elias. The religious place, between Zarif and Batrakiyyeh, is owned by Abdel-Khaleq Druze family.”

Ossmat Hakim, 60, retail owner

“Karakoul means police station. There is a story, but I do not know it. The Druze are happy to have their neighborhood named after them. They are a minority here and the Sunnis a majority.”

Zeina Sidani, 27, optical shop owner

“The majority of the Druze who came from the mountains built houses here. I don’t know what Karakoul means.”

Maher Kouraytem, 34, visitor

“Kara means ‘black;’ kul, ‘lake;’ and kol, ‘arm.’ This is the exact meaning of each word, so it probably means ‘the black arm.’ Karakoul, which really means ‘black wrist,’ was later transformed to mean a police station. I also heard karakoun in old Lebanese popular plays.”


Old wrought iron covered in dust

Old wrought iron covered in dust

The Turkish word Karakoul means “police station” and is sometimes pronounced ‘Karakoun,’ a term still used in Egypt. The police station in the neighborhood was established during the late Ottoman period and took its name from the large concentration of Druze living in the area.

Link to article on Daily Star’s website