The Grudge (Al Ba’sa)
Beirut's thinnest building was the result of feuding brothers.
A sliver-thin house in Beirut, built in 1954, is the ultimate display of how deep sibling annoyance can go. Known as The Grudge, or Al Ba’sa in Arabic, the house is just a bit over 13 feet at its widest point, and just around 2 feet at its narrowest.
At a side view, the “house” built of brotherly spite looks more like a wall than a place to live. But despite its narrow dimensions, Al Ba’sa is habitable, and is the skinniest building in the city.
As the story goes, two brothers inherited land from their father. They couldn’t decide how to split the land between them, a dispute complicated further by the fact that one part of the property had been cut over the years by various municipal infrastructure projects, leaving a portion of the land a small and sort of odd shape. One brother decided to take that small, oddly shaped bit of land and build on it, constructing a building that fit the confines of the land with the added bonus of blocking his brother’s ocean view. Not only would his brother not be able to enjoy his spectacular sea view, but because he was now facing what was essentially a wall his property values would sink, too. The perfect plan.
Over the years, there have been some tenants in the house that sibling rivalry built. Each floor of the structure contains two apartments. For years, one was in use as a brothel, while the others served as refuge for a family fleeing the war.
Today the house stands as a reminder of a long-ago feud, and it probably will for a very long time; current city zoning laws state that the plot of land the house sits on is too small to build on. If The Grudge comes down, nothing else can be put in its place, making the land more profitable with the house than without it. As architect Sandra Rishani pointed out in her essay on the house, Al Ba’sa “continues to exist grudgingly and also defiantly in one of Beirut’s most prime locations, only time will tell what will become of it.”
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about spite houses.
Know Before You Go
The location of the Grudge house is just north of the old lighthouse on Bliss. Google Earth shows it as a school.
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