Al Ba’sa (The Grudge Building) – Beirut’s Narrowest House

Al Ba'sa's main facade

photography by: Vadzim Dubrouski

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A pair of siblings is almost always a recipe for an interesting story, whether it is a brotherly love or a bitter animosity. What started as a rather ordinary disagreement between two brothers of a Lebanese family over their father's inheritance, gradually evolved into a decades-long conflict resulting in one of Beirut's most unusual buildings, Al-Ba'sa.

Skirmishes between siblings are a common thing. However, rare are the cases where a routine dispute turns into an urban-scale anomaly. Aptly dubbed as “the narrowest building in Beirut”, the pinkish house in the upscale neighborhood of Manara is perhaps the world’s most extreme manifestation of how a brotherly feud can unfold.


Story has it that following their father’s death, the two brothers have inherited a potentially lucrative land parcel along Beirut’s scenic coastline. Nevertheless, they soon found themselves in a fierce conflict as to how the land should be divided between the two.


Due to a continuous encroachment by infrastructure improvement projects, one of the brother’s remaining land was trimmed into a ridiculously slender parcel, measuring 14 feet (4.26 meters) at its widest and a meager 2 feet (0.6 meters) at its narrowest. Determined to retaliate against what he saw as an unfair partition of their shared inheritance, the brother erected in 1954 a 4-story building on his part of the plot, with each floor containing two apartments.


By constructing the preposterously slim house, he managed not only to block the much-coveted sea view of his brother’s building, but also to significantly decrease the value of the neighboring asset, earning it the nickname “Al Ba’sa”, the Arabic term for grudge.


While as of today, the building sits empty, in the not-so-distant past, it served as a brothel and later on, also as a makeshift housing for refugees who fled war-torn regions. Despite its current lack of tenants and the prime location along the Lebanese capital’s Mediterranean coast, the Grudge Building is expected to stand still in the foreseeable future as Beirut’s municipal regulations restrict the construction of new buildings on such a thin plot of land.