Posted by: sean | August 24, 2009

East side-West side in history: Baghdad, Beirut and Biggie Smalls

tupac_west_sideThe electricity cuts out every three hours in my office, going from state power to the generator or the other way around, and my computer takes a while to reboot. When I’ve remembered to save my work and am not in a hurry, this affords me a short break from whatever I’m doing to go drink some water, make another cup of coffee or flip through one of the unread books that always seem to form an accusatory pile on my desk.

So it was that I was flipping through The Topography of Baghdad in the  Early Middle Ages, which is from the introduction of Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi‘s History of Baghdad. I randomly opened it to a section on “The Length and Width of the Two Sides of Baghdad, the Total Area, and the Number of Mosques and Bathhouses” to find this observation:

Ahmad b. Abi Tahir mentioned in the Kitab Baghdad that the area of Baghdad’s two sides comprised 53,750 jarib. The area of the East Side comprsed 26,750 jarib, and that of the West Side 27,000 jarib.

Coincidentally, I was also recently pointed to this write-up (by Won in the comments) of Snoop Dogg’s recent concert at Forum de Beyrouth:

The Doggfather hit the stage for 75 minutes, in a bright yellow jersey and did his part to bring peace and unity as he rapped, “East side!… West side!” running back and forth across the stage, then rapped, “Both sides!”.

So whoever thought that the  East side/West side division was limited to hip hop feuds, Baltimore gangstas, cold war Berlin or the Lebanese civil war, should know that it goes back at least to 9th century Baghdad. As Tupac once said, “That’s just the way it is.”


  1. But he should have given a shoutout to the “Deep South” if you ask me!!

  2. And another thing if I’m not greatly mistaken, are you not the Sean Lee who write in the recent edition of Publio? ( Why didn’t you blog about it?

  3. I couldn’t agree more about the Dirty South, being an Alabama boy and all.

    And yes, you’re right, that is me in Publio. Up until the Angry Arab debate about censorship, I’d been halfheartedly trying to keep this blog thinly anonymous. But Publio actually came out after that, so I suppose I just feel a little uncomfortable about self-promotion.

    I do, though, owe it to Imad, who runs the magazine, to throw what little readership I have in his direction, so I’ll put something up soon…

  4. Since I have your attention, I just want to say that I enjoy your blog very much and that my 10-year homie is a Bama girl who goes to NCAA games and shouts “”RAMMER JAMMER YELLO HAMMER” at the top of her voice hahaha.

  5. bathhouses….mmmmm… me likey… for the record, Baghdadis are fantastic lovers.

  6. Well, having lived in both West Birmingham & West-Side Baltimore (Omar!), I’m not so surprised to learn of the East-West Division dating back to such an earlier time…As both Birmingham & Baltimore harken back to a 9th Centruy Baghdad, or maybe even a penal colony (Botany Bay)…Just an observation :)

  7. This feud is still an “unsolved” mystery.” I do agree with the critics when they say that these incredible rappers deaths were gang related. In videos such as “California Lovin” you see west coast rapper 2Pac repping his side by throwing up the west coast followed by him wearing a navy blue bandana; which some would believe that he may have been affiliated with Crips

  8. esto esta puesto en español pero en mis venas en americano y solo tengo k decir dos cosas 1ª_la mejor musica la tienen los negratas.2ªTUPAC DIOS

  9. wow i wonder if its true..7 theory..2014? pls come home.we need a leader:( miss u n love you

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