Category Archives: History

An Enlightening Report On The Great Famine of Mount Lebanon (1915–1918)

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CMDR3

The CMDR (Centre Maronite de Documentation et de Recherche) released a nice report on The Great Famine of Mount Lebanon between 1915 and 1918 that lead to the death of half of the population of Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate.

This is a crucial part of our history that is not elaborated enough at schools in my opinion despite being one of the worst foreign campaigns led by any regime against the Lebanese population. There’s plenty of unseen and rare footage in this video and make sure to watch till the end to see how Lebanese from all religions and areas and especially the expats joined hands to help those in need.

CMDR4

CMDR2

CMDR

[YouTube]

It Took This Saida Resident A Decade To Realize He’s Living in a Synagogue

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Saida Synagogue

Most of the Lebanese Jews lived in Beirut but there were also communities in other cities like Saida and Tripoli. In fact, there were around 1,500 Jews living in Saida in the early 1970s according to Nagi Georges Zeidan, who memorialized Lebanon’s Jewish community by researching its history and creating a database. Unfortunately, the last Jewish family in Sidon, the Levy family, left in the early 1980s and the synagogue was abandoned and has become ever since a shelter for Palestinians refugees.

One of those refugees was called Jihad Al-Mohammed and I found his story, who was published on pri.org quite fascinating.

JIhad Jihad Al-Mohammed in his kitchen. He has a flat screen TV and a WiFi router where the synagogue used keep its Torah scrolls. Photo Credits: Rebecca Collard – via PRI.ORG

Jihad Al-Mohammed moved into the abandoned Synagogue in 1990 but it took him nearly 10 years to realize what this abandoned building was, despite the Stars of David on the wall and area being called “Haret al-Yahud” or the Jewish Quarter. When tourists started visiting his place and asking him questions, he finally realized what it was.

CROPrabbis Photo Credits: Jihad al-Mohammed

Mohammed considers the Synagogue as his home and has no plans to leave it anytime soon. He divided the building into different rooms and turned the main area into a living room. “Mohammed has photos on his phone of the many visitors he’s received over the years — from the US, Canada and Europe”. In 2012, prayers were said for the first times in decades in Saida’s Synagogue after two Rabbis visited the Synagogue. In 2015, Sidon’s Jewish cemetery got a face lift.

Saida S1

As far as other synagogues in Lebanon are concerned, There’s Beirut’s Maghen Abraham Synagogue which was renovated recently and two others in Aley and Bhamdoun. There was one as well in Deir el Amar but it got sold in 1900.

Delphine Beirut Synagogue – Photo Credits: Delphine Darmency – via Raseef22

bhamdoun Bhamdoun – Photo Credits: Delphine Darmency – via Raseef22

You can read more about the Jewish worship places in Lebanon and their history [here] and [here].

Some Lebanese Refuse To Recognize The Armenian Genocide

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Lebanon Victims of the Ottoman rule – Picture taken in Lebanon via Annahar

A couple of Beiruti associations and organizations, as well as few Sunni groups in Tripoli, rejected Education Minister Elias Bou Saab’s decision “to shut down public and private schools on the occasion of the so-called Armenian genocide, and claimed that the genocide is a subject of historical dispute and lacks national consensus”. The Turkish flag was even raised in Tripoli to show support.

I don’t know what’s wrong with these people, but it’s quite shameful and pathetic to hear that some Lebanese don’t acknowledge a genocide that is documented in historical books, studies, novels and documentaries. Even the Turks acknowledged last year the killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks but still refused to call it a genocide.

Moreover, I think someone should remind these groups of Lebanon’s dark days of hunger during the Ottoman Rule, when General Jamal Pasha “instituted an internal blockade of cereals to enter Mount Lebanon, particularly the Christian Maronite Canton (Kaemmakam) that included the current districts of Kesrowan and Betroun. Consequently, the Lebanese could not receive wheat and cereals from the district of Akkar and the Bekaa Valley”. It is estimated that Mount Lebanon lost between 20 and 30% of its population and some sources claim that it was the highest death toll by population of the First World War. I know for a fact that the towns of Abidlleh and Chabtine lost more than 40 or 50% of its residents back then and cases of cannibalism were reported. Of course the severe drought and locusts that hit Lebanon made things worse but the suffocating internal blockade by the Ottomans did the most damage.

One of the many sources I found on this dark era is from “The Famine of 1915-18 in Greater Syria” book that mentions “500,000 victims of famine and related to famine in Syria and Lebanon, 200,000 of them died in Mount Lebanon, particularly in the districts of Byblos and Batroun and Tripoli”. If this is accurate, this means Tripoli also suffered from the Ottoman rule just like all of Lebanon did, and these groups should be condemning Turkey for these actions and what they did to the Armenian people as well.

Here’s an excerpt taken from a letter by Gibran Khalil Gibran to Mary Haskell dated May 26, 1916: “The famine in Mount Lebanon has been planned and instigated by the Turkish government. Already 80,000 have succumbed to starvation and thousands are dying every single day. The same process happened with the Christian Armenians and applied to the Christians in Mount Lebanon”. Also there’s an [article] written by Annahar on this matter, pictures and references I found on the AUB website, and this [article] that quotes several sources on the famine that hit Lebanon between 1915 and 1918.

A coalition of Sunni organizations in Beirut Tuesday condemned a decision by Education Minister Elias Bou Saab to close private and public schools on April 24 in observance of the Armenian genocide, saying it might torpedo Turkish efforts to release Lebanese hostages held by ISIS and Nusra Front.

“Beiruti Associations and Organizations rejects Education Minister Elias Bou Saab’s decision to shut down public and private schools on the occasion of the so-called Armenian genocide, given that the anniversary is a subject of historical dispute and the lack of national Lebanese consensus regarding the circumstances [of the events of 1915],” a statement said. [DailyStar]

أثار قرار وزير التربية الياس بوصعب بالتعطيل يوم الجمعة حفيظة البعض في المجتمع الطرابلسي، وفعالياته، رفضاً للقرار. ومن أبرز الهيئات الرافضة للقرار دار الافتاء في طرابلس، وجمعية العزم والسعادة التابعة لرئيس مجلس الوزراء الاسبق نجيب ميقاتي، وهيئة العلماء المسلمين، ودعا عدد من الجمعيات إلى اعتصامات الجمعة استنكارًا لموقف الوزير، ودفاعًا عن تركيا.

وأصدرت “جمعية بيت الزكاة” بيانا طالبت فيه الحكومة اللبنانية بتوضيح حقيقة تبنّيها لقرار الوزير، وأوضح بيانها أن الجمعية “تدين كلّ المجازر التي وقعت في بلادنا العربية والإسلامية أو في العالم”، معلنة في البيان: “سوف نتقدّم من مجلس الوزراء بجدول عن المذابح التي ارتكبت بالأقاليم العربية والإسلامية، وليتحمّل المجلس النتائج، ولتعطل المدارس كل أيام العام الدراسي حدادًا على تلك المجازر”. [Annahar]

100 Years Already: Remember And Recognize The Armenian Genocide

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Genocide

The above picture is the forget-me-not flower, the official emblem of the 100th year of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. The forget-me-not flower expresses the theme of eternal remembrance, and is also meant to symbolically evoke the past, present and future experiences of the Armenian people. Here’s what the emblem means:

THE PAST: the black center represents the sufferings of 1915, and the dark aftermath of the Armenian Genocide.

THE PRESENT: the light purpose petals represents the unity of Armenian communities across the world – all of whom stand together in this 100th year of remembrance.

THE FUTURE: The five petals represent the five continents where survivors of the Armenian Genocide found a new home. The dark purple color is meant to recall the priestly vestments of the Armenian Church – which has been,is, and will remain at the heart of the Armenian Christian identity.

ETERNITY: The twelve trapezoids represent the twelve pillars of the Dzidzernagapert Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan, Armenia. The yellow color represents light, creativity, and hope.

On this day, let us remember that The Ottomans wanted to get rid of the Armenians and Lebanese as well back in 1916, and that the blockage that Jamal Pasha imposed on Lebanon and the entire eastern Mediterranean coast caused the death of thousands in Mount Lebanon. Of course what happened in Lebanon is only a fraction of what the Armenian people had to go through, and Turkey must acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

Everything you need to know about the genocide:
Approximately 1.5 million Armenians out of a population of 2.5 million were killed by the end of 1922. When the genocide was over in 1922, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire. You can check more information on the genocide in Rita’s post [here] and on this [website]. Here’s also a touching story that a friend of mine sent me few months back about the Armenian diaspora in Lebanon.

Tales of survival of the Armenian Genocide:
– Tales of survival posted by Armenian elders [DailyStar].
– Lebanese Journalist and activist Joumana Haddad recounts her family’s trauma from the Armenian Genocide [Link].
– Blogger Garlik & Saphire shares her grandmother’s survival story. [Link]

[YouTube] AK made this film to document the printing of the magazine in real blood drawn from 5 Lebanese-Armenians who decided to give blood as a symbolic gesture of remembrance for the blood that was spilled by the Armenian people.

In Pictures: Phoenicia Hotel In Beirut From 1961 Till 2015

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Under construction 1961 phoenicia The oldest picture of Phoenicia I was able to find. It was taken before the grand opening in 1961

Phoenicia Beirut was celebrating its 50th anniversary around the same time four years ago. This majestic landmark at the heart of Beirut was inaugurated back in 1961 by the Lebanese businessman Najib Salha and was one of the best (if not the best) hotels in the whole area. The hotel was a victim of the Lebanese civil war and had to close down for almost 25 years before it reopened back in 2000. Throughout this post, I traced back Phoenicia’s history in pictures from the glorious 1960s, the dark era between 1975 and 1990 followed by the reopening in 2000, Hariri’s bombing in 2005 and the revamp completed in 2011. I finally added a picture from 2013 and a recent photo I took 2 weeks ago.

Throughout the years, Phoenicia has appeared in numerous movies including the 1965 Mickey Rooney film Twenty-Four Hours to Kill in 1965, Agent 505- Todesfalle Beirut in 1966, Circle of Deveit in 1981, Je Veux Voir / Badeh Shouf with Catherine Deneuve in 2008. The famous Rock band Scorpions shot their song “When you came into my life” in Phoenicia as well.

opening 1961s Picture taken at the grand opening – via Phoenicia website

inaugurated 1964 Another picture from 1964 – via Levantium

1950s Addition of the Roman Tower in 1967

1960s Aerial view of Beirut showing Phoenicia Hotel and the Roman Tower- Taken in the 1960s

1960sview Pictures from the 1960s showing the pool, Mosaic restaurant and a rendering of the hotel – Source

1974 Aerial view of Phoenicia in 1974 – via OldBeirut

aerial22 Another aerial view taken in the 1970s

Mosaic insidie 1970s Mosaic in the 1970s – Quite amazing how it still looks the same

The hotel unfortunately turned into a battlefield during the civil war and had to close down for almost 25 years. The below 3 pictures are the only ones I was able to find that show the damages inside the iconic Phoenicia hotel. Via hoteliermiddleeast

1997 pool

Damage

Hotel in 1975 1976

Phoenicia Hotel finally reopened in March 2000 with the addition of a third tower. 2000 was also the year I graduated from school and we were the first school to hold a prom night at Phoenicia, a night I’ll never forget!

2004

In 2005, Phoenicia was damaged in the 2005 bombing assassination of Rafik Hariri and had to close down for 3 months. One of my friends who happened to be there that the bombing shattered all the hotel’s windows.

damage11

Phoenicia celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011 after a $50 million revamp was completed.

50 years

Here are the most recent pictures of Phoenicia taken in 2013 and 2015.

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The First Naturalized Foreign Citizen In China’s History Was Lebanese-American

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ma haide

This is a rather old story but a fascinating one and I am surprised I’ve never heard about it until now. It’s about a Lebanese-American doctor called Georges Hatem, also known as Ma Haide or Dr. Ma, who became the first foreigner to be granted citizenship in the People’s Republic of China. He was also the first foreign member of the Chinese Communist Party and Mao Zedung’s personal doctor.

Who is Georges Hatem?
George Hatem was born into a into a Lebanese-American family in upstate New York. His father had moved from his hometown Hammana to the United States in 1902 and got married back in 1909. Soon after being married, the Hatem family moved to Buffalo, New York, where his wife Nahoum took a job at a steel mill. It was in Buffalo where their first child, George, was born on September 26, 1910. Hatem attended pre-med classes at the University of North Carolina and medicine at the American University in Beirut and the University of Geneva, and set off to Shanghai to establish a medical practice to concentrate on venereal diseases, as well as basic health care for the needy. Hatem never came back to the US and despite accusations by party members that Hatem was a foreign spy, he established a remarkable healing presence and harnessed the will of the Chinese people to eliminate venereal disease from their country. [Source]

mahaide Via Wajid el Hitti

Dr Ma was credited with helping to eliminate leprosy and received the Lasker Medical Award in 1986. He died in China in 1988 and was buried at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery that you can see in the picture above. Hatem was honored in Hammana where a main square of the city is named after him. There’s apparently a movie about him that is broadcasted frequently in China and shows an American doctor affirming Communist ideology but I couldn’t find it.

Update: I added 3 pictures showing Dr Ma’s memorial in China, his son holding the family tree and a picture of the Embassy of Lebanon in Beijing all provided by Wajid el Hitti who visited the embassy and his son there.

Embassy of Lebanon Beijing

Hatem Family Tree held by his son Zhou You Ma

Tombstone in Babaoshan Cemetery

Here’s one of the few videos I found online of George Hatem.

[YouTube]

Thanks Wajid!

The New Yorker On The Myth of Baalbeck’s Megalith

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as Photo credit: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

German Archeologists made an incredible discovery a month ago in Baalbeck when they found right next to the “Hajar Al Hibla” in Baalbeck, the world’s biggest ancient stone block. The stone is more than 20 meters long, weighs more than 1.5 tons and nobody knows yet who ordered a 3 million pound megalith to be delivered to Baalbeck or why it got abandoned.

The New Yorker dug deeper into this matter and mentioned few theories that could explain the size of that stone as well as some historical facts about Baalbeck, which is named for Baal, the Phoenician deity, although the Romans referred to the the site by its Greek name, Heliopolis. It’s quite sad though that the article ended on a negative note by mentioning the tensions between Syrian militants, Lebanese Sunni and Hezbollah in Baalbeck and its outskirts.

Check out the full article [Here].

Testimony to Baalbek’s flummoxing properties can be found in the 1860 diary of the Scottish traveller David Urquhart, whose mental capacities were “paralyzed” by “the impossibility of any solution.” Urquhart devotes several pages to the “riddles” posed by the giant stones—“so enormous, as to shut out every other thought, and yet to fill the mind only with trouble.” What, for example, was the point of cutting such enormous rocks? And why do it out there in the middle of nowhere, instead of in a capital or a port? Why were there no other sites that looked like Baalbek? And why had the work been abandoned midway? Urquhart concludes that the temple must have been built by contemporaries of Noah, using the same technological prowess that enabled the construction of the ark. Work was halted because of the flood, which swept away all the similar sites, leaving the enigma of Baalbek alone on the face of the earth.

Scholars today like to laugh at Urquhart, particularly at his alleged belief that mastodons transported the stones. (I didn’t see any reference to mastodons in his diary.) But archaeologists are still trying to solve the riddles that he posed. Margarete van Ess, a professor from the German Archaeological Institute, told me that the purpose of the investigation that turned up the new stone block was precisely to ascertain how the three temple blocks were transported, and why two others like them were left in the quarry. (One of these previously discovered megaliths, known as the Hajjar al-Hibla, or Stone of the Pregnant Woman, turned out to have a crack that would have impeded its transport.)

Van Ess added that the blocks were probably cut in much the same way as the masonry used in the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct in southern France, with each piece split from a larger expanse of limestone along natural fissures between the rock strata. Too heavy to lift, the blocks would then have been dragged from the quarry, probably using a capstan, a kind of human-driven winch—though the possibility of a sledge is also under discussion.

The World’s Largest Ancient Stone Block Found In Baalbeck!

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as Photo credit: Deutsches Archäologisches Institut.

German Archeologists have discovered right next to the “Hajar Al Hibla” in Baalbeck, or the stone of the pregnant woman, the biggest known ancient stone block. The stone is more than 20 meters long and weighs 1,650 tons. It was meant to be transported without being cut but archeologists will need to extend the trenches to determine its exact height.

Baalbeck is one of the largest Roman sanctuaries known and has some of the best preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon.

See that absurdly massive stone block? Yeah, that’s not the one we’re talking about. Look over to the right. German archaeologists working at the Baalbek site in Lebanon have uncovered the largest known ancient block.

The fully exposed block, which dates back to around 27 B.C., is the well known Hajjar al-Hibla. It’s located in a stone quarry at Baalbek, site of the ancient Heliopolis in Lebanon. Similar stone blocks measuring up to 20 meters (65 feet) in length and a diameter of 4 x 4 meters (13 x 13 feet) were used for the podium of the massive Temple of Jupiter in the Roman sanctuary of Baalbek.

Thanks Ibrahim Jouhari

20 Pictures Of Al Sa’eh Library in Tripoli Before It Got Torched

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D7K_4251
Picture via Natheer Halawani

A lot of people haven’t unfortunately heard about this decades-old library in Tripoli up until it got torched today, so I did some research and pulled out old pictures and information about the library and its owner Greek Orthodox Priest Ibrahim Sarrouj.

Al Sa’eh Library was founded in 1970 by the Orthodox Youth movement and consisted of a single room. Few years later, the library published around 10 books. In the early 1980s, they gradually started releasing Orthodox publications. In 1983, Samir Makhoul, Toni Boulos, Ibrahim Sarrouj decided to expand the library and bought the warehouse next to it.

Nowadays, the library has over 80,000 books (not copies), out of which 400 rare books. One of the oldest book in this library according to Father Sarrouj is one that dates back to 1817 written by an American Colonel and is estimated at around $3,000. Speaking of Father Sarrouh who’s a highly esteemed and respected individual in Tripoli, he has shown great interest in Islamic Studies despite being a Greek Orthodox.

The loss of this library is a huge one for Tripoli and Lebanon as a whole. I wish officials would have taken the necessary precautions to preserve it and protect it from the assholes who burned it down.

Sources Used for Pictures and Information:
Dustywyndow.blogspot.com
TripoliScope.com
Mo5tar.com
eiwonder.blogspot.com

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