Category Archives: History

The First 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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Beirut Photographer – Witness

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An interesting documentary but let’s hope that will be the last war we hear about.

In 1981, George Azar, a Lebanese-American, crossed the Syrian border into Lebanon.

He carried an inexpensive camera, less than $100 and a desire to change the way the Arab world was portrayed by the US media. He began taking photographs. But within a few months Israel attacked Lebanon and war broke out.

Suddenly immersed in a world of gunfire and terror in an unfamiliar city, George chronicled the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) guerillas, teenage snipers and civilians living through what became one of the bloodiest summers in the history of the modern Middle East.

Now, 30 years on, he returns to Beirut, retraces his steps and unpicks the stories and people behind some of his most iconic photographs – those that were published and many of which were unseen at the time.