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Panoramic Views > Bekaa > Rashaya > Mhaidseh

Mhaidseh, The New

The name Mhaidseh is of Semitic origin and evokes everything modern, new and contemporary. The village that we are talking about should not be confused with the one of the same name near Bikfaya.

The Mhaidseh that concerns us here lies to the east of Lake Karwan sixty miles from Beirut at an altitude of four thousand feet. It is a quiet village in the district of Rashaya in the Beqaa valley. To reach it one may rake the high road from Beirut to Dahr al-Baidar and then turn right at Shtawra towards the south. Alternatively, one may go through Jeb-Janine and Massnaa.

The place has plentiful supplies of water, so in this verdant environment there is an abundance of cereals, green vegetables, fruit trees and vines, the village being especially famous for the production of a particular very tasty kind of onion. With the fine residences hundreds of years old, the ancient ruins and the flowers everywhere, the surroundings are clean and wholesome.

One residence three hundred years old draws our particular attention; it is the house of the notable personality Farouq bey Jamal. This building is composed of black stones hewn from a quarry of volcanic origin and was erected by builders and masons from Dhour es-Shweir , a village in the Matn reputed for its master masons and craftsmen specialized in stonework.

The main entrance is imposing and even awe-inspiring, making one wonder if one is really in front of a house or rather some museum or great gallery for the sale of antiquities. In fact this residence is a real museum and is surrounded by trees and vines and flowers which make it a dream of paradise, an architectural pearl facing Mount Hermon. The owner of the place is a highly esteemed man of importance, having many friends in higher social circles; what is m ore he has always been ready to come to the help of the inhabitants of the region and to settle certain differences arising between Lebanon and Syria. This latter activity has led to the house being called the Tribunal. French President Charles de Gaulle was once a guest here for several days and one may see the room he occupied with its bed, table and chair.

At present the residence is cared for by its owner, Farouq bey Jamal, a subtle poet and creative spirit who continues the social and political tradition of his forefathers. The place was, and continues to be, a national emblem radiating light, hospitality and patriotism. During the French mandate in Lebanon, Jamal Bey was a minister for just three days and later was once elected Member of Parliament during the nineteen-fifties. He was the first secretary of the Socialist Party. He is a keen student of history and his generosity has earned him the title of “Hatem Tay”.

Many are the presidents, national leaders and other great personalities who have visited this historic house. We have already mentioned Charles de Gaulle, whose correspondence with the family is most carefully preserved. But one must add President Abdul Nasser of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan, Presidents of Lebanon and Syria, distinguished poets and men of letters, emirs and the great princess Nazirah Junblatt – the list is certainly a long one.

What is there to be seen inside this residence? It is impossible to cover everything, but to be brief there are objects in gold, silver, copper, bronze, iron, wood, ivory, enamel, porcelain, ceramic, mother-of-pearl, earthenware, stone, precious and semi-precious metals, plaster and crystal, as well as paintings, jewelry, old coins, tissues, antiques of every description, artisan work, old costumes, weapons of different periods, books, manuscripts and parchments. There are busts, statues, vases, ancient tools and furniture, carpets, kitchenware, watches and cameras. There are articles representing every aspect of life in the past. There are curios to be seen nowhere else, the gifts of heads of state and of emirs, pens that belonged to famous people, oil and petrol lamps with colored glass, old candelabras, water-pipes (hookers), and coffee pots. Some of these items are hundreds of years old and unfortunately there remains much to be done in the way of classification and arrangement, with many photos and memorabilia stowed away in cupboards.

The stairway of the main entrance has been worn by the passage of time. The Jamal family has the merit of having preserved this precious heritage during the barbarous rule of the Ottomans and during the more recent short French occupation as well as during the disturbances that have troubled Lebanon.

It should be noted that Mhaidseh has had the honor of being the first town in Lebanon to have a woman as chairman of its municipal council, for in 1995 Mme. Fadia Jamal was elected to this post, so proving how emancipated the inhabitants are, and free to make their own choice.

It is much to be hoped that the museum we have spoken of may be enlarged so as to better show off the fine collection within. We advise every tourist, sightseer and lover of nature to visit Mhaidseh, to explore the village and to go round the museum in order to admire its unique collection.

Joseph Matar - William Matar - Marina Matar
Tanslation from the French: Kenneth J. Mortimer

- Residence Jamal 1: >> View Movie << (2017-05-15)
- Residence Jamal 2: >> View Movie << (2017-05-15)



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